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'Thank You for Coming' movie review: Of fairytales and feminism

Updated on: 07 October,2023 06:59 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Priyanka Sharma |

Thank You For Coming movie review: Director Karan Boolani’s debut feature is a joy ride that respects the silliness of its passengers

'Thank You for Coming' movie review: Of fairytales and feminism

A still from the film

Movie: Thank You For Coming
U/A: Drama, comedy
Dir: Karan Boolani
Cast: Bhumi Pednekar, Shibani Bedi, Dolly Singh
Rating: 3.5/5

This Barbie is a Yash Raj heroine stuck in realistic cinema. Remember Pooja from Dil To Pagal Hai, who believed, ‘There’s someone made for everyone.’ Kanika Kapoor aka Bhumi Pednekar in Thank You For Coming is forced to believe there’s no one made for her. Know that girl on social media, who regularly posts Shah Rukh Khan’s pictures, asking, ‘Why don't they make men like him anymore?’ Have that friend, who wears Instagram captions like ‘Singles Rock,’ on her sleeves, until one drunken night and a Bollywood sad song playlist brings out her love-deprived self. Or that woman in the mirror, who often finds herself wondering if she is too wrong to get her Mr Right?

Kanika is that girl, that friend, you and me. And Thank You For Coming is her almost two hour long pity party, where you are served laughter, drama and emotions, even if inconsistently. Growing up in Delhi, Kanika is put through different stages of shaming, by an imbecile boyfriend for not knowing how to do it, as well as by equally judgmental batchmates and teachers either for chasing her teenage desire to do it. Making those jibes a part of her adult personality, she jumps from one man to another, in her pursuit of happiness and self-worth. But she is not alone in this journey, there’s her free-spirited mother (Natasha Rastogi), a worrying grandmother, who is of the opinion that feminism has ruined women’s minds (Dolly Ahluwalia in spectacular form), and her two best friends, played by a compelling Shibani Bedi and pleasant Dolly Singh, both making their big screen debut.

In her chase to find her sunshine, Kanika makes messy but often hilarious encounters with men, who are all but available, physically, emotionally or sexually. There’s Sushant Divgikr’s Rahul, who is hardly ever interested in sex. Then there’s Anil Kapoor’s professor, who claims to be friends with Gulzar, who wants to marry her but old age hardly let him walk a few steps let alone walk the aisle. Next comes the guy, who thinks ‘Kanika is too old to be looked at like that!’ Frustrated and scared of ending up like her single mother, the 32-year-old decides to settle with the one guy, who dotes on her, much to her granny’s relief. But before she finds her happily ever after, she finds her best orgasm, on the night of her engagement, not with her fiance. She needs to find this miracle of a man, who made her feel the joy that she was sure would elude her life long. 

Somewhere in the middle of the film, I found myself asking, ‘What’s the purpose of this story? Am I supposed to watch a girl obsessed with fairytales? Does it have a meaning bigger than a girl unlucky in love?’ The series of questions led to a simple answer. Like life, stories don’t always have to make sense as long as you are having fun. And director Karan Boolani’s debut feature is a joy ride, which respects the silliness of its passengers. Also, who is to define what’s meaningful, when it’s seeped in subjectivity. For one, fighting a war is meaningful. For another, it’s fighting for love. 

We are so used to seeing a man coming of age, graduating from one woman to another until he finds ‘the one’, that a woman following the same path throws us off. Not only is this notion rooted in sexism, but also its clever conceptualisation. For every man, who is shown unmoved by a woman before he finds a woman worthy of his attention, he is glorified as a casanova, desirable, someone who has to be wooed to evoke those dormant feelings of love and care. But if a woman remains unsatisfied with her love life, she is either viewed as pricey or pitted. She is not a charmer, who just hasn’t found a man her worth. She is a damsel in distress, who questions her self-worth because she hasn’t found a man to take her to a la la land. 

And this is the biggest win of Thank You For Coming. It makes you loosen up and see that silly, dramatic women also make for good cinema. Every woman doesn’t have to be struck by a tragedy to come of age. She could very well be hit by matters of the heart to look within and discover herself. A woman’s purpose to exist is not for the world and how useful she is to people around her, but just for herself and her innocent pleasures. Boolani and his writers Radhika Anand and Prashasti Singh tell you that feminism is not devoid of fun. It’s also soft, dreamy, joyous, sexy and whatever a woman wants it to be. 

Having said that, Thank You for Coming is not without its flaws. While it’s understandable that the director wanted a frothy set up in the first half before grounding the film in emotions in the second half, he could have used some context to give a solid origin to Kanika’s story to make it more believable. That he is not helped by the comedy punches, many of which fall flat, is another problem. Sex comedies can easily veer into crassness, and sadly several portions of the writing are tacky than funny. 

The same can be said about the film’s messaging, which gets on the nose, especially in the climax where the protagonist shouts, ‘Smash Patriarchy.’ There’s nothing worse than screenwriters incorporating social media language in a narrative, which not only looks superficial but also limits a film’s reach unless your film is strictly speaking to those well versed with the X vocabulary.

Bhumi, who has confirmed herself as one of the strongest and dependable actors in the industry, is unable to shed the firmness that she has inherited by mostly playing women fighting against societal norms, in a film that floats in lightness. It’s not a comment on her craft, which stands superior, but she comes across too strongly on screen for a girl, who is an average Joe. A film with a perpetually dejected protagonist becomes immensely watchable if the actor switches on his or her charm, which sadly Bhumi fails to do despite her top notch act. Some of the film’s most brilliant moments feature the supporting act, especially the dazzling drag queen sequence with Sushant, a heart-warming mother-daughter conversation between Bhumi and Natasha, and a showdown between the best friends that also displays Shibani’s strength as a performer. 

Historically, unlike the west, Hindi cinema has hardly offered films that feel like a crazy party on some days and a warm hug on others. One that lets a girl be, invites her to a world of fabulous fabrics and frothy fun. Where it’s okay to be average and more than okay to be your own Queen Charming. Producer Rhea Kapoor’s Thank You For Coming is that rare offering, which I am glad I RSVPed to.

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