What is otherwise a barely bearable trip, goes off the road when Meghna Gulzar loses her balance between realism and willing suspension of disbelief. Though she does present a sensitive, realistic take on newly wed couples on their honeymoon, the filmmaker betrays her sensibility by forcing a rather filmy, gravity-defying cliffhanger on her multiplex audience.
It is not just the climax that is symptomatic of the director’s struggle to marry two sensibilities – the urban and the small-town – maybe because her central characters are the epitome of modern day sensitivity and small town conservatism respectively.
But then, how dramatic can a conflict between sensitivity and conservatism get? The foreign-bred Abhay (Fardeen Khan) understands his bride’s predicament. He knows his small town-raised wife Ritika (Esha Deol) needs time before she would let him touch her, let alone share the bed. He’s willing to wait. She’s happy that he understands her. So far, so good.
To her credit, Meghna Gulzar fleshes out the first act with ease, punctuating the interludes of the newly married couple with a breezy song or two (Pritam does full justice to Gulzar’s lyrics) while exploring the distance and dynamics between the strangers bound by matrimony. Also during the first act, she also introduces us to the other couples on a holiday, and though this juxtaposition initially seems like a good idea, the sub-plots slow down the central one. By the time we get through with the second and get into the third, the bride does test our patience. Or maybe it’s the actress.
To be fair to her, though miscast, Esha Deol delivers a well-nuanced career-best and Fardeen Khan banks on natural charm with restrained underplaying.
Of the other four couples, Satish Shah and Kirron Kher are adorable with their everyday quibbles. Perizaad Zorabian is once again typecast as the free-spirited girl opposite the hunky Bikram Saluja, while Sadia Siddique and Mukul Dev as the platonic childhood sweethearts manage to bring a smile to your face. Raj Zutshi buries himself under Lonely Planet for most of his screen time as his companion rattles of lines in fake American accent.
Though you connect to some of these characters instantly, the sub-plots here, compared to ‘Honeymoon Travels,’ hardly spring any surprises.
If ‘Honeymoon Travels’ was a macro-level look at relationships, ‘Just Married’ is a more intimate, microscopic look at the space shared between man and woman under the institution of marriage.
Comparisons are inevitable not only because of the timing of release of these two films but also because the sensitivity lent to the plot by two different woman filmmakers. The difference emerges in the sensibility employed.
If Reema drove ‘Honeymoon Travels’ with a classy, urban, romantic-comedy sensibility and stopped for a brief lecture (Shabhana Azmi challenging the sanctity of marriage), Meghna drives all the way to the edge of the cliff to force some melodrama to please the masses and swear by its sanctity (as discoursed by the senior couple, Kirron Kher and Sathish Shah).
If Reema’s cinema branches out of Farhan Akhtar’s, Meghna’s seems like an ode to Sooraj Barjatya.