Shiddat Review: Radhika Madan And Sunny Kaushal’s Film’s Heart Isn’t Always In The Right Place

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A still from Shiddat. (courtesy: radhikamadan)

Cast: Radhika Madan, Sunny Kaushal, Diana Penty, Mohit Raina

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Director: Kunal Deshmukh

Rating: 1 and a half star (out of 5)

Sweeping analogies about life and love flow free in Shiddat, in which a young man moves heaven and earth for a girl who has left him heart-broken and clueless. That is not to say that the Kunal Deshmukh-directed film is a love story of elemental power.

Shiddat, streaming on Disney+Hotstar, whips up a mighty froth. That is all that there is to the film, never mind all the pop philosophy it spouts as the male protagonist, Joginder ‘Jaggi’ Dhillon (Sunny Kaushal), makes a perilous journey from Jalandhar to Calais and from there to London to stop a wedding.

In the bargain, the guy has to conquer land, water and air. He stops at nothing in his attempt to get to his destination. To him, love isn’t something one falls in; it is more akin to a plunge in more ways than one. Does Jaggi have it in him to surmount the many challenges he faces? The answer to that question constitutes the squishy core of Shiddat. But neither his dangerous passion nor his misguided mission comes anywhere near the realm of believability.

At a sports camp, Jaggi, a hockey player, falls for Kartika (Radhika Madan), a swimmer. He has an extended version of a one-night stand with her only to learn that she is engaged to a London man and her wedding is three months away. Jaggi flips his lid but Kartika, far mellower than he is, assuages his feelings by asserting that marriage is an overrated institution.

She then trots out a litany of reasons in support of her argument. When the man is still adamant, she says she would have no hesitation in calling off her marriage if his ardour were to last until her wedding day. You’d be free to whisk me away from the shaadi, DDLJ style, she says.

Jaggi resolves to hold her to her word and throws caution to wind. He enters Europe illegally and lands in a whole lot of trouble. That is his prerogative of course, but the fact that he takes well over two hours to prove the intensity of his love results in unalloyed tedium.

Shiddat tries exceedingly hard to pass itself off as a modern, progressive love story about an independent girl who believes in living on her terms. But that is a losing battle because the boy who forces her hand is somebody who needs urgent counselling. Jaggi hopes to land a stable job if he breaks into the national hockey team. But we do not see him do anything concrete in pursuit of that goal. He thinks he is fine to gate-crash the wedding of a diplomat (Mohit Raina) and drink himself silly.

But before he is unceremoniously thrown out, he is so swayed by the groom’s emotional wedding speech professing undying love for his bride (Diana Penty) that he decides to treat the man as his lodestar.

And then he chances upon Kartika – a swimmer who represents Maharashtra. He all but pounces upon her without so much as a by-your-leave. He cannot tell free booze from a free-spirited damsel. Love at first sight? That is a massive misnomer. In Jaggi’s case, love is blind. And stupid.

He posts a picture of the girl emerging from the swimming pool after a practice session – the snap is taken without her permission – on a social media platform. The angry girl returns the favour with interest by clicking him starkers in the boys’ locker room. That is this film’s idea of gender equality – tit-for-tat. What a boy can do a girl can do better. Order restored!

Shiddat portrays two types of love – one that blossoms in a French language class between a girl who goes with the flow and a man who does nothing without weighing the pros and cons of every step he takes; the other kind erupts when a rustic, rakish guy runs into a feisty, city-bred lass. One ends in marriage, the other in the desperate moves that fuel a large part of the plot.

One variety of love is summarily equated with whirlpools and storms – bhanwar and toofan. The other is compared to a sturdy boat that ferries one to the safety of a jetty. One character, forever in the mood to pontificate, says life is a four-course meal. Don’t stop at the salads, he says. Savour the appetisers, the main course and the desserts, too. Or else, you will deprive yourself of variety, the spice of life.

But the same guy finds himself at the receiving end when the woman in his life tells him that he only sees shades of blue while what she perceives is a riot of colours – red, green, violet, the entire palette. Amid all this talk of nourishment and pigments there are references to illegal migrants, refugee rights activism and the spectre of deportation.

Jaggi and Kartika are poles apart. So are the actors who play the two characters. Sunny Kaushal infuses the male protagonist with an earthy quality. Radhika Madan lends spunk, if not solidity, to Kartika. The chemistry between the leads is rudimentary. Mohit Raina adds some gravitas to the proceedings but with the characterisations wallowing in superficiality and superfluity, his game effort amounts to drop in the ocean.

None of the key characters is placed in any clear social or familial context. Jaggi mentions his mother a few times, but the audience has no idea what she is like. She is never seen. The screenplay also does not let on where the Indian consular officer posted in France or, for that matter, his wife has come from. The only one whose family puts in a fleeting appearance is Kartika’s. But here, too, the dad does all the talking; the mother hangs around in the background and cannot get a word in edgewise.

No matter what flighty noises Shiddat makes in the course of its two-and-a-half hours, its heart isn’t always in the right place. At one point, the object of the hero’s affection says she feels like a 90s Hindi film heroine. She isn’t far off the mark. What the voice of Shiddat transmits is barely in sync with what its soul communicates. Like the two principal characters, they pull in different directions. Not a pretty spectacle.

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