I read somewhere that India has one of the biggest percentage population of youth. Of course, you know then that these young people will get married eventually. Taking into consideration the large percentage of young people who have an arranged marriage, Meghna Gulzar and PNC must have thought they've hit a gold mine with the idea of multiple couples on their honeymoon, with some arranged marriage hesitancy thrown in. Too bad Reema Kagti beat them to it.
In no way is Just Married a clone of Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.
. It's just that even with a different story, different characters, and disparate sensibilities, both filmmakers have made the same mistake with their central themes. Both have eschewed a solid plot for interesting characters, and that leaves the cast with not much to do.
The film begins with the assurance of a seasoned filmmaker, and a breezy sensibility to the narrative. Abhay (Fardeen Khan) and Ritika (Esha Deol) are strangers who meet just once, and are barely familiar with each other. Of course, that is enough for their parents to get them married to each other and pack them off to their honeymoon in Ooty. A shy and scared Ritika and a confused Abhay meet four more couples, and their stories intertwine.
That's it really – that's the whole film. This is followed by some light moments, some drama, and a borderline ludicrous finale where all is well that ends well etc. The couple getting to terms with each other and their oddball marriage is the central conceit here, and that is when you realize that the instant coffee breeziness that Meghna started off with was only to speed things up to get to the honeymoon, to get to Ooty.
Once there, she loses all interest in the pacing of the film and throws vignettes at us to derive our own subtext out of. The film begins to drag, and by the time the second half kicks in, you start fidgeting in your seat, looking at the watch every 10 minutes, rolling you eyes – you know the drill. She works hard to make us believe in her thinly realized protagonists, but that mostly misfires.
The thing is, Meghna is not interested in the other couples as separate stories, but as reflections of or influences on the main story. Pity, because some of these characters with complete stories and a more balanced handling may have been less boring than Abhay and Ritika shooting air guns at balloons. Come to think of it, Meghna is rarely interested in talking about Abhay's insecurities or anxieties, which is why he is just a nice sort of a guy with a goofy smile all through.
In a very female-sensitive handling of the film, Meghna strictly gets into Ritika's brain and tries to explore her concerns and nervousness. Which is all well and good, but when all the other couples are fed into the script just to counter the situations she finds herself in, it begins to get tiresome. (She doesn't know her husband, is newly married, can't even begin to think of sex, and there are separate couples who have known each other since childhood, have been married for 40 odd years and are completely intimate).
This is the weakness in Meghna's bag of tricks, as she fails to create an ensemble comedy, instead focusing on one story and setting up characters to help get her point across. I would have said that this is because she can't actually write
these emotions in, but then she does a wonderful job with the dialog. Another thing she has down pat is eliciting great performances. A film like this doesn't need powerhouse acting, but she does get almost everyone to appear affable and genial enough for the film. Esha, especially, remains a fresh experience.
You do wish there were some more meat to the characters or some more things to do for the generally bankable cast, but more than that you just wish this were a film shorn of all the mainstream burden and just a study of what arranged couples go through during their first honeymoon. But it's not, and what we have a cheerfully naïve film which has more misses than hits. I'd like to give Meghna Gulzar points for trying, but maybe she should have tried harder.