Opening this week

Film review: ‘Running Shaadi’ sprints in different directions and ends up nowhere

Amit Roy’s romantic comedy is about an agency that helps couples to elope and marry as well as a slowburn love story.

Cinematographer Amit Roy’s directorial debut Running Shaadi has a lengthy warm-up before it settles into a race to define its subject matter. Is the movie, written by Roy and Navjot Gulati, a comic critique of arranged marriage? Or is it a quirky but slowburn romance between an odd couple? Running Shaadi tries to be a bit of both, and becomes neither.

The romcom (previously titled Running Shaadi.com) is centred on the blow-hot-blow-cold vibes sent the way of sari store employee Ram Bharose (Amit Sadh) by his boss’s daughter Nimmo (Taapsee Pannu). Bharose has made it a habit of getting Nimmo out of serious trouble, and it’s obvious in his doleful eyes that he is crazy about her. Nimmo knows this, but in true offbeat movie heroine fashion, she strings Bharose along for a bit, forcing him to agree to an arranged marriage to a candidate put forth by his uncle in Bihar (Brijendra Kala).

When he loses his job at the sari store, Bharose and his friend Cyberjeet (Arsh Bajwa) set up a company that helps couples in love to elope and marry. Their success rate proves that the Punjabi city from which they operate has no shortage of orthodox parents and clueless couples. But when Nimmo proposes to Bharose that they follow his professional advice and run away, he hesitates. Just why, it isn’t clear, but at least the plot development allows the movie to shift to Bharose’s home state Bihar, where better actors and better written comic sequences await.

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Running Shaadi.

The choppy narrative, slipshod camerawork and uneven tonality suggest a longer movie that has been hacked or reshaped on the editing table. The Punjab portions, which involve redundant scenes of various couples fleeing home, are inordinately stretched and needed to have been subtitled, given the amount of Punjabi sloshing around. Would a Hindi movie set in Maharashtra or Bengal have allowed 10% of the conversations to be in another language? It says something about the presumptions of Bollywood directors and writers in movie after movie set in Punjab or Delhi.

Running Shaadi enters its winning laps in the Bihar portions, which give fuller expression to the throwaway comic tone of the dialogue and allows other actors, including Brijendra Kala and Pankaj Jha, to take the attention away from the leads. Pannu, ineligible in some scenes because of the thickness of her Punjabi-inflected Hindi, is turning to be one of the more interesting young actors in the movies, and she is better placed than Sadh in conveying her character’s spirit. Arsh Bajwa’s Cyberjeet is an appendage to Bharose and gets far too much screen time for a minor character.

There’s too much of everything in Running Shaadi, whose casual humour would have worked better with a crisper and more focused running time. The idea of wedding organisers balking at the prospect of their own nuptials has been tackled with both greater economy and expansiveness in the past. By running in two directions, the movie ends up nowhere.

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