Four years after the sleeper hit Pyaar Ka Punchnama detailed the travails of three harried men and their harridan women, writer and director Luv Ranjan is back with a new set of adventures about three harried men and their harridan women.
Now, as then, three flatmates acquire girlfriends and live to rue the day. Siddharth (Sunny Singh Nijar) becomes butler, driver and handyman to his beloved Supriya (Sonalli Sehgall), who cannot bring herself to tell her family that she loves him. Tarun (Omkar Kapoor) and Kusum (Ishita Sharma) appear to be a perfect match until she starts maxing out his credit cards and interfering with his business plans. Anshul (Karthik Aaryan) adores the flitty Ruchika (Nushrat Bharucha), but she treats him like one of her designer handbags and loves her male BFF more.
Except for Nijar and Kapoor, all the other actors are repeats from the first film. Anshul and Ruchika were also paired in the original, and though they are new characters here, their many lows and fleeting highs are all too familiar. Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 could have revisited their relationship, but it would have meant making Ruchika more human and less of a screeching stereotype – not a prospect entertained by this cautionary tale of male emasculation, which doubles up as a call to arms for men in the ongoing battle of the sexes.
What appears to have changed since 2011 is the budget for sets and costumes. The trio’s apartment is a marked upgrade from the crummy digs featured in the first film. Ruchika is straight out of a fashion magazine catalogue and furiously pouts and preens, waves her painted talons about, and has a closet packed with minuscule dresses. When the couples decide to head out on an ill-advised vacation together, they fly to Thailand. The first movie was happy to swell the ranks of Goan tourists.
The economy might have improved, but the value system remains stuck in a mythical golden past when men dictated the rules of sexual engagement. The screenplay proceeds as a series of sketches and anecdotes. Some of them are funny enough, but each makes the same point as the first film: modern men are treated like dogs by women (a song to this effect is borrowed from part one), and have only themselves to blame. Whose fault is that the women in the movie are all of a type known simply as “sexy”?
In a venomous diatribe played for laughs, Anshul (echoing a similar soliloquy in the original) holds forth on the various ways women weave their nefarious webs around men. The sum total of the rant is that women should either never be born or should emerge out of the womb full formed as mothers, the only form of womanhood acceptable to our specimens of Indian malehood.
The female characters are selfish, manipulative, money-minded, mean, calculating, hypocritical, dishonest and deceitful, so why do they attract our heroes in the first place? Is it possible that the brains of the leading men are located even lower than their nether regions? Do they, in fact, have anything in their upper chambers at all? Indian sex comedies like Kya Kool Hai Hum and No Entry are also dotted with domineering ditzes spilling out of their dresses, but even these movies never make the mistake of treating their male characters like potential Nobel laureates.
The unremitting torture that Anshul, Siddharth and Tarun suffer is all the more intriguing because they are supposed to be smart and accomplished men who can hold down jobs and spout perfect punchlines about their plight. Yet, they are incapable of making the right romantic choices.
Ranjan has worked out an answer to this conundrum, which makes him a poster boy for abstinence: the only thing women have to offer is sex, and the day men start to refuse, the world will be a better place.
Pyaar Ka Punchnama distorted the romcom template by exclusively and aggressively telling the story from the male perspective. Ranjan’s debut was aimed at men of all ages who feel that they are better off single, and it struck a chord with heartbroken boyfriends all through the subcontinent. Pyaar Ka Punchnama hawked its misogyny proudly. This is what the Indian male actually feels when political correctness, fake notions of equality and on-screen propriety have been set aside, Ranjan said with confidence and wit in Pyaar Ka Punchnama. The 2010 movie contained unpalatable but very real truths about the tricks adopted by women in relationships. It was also funnier and less self-conscious than the sequel.
The new movie is as overlong as the first, and as disinterested in narrative momentum. Its scenes exist in isolation from one another, and can easily be plucked out of context without losing meaning. Ranjan could have distinguished the sequel from the original by writing more interesting female characters, but all the comedy is stacked in one giant whiny heap on one side of the room. The director expends so much energy in running women down that he forgets just how unintelligent and uninspiring his heroes are. These guys are about as appealing as roadkill.