Groom kidnapping, previously explored in 2019’s Jabariya Jodi, drives the plot in Sab Kushal Mangal. There’s a twist here, one that reaps the maximum dividend in an often-uneven comedy: the kidnapper falls for his client.

Career criminal and politician Babu Bhandari dragoons academically qualified men into marrying women whose families cannot afford to pay dowry. It isn’t exactly social service, but Babu (Akshaye Khanna) has convinced himself that he is working for the greater common good.

Television reporter Pappu (Priyaank Sharma) believes that Babu’s business model undermines the right to choose. Pappu rails against Babu on his television show, and Babu has his chance for revenge when Mandira’s family is unable to cough up the required dowry for a match. Pappu is selected as the life partner of Mandira (Riva Kishan), and is abducted and hidden away. When a curious Mandira realises that Pappu is somebody she had a crush on in college, the sparks fly.

But this is before Babu lays eyes on Mandira and decides to enter the marriage market himself. No matter that he is vastly older and has a lover he is refusing to marry – Babu is smitten, and Pappu and Mandira must keep their wits about them if they are to be united.

Written by director Karan Viswanath Kashyap and actor Brijendra Kala, Sab Kushal Mangal wastes too much time on its uninspiring leads, both of whom are offspring of Bollywood talent (Riva is Ravi Kishan’s daughter, while Priyaank is the son of Padmini Kolhapure and Tutu Sharma). Mandira doesn’t quite possess the heart-stopping charms that would sway an experienced gent like Babu, just as Priyaank isn’t exactly heart-throb material.

It takes the rest of the more experienced cast to drag the 132-minute Hindi heartland comedy to the finishing line. Satish Kaushik is a scream as Pappu’s hapless father, while Ishtiyak Khan is also entertaining as Babu’s dim-witted factotum. The maximum fun is had by Akshaye Khanna, playing up the stereotype of the Uttar Pradesh criminal-politician. Khanna’s Babu enlivens the movie whenever he appears, which isn’t as often as it needed to be, and his absence is sorely felt.

Babu’s attempts to transform himself into a metrosexual has its moments, and his self-regard is always on point in a comedy that is stretched to its limits. Some of the dialogue, by Brijendra Kala, is very funny, and the stop-start wackiness delivers when it is allowed to interrupt the stilted and unengaging romance.

Sab Kushal Mangal (2020).