Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari is a determinedly old-fashioned comedy revolving around arranged marriage and disorder caused by love. Abhishek Sharma’s movie is set in 1995 in the city once known as Bombay. This was the year the megapolis was renamed Mumbai and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was released. Nineties cinema had many examples of reckless romances in which lovers mutinied against the elements that were conspiring to keep them apart. Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari namechecks some of these films but picks the conservative DDLJ as its lodestar.
The movie’s value system, however, seems to date back even further. Its chief characters are a detective who digs up the dirt on prospective grooms, the heir to a dairy business who wants a comely, traditional wife, and a woman who agrees to marry whoever her family picks for her.
The story is by Shokhi Banerjee and the screenplay by Rohan Shankar. Ace shamus Madhu Mangal Rane (Manoj Bajpayee) ensures that the wrong kind of man isn’t wedded to the right kind of woman. Among his targets is Suraj (Diljit Dosanjh), a not-too-bright but eager-to-marry gent who is caught unawares on the one day he decides to behave badly.
Suraj wants revenge, but changes his mind after he meets Madhu’s sister Tulsi (Fatima Sana Shaikh). Their romance leads to a bruising run-in with the controlling Madhu, who schemes to keep the couple apart.
This curious love triangle of sorts is largely determined by the men. Tulsi is squeezed between a chauvinist brother and a bumbling lover, and seems largely resigned to her fate. At least Suraj is more well-meaning than Madhu, who would have been a villain in a different kind of movie.
The affable comedy, which is sometimes broad and sometimes creaky, moves along on the strength of its characters. Manoj Bajpayee gets to try out different get-ups as he snoops about and then channels a nasty streak as he dictates Tulsi’s future. Supriya Pilgaonkar, who is never on the screen for as long as she needs to be, is sparky and fun as the siblings’ beauty parlour-owning mother. Punjabi movie star Diljit Dosanjh, with an eye firmly on the Mumbai industry that has thus far eluded him, amiably goofs about and even speaks Marathi to show that he fits right in.