Film: ‘Just Married’; Cast: Fardeen Khan, Esha Deol, Satish Shah, Kirron Kher, Raj Zutshi, Tarina Patel, Sadiya Siddiqui and Mukul Dev; Director: Meghna Gulzar; Rating: ** 1/2

“Does it have to be about sex only?” Esha Deol, playing a newly wed in an arranged marriage that ostensibly seems to be coming apart at the seams, even before the honeymoon is over, asks her ever-accommodating husband churlishly.

What does marriage have in store for the average newly married couples? Meet Abhay Sachdeva (Fardeen) and Ritika Khanna (Esha) – they are the perfectly mismatched couple.

As the film opens, writer-director Meghna Gulzar, who’s clearly treading much more comfortable ground this time after her directorial debut “Filhaal”, shows the chance meeting of Abhay and Ritika. And within the next 10 minutes they are married and off on their honeymoon.

No time wasted, no frills, and certainly no humbug. Meghna treads on a terrain that’s more in Basu Chatterjee and Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s league than within her dad Gulzar’s domain.

The mood of the honeymoon tale is an appealing shade of pale. The young director goes softly into the bedroom, creating for the nervous couple a kind of desirable paradise that is obtainable with just a little brush against each other’s hands or a whispered huddle in the foggy romanticism of Ooty.

When it comes to creating a supple and slender scenario of spousal synergy, Meghna gets it right. The other couples – whether old and cranky, played by Satish Shah and Kirron Kher, or the bold Bikram Saluja and Perizaad Zorabian – manage to create a telling contrast with the bewildered protagonists as they discover, in hushed motions, that the true essence of compatibility lies not in clutching hands but holding on to one another’s trust and confidence.

A trifle too romantically idealistic at heart?

Perhaps… “Just Married” aims to portray marriage in mellow pastel colours. There are no over-the-top interludes, no moments in the film that the director’s mentors – Mukherjee and Gulzar – would frown at.

She melds modernity into traditional values with understated sensitivity. If we see a couple making out in the woods, we also see a wife coyly putting on bangles in front of the mirror as though she were paying homage to Hema Malini in “Khushboo”.

If Pritam’s background score suggests a time gone-by, the confident editing patterns take the narration into areas in Ooty where the honeymoon becomes a playing field for emotions that would set the pace for the rest of the marriage – which we won’t be able to see.

Seeing isn’t believing in “Just Married”. Meghna often uses smiles and silences to convey emotions. Words are never allowed to get in the way… not even Gulzar’s lush lyrics that are resolutely played in the background.

The pace frequently drops as though the director was allowing the characters and their languorous mood to take over.

Don’t look for hard rain and pelting sunshine in this muted ‘mellow-drama’. What we get are warm and familiar vignettes from a marriage that most of us have experienced.

The comfort of the familiar never leaves this cosy look at a honeymooning couple’s attempts to come to terms with love, marriage and, yes, sex.

Both Fardeen and Esha escape the trappings of masala cinema to give sincere performances. Esha often looks as scrubbed and vulnerable as her mom Hema did in Gulzar’s “Khushboo”.

Bikram and Perizaad, as the ever-willing lovebirds, define their roles with ample exuberance. But Mukul Dev and Sadiya Siddiqui as a Muslim couple wither in hazily defined parts.

Source: IANS

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