For perhaps the first time ever, a shining luxury car pulls into Gattu’s Lucknowi mohella. It is his girlfriend’s fiancé, come to take her on a coffee date. Gattu (Rajkummar Rao) has no job, no money, and is always taken for granted. He can’t stop her from going with this rich, Paris-settled guy, that perfect “marriage material” man.
As the car begins to move, Gattu gestures at her to wear the seat-belt.
This scene in director Ajay K Pannalal’s Behen Hogi Teri is as hilarious as it is moving. It’s the best Gattu can do at that moment, to let her know that he cares for her.
It’s all the more believable with a brilliant actor like Rajkummar Rao portraying an average guy who grew up in a middle-class residential colony, in small-town North India. Rao’s subtle and careful acting brings us closer to Gattu’s fears and concerns. He is not a charmer people routinely fall in love with. In fact, one wonders why Binny (Shruti Haasan), a desirable firebrand, fell in love with this clueless loafer.
On the surface, Behen Hogi Teri is a romantic-comedy woven around an unlikely love story between two youngsters who live across each other in a gali. Underneath, it is an impressive portrait of middle-class life in India’s Hindi belt. While the love-story is tedious and sometimes inane, the setting keeps the film interesting.
Having completed his graduation years ago, Gattu is a UPSC aspirant like millions of youngsters in the country. On the day of her grandmother’s funeral, Binny carefully prepares a note in English and posts it on Facebook, “With great sorrow, I am writing to inform you all that…”. The note concludes with, “Come one, come all.” Her brother runs a business in the “religious-entertainment” sector. Every evening, his men dress up as Lord Shiva, goddesses, and other divine figures. They stage skits and satsang for the devotees.
In the latter half of the film, the residents of Gattu’s colony hold a prayer meeting, seeking divine intervention to beat goons who have threatened to kidnap Binny on the day of her wedding. A tackily-dressed musician raps Hindi bhajans at the prayer meeting. And the residents shake a leg to that music as if it’s a disco party.
This unintentionally funny side of India’s middle-class makes it a favourite of young Bollywood directors, who do not want to tread the path of directors like Yash Chopra, Karan Johar, and Rohit Shetty, and make extravagant, opulent films. Instead, films like Queen, Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha, or Shuddh Desi Romance tell rich stories set in lively small-towns, where conflicts between traditional values and modern ways go on.
Gattu’s parents are tired of waiting for him to clear the civil service examination. They decide that the next-best employment option for him is to join the religious-entertainment business. Gattu concedes, since he has no ambition in life other than to marry Binny, the girl he has been dreaming of since childhood.
“I am somewhat intelligent, Binny. And when I marry you, I will get a share of your guts and positive spirit,” he tells her when she wonders at how dull married life with him would be. He isn’t blindly religious or aggressively sexist. He is scared of the modern English-speaking world. His generation is caught between under-achieving parents who pin ambitions on their children, and their own dreams of marrying the partner of their liking and leading a life of their choice.
However, the film is betrayed by its lacklustre story-line. Characters and events meander and grope in the dark, unable to reach a smart finale. There are songs at regular intervals, arriving and leaving without making an impression.
After a certain point, one tires of Gattu. Firstly, because he isn’t an adorable character, and secondly, because the film shows a lot more of him than we would have liked to see.
Still, Rao’s smart performance that makes Gattu a little less annoying. However, the film needed a better actor than Shruti Haasan to portray the vibrant and practical Binny. Her performance is at times loud, and too monotonous.
Behen Hogi Teri would have been a fine film with a better story. It has a good sense of humour. It has interesting characters who can, together, make any situation brighter. But most of all, it is carried by its dependable and talented lead actor, Rajkummar Rao.
The Behen Hogi Teri review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.