The lights come on. It is intermission. We’re watching Aaha Kalyanam. The lead pair, Shruti (Vaani Kapoor) and Shakhtivel’s (Nani) fledgling wedding planning company-Getti Melam, has just tasted success. In that ensuing euphoria (plus a bottle of champagne), they finally affirm their love for each other in their barely furnished, Alaipayuthey-esque, yet slightly urban flat-turned-office. A night of passionate love-making follows. Shruti wakes up, finds herself next to Shakhtivel, smiles coyly and snuggles up to him. The audience whistles. They have reason to cheer. It has been one long courtship by Tamil cinema standards.
Theoretically, ‘Aaha Kalyanam’ has everything in place. The trailer and posters all point towards a breezy, romantic entertainer. At least that’s what the original flick in Hindi, ‘Band Baaja Baarat’ was all about – but we shall not speak of it here. What’s the point of a remake then, we ask ourselves, if we draw comparisons to the original at every possible instance? Aaha Kalyanam for its part, showcases a heart-warming Madras landscape seen through the lens of Loganathan Srinivasan, the proverbial shot in a Pallavan bus-MTC, if you please but they will always remain lime green and Pallavan to us – right down to the in-house kanjivaram sporting paati who insists that ‘it’s time Shruti ties the knot.’
But Shruti doesn’t want to wed. She just wants to plan weddings. Then, she meets Shaktivel at one. Though unimpressed at first, we find her detailing business plans to him at length during their next meeting (cue in the scene, on a bus). She even agrees when he asks to be made partner – after a fierce two-minute contemplation while eating a bajji on the sands of Marina, that is. Love happens. And the script goes for a predictable tumble from here – ego clashes, spurts of jealousy and even some archaic cultural implications thrown in for good measure. Overnight, we are presented a Shruti who has discarded her western wardrobe and Shaktivel is not the only one who’s perplexed when she suddenly glides over in a sari, with a steaming mug of coffee to boot.
All that notwithstanding, it’s Nani’s lovely Telugu, shall we say… lilt (?) and Vaani Kapoor’s dubbed sequences (a missed lip-sync does nothing to enrich your experience), that give you the bizarre feeling of watching a Bollywood entertainer set in Chennai. The director perhaps realised this later – and in a moment of questionable wisdom went in for a dash of local flavor in the form of unflinchingly spewed Tamil abuses. When Shruti, in a fit of rage, employs a few choice abuses (that are dutifully beeped), you want to run for cover. Nani on his part, is exuberant. Even his jokes are delivered that way. They do fall flat, but Nani, ploughs through bravely – and there’s a slight Rajinikanth-ish tenor to his deliveries that gets us wondering whether all non-native Tamil speakers sound the same way. It might have even been deliberate, come to think of it. And as if on cue, Shaktivel’s friend tells him on screen, “Tamizha Tamizh madiri pesu da. Telugu madiri pesadha!” to general laughter and whoops. But it’s Badava Gopi who deadpans his way to brilliance. When in his introductory shot as Hyder the florist, he growls, “Papa, evlo naalu achu velaiku sendhu?” with a creepy stare to boot, little do you realise that he’s here for comic relief.
Aaha Kalyanam also makes you wonder though, whether regional locales and elements, however romantically showcased, are enough to sustain a script? Especially when essayed by actors who have little knowledge of the language or culture. The bloopers that roll at end (of the crew desperately trying to get Vaani to speak Tamil) are proof enough.