Shaadi ke Side Effects (Side Effects of Marriage): Film Review

Pritish Nandy Communications
Miscast lead pair fails to spark Bollywood matrimonial rom-com

Farhan Akhtar and Vidya Balan mine married life for laughs in Bollywood comedy.

Never underestimate the power of a tiny white lie: that seems to be the lesson of the romantic comedy Shaadi ke Side Effects (Side Effects of Marriage): a white lie or two is the only thing that allows Sid (Farhan Akhtar) some breathing room in his marriage to Trisha (Vidya Balan), once a baby enters the picture and Trisha morphs into a fire-breathing mega-mom.

The film is not likely to entice many viewers into theaters, no thanks to a weak trailer and the incongruous casting of its two leads.

A followup to, though not strictly a sequel to, Saket Chaudhary’s 2006 hit Pyaar ke Side Effects (Side Effects of Love), which had Mallika Sherawat and Rahul Bose in the roles of Trisha and Sid, Shaadi ke Side Effects now finds Sid working as a successful Mumbai jingle composer with unfulfilled rock star aspirations.

Trisha and Sid are enjoying every moment of married life — partying at dance clubs, enjoying spicy visits to hotels — so when the news comes that Trisha is expecting, it hits hard. After weighing whether to keep the baby (the film is remarkably open about abortion and birth control), they decide to take the plunge and become parents. Of course, the challenge comes in navigating the complexities of parenthood and keeping their relationship fresh. When a young couple starts calling each other “mommy” and “daddy,” it’s a sure sign that things need to change.

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The goings-on hold interest, though the laughs are sporadic. One gets the feeling this tale has been told many times before. Packing the 2-1/2 hour film with montages and scenes that we’ve seen in too many other films about upscale urban parenting, writer-director Chaudhary plays things too safe, and lets too many side plots lapse into predictability, such as one about a trusted family member with a perfect marriage who turns out have a dastardly secret.

The songs (Pritam Chakraborty) are typical Punjabi pop; the club scenes are indistinguishable from every other Bollywood movie club scene; and a segment shot in Australia courtesy of that country’s tourism board is thoroughly gratuitous.

However, supporting work is strong, by Ila Arun (as a maid hired by stay-at-home-mom Trisha); comic Vir Das as a bachelor pal of Sid’s; and especially Stanislavski-trained Ram Kapoor in the role of the family friend.

The main problem with the film is in the casting of its stars. Farhan Akhtar, an influential director (Dil Chahta Hai, Don) who has become a top leading man with his work on Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and other acclaimed films, has an intensity and intelligence that overshadow this light role. Vidya Balan, known for her powerful work in such well-received films as Kahaani, The Dirty Picture, Paa and No One Killed Jessica, is making her comedy debut here. She’s confident, but the actress (and her character) seem a bit provincial and dowdy in contrast to the urbane Akhtar.

Within the limits of its genre, Shaadi ke Side Effects is tame, and harmless enough. But a film, just like a marriage, needs to be much more than tame and harmless.

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