Meenakshi Sundareshwar Review: A ‘Bollywood’ marriage story

Dubai - The film is a predictable, easy-on-the-eye rom-com on long-distance relationships, prettily glossing over any semblance of realism with its stunning art direction


Sushmita Bose

Published: Thu 9 Dec 2021, 8:44 PM

The phenomenon of distances getting killed and people moving bases — to study or work — at the drop of a hat has brought with it an attendant social issue: the emergence of the long-distance relationship. The problem is that if the bond is “romantic” by nature — either a married couple or ‘dating’ couple who begin to live apart — ties begin to get loosened: the conventional wisdom is that those in a romantic (“acquired”) bond, as opposed to a familial (“blood”) one, need a constant presence in the better half’s life, and vice versa.

This is what Meenakshi Sundareshwar tries to address, in a desi, joint family setting, with ambient in-laws hovering around, at times not so helpfully. As a sociological trend, the matter has been glossed over, especially in non-metro landscapes, so full marks for the thought.

But does it succeed?

Well, not really. You know immediately when you hear the movie is a “breezy romantic comedy” that a reality check is not what you are signing up for. Instead it’s a series of self-created situations — easily classifiable as a wild goose chase of what is really important in life — that have been inserted to enhance the levity.

Meenakshi (Sanya Malhotra) and Sundareshwar (Abhimanyu Dassani, who, I discovered is Maine Pyaar Kiya-fame Bhagyashree’s son), barely out of college, get married in conservative Madurai when their families realise that their names, Meenakshi and Sundareshwar, collated together, forms the proper noun of a popular temple in the same town. Meenakshi Sundareshwar temple is a pilgrimage site for strengthening marital love, and it appears the lead pair’s union is a ‘sign’ of divine intervention.

On the first night, Sundareshwar gets an interview call from Bangalore, so he hotfoots away from his wife in an attempt to “prove” himself. Once Sundareshwar is ensconced in the ‘modern city’, a host of predictable events unfold. Crazy ‘urbane’ boss. Friends with “vices”. The rat race. In a strange way, it’s sweet how the small-town values clash with the big-city ones; in fact, it’s so stupidly sweet, you don’t even roll your eyes at the idiocy of stereotypes.

The strongest criticism against the film has been the silly typecasting of Tamils. So, yes, you do wonder why a die-hard Tamil family is suddenly speaking in Hindi while resorting to the mother tongue in extreme situations. And why everyone is so traditionally attired the entire time and eating banana chips all the time. And the obsession with Rajinikanth.

Where Meenakshi Sundareshwar does score is in the area of aesthetics/optics: beautifully mounted, stunning (albeit fanciful) art direction, nice music, and an ensemble cast that puts in stellar performances — never mind the at times backdated values being thrust forward. If you are a sucker for 1960s’ and 70s’ type celluloid nostalgia and a willing suspender of disbelief, you will probably enjoy it even more. And if you are a sari anthropologist, a wonderful array of nine-metre yarns will blitz you.

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