Shiddat  Review – Dated Bollywood Romance is a Mediocre Excuse in Disguise of Filmmaking
Hear me out. When you fall in love, you should commit to it with passion. If this weren’t true, why would classical romances be classical? Because maddeningly immersing yourself in the testing waters of love is glorious. Shiddat (2021), which literally means passion, tells one such passionate love story. But the director Kunal Deshmukh doesn’t seem to have even a single bit of passion for his craft. A bit of irony, no?
Shiddat has everything a foreigner expecting a generic Bollywood love story would get. This good-for-nothing but insanely handsome Punjabi dude named Jaggi stalks the hell out of a feisty but soon-to-be-married NRI girl called Kartika. An Indian Foreign Services officer Gautam’s wedding speech becomes an inspiration for Jaggi to travel thousands of miles for love. Only, Jaggi tries to use illegal ways in order to enter Europe via France. Of course, Gautam inevitably crosses paths with the dude. Gautam himself is at a point in his life where his marriage is splintering. So will Jaggi take his bride? Or, will Gautam divorce his wife Ira? Watch and find out, maybe.
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But the ride isn’t worth it. I won’t say that the journey towards the climax is bumpy. It would be better to say that the whole screenplay is molded out of bumps. Basically, the romance in focus is DDLJ with a tragedy. The sub-romance (or whatever you’ll like to call it, definitely not a sub-plot) is a token divorce gimmick. The ending, then, takes out a page from the Rajkumar Hirani textbook. Basically, it’s a musical propelled to new flights of dated messiness.
It’s slightly disturbing to know that Bollywood filmmakers, let alone subtlety– can’t embrace even the contemporary language. We still think that we can survive on the staples of outdated Urdu-Hindi dialogues mouthed awkwardly by the ‘hero’. Stalking might not be very right but it’s charming and funny nevertheless. It’s really cool to be homophobic and ideal characters at the same time. It’s incredibly brave to travel under the wheels of an airplane, freezing. Filmmakers still think that creating fake profiles in order to brave administration is a brilliant way to reach a destination. Also, did I mention that it isn’t right for a woman to move on after a hookup and be friends with the guy?
Shiddat is complete with logical loopholes as well. The achievements of our protagonist are as courageous as trying to swim across the English channel. Of course, these still seem forgivable compared to its problematic observation of modern relationships.
The editing by Sreekar Prasad is atrocious and abhorrent. Some emotional scenes are so badly cut that they feel comical. For a film of conventional musical nature, the music by Sachin-Jigar is lazily composed. The songs are so forgettable that each lyric is worth forgetting in some way or the other. The best song of the film, one that plays in the climax, is a remake. The cinematography is the only bright spark, reminding casually of the youthful vibrancy in Dil Chahta Hai and truly tense at the onset of second half.
The performances are better than the technical qualities but are still fairly inefficient. Mohit Raina is sincere in places as a committed civil servant, but his act becomes cringe-worthy when he decides to break the code to help a man reach his love. For once, I was okay with Diana Penty’s overt idealism because she isn’t allowed to do more than that. But then again, it isn’t something to be proud of.
Sunny Kaushal’s Jaggi aka Joginder is the biggest disappointment though. Of course, with such a badly conceived character you don’t have the scope to do much. However, the actor fails to channel inward grief, humor, or romance. Comparisons with his brother Vicky are quite inevitable since the actor gave us the single-most profound and fascinating portrait of grief on his debut film Masaan itself. Radhika Masaan is in compelling form as Kartika though. She’s beautiful and expressive at the same time and seems to be having fun with the bland material.
Shiddat isn’t loaded with silliness. Well, not only silliness. It is also loaded with stretched theorems about love and life, forcing a nearly three-hour film to feel like a lifetime. It combines puke-worthy elements in ways that are even more puke-worthy. Somewhere, I felt that the film would turn into this poignant fantasy I didn’t ask for. However, in my distance from this sappiness, I’ve most definitely missed things. Everything is still there, as it was in the nineties. It’s not comforting, not nostalgic. It’s just scary. Overall, it doesn’t matter how brilliant Radhika Madaan or the cinematographic team is. You can’t excuse mediocrity.