There is something incredibly likable about Sanya Malhotra. She does possess the power to pull off a scene on her own, if not the whole film. And she does that with aplomb throughout this somewhat sweet rom-com Meenakshi Sudareshwar. Her abilities however aren’t quite enough to fill the gaps in the screenplay…
Meenakshi Sundareshwar takes its name from the famous Madurai temple. The temple speaks of the relationship between the Hindu gods Sunderashwar (Shiv) and Meenakshi (Parvati). Like in the case of the temple, where the principal deity is Meenakshi, the story of the film pretty much keeps the female lead at the center of the narrative. She is the driving force in the relationship that is formed between the protagonists.
So, we have a very confident Meenakshi taking up the responsibility of initiating conversation, establishing a relationship, and even pushing to consummate the marriage, while Sundar (Abhimanyu Dassani), although earnest, seems to have his priorities all confused. In that manner, Meenakshi Sundareshwar feels fresh although it comes with its usual tropes.
Two families seeking a match for their kids meet by mistake and the kids hit it off – something we have seen in Vijay Devrakonda starrer 2016 film Pelli Choopulu (remade into Mitron in Hindi). In that film too the boy was not financially independent as in the case of Sundar in Meenakshi Sundareshwar. And the girl was clear about what she wanted. In essence, both these movies set out to deal with similar issues.
The film takes on patriarchy and shows us that the real new world has equally interesting women if not more. As a sub-plot, the film also seeks to take on lopsided ideas of relationships and their space in modern-day lives. The latter in form of a caricature-ish boss who employs only single candidates as they come with fewer hassles.
What the film gets right for most parts is the humour. It starts off well and each character in the family has been provided a certain degree of padding, making them life-like. Be it the rasamalai loving elder brother of Sundar or his nephew, or Meenakshi’s grandfather – these are people we have seen in real life. And the songs. Especially the way Tittar Bittar is picturised, giving a glimpse into quirky as the director sees it.
Where Meenakshi Sundareshwar goes completely wrong is the conflict build-up and the way it is addressed. For a film that keeps it real, the conflict is just too flimsy. The protagonists, forced to live in different cities, see their warm and sunny relationship head south for the most insignificant reason when there could have been plenty others. A sudden outburst by Meenakshi should catch the viewer by surprise leaving one wondering what the makers may have edited out of the film that we did get to witness.
One more question that remained in my mind – why did they choose to set the film in Madurai? Not complaining! For an industry that can’t seem to get over Punjabi lyrics and north India settings, the idea of setting something in the southern part of our diverse country seems fresh. The question arises as the region, except the Meenakshi temple, does not seem to have any relevance in the story per se. And more importantly, as the end credits reveal, the settings are possibly alien to most of the crew, especially the writers.
These, despite all the right intentions, make Meenakshi Sundareshwar somewhat uninteresting unlike the remarkable lore behind the temple. Watch it for Sanya Malhotra.
Meenakshi Sundareshwar is directed by Varun Soni. It is available on Netflix.