As Titu gets ready to pick between his to-be, self-proclaimed “chalaak” bride and his obnoxious, insecure best friend – the audience has already guessed his decision. The film has set the premise for the climax from the word go.
Director Luv Ranjan’s film Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety is a love triangle of sorts, with Sonu (the quintessential Chaddi Buddy) and Sweety (quintessential Buri Ladki) fighting for Titu’s (quintessential Sushil Ladka swayed by Buri Ladkiya) affection. The film starts with Sonu breaking up Titu’s relationship with his then-girlfriend with an ultimatum of “pick between me and her” (because bro, she introduced you as a FRIEND to her office colleague)!
After a customary ‘single boys enjoying the single life’ item song, Sonu discovers Titu’s inclination to get married. Titu’s family is a heady ensemble of two generations of loud, controlling women and seemingly cool, boisterous men and bringing up the rear – the poor, orphaned Chaddi Buddy.
Knowing Titu’s uncanny ability to attract all the ‘wrong’ girls, Sonu and a transformed, un-sanskari Alok Nath (playing the grandfather) set out to disengage Titu’s interest in the girl. While the men are trying to convince him that there are other ways to ensure an active sexual life, the rest of the family is setting up a meeting with Sweety and family.
Naïve Titu talks about family hierarchies and money matters in the first meeting and lo and behold! Buri Ladki’s expression changes to that of a hungry animal eyeing its prey. Following one full day of discussion, Titu agrees to an enagement (despite Sonu’s scepticism).
Is she sly because she is aware of the need for marital rights for women?
Sonu throws caution to the wind because Sweety seems too good to be true. What follows is a hilarious, albeit uncomfortable sequence of getting the house help fired (by luring him into watching porn) because he was following Sweety’s instructions to clean up the boys’ bachelor pad.
At this point, I was rooting for her to defend people’s needs for sex but that, of course, would have swayed the men in the audience into believing she is after all not as bad as they had imagined. After a series of suggestive fallacies about her character – she wants her own house after marriage, she had an ex-boyfriend whose hand she broke in a fit of rage (thankfully clarified as a case of defence against sexual assault), she throws down the gauntlet to Sonu with a proclamation of “ha main chalaak hoon” (Yes, I’m a cunning person).
The second half of the film is a war of wits between Sonu and Sweety – him trying to show her down and she in turn emerging victorious because – the ‘wily woman’ trope! After several unsuccessful attempts to turn Titu against Sweety, Sonu brings back the ex-girlfriend (Buri Ladki 1.0 from the first scene).
What follows is a cold war between Sweety and Sonu at the expense of Buri Ladki 1.0. Again Sweety maintains an upper hand as she reveals to her nemesis and Titu the truth behind the trickery, thus creating a rift between the two boys. But no one is fooled by this little deviation. The audience is prepared for, in fact looking forward to the jilt that Sweety allegedly deserves (re-affirmed by a poignant song about friendship).
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Nowhere in the film do the makers feel the need to establish what they mean by assigning Sweety the identity of “chalaak“. Is she sly because she wants a clean house or wants to kick out the intrusive, controlling best friend? If so, who wouldn’t?
Is she sly because she manipulates her way into getting control of the house locker? If so, the makers fail to point out that the same was controlled by the uncle who has so far managed to accumulate 7% of the family’s wealth through blackmail.
Not to mention the irony that is lost on the filmmakers – dear, orphaned Sonu has been living off the family’s wealth since childhood – driving around in fancy cars and holidaying in Amsterdam. Is she sly because she is aware of the need for marital rights for women? Or is she a bad girl because she likes whiskey?
Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety is conceptualised as a light-hearted comedy, showcasing the love between bros and a perfect manifestation of the ‘Bros before Hoes‘ code. At the expense of a smart woman shown in a negative light.
The film left me with a feeling of unease, a feeling I was asked to suppress if I ever want to enjoy films. Why do I have to suppress the uneasiness I felt when the crowd at the theatre was cheering Titu leaving Sweety on the altar when Sonu had, yet again, threatened him to pick sides?
Luv Ranjan has manifested this toxic image of women, in not one, but at least three of his films.
The problem with the film is the re-affirmation it gives to men about the much-talked-about trope of ‘wily women’. It raises the larger question of the portrayal of a woman with agency. What could have been a strong, independent character (Sweety runs an NGO), is depicted as a cunning, gold-digging one (based on her decision to digress the money from her lavish wedding into a fixed deposit account).
The over-arching misogyny of the script also lies in its homogenization of men and women as two binary categories, with no attempt to capture the nuances of individual characters. Are all men and women caricatures of characteristics the filmmaker deems fit for each category?
If the film is about friendship, Mr Luv Ranjan, what about the friendship between women, or between a man and a woman? You have manifested this toxic image of women, in not one, but at least three of your films. If the film was about friendship ruined at the hands of a woman, where are the other women – who are part of the support system (relatives and friends)?
Or are we to assume all women are the same, as seen in your eyes? Or is the film about your power to belittle and demonise an entire category of human beings? Are you forgetting that a significant chunk of your audience are the same women you have so easily mocked?
Films are not merely a medium of expression, but also a representation of society and a symbol of culture. They are not merely viewed as entertainment, they establish trends and influence perception. In a country which already slanders women on baseless things like drinking beer, we do not need a film like Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety exacerbating the situation. Another film miserably fails the Bechdel Test!
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Featured Image Credit: Rediff