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‘Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya’ review: Overemployed android

This film about a man who falls for a robot is thinly conceived and rarely funny

Kriti Sanon and Shahid Kapoor in ‘Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya’
Kriti Sanon and Shahid Kapoor in ‘Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya’

It's such a perfectly calibrated performance there's only a hint of a robot. The glassy stare. The fixed smile. The struggle with simple sentences. But enough about Dharmendra. 

Robotics engineer Aryan (Shahid Kapoor) has been summoned to the US by his boss and doting aunt, Urmila (Dimple Kapadia), to work on a secret project. Instead of telling him what it is, she sends him to her apartment, where her manager is waiting. Sifra (Kriti Sanon) is attractive and extremely capable, organising Aryan’s wardrobe and whipping up a sushi dinner. She’s eager to please, he’s immediately smitten, and they end up in bed. The next morning, when she tells him her battery is low, he doesn’t realise she means it literally.

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Urmila turns up soon after to inform her nephew he’s just slept with a robot, that this was an experiment to see how her latest creation (13 years in the making) interacts with a human. The problem is, Aryan has caught feelings. Now, this isn't the worst setup for a romantic comedy. But Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya—not a title that rolls off the tongue—is too convinced of its premise to put in the work of selling it. What might have been an agreeably silly comedy becomes a painfully unfunny one, as Aryan convinces his aunt to send Sifra to Delhi to test her out on his family. 

While an uncanny imitation of a human being, Sifra is very much a machine, with code for thoughts and no agency. But Aryan’s family is so relieved he’s finally brought a girl home, and so impressed by how she takes over the housework, that they ignore Sifra’s tics. She doesn’t actually love Aryan—it’s her programming reacting to his feelings. You’d think this would start to matter to him but he just grows more infatuated. Bear in mind, this is Shahid Kapoor, not the Joaquin Phoenix of Her. Aryan isn’t some lonely kook; he spends the whole film fending off the affections of besotted women.  

Two hours in, the stakes are exactly where they were in America. An obvious twist would be for Sifra to develop some human feeling—for the machine to start learning. But writer-directors Amit Joshi and Aradhana Sah do not extend themselves beyond robot-impersonating-human gags (when they do, it’s to make fun of domestic workers). At one point, Sifra’s memory is wiped clean. Finally, I thought, a chance for Aryan to face up to the blank slate he’s fallen for. No such luck. A ‘backup memory’ is arranged and he’s back to smiling at her like a goof.   

Joshi and Sah have a handful of writing credits each, but this is their first time directing. Maybe producer Maddock Films imposed the Looney Tunes sound effects and the laboured family scenes on them, but you have to wonder if the makers thought anything through. Like how the ideal bahu syncs up so well with the ultimate Indian male fantasy: a pretty, poised and amenable cook and carer. Aryan is genuinely in love with Sifra, but he also explains to his friend that mentally “she’s like a little girl”. Do the implications of this occur to him? Or that he's drunkenly kissing her as she's updating and seemingly comatose?

In the 1975 film The Stepford Wives, a newcomer to a small town starts noticing that all the wives are strangely subservient. Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya is so undercooked it misses the obvious satirical point—that Indian families wouldn’t notice a robot under their noses if it made their lives easier. Instead, we get jokes about chargers and motherboards and preset reminders. Stepford Wives is too ambitious, this film wants to be Small Wonder.  

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