Ranbir Kapoor’s performance in Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar is decidedly not the worst he's given in recent times, but it might be the most depressing, because it's the most cynically conceived, the male lead in a Luv Ranjan film who can't stop talking about love and relationships, even though his views on both are so limited that his breathless sermons could be boiled down to a WhatsApp forward—in short, the Kartik Aaryan role, except Kartik Aaryan might actually have better things to do now and Ranbir needs a hit. There, I wrote a Luv Ranjan monologue.
Mickey (Kapoor) is the anti-Hitch, a professional breaker-upper of relationships. The film opens with him and partner Dabbas (Anubhav Singh Bassi) scuppering a relationship in real time. They then head to Spain for Dabbas’ last vacation before his wedding. Dabbas has already asked his friend to break up his impending marriage. Mickey can't do it, so Dabbas accuses him of ruining his life at various points in the film. But Dabbas and Kinchi’s (Monica Chaudhary) relationship seems fine, even healthy; it’s Ranjan who can’t give up the idea of the complaining male, even at the cost of emotional growth.
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Kinchi tags along for the boys’ trip, bringing her best friend, Tinni (they must have spent ages picking out these names). Mickey immediately falls for Tinni (Shraddha Kapoor) and—though she plays it cooler—she for him. In this initial stretch, Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar has the sunny sexual drive of Befikre, Kapoor and Kapoor marginally less annoying in their airbrushed horniness than Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor were. By the time the vacation is over, they’ve caught feelings.
For a ‘holiday relationship’, as Tinni puts it, this one is surprisingly solid. When the couple returns to Gurugram, I assumed one or the other would balk at commitment, but they’re blissfully happy for a while. She becomes part of his family, to the extent that his boisterous mom (Dimple Kapadia) and dad (Boney Kapoor), sister (Hasleen Kaur) and young niece all always around, on dates, when they’re with their friends, when they want alone time. Eventually the central conflict reveals itself: Mickey loves Tinni but also loves to be with his family; Tinni likes them too, but wants her space.
You know what happens next. But there are so many things that don’t happen that enable this. Neither Mickey nor Tinni recognise the other’s voice on the phone as she asks him to break up her relationship. Tinni doesn’t tell Mickey, hey, I love you, let’s cut down on the family time. He doesn’t tell her, I know you feel stifled, let’s work something out. For once, it’s a novel dilemma for a Hindi film couple—but Ranjan treats it in a juvenile jokey manner till the last 20-25 minutes, which is all tears and at an emotional pitch incompatible with what’s come before.
Five films in, Ranjan shows little growth as a director. Hardly any of his ideas are visual, but when a stray visual idea comes along—big honking closeups, or Kapoor and Kapoor each crying a solitary designer tear—you’ll wish it hadn’t. There’s exactly one interesting frame, and that’s stolen from Tamasha. The pacing is off: one minute everything’s racing towards an emotional climax, but then we’re wasting time with Mickey’s family. How to take seriously a director who asks for a score with cartoon sounds signalling jokes and moaning saxes whenever the mood turns romantic?
Shraddha is more assured than I’ve seen her before, especially when Tinni is both parrying and encouraging the romantic attention in Spain, and later when it dawns on her that the family she likes is killing her relationship. Bassi, a comedian making his acting debut, is all wrong, an unvarying deadpan turn with little charm. Ranbir is alright, committed even, but this is beneath him. It’s not beneath the actor who turns up for a scene midway through the film. What must have been going through Ranbir’s mind as he watched Luv’s muse do his shtick? It’s one thing to know you’re a surrogate. It’s another to realize you’re a surrogate for Kartik Aaryan.
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