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Tiku Weds Sheru review: Rock bottom

There's just nothing going for this loud comedy by Sai Kabir—not even Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Avneet Kaur in 'Tiku Weds Sheru'
Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Avneet Kaur in 'Tiku Weds Sheru'

He lives in a tiny apartment in Mumbai with his wife and kid. He’s crazy about movies. When he’s cast as an extra, he makes suggestions, takes it all too seriously. He has few prospects and big dreams. 

This is Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the Dibakar Banerjee segment of Bombay Talkies (2013). But it could also be Siddiqui in Tiku Weds Sheru. After dragging myself to the end of this Amazon Prime comedy, I revisited the Banerjee short, just to remind myself of a time when Siddiqui, and to some extent Hindi film, came with hope attached. Ten years later, that dream is dead. Hindi cinema is barely watchable, with many of the better directors and all the ambitious writing heading to streaming. And Siddiqui seems adrift, turning up in forgettable films, unsure of how to pitch his performances. 

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Last month, Siddiqui featured in Sudhir Mishra's angry Afwaah, where he was comprehensively outshone by a talented cast. It felt strange, seeing a film succeed in spite of Siddiqui, not because of him. Tiku Weds Sheru is at least straightforward: it succeeds on no front whatsoever. It’s co-written and directed by Sai Kabir, who made the Kangana Ranaut comedy Revolver Rani back in 2014. Ranaut is producer here, and third-billed in the acting credits, though she only shows up onscreen for five seconds.  

Sheru (Siddiqui) is a three-time loser, a Mumbaikar from Bhopal who plays bit roles in bad films. He makes his living, reluctantly, as a pimp. He’s trying to get a film financed, but that only brings more trouble. A marriage proposal—with dowry attached—from back home comes as a rare bit of good news. But as the old blues song goes, if it wasn't for bad luck he’d have no luck at all. It’s not long before he realizes his trash-talking bride, Tiku (Avneet Kaur), is using him to get to Mumbai and unite with her lover, who’s promised to fulfil her dreams of movie stardom.

Until Tiku is introduced, the film is eccentric in minor ways, like Siddiqui saying to his Persian cat, “Elizabeth, you are irritating me, like a fly. Not a butterfly, a housefly.” But after Sheru decides he still loves Tiku, even though she’s pregnant with her lover’s child, it gets progressively unhinged. He’s been lying to her too; she thinks he’s a film financier and they’ll soon move out of their depressing flat into a proper apartment. Attempts to replicate the chaos of the Tanu Weds Manu films only mean that something ridiculously dramatic is happening every 10 minutes: she’s attempting suicide, he’s a drug dealer, she’s a sex worker, he’s being tortured by the police, she’s dancing for politicians, he’s in drag. 

When Sheru takes Tiku on a date to a fancy hotel, he wears a glittery blue ensemble and she’s dressed like a backup dancer in a ‘60s Hindi film cabaret. It's difficult to understand if the film is pitying the characters for their loud taste or celebrating them. Later, drunk and swaying on the beach, she shouts “Yo papaji, what’s up?” for some reason and compares his soul to a malpua (he compares hers to another sickly sweet dessert, shahi tukda). It almost feels like Kabir and Ranaut are daring viewers to find all of this ‘cringe’ so they can accuse them of being elitists who despise real Indians. 

I found Kaur’s performance unsteady—both in the early combative scenes and the later weepy ones—and redolent of a kind of TV acting. But what Siddiqui does is downright depressing. The sight of him in drag isn’t playful or sympathetic; it’s a grotesque gag. When Tiku says she’ll get an abortion, he snaps, pounding the ground and screaming ‘no no no’. It's a moment that suggests a career that's gone off the rails: the kind of florid acting Siddiqui would never have done 10 years ago, but also the kind of acting directors he was working with then would never allow him to do.

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