Long, Laboured Love

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States
2 States
Director: Abhishek Varman
Starring: Arjun Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Ronit Roy, Amrita Singh, Revathy

By the time you read this, you will have already known that 2 States has a nice feel, but is too long. You will have been told that both Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor have done their parts well, she better than he. You will have known that the story is of two young people who fall in love and face parental opposition because of their diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. You will have known all this.

What you will not know — unless you have seen the film — is that the film’s subplot is more interesting than the main. The father-son duel between Kapoor and Ronit Roy is the track that seems most real in a film that is supposedly based on an autobiography. That’s despite the fact that Roy as the alcoholic, abusive father is only reliving an earlier role that he played in Vikramidtya Motwane’s Udaan.

Based on Chetan Bhagat’s book by the same name, 2 States explores this thread of an estranged father-son relationship, albeit in a superficial manner. Years of aloofness have led to many invisible walls between the two, and it takes an emotional crisis for them to come down. Even then, not all the walls crumble; there are a few that remain, and this sense lingers much after the lovers have been united and the end credits have rolled. Director Abhishek Varman, one feels, could have dwelt a little more on this, particularly considering the length of the film.

At times, the film seems to drag, so much so, that you want the parents to yield so that the lovers can marry and the film can end. Alia is natural as the young Ananya Swaminathan, a Tam-Bram girl. But that is expected of her after Highway, where she got to show her mettle in more ways than one. Here, her character is largely confined to her naturalness, and two-and-half-hours is a little too long for anyone to look endearing throughout.

Likewise for Kapoor. As the male lead, he gets quite a few scenes to play the lover torn between his girlfriend and his mother, who has gone through a lot to make him what he is. Again, however, two hours 30 minutes is too long for someone to look hurt and misunderstood throughout.

In fact, the director’s intent to show a sensitive slice-of-life middle-class cross-cultural Indian love story is hemmed in by the length of the film. Too much attention is being paid to maintain the novel’s momentum and this does not necessarily lend itself to interesting viewing. In parts, maybe, but on the whole, the sluggish pace and the unnecessary songs add to the tedium. Plus, while Amrita Singh as the possessive Punjabi mother of Krish (Kapoor) gets to play her part well, you get the feeling that the girl’s parents played by Revathy and Shiv Subramaniam could have been given a few more scenes, if only to heighten the dramatic tension. Otherwise, it is all a replay of the same north vs south debate.

There are glimpses of that: Krish’s first visit to Ananya’s house in Chennai, Ananya’s mother singing in a concert at Krish’s bank, Ananya’s father warming up to Krish over a drink. Alas, these are too few and far between to take note of.

Varman could have taken liberties to explain the parents’ positions a bit more, and Bhagat would surely have been game to add a few details. After all, it would not have been the first time that a book-based film would have done so. That could have given him some leverage to snip away some of the repetitive bit. If Richard Attenborough could tell the whole story of the Indian freedom struggle in a little over three hours in Gandhi, this one could easily have been managed in two, if not under that.

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