Movie Review: ’14 Phere’ (ZEE5)

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Weddings, shenanigans and family drama. Is the Bollywood romcom finally back? ZEE5’s latest release ’14 Phere’ is not the answer to all our prayers, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Sanjay (Vikrant Massey) and Aditi (Kriti Kharbanda) are a perfect couple, living an almost perfect life. But they can’t marry, because their violent, angry families will never allow an inter-caste wedding. After contemplating fleeing to USA, our desi Romeo and Juliet decide – no, let’s hustle our way through this mess instead. So they hire fake parents – Zubina (Gauahar Khan) as their mother and Amay (Jameel Khan) as the father – and arrange two separate weddings with their real families.

At this point in the movie you expect yet another comedy of errors where everyone has a sudden change of heart and all ends well. But the second half of ’14 Phere’ takes an unexpectedly thoughtful path instead. Let’s be clear, this is not hard-hitting criticism or some deep exploration of casteism. The movie is still a romantic comedy, but the gravity of Aditi and Sanjay’s situation is never trivialized in favor of the jokes. There are some poignant, heartfelt moments, between Sanjay’s mother and Aditi or Sanjay’s phone call with his sister, for example. These scenes really show you the heart of this story beyond the laughs.

Kriti Kharbanda has perfected the art of being a romcom heroine. Her gestures, her presence, the way she catches the light, make her so easy to fall in love with. Kharbanda has found the balance between embracing the superficial beauty of a romcom heroine with the emotional turmoil that makes her likeable. Thanks to her, Aditi is such an intriguing character. There are so many little details thrown into the story that exist solely for the sake of character depth, having little impact on plot progression. The way Aditi’s voice and body language show she was raised by men without ever feeling too masculine. The way Aditi looks at the women in her life. These are all woven into the fabric of the character so effortlessly.

Massey’s character Sanjay also has his own inner war, which he earnestly confronts whenever he faces his sister. In these moments, the otherwise standard character becomes compelling. Massey is a consistently good performer, but the performance is missing spark, especially next to Kharbanda.

’14 Phere’ isn’t about caste discrimination or clan violence. Ultimately, it is about how tied to their families young people still are, despite the divisive worldviews of the two generations. These differences can’t always be eliminated, but maybe they can become less significant.

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