(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)
Running Shaadi, directed by Amit Roy, co-written by him along with Navjot Gulati has a first half that resembles a highlights package. It works in patches. It is great in establishing the dynamics between Ram Bharose (Amit Sadh) and his boss’s daughter Nimmi (Taapsee Pannu). We are dropped right in the middle of what has been a complicated long term relationship. Are they friends or are they more than friends? The treatment makes it apparent that they are as clueless as we are. Nimmi comes to him for a most personal situation and in a few frames Roy establishes what’s the deal between them. This falls apart when we get to the plot part of Running Shaadi. Out of job and out of luck in his personal life, Roy collaborates with his geek friend Cyberjeet (Arsh Bajwa) to create a website that is anti-shaadi.com. The dot com is important and not only because the real shaadi.com filed a case against the producers of this film for allegedly disparaging their brand and customers, and using or mentioning their domain name. The other reason is that they are not against marriages. They want to help couples who cannot help themselves. Be it against parents, society and everything in between.
Bharose and Cyberjeet create a website to help couples elope and get married. It is an idea that sounds great in the head but flimsy when it comes to actual execution. It makes you doubt the conviction of the Cyberjeet character who worships Zuckerberg and Jobs, quite literally. We are shown that he is a geek in the most perfunctory manner – by the t-shirts he puts on. That’s the problem with the other highlights package. When it comes to how the website works, we see only montages and case numbers as the film never gets into the little details. It is hard to believe that Bharose and Cyberjeet get away with 49 successful cases and the ones where they get into trouble, some divine intervention saves them.
Running Shaadi, the website, hits half century predictably with Nimmi’s case but with an unpredictable twist. That’s when you realize that the film really wants to concern itself with this one case and not about the website and its functioning. It’s not always fun. Taapsee is good, with her accent and firebrand attitude, and Arsh Bajwa tries really hard but Running Shaadi’s unevenness doesn’t allow it to become more than the sum of its parts. Sometimes it is satisfied with its emotional registers only cracking the surface while other times it wants you to deeply invest in its characters. It reminded me of another film from 2016 with a runaway bride that got right almost everything Running Shaadi guns for here – the setting and atmosphere as characters, the humor never getting out of hands reach and most important, never taking itself too seriously. Mudassar Aziz’s Happy Bhag Jayegi. Maybe every hinterland film must hire Anand L. Rai as a consultant.