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regular-article-logo Friday, 23 February 2024

Kartik Aaryan-Kiara Advani’s SatyaPrem Ki Katha tries to be funny and also pack in social messages

Supriya Pathak and Gajaraj Rao play key roles in the romantic drama directed by Sameer Vidwans

Agnivo Niyogi Calcutta Published 30.06.23, 12:57 PM
Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani in SatyaPrem Ki Katha

Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani in SatyaPrem Ki Katha Instagram

SatyaPrem Ki Katha is neither good nor too bad, with its confused way of going about things on an important theme like consent. The Sameer Vidwans-directed film starring Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani tries to pack several social messages into the mould of a romantic drama but a lot of it doesn’t quite land.

Satyaprem aka Sattu (Kartik Aaryan) is an unemployed guy from Ahmedabad who complains that he’s the only bachelor in his neighbourhood and longs to get married. His dream woman is Katha (Kiara Advani) whom he had met at a Navratri Jalsa. While Sattu helps his father (Gajraj Rao) out with housework, his mother (Supriya Pathak) and sister (Shikha Talsania) support the family financially. Fate smiles upon Sattu when Katha’s family proposes a marriage alliance. The two tie the knot, but Sattu is shattered when Katha refuses to consummate their marriage.

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For the entire first half of the film, SatyaPrem Ki Katha treads the same path as Aaryan’s previous films — a can-do-no-wrong hero obsessively wooing his lady love though she keeps pushing him away, coming off as arrogant and tone deaf. Katha’s family marries her off to Sattu against her wishes and she even tries to self-harm, but until the second half you don’t have a clue what’s going on with her.

Sometime after the interval, the narrative suddenly changes direction. It is revealed that Katha is a rape survivor and reeling from that trauma, she’s been unwilling to share a room with Sattu. From then on, the film starts preaching on the consequences of allowing someone to cross the line, and addressing issues like date rape and post-traumatic grief.

Though Sattu is someone who will do anything for his lady love, it doesn’t take away from the fact the film’s makers have projected him as ‘the saviour’ — from beating up Katha’s ex-boyfriend to filing an FIR on her behalf and egging her on to fight her battle.

And some of the jokes in the film can make you cringe. The sub-plot on asexuality, for example. Katha lies to Sattu about being asexual so that he would not pester her to sleep with him. He laughs it off saying no such thing exists. A few scenes later, Sattu casually asks if these things — meaning sexuality — can change depending on the mood.

Aside from these misfires, what the film gets right is the old-school romance. The chemistry between Kartik and Kiara is magical. There is a poignant sequence where Kartik stands outside a door and Kiara’s silhouette is visible in the glass. The genuinity of their emotions in the scene is palpable.

The song Aaj Ke Baad — composed by Manan Bhardwaj and sung by Bhardwaj and Tulsi Kumar — is a recurrent theme in the background score and adds to the charm. And despite all the controversies, Ali Sethi and Shae Gill’s Pasoori Nu in Arijit Singh’s voice does strike a chord during the honeymoon sequence in Kashmir.

Aaryan, with his signature sheepish smile and look, easily pulls off the textbook good boy who never dithers from standing like a rock beside the woman he loves. Compared to Aaryan, Kiara shows greater command over her craft, handling some challenging scenes with a lot of nuance.

The supporting characters in SatyaPrem Ki Katha are underdeveloped and inconsistent. Gajraj Rao begins as an amiable father figure with a progressive outlook but undergoes an inexplicable transformation into a ’90s conservative father. Supriya Pathak initially exudes a comedic Gujarati persona — reminiscent of her role in the TV show Khichdi — but has a change of heart midway through the film. Shikha Talsania is a sheer waste of talent as Sattu’s sister; she has very little to do.

Director Vidwans had his finger on the pulse — the struggle of two individuals grappling with their troubled past and striving for a harmonious present, and initiating a dialogue around consent — but this core concept gets overshadowed by everything else the film throws at us.

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