When 'Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari' had a Diwali release in theatres post-lockdown, it surprised many. What has turned even more astonishing is the fact that three months down the line, the film is still running in theatres. In fact, talking of surprises, the film has another one for the discerning movie-goer. The fun, slapstick family entertainer sees Manoj Bajpayee and the youth-icon-of-sorts Diljit Dosanjh come together for the first time. So you have a double whammy of Dosanjh’s Punjabi street smartness and Bajpayee’s Marathi manus act.
Elaborating on the rare theatre outing at a time when other filmmakers and stars were looking at OTT as a survival platform, Bajpayee says, “Somebody had to take that chance. I’m very glad that director Abhishek Sharma (who debuted with the brilliant Tere Bin Laden in 2010) along with Zee Studios took this brave decision. We can always come back to OTT later, but theatre was a priority. I’m happy that theatre owners are insistent on letting the film run since it’s a family film. Also, it has been witnessing steady footfall, of course not as much as it could have been—but it’s been more than 15 weeks now and people are still watching it. There has been an immense amount of curiosity for the film.”
The story revolves around Suraj Singh Dhillon (Dosanjh), who runs his father’s dairy business, and is looking to get married. But he somehow manages to mess up the first meeting with every girl’s family. If the dialogues from the film were used in real life arranged marriage encounters, Suraj would have been behind bars for his outrageous interactions with his potential fiancées. However, he has other problems in the form of Madhu Mangal Rane (Bajpayee), whose detective skills, including a typical James Bond tuxedo intro, make for a very colourful character. But that is also because it is always endearing seeing someone who has played Bhiku Mhatre (Satya, 1998) and Samar Pratap Singh (Shool, 1999) portray a character that tickles your funny bone. In a turn of events, Suraj starts wooing Tulshi Rane (Fatima Sana Sheikh), who happens to be Mangal’s sister, which is when matters start to get too hot to handle, hence the title of the film.
Sharma, ironically, was not nervous about releasing a film at a time when theatres were either shut or running with 50 percent occupancy norms in place. “I wasn’t sceptical. In fact, I wanted this film to be one of the first theatrical releases as it is a family comedy that needs to be enjoyed in theatres. I knew the attendance would be drastically low. But the fact that the film managed to bring a smile on people’s faces during these times and that it helped several theatres remain open was reward enough for me and my team,” he says, adding that it was one of the most enjoyable experiences working on the film as the versatile acting talent on board helped him evolve as a filmmaker.
A slapstick comedy with cheesy lines for dialogues would have made most squirm. But this film has one thing going for it—the ensemble cast boasting immense talent, especially Bajpayee, Dosanjh and Anuu Kapoor as Kaka, a family friend and a business liability for the lame detective, Bajpayee. The Family Man actor is full of compliments for his co-star, Dosanjh, who with this film marks his seventh outing in Bollywood since his much-acclaimed debut in 2016—Udta Punjab. “He is not only an amazing man, but also a blessed guy. You get the feeling that God is always looking after him. He has a positive impact on you and when he’s acting he does not have any malice or negativity towards anybody. He’s so popular, yet behaves in a very ordinary way. That is what impresses me about him,” Bajpayee says.
Sharma, who also gave us The Zoya Factor before the pandemic hit, has made an intelligent comedy. Armed with acting greats and enigmatic, young star-power, his aim to bring audiences back to film theatres was a bold move. And it seems the gamble has paid off.