Raj Mehta’s Good Newwz sums up the dominant mood of Hindi films in 2019: big concepts, clueless execution. At its heart, the year’s last film is a comedy about maturity and acceptance. Strangely, neither of those traits rubs off on the script. The opening bits are funny, letting loose a comically loutish Akshay Kumar we have missed since Kambakkht Ishq (2009). But once the film walks past its halfway mark, stabbing clumsily at themes beyond its grasp, there’s little the actor can do to save this mess.
Varun (Akshay) and Deepti (Kareena Kapoor Khan) have been married for seven years. She’s insistent on a child; he’s rudely aloof. Upon recommendation, they seek out professional help. It ends up costing them dearly. Varun’s sperm, it turns out, has been swapped with another couple bearing the same surname. The Chandigarh Batras (Diljit Dosanjh and Kiara Advani) are a clownish pair, rich but trashy. They move into the same building as Varun and Deepti, making annoying overtures to better understand the Mumbai couple. The floor-to-floor comedy works for a while, until the laughs dissipate and both ladies are heavily pregnant.
Good Newwz intends to sensitise audiences to in vitro fertilization (IVF). Adil Hussain and Tisca Chopra play a medical pair who patiently lay out its science. When the ‘mix-up’ happens, the men are promptly indignant, while the women take it in their stride. They slowly bond over the course of the film and find solidarity in their situation.
Their progressiveness, however, comes at a terrible cost. Arguing with her husband, Deepti equates abortion with murder, and there are several interjections to why adoption is a preferable alternative. It’s strange for a film to pretend to eschew traditional notions of lineage, then fall back and uphold conservative ideas about conception and childbirth. This constant downslide extends to Tisca’s character, who — while claiming not to ‘influence’ her patient — points to the beating heart of a fetus on her scanner.
The story is pivoted on Varun. He ignores his wife and skips out on the sex. Flustered at the fertility clinic, he rapidly enquires about “my work” and “my sperm”, caring little about anything else. He’s repeatedly called ‘insensitive’ by Deepti — the word ringing out with awkward irony throughout the film. Moreover, when the time comes for Varun to change, it happens all too abruptly and by convenient means: rain, a monologue by wife, sad song. It’s not as streamlined as the emotional shift in Vicky Donor, or the quieter moments in Due Date.
Akshay’s comic timing is sharp as ever. The actor nails a perfect mock-curtsy while welcoming his guests. It’s also fun watching him get high in the bathroom, hiding from his wife, though the extended stoner sequence doesn’t land. Kareena does him one better, crumbling internally in her signature way at loud family parties. Diljit and Kiara are gamely, but their characters are stereotypes, barely worthy of their talent.
The film, too, stops short of trusting its actors, amping up the most annoying background score of the year. It’s a silly move, ditching a laugh track and filling it up with beat drops and stings. In case the Indian TV industry hadn’t made it clear, noise isn’t news.
Movie: Good Newwz
Director: Raj Mehta
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Diljit Dosanjh, Kiara