Director: Raj Mehta
Two couples with the same names, sperm samples, in-vitro fertilization, and a switcheroo which has far-reaching, haha, consequences: is this really a Bollywood film?
Just going by the fairly novel premise, I have to hand it to Good Newwz: so refreshing to have something so out-of-the-box (another word for ‘risky’) come out of an industry whose default option is to play safe by churning out tired, jaded sequels of tired, jaded super-starry vehicles.
Here are your regular people, even if they wear make-up in bed, and are beautifully styled out of it (the first set of Batras), and are a walking-talking clichéd represenation of the loud, well-off Punjabi (the second set), united with the rest of us in their desire to produce their own offspring. Adoption? ‘Haye nahin, apna khoon toh apna hota hai’.
So here’s your foursome, Varun (Kumar) and Deepu aka Deepti (Khan) and Honey (Dosanjh) and Monika (Advani) getting up close and very, very personal over a lab technician’s mistake. The result, for both the Batra sets who have been trying very hard to become parents, is both gratifying and problematic: who has more rights over the bun in the oven?
The question comes right at the halfway mark, leaving us intrigued. How will Good Newwz solve this problem? When sperms and eggs need fertility specialists—a smilingly unctuous doctor couple played by Adil Hussain and Tisca Chopra—to reach their conclusion, does it disturb the natural order of things? Or is this scientific intervention one of the best ways out for a desperate couple? Going by the spirit of the film, it junks seriousness, choosing cheesiness, and we are set up for laughter.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first half, with its easy, spiky banter between Varun and Deepu, as they (she more than he) stare at the right date on the ovulating calendar, and get down to the job, her pushing, him pulling: sex strictly for procreation can be a chore. Haha. Good to see Akshay Kumar a) not being a flag-waving-nationalist-patriot b) owning up to grey-stubble-on-chin, and c) reminding us just how funny he can be. Kapoor Khan has not a single hair out of place even when she needs to appear ruffled, filling out the role perfectly. Dosanjh’s consummate turn manages to overcome the top-to-toe velvety-bling he’s togged out in; I only wish Advani had a little more to do, even if her dutiful mata rani worshipping, pinni-eating Punjabi wife look is spot on. Chopra offers able support, and Hussain’s straight-faced, praying-to-the-almighty doc is an absolute hoot.
If the film had stayed true to its broad comedic bone, it would have been the perfect antidote to these grim times. But no, it dives into melodrama with the full complement of violins wailing in the background, giving the macho male stars a teary scene. Why not be confident, even of the elitist lines leading to cheap laughs mouthed by a character? Kareena Kapoor Khan has the money monologue, in which she speaks frankly and openly about the impact of pregnancy on a female body: when did you hear of an A lister talk of how bouts of involuntary and embarrassing peeing become part of this ‘aurat-sirf-ma-banane-ke-liye-paida-hoti-hai’ schtick Bollywood has been doused with?
Also, for a film that comes from the Dharma stable which is usually so careful about aesthetics, it’s surprising how some of the sets look so patently like sets: I was particularly struck by a gol-guppa-eating sequence which comes off more contrived than touching because even the sudden shower that comes down on the characters feels like it’s been manufactured by a rain machine just beyond our vision.
The film works best when it is being its bawdy, silly, raucous self. It dips when it veers towards bring-out-the-hankies emotion bowing to the dictum of ‘how can a Bollywood film not make you laugh and cry at the same time’. When will filmmakers get past this hoary belief?
That being said, you can see that this is a film that’s been written, not assembled on the fly. And that’s really the best news. The characters are distinct, there’s a flow, and at the film’s core, an idea. It dips here and there, sure, but never abandons its cheery gallop to the finish line. Net net, Good Newwz is not half bad.