Directed by Amit Joshi and Aradhana Sah, TBMAUJ is what happens when one wants to watch a sanskaari Kabir Singh.
THE year has barely started and there are multiple problems already. Unemployment poses a problem, people in the country are actively debating about what lies beneath the surface rather than what meets their eyes. But I have a more pressing question to ask: what were the makers of Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya thinking? Specifically, why were they thinking when they made the film they did which is so bizarre and outlandish that ‘I can’t even’ — the non-committal GenZ response to everything — does not even cut it. I can’t even.
As incredulous it may sound, my disbelief is not built into the premise which centres on a human being falling in love with a robot. Neither is it tied to the critique of the film which is reserved on our dependence on technology and the blithe assumption that a machine can replace people. All that is great and fun. Instead, I am left marvelling at the way Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya (TBMAUJ) chooses to go about it. I am still stunned that in today’s day and age, where gender politics though fraught is more prone to awareness, not one person from the team took a moment to pause and reflect that the giant joke they are designing might be on them.
Directed by Amit Joshi and Aradhana Sah (also credited as writers), TBMAUJ is what happens when one wants to watch a sanskaari Kabir Singh, the alpha male hero created by director Sandeep Reddy Vanga, who likes his coffee black and women mute. It is what happens when three tech bros sit in the evening while nursing their whiskeys and complaining about their partners. If I close my eyes, I can envision the exact moment a film like this was born. Three coders were sitting together. One of them must have grumbled that Spotify is more intuitive to his needs than his wife. At this time, another would have intervened and said, “bro, that’s algorithm and not connection.” The third one, also the more enterprising, would have sprung up at this moment, delighted with himself for chancing upon a goldmine of an idea. Gentlemen, this is not it.
Here is how things go. Aryan Agnihotri (Shahid Kapoor) is a robotics engineer in Mumbai. His family desperately wants him to get married but Aryan refuses to. Although he never spells out a concrete reason, we can assume what it is. He teases his best friend, Monty (a hassled Ashish Verma), of being too controlled by his wife. The latter agrees. In a Kabir Singh tonality, Aryan also has certain expectations from his domestic help. Like, he stares hard at her when there is sugar in his black coffee or too much oil in his food. To reiterate, Aryan Agnihotri likes his coffee black and women mute.
It is to nobody’s surprise that when he goes to the US to meet his aunt and senior innovator of his company (essayed by Dimple Kapadia), he falls in love with a woman who stares at him and utters the three golden words: teach me more. Sifra (Kriti Sanon) is efficient, obedient and compliant. In short, she is a straight man’s wet dream. Aryan spends two days with her and falls so deeply in love with her that when he realises she is a robot (what were you thinking?), his feelings refuse to subside. In any case why would they be? Sifra is everything he wants. He can control her, teach her what to say, switch her off at his will. He is her admin.
In an ideal world, a film like this would have delved into the psyche of a man and unpack his controlling tendencies. But TBMAUJ steadfastly devolves into a comedy where a woman, who cannot do anything without the consent of a man, becomes the prized possession of the family. Everyone in Aryan’s family loves Sifra. She can cook in a minute, and does everything that she is told to do. They do not know she is a robot and their lack of curiosity in her inhuman efficiency made me wonder if this was the film’s way of making a statement on how women in Indian families are recognised solely through their labour and reduced to robots anyway. But Joshi and Sah’s outing is so far on the other end that such an insight probably looks like a dot.
TBMAUJ is all kinds of tone deaf that concludes with the man realising that there is nothing wrong with his bouquet of needs or that he fell in love with a woman because he could literally control her every move. It was just wrong of him to look for all these attributes in a robot. It also does not help that it is a dull film with no laughs to offer. Aryan’s family is large and carefully curated. He has a nagging mother (Anubha Fatehpuria), a well-meaning father (adorable Rakesh Bedi) and an unmarried uncle (Rajesh Kumar) who says the wrong thing at the wrong time. Then there is Dharmendra, the patriarch of the family, who charmingly keeps to himself and the alcohol bottle for the most part.
Not unlike Maddock’s last big hit from last year, Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, TBMAUJ props up the great Indian family and instead of inspecting it critically, glorifies every regressive facet of the arrangement. It falls on the woman to be the sacrificial lamb. She ought to self-efface for the family to remain together, and the narrative does not alter even when she is a robot.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of OTTplay. The author is solely responsible for any claims arising out of the content of this column.