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Sukhee: Shilpa Shetty Is Miscast In This Self-Defeating Film On Empowering Homemakers

This is #CriticalMargin, where Ishita Sengupta gets contemplative over new Hindi films and shows.

Sukhee: Shilpa Shetty Is Miscast In This Self-Defeating Film On Empowering Homemakers
Detail from the poster for Sukhee

Last Updated: 11.03 AM, Sep 22, 2023


SONAL JOSHI’s Sukhee is the latest Hindi film to be infatuated with the idea of a ‘homemaker’ without knowing what to do with it. It joins an increasing list of outings that intends uncovering the feminist undertones of a profession that traditionally has been looked down upon. But in doing so, it also sees it as a problem that needs solving. Earlier this year, Anushree Mehta’s Mrs Undercover attempted something similar with agonising results. Joshi’s film fares slightly better but that is not saying much.

Sukhee (a woefully miscast Shilpa Shetty) is a homemaker who lives with her daughter, husband and his grandfather in a (fictional) place called Anandkot. Her life, we are told, is stuck in a selfless routine. She tends to the elderly man, does her daughter’s homework and looks for attention from her husband. She was not always like this. Sukhee was a fun-loving, curse-knowing girl who got subsumed in domesticity post marriage. Soon an opportunity to relive the past in the form of a school reunion in New Delhi opens up. Her group of three friends call her and Sukhee is ready to go. Except, her husband Guru (Chaitannya Choudhry), a quilt-selling small-time businessman, says no. She takes her bag and leaves for Delhi.

Detail from the poster for Sukhee
Detail from the poster for Sukhee

The path from here is easy to decipher. Her absence will force her husband and daughter to acknowledge her presence. What remains to be seen is the way the film goes about it. Sukhee takes a route replete with cliches. For everything. When she is around her husband and daughter, neither of them leaves an opportunity to remind her that she is ‘just’ a housewife. When Sukhee recollects her popularity in school, her daughter cuts her short saying, “yes but now you are just my mother”. When she and her husband engage in a fight, he brings up the obvious argument “what work do you do at home?”

These are not facile comments but somewhere the film believes in them too. Sukhee’s identification of a homemaker is as reductive as the characters it tries to critique. The protagonist is written as a reservoir of adjectives. The writing room was probably abuzz with words like “fiesty”, “exuberant”, “pugnacious”, “effervescent” “downcast” “sorrowful”. When Sukhee is at home she is sad, when she steps out she is happy. The writing (Radhika Anand, Paulomi Dutta and Rupinder Inderjit are credited) is painfully simplistic and deals only in binaries. Not for once does it explore the possibility that a homemaker can also possess agency and, if not, negotiate her way around.

Detail from the poster for Sukhee
Detail from the poster for Sukhee

In fact, except Sukhee all the other homemakers in the film are depicted so poorly that they only reiterate the stereotypes associated with them. They are gossip-loving middle-aged women who spend their time nosing around in other people’s houses. In contrast, Sukhee’s friends “the career-women '' are introduced just as one would assume them to be. When we see them for the first time, one of them is smoking a cigarette and the other is sipping on red wine.

For the most part Joshi feels uncertain about the kind of film she wants to make. Is it the one where the woman finds herself and vows to never return to a house that rendered her invisible? Is it the one where her husband and daughter realise their mistake and make penance for it? Is it the one where she realises her self worth through the attention of another man? Is it the one where she meets her childhood friends after long and in a span of days all their problems are magically resolved? Sukhee is all these films and consequently, none.


The debut filmmaker takes as many narrative strands as she possibly can and then, without crafting them, makes them into a knot. The film navigates through creepy de-aging flashbacks, a really corny taming-a- horse imagery which is supposed to be a stand-in for the protagonist taking the reins of her life in her own hands, a really, really bad racing sequence, an affecting Amit Sadh performance, a bizarre plot point of a young girl using her school debate to send mixed signals to her mother via livestream, and arrives at an ending that feels neither earned nor clear. If anything, Sukhee goes back to where it had started from, making the whole outing feel like a colossal waste of time.

Speaking of time, the film has no idea of it. One fine day Sukhee decides to not return to Anandkot. She stays back in Delhi even when her family reaches out for reconciliation. No one utters for how long she has been away. Then she suddenly wins a horse racing competition without breaking a sweat (literally). At some point earlier we were told her daughter had board examinations in two months. Either the film moves past that or it truly believes that time is a construct because we see nothing. The only reward of such jumpy stillness is watching Kiran Kumar (playing the father) still be angry with Shilpa Shetty for choosing the wrong man. Two decades have passed since Dhadkan… but have they, really?

(Disclaimer: 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.)

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