The romantic film fails to live up to its promise of delivering an engaging (or a sensible) story about two star-crossed lovers.
It's love at first sight for Jaggi (Sunny Kaushal) who is willing to go to any lengths for his dream girl, Kartika (Radhika Madan), even if it means stopping her impending wedding. Enters Jaggi's guardian angel Gautam (Mohit Raina) who himself is dealing with a broken marriage from Ira (Diana Penty).
It’s been two years since the release of Kabir Singh took Bollywood by storm, and ignited a discussion over whether having a man-child for a protagonist is appropriate anymore. Shiddat, which can mean “intensity,” “abundance” or even “desperation”, only has the latter controlling the story.
Director Kunal Deshmukh, who has previously covered real-life issues like match-fixing (Jannat) and the 2005 Mumbai floods (Tum Mile), sets this film against the backdrop of illegal immigration. The first half-hour of the film seems to set the premise of a promising love story, but it’s heavily misleading.
Kaushal is Jaggi, who meets Madan’s character Kartika at a sports camp. He’s instantly attracted to her, only to discover — in a Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge twist — that she’s engaged to someone else. This is not a hurdle for him. He simply suggests that she “break the marriage, have an intense affair with him and live happily ever after.” Though Jaggi never goes into a self-destructive mode like Kabir Singh, his tantrums are infinite. He takes up the challenge to “go saat samundar paar (cross the seven seas)” for the woman he has fallen in love with. He travels from India to France to England, crossing the English channel to stop her wedding. Bizarre!
In-between this madness, Jaggi realises the subtle and harsh realities of a domestic partnership through Ira (Diana Penty) and diplomat Gautam’s (Mohit Raina) marriage. Jaggi had initially crashed their wedding and was completely floored by a romantic speech Gautam had given as a tribute to his bride. That was the incident, which sparked the irrationality of his future actions.
Penty and Madan are not offered a lot of screen time as compared to their male counterparts. Out of all the scenes that Penty had, only one was impactful, where she tells Gautam: "I love you, but I don't like you anymore." As for Madan, there’s not much that mentions her side of the love story. After flashback scenes, there are no details regarding whether Kartika does love Jaggi or whether asking him to cross the seven seas was just a challenge she concocted to get rid of him.
The screenplay by Shridhar Raghavan and Dheeraj Rattan draws inspiration from 90’s Bollywood tropes. Had Shiddat been released a decade or two ago, it would have been a hit. The moviegoing audience has now changed with the times, and it would have been great had the story evolved as well. Pooja Surti’s dialogues are heavy, antiquated and unnecessarily melodramatic. A “shiddat wala pyaar” must exist somewhere in the world, but the film makes it far less believable.
The best performance out of all the four actors is Raina followed by Kaushal. Both stick to the script and deliver no matter if there was any discomfort while capturing the emotions correctly. The establishment of the characters is not well-layered, but Penty performs decently within the limited screen time she is given. Madan sadly doesn't do justice to her character, making Kartika the weakest of them all. It seems like she doesn't fit the bill and looks like more of an experimental role for her.
With very Shiddat-ness, this romantic has failed to top the charts if they were meant to be in any.
Shiddat follows the 'done and dusted' Bollywood romance formula that no longer works in 2021.