The film plays out in the 12-hours leading up to a wedding and explores the dynamics of the guests who’ve gathered for this ‘auspicious’ occasion.
Story: Shiva (Siddhaartha Maadhyamika) has been in love with his colleague Anu (Meghana Gaonkar) for as long as he remembers. But every time he proposed love and marriage, she chose to friendzone him instead, only to realize that her heart beats for him on the eve of his wedding to Vidhya (Hitha Chandrashekar). What will Shiva do when Anu proposes to him at his pre-wedding reception?
Review: On paper, the premise of debutant director Santhosh Gopal’s film, Shubhamangala, seems interesting - an ex proposing marriage to a would-be-groom hours before he ties the knot with someone else. As a movie, this translated into 12 hours leading up to the proposed wedding of Shiva and Vidhya. Much of the action takes place at the wedding hall, where guests across age groups have assembled to wish the soon-to-be-wedded couple.
There are friends and family from both the groom’s and the bride’s side, adding ‘colour’ to the proceedings. Like, for instance, Shiva’s dad’s colleague David (Babu Hirannaiah), who stumbles upon his college crush Padma (Aruna Balraj) at the reception, or the teenage ‘couple’ Preeti and Rahul. There’s also the lecherous wedding photographer Manjunath (Gopalkrishna Deshpande), a married man with a child, who wastes no opportunity to take advantage of any woman who falls for his ‘charms’.
Santhosh manages to pack in multiple tracks into a tight two-hour run-time, while still dedicating a lion’s share to the lead trio, yet Shubhamangala tends to be a tedious watch. And that’s mainly got to do with Siddhaartha as the protagonist. Santhosh’s characterization of Shiva and his relationship with Anu isn’t convincing enough for the drama that plays out following her proposal. Siddhaartha's range of facial emotions felt rather limited irrespective of the mood in the moment – it was always a wide-eyed bewildered stare. His co-star Hitha Chandrashekar, though, more than made up for it and was the only one who well and truly utilized the opportunity presented to her. As Vidhya, she was the most likeable and relatable. It’s Vidhya you end up rooting for eventually. That’s not to say that Meghana as Anu was bad; it’s just that Hitha got the better role.
The filmmaker also tries to fit in society’s myopic mindset about women who drink and smoke, or are easy, and brings in messages of female empowerment therein. Noble as that is, none of it really has the desired effect.
Verdict: Released at a time when Kantara’s rampage at the box office continues unabated, Shubhamangala managed only a handful of shows. There was an honest intent at trying something different, both such efforts are often better appreciated on OTTs these days. Shubhamangala will, hopefully, get its due when it comes on a streaming platform in due course of time.