Friday, April 18, 2014


Release date:
April 18, 2014
Abhishek Varman


Alia Bhatt, Arjun Kapoor, Amrita Singh, Revathy, Ronit Roy, Shiv Kumar Subramaniam, Achint Kaur
Hindi with a bit of Tamil

Abhishek Varman’s 2 States is not so much a love story between Ananya Swaminathan and Krish Malhotra, as it is the tale of a young couple from differing cultural backgrounds wooing their respective families. It’s based on the book 2 States: The Story Of My Marriage by Chetan Bhagat. The film takes us from IIM-Ahmedabad where Ananya and Krish first meet, to their early professional lives and their struggles to get her happily married, traditional (though not painfully so) Tamilian mom and dad, his good-hearted but crude, all-Punjabi mother and estranged, alcoholic father to all get along. Why not avoid the trauma, run away and get married? Answer: because Ananya – an interesting mix of tradition and modernity – wants their parents to be present and happy at their wedding.

Those who have read 2 States know how it will end. Either way, it’s not the climax but the treatment of the journey that makes this an under-stated, uncommon mainstream romance. Five Point Someone, the only Chetan Bhagat book that I’ve read, led me to conclude this about the man: that his language is deplorably mediocre but there’s a kernel of common sense at the heart of what he’s saying, which can’t be ignored. In fact, FPS was a far more balanced assessment of the Indian education system than the more populist, everything’s-wrong-with-it approach adopted by Rajkumar Hirani’s much-acclaimed, hugely entertaining film adaptation, 3 Idiots. The feeling about Bhagat remains, now that I’ve seen the celluloid version of 2 States.

The film’s core strength is that while it revolves around cultural clashes, it does not resort to the irritating, sometimes nauseating community clichés that Bollywood usually favours. The Malhotras and Swaminathans are more like the Punjabis and Tamilians that I’ve had as neighbours, friends, colleagues and classmates all my life: yes there are social differences and specific characteristics, yet Ananya’s people are not oily-haired or cowardly, nor do you hear them say “Ayaiyyo every step of the way; and Krish’s relatives don’t break into Bhangra, get belligerent or say “O paappe” at the drop of a hat. More to the point, in the virtual lack of differences between Krish and Ananya when they’re outside home territory, we see the reality of so many city-bred Indians, rooted in their ethos yet citizens of the world, who would and could blend in wherever they go.

Varman’s writing speaks to us gently of the many reasons why Indian parents object when children pick their own life partners, even in 2014. Sometimes it’s societal pressure; sometimes caste and other narrow-minded considerations; sometimes a genuine worry about whether their beloved child can handle differing customs and find acceptance in her/his partner’s family; but most of the time (though political correctness holds us back from saying this often enough) it’s an ego hassle that leads them to object for the heck of objecting, like when Krish’s Mom assumes from the start that that damned “Madrasan” must have trapped her son, because Punjabis are so white that any southern Indian girl would be dying to get hitched to a Punj boy.

I can imagine people out there saying, “par Alia Bhatt Madrasan toh nahin dikhti hai,” for obvious reasons. Well, the varying shades of skin colour within both clans in this film is an unspoken message to those who are fixated on the differences in complexion of various communities in India, to those who assume that “sab Punjabi gorey hotey hai aur sab Madrasi kaaley hotey hai”, but most especially to those who think white is beautiful and black is ugly.

The proceedings unfold on screen in an unhurried manner, as though they are real-time events. The snuggling and coupling in the early part of the film is fluffy, fun and sweet (even if the portrayal of IIM-A is superficial and factually off the mark); the parivaar saga later on is moving and feels authentic. There’s humour throughout, low-key and not raucous. The measured tone must be credited to Namrata Rao’s editing complementing Varman’s direction and writing (he’s done the screenplay, with dialogues by Husain Dalal).

Of the songs created by Shankar Ehsaan Loy, none are as rousing as their best work in Dil Chahta Hai, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Bunty aur Babli, Salaam-e-Ishq and Rock On. Two numbers – Offo and Locha-e-Ulfat – are also positioned too close to each other within the film. However, the rest of the songs are blended well into the narrative and Mast Magan is really nice. 

Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor inhabit the characters of Ananya and Krish with a level of comfort that belies their lack of experience. He’s becoming more easy before the camera with each film; she’s got a natural talent for acting that was inexplicably left untapped in her debut film Student Of The Year. He’s got brooding eyes, and a manner about him that would make a woman want to protect him; she’s pretty and charming on screen. Together they manage to whip up some sparks in the rough and tumble of their bedsheets at IIM; and later, to convey to us the pain of their separation and family squabbles.

The supporting cast is excellent, headlined by Amrita Singh who seems to be sinking her teeth into her second innings in Bollywood. Here she is given the task of playing a Punjabi mother who is crude yet not the usual breast-beating, loud, over-the-top Punjaban played by Kirron Kher in a number of films (fun to watch at first, but repetitive after a point, for no fault of the actress). Singh rises to the challenge, delivering a delightfully nuanced performance, vastly different from her impressive evil turn in 2013’s Aurangzeb. Ronit Roy as her husband is just as striking. As a result, some of 2 States’ most powerful scenes are within the Malhotra home.

The lovely Revathy and Shiv Kumar Subramaniam play Ananya’s parents who are poorly fleshed out in comparison. This is the film’s major failing: that we find ourselves involved with the Malhotras whereas the Swaminathans remain distant figures. The relationship between Krish and his mother in particular has both depth and detail, far more even than the relationship between Krish and Ananya. Mr and Mrs Swaminathan, on the other hand, are given short shrift.

The defence could be that this is a story told from Krish’s point of view. Still, when a film is called 2 States, you want to know equally about both states, not just one. I was also disturbed by the “dil ka buraa nahin hai” attitude that surfaces in the end towards the emotionally abusive Mr Malhotra whose presence usually hints at a threat of physical violence. Worrisome, because this is the line almost always taken to condone physically abusive husbands.

The screenplay has some rough edges that required more work. For instance, the narrative device of getting the hero to recount the story from a psychiatrist’s couch doesn’t serve any particular purpose, and a back-and-forth in time at one point gets confusing. A straightforward narration would have just made more sense. Early on in the film, the exceedingly bright Ananya who is an Economics topper at the graduation level, seems inexplicably clueless about Economics theories in her IIM class. Why? Possibly in a bow to Chetan Bhagat who would have been in IIM-A in the early 1990s, Krish is shown working on a manual typewriter – except that the film is set in today’s India where this dated device in the hands of a 20-something Delhi boy who is an IIM student seems ludicrous.

That being said, 2 States is moody, low-key, pleasant yet steeped in the idiosyncracies that mark relationships even in contemporary, seemingly forward-thinking India. It revolves around a likeable lead pair, and is unusual in tenor as Bollywood romances go. With all its flaws, it touches the heart and had me rooting for Ananya and Krish to end up together. When that happens in a film, you know it’s worked.

Rating (out of five stars): ***

CBFC Rating (India):

Running time:
149 minutes

Photograph courtesy: Everymedia PR


  1. I may not be wrong if I opine that "This would be Amrita Singh's best ever performance" - And the Bhatt Babe CAN act !! Agree that the Swaminathan's role dint get the emotive connect that the Punjabi couples characterization allowed but enjoyed the bits of drink session of the father and the song sequence of the mother at the event. Ronit's character was sharply conceived and the actor delivered his part with aplomb..thoroughly enjoyed the movie. for once say a hindli flick without reading your review ;-) and i was lucky to savor a fine caper !

  2. I had thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, especially because I read it at the same time as with my South Indian neighbours! :) The movie is slow paced and sweet but not half as funny as the book. The cultural differences were highlighted better there, without being over the top. Revathi was a delight to watch.. especially when she sang my favourite song from Love :)

  3. 2 STATES MOVIE FACTS TO LEARN: 1.) Tamil gals can start friendship with Punjabi guy very easily. 2.) boys can goto gals hostel and even enter gals room without wardens permission. 3.) gals can goto boys hostel and even enter boys room without wardens permission. 4.) boy can propose a gal in the middle of a campus interview and interviewers allow that too. 5.) company can transfer people immediately from Delhi to Chennai as people wish. 6.) parents come for convocation from Delhi, Chennai to Mumbai immediately 7.) if u teach to do a powerpoint presentation to your father in law and encourage your mother in law to be singer both will be impressed. 8.) Ananya solves marriage problem which parents cannot solve in just 5 minutes. these reasons are good enough to call this film " Raddi film "