14 Phere Movie Review
If you're a sucker for large fat Indian weddings, especially the uncontrolled sort that Hindi films peddle, you'll love 14 Phere. The problem is that the magnificent weddings shown in this drab dramedy do not measure up to the intended double dosage of drollery. It's also not the conclusion of the story. Devanshu Singh's 14 Phere, directed by Manoj Kalwani, makes the fatal mistake of trivialising the threat of upper-caste dominance and sexism.
On the surface, this Zee5 film appears to be targeting people who take pride in the position on the caste ladder that their birth has afforded them. What it truly does is make fun of the cognitive processes that lead to social and gender stereotypes.
14 Phere undoubtedly has an interesting plot. A Rajput boy from Bihar and a Jat girl from Rajasthan have fallen in love. On the other hand, they know their families will not agree to it. They are forced to solicit the assistance of a pair of Delhi stage actors. The couple represents both the girl's and boy's parents. The payoff from this unusual idea is modest.
14 Phere isn't a wild ride. Despite the good chemistry between the leads, Vikrant Massey and Kriti Kharbanda, and a few noteworthy performances from the supporting cast, the film goes in circles and makes all the wrong noises.
Serious topics, such as caste prejudice, gender discrimination, and even honor killing - are used to create joy rather than moral anxiety. To be sure, the last-mentioned act is being considered, not being carried out. References to a patriarch's vow to harm a girl who has eloped with her boyfriend are made with shocking casualness as part of the film's allegedly comic plot. The search for the woman begins, and the audience is expected to accept this misdeed as a fact of life in 2021.
The societal standards that lead the lovebirds (live-in partners in Delhi NCR and coworkers in an MNC considering sending one of them to Boston on a long-term assignment) to deceive do not eventually get the derision they deserve. The errant parents, particularly the two paterfamiliases, get away with everything but murder. You want the domineering, entitled guys - among them the girl's brother - to pay for their sins of thought and deed. They don't, at least not to the amount that would make the retaliation exemplary.
14 Phere sees their transgressions not just as transient errors of judgment but also as evidence of the men's affection for their offspring and their assumption that their daughters lack minds of their own and hence require protection. They are not brought to their knees even when the tables are turned on. Sanjay (Vikrant Massey) is originally from Jehanabad. Aditi (Kriti Kharbanda) is a Jaipur native. Given the distance the two have journeyed from where their families have been stranded, they may be living on a planet their parents have never heard of.
Sanjay's father (Vineet Kumar) is dealing with yet another issue. His daughter had eloped with the hero's elder sister. The aging man is desperate to track down the girl he once adored. He now wishes to murder her. Nobody bats an eyelid. When Sanjay is summoned to Jehanabad on short notice, he quickly realizes that now is not the time to bring up the subject of his marriage to Aditi. He understands that his mother (Yamini Das), as meek as a lamb yet considerably more open-minded than her husband, is powerless to stand up to the family patriarch.
Aditi's motherless situation is no better. Her father, Dharampal (Govind Pandey), and elder brother Vivek (Sumit Suri), are open misogynists. They are determined that neither Aditi nor her younger sister Sneha (Sonakshi Batra) deviates from the path. The idea that the two girls in the family should be able to choose what they want to do with their lives is repugnant to them.
Aditi and Sanjay seek assistance from Zubina (Gauahar Khan), an amateur theatre actress who refers to herself as "The Meryl Streep of Delhi." She has already been cast as the mother of the principal character in the troupe's upcoming production, which Sanjay is portraying. The chance to pose as his and Aditi's mother in real life delights her to no end. She savours the part of a lifetime. Amay (Jameel Khan), a Method actor who swears by Stanislavski, emerges from self-imposed retirement at the hero's request, despite his severe qualms about Zubina being lured in to play his wife twice. The prospect of a truly regal hilarious romp from here on out is crushed since the escapade never gets started in earnest. The situational comedy plods along without really delivering the goods.
Aditi and Sanjay must stage two actual weddings with their fictitious parents in attendance. There is no turning back once the ball is set in motion. 14 Phere careens down a zigzagging path littered with ridiculous, improbable concepts.
One wedding is just as hectic as the other: siblings, sisters, a maternal uncle, a travel agent, and a slew of wedding guests, some real, some not, are tossed into the infantile mix in the hopes of causing some humour. The ill-advisedly facetious 14 Phere rides on empty prattle, leaving one perplexed at the waste of the endeavour.
The supporting cast, particularly Vineet Kumar, Jameel Khan, and Yamini Das (as a silent, subservient woman who is a far cry from the chatty mother/mother-in-law she played in the recent Haseen Dillruba), hold their own. However, the performances are not immune to the banality.
If the film hadn't been so cavalier about the consequences of rotten paternalism, it might have gotten some amusement out of its less difficult moments, however few and far between they are. 14 Phere isn't hilarious because of its dubious messaging.