Winter Fresh: new Gujarati film Shubh Aarambh is fresh and endearing

Review of New Gujarati film Shubh Aarambh, Ahmedabad

પવન ના સહવાસી છે પંખી ના પર
સ્થિર હોય કે ફરફરતા, શું ફેર પડે છે …

તારાજ તરફ વધવાના છે મારા કદમ
થાકેલા હોય કે થરકતા, શું ફેર પડે છે …

(verses from the film)

Released on 13th of January 2017, Shubh Aarambh is an endearing tale about rekindling lost love. Set in modern day Ahmedabad, the film traces the story of two contrasting couples who belong to two different generations, in which the younger couple is excited to be in love, while the elder couple is facing issues about being in love. The recent trend in many Gujarati movies has been to put a tag below the title that announces ‘an urban Gujarati film‘; thankfully Shubh Aarambh proves to be a true blue urban Gujarati film without actually announcing it, and this is an important aarambh (start) to the year 2017.

The film is gorgeous looking, straight from the unblemished world of ‘Rajshri’ films. In fact, many will find the character ‘Shubh’ to be a continuation of Barjatya’s ‘Prem’ – the ever smiling, affable and family-loving romantic. It is a pleasant tribute. The film has many aspects working for it – an interesting premise, sterling camera work (Sidhant Chowdhary), some fantastic acting, refreshing actors, well-written dialogues (Abhinay Banker), a terrific score, decent comedy and a charming lead in Harsh Chhaya who steals every scene he is in. Director Amit Barot has shown utmost honesty in weaving together all these threads and converting them into a beautiful fabric.

The story revolves around the out-of-love couple Anupam and Manasvi, played by Harsh Chhaya and Prachee Shah Pandya, and the in-love couple Shubh and Riddhima, played by Bharat Chawda and Deeksha Joshi. Shubh and Riddhima meet for an arranged marriage and they instantly develop a keen liking for each other. Anupam and Manasvi are parents of Shubh, who seem to be having issues with their 27-year-old ‘love’ marriage. It is now up to the young to-be-bride Riddhima, a marriage counsellor by profession, to make the unhappy couple fall for each other yet again.

It is a very interesting premise, enough to keep you on the seat. Most of the pathos and passion is expressed in verses. The poetry, credited to Shri BD Banker, works so well that it unobtrusively becomes the soul of the film. Anupam is a poet on a self-imposed exile, and all through the film it is his words that takes the viewer on the emotional ride. Harsh Chhaya is excellent as a brooding Anupam, and his deep baritone enhances the impact of the poetry. Prachee Shah Pandya looks her part, but the narrow scope of her role diminishes the possibility for the actor to bloom. Both the young actors look wonderful together – they are easy to the eye and they impart cuteness to the characters. A special mention must be made of Deeksha Joshi, who is absolutely adorable in the movie. She comes across as a natural actor and presents a variety of emotions in a convincing manner.

In terms of styling – the way the characters dress and look – this film has lifted the bar quite high. For once, the characters look very real and not cosmetic. The highpoint of the film is its refreshing and melodious music. Composer Rushi Vakil has given an album that will be difficult to beat in the ensuing year. It has romantic melodies, a garba number and an infectious title track that is hard to not like. In fact, the music plays a key role in holding this movie together, which otherwise unfolds at a very leisurely pace.

While the film sets you up for an emotional roller coaster ride, it falls short in building a clear narrative, and in letting the key characters connect with the audiences. The film seems unclear as to whether it is a wedding movie or a love story, and in trying to be both, it loses on either front. In a wedding movie, one expects interesting supporting characters, believable subplots and wide set pieces. In a love story, one expects to empathise with the characters – for which their joys and sorrows have to be made palatable. The script misses out on venturing deep in either direction and so the viewer remains unclear of the key conflict between its main protagonists. We are told through flashback montages that Anupam’s poetry brought the two together, but what we do not know is why he stopped writing? A lot of scenes seem forced and out of place, particularly one in which Riddhima’s father (Prashant Barot in top form) expresses the grief of his daughter’s viday while she is asleep. And so, altogether, it is left to some brilliantly performed monologues and the charm of the film’s leads to take the plot ahead.

There are certain kinds of cinema that simply urge you into ‘liking’ them nonetheless, and Shubh Aarambh is this kind of work. And so, in spite of its weaknesses, you happily join the protagonists in their emotional tribulations. What also works for any film is its ability to make you laugh and cry. And I have to admit that this one made me moist-eyed more than a few times. The laughs came from the histrionics of Laalo and Imran, played by Aarjav Trivedi and Sanjay Galsar. Although many times a bit disjointed from the plot, they do manage to garner good laughs.

The film has an endearing flavour, which binds the viewer to it. At the end of the film one does feel a definite gladness, and this is the biggest achievement of the film. It is a genre that Gujarati film audiences haven’t been exposed to earlier, and Shubh Aarambh does a wonderful job of setting the ball of ‘fun family films’ rolling.

Go watch it in theatres, it will not disappoint. And take the entire family along.




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