The age-old proviso about Bollywood films is that if the music and the choreography is good enough, you’ll excuse the slack storytelling of the inconsequential story.
“Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” puts that to the test with dazzling choreography, fun music, sexy leads and posh settings complete with an even more posh interlude in Barcelona, Spain.
But we are so far ahead of this story that impatience to “Just get ON with it” overhwhelms this Ranbir Kapoor/Shraddha Kapoor (no relation) rom-com.
Dashing, dancing singing lead Ranbir Kapoor (“Sanju”) is Rohan, also called “Mickey” and once jokingly referred to as “Jitendra” (“One who has overwhelmed the senses”), the head of a service that — for a steep price — will break up your relationship for you.
A rich boy who must hit the gym a LOT ( not that we ever see it), he and his pal-since-childhood Manu (Anubhav Singh Bassi) will anonymously (business transacted via voice-disguising phone app) assemble a team that might include a fake ex-boyfriend to provoke a jealous rage, or a fake fortune teller taking “You can do better” instructions by radio. They will pound whatever message is necessary home (“You Deserve Better” digital street signs) to trick the unknowing partner-to-be-dismissed to cause the break-up and not realize she/he was manipulated.
Their company’s not rolling in cash, but Rohan and Manu have ethics. A married guy wants out?
“You have a CHILD,” Rohan snaps. “Be a MAN (in Hindu with subtitles)” Manu barks.
But Manu’s slow-marching to the altar with the adoring but smothering Kinchi (Monica Chaudhary). Can their business, their “art” of the break-up, save him?
Maybe. But not if motor-mouthed fashion plate Mickey gets distracted by “a goddess” who just happens to be Kinchi’s bestie. Tinni (Shraddha Kapoor) is — as advertised — a stunner. She throws the fellow she flirtatiously dismisses as an old money “spoiled brat” for a loop.
“You’re so gorgeous, I’m ashamed I am not a poet,” he gushes.
A whirlwind courtship ensues, Manu’s “Kinchi” problem is ignored and Rohan’s big, over-bearing family overwhelms the budding relationship with Tinni, with his eager participation.
Bringing the mother, grandmother, sister and niece along to a movie? Not a smart play, old chap.
As we’ve recognized the plot as borrowed from “The Breaker Upperers” and assorted Matthew McConaughey-and-or-Kate-Hudson rom-coms about trying to con someone into or out of a relationship, we know exactly where this is going.
So why does it take two hours and forty minutes to get there?
Yes, it’s a culture clash thing. Indian films have been long, for a variety of reasons, since the beginning. But one clue that this Luv Ranjan film provides is the ways the story is strung-out, contributing to the “dawdling” feeling.
It’s not the five or six production numbers, not really. Not even when one of is set up by a character noting “The music will start…now. Next come the dancers…:”
This film seems engineered for an audience that is distracted, half-paying attention or headed out to the concession stand or restroom — a lot. The “overbearing family” gag is just one plot point among many that is introduced, underlined, beaten again and then beaten to death.
There’s little that’s novel about any of this, but even the simplest “twists” are handled and rehandled as if we’re not catching on.
What works are those sexy, energetic and fun song-and-dance scenes, choreographed by Bosco Martis and Caesar Gonsalves.
The leads click and set off just enough sparks, as co-equals, to “work” as a couple. And director and co-writer Luv Ranjan and Ranbir Kapoor turn his character into a Kevin Hart-paced motormouth, a fast-talker who can bowl over anybody with verbiage.
His courtship pitch to Tinni? He is “talented, handsome, good looking, rich, fit, virile, polite, loveable humble, respectful, romantic and adorable,” even if he does say so himself.
Yes, fast is funny, but predictable is predictable, and this rom-com stumbles badly as it lurches towards the inevitable — she’s hired him to bust them up, he’s slow figuring this out.
When the title “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” translates as “You’re a Liar, I am Cunning,” you need to be more cunning at hiding where you’re going. Otherwise, we start rooting for the breakup to happen out of sheer impatience.
Rating: unrated, mild profanity
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Monica Chaudhary and Anubhav Singh Bassi
Credits: Directed by Luv Ranjan, scripted by Rahul Mody and Luv Ranjan. A Yash Raj Films/Netflix release.
Running time: 2:39