Who’d ever guess that buried beneath the Bollywood musical romance “Hey! Sinamika” there was an Argentine rom-com one third shorter, screaming “Aye, no puedo respirar!”
This “Around the World with Netflix” marathon is an Indian romance about a woman who longs to be free of over smothering, jabbering, clingy but cute husband, which flips the gender of the spouse-who-wants-out from the 2008 Spanish language comedy “Un novio para mi mujer,” “A Boyfriend for my Wife.”
It’s in Tamil (mostly) and is set in the cities of Chennai and Pondicherry. And it’s comedy that begins with a “meet cute,” turns quickly to “This maddening man, how can escape him?” and lapses into “This maddening movie, will they ever get to the bloody point?”
Because there have to be production numbers, dance/song solos and a love duet or two. They have to dazzle and they most certainly do — a stunningly shot wedding dance in tribute to a bride, a rough-and-ready long-take street rap-song about a guy finding his voice.
Sure, the lyrics are…puerile, “a she plucked from my roots and poured water on my shoots” loses something in translation. Perhaps.
And the love story, while involving lots of sweeping our leading lady (Aditi Rao Hydari) off her feet — literally, has no kissing, no skin and zero heat — even with a hired seductress making this a love triangle — because chastity is Old School Bollywood.
But if you’ve never set aside an afternoon or evening — or both — to sit through a classic Bollywood romance, here’s a less-than-awful updating of the formula that sucks up just about as much time.
Dulquer Salmaan plays Yaazhan, who tries to impress the pretty lady (Hydari) who shows up at the same seaside cafe one morning. Their “meet cute” begins with the dashing Yaazhan stumbling as he tries to get the waiter to tell him where the coffee beans came from — “Only the best places, sahib!” — and climaxes with a sudden wind squall which she then saves him from.
“Trust me,” she says, and he does. It turns out, she’s a “paleotempestologist.” She studies weather, its history and impacts on structures and people. He’s a software engineer who “just lost my fourth job,” and a bit of a gourmand. As they begin a flirtation, with musical accompaniment, she drops this bomb.
“If I married someone like you, I’d spend half my life at the gym!”
BAM. They’re married. Indian movies may go on eternally, but when it comes to marriages, there’s no messing around.
Two years pass and Yaazhan’s breathless, nonstop patter has driven Mouna to distraction. He is literally shoving food in her mouth, even in the shower. He picks out her clothes for her. He is the hovering, over-attentive house husband from hell.
Colleagues coach her on how to provoke a divorce, to no avail.
Mouna begs her boss for an out of town assignment — working with designers on a building project in Pondicherry. Yaazhan surprises her by showing up and joining her there.
We get her, and we get it. We hate this guy, too.
This movie might never be a target for a Hollywood remake because there are WAY too many psychological terms bandied about for Yaazhan’s “controlling” behavior. But he’s smitten and he seems to mean well.
And then there’s the highly unscrupulous couples counselor Dr. Malaravizi (Kajal Aggarwal) who lives and practices next door. Mouna consults with her, over the objections of the Dr.’s receptionist, who pleads that “Happy couples come in, unhappy ones depart.”
That’s actually the funniest thing in the movie and a gag worth repeating, a bit player worth building up and having some fun with. But no.
Mouna gets the doctor to “take an interest” in her man with the goal of seducing and tripping him up and busting up this suffocating marriage.
But when we meet two of Mouna’s Pondicherry pals who do radio, we jump thirty minutes ahead of this slow-slower-slowest narrative and figure, “That’s where Yaazhan’s manic, breathless patter belongs — Isai 103.5 FM, Joy knows no end here.”
It may seem I’m giving away a lot of plot, but there’s a LOT more where that came from, confrontations with a phony yogi, role reversals and backlash and counter-backlash over who doesn’t love whom. When your movie covers 150 minutes of screen time, there’s plenty of room for exposition, even if you limit the number of characters.
Does this central love triangle have enough to it to carry a movie that long? No, it does not.
The production numbers — I counted five or so, with musical montages too –aren’t filler, padding out the run time. They’re the main reason to see “Hey! Sinamika.” It’s all the soapy, maudlin, repetitive melodrama and never-quite-funny annoyance scenes that make the film an ordeal.
The leads are beautiful specimens of humanity and set off sparks in their meet cute moment. But never again. The genre almost ordains limits on “chemistry.”
There’s a lighter, funnier, sexier movie in this material. But it was probably the one already made in Argentina, without the cool dance numbers.
Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Aditi Rao Hydari, Kajal Aggarwal
Credits: Directed by Brinda Master, scripted by Madhan Karky, based on the Argentine film “Un novio para mi mujer” by Juan Tararatuto and Pablo Solarzby A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:27