Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 27, 2019

Who’s baby is it anyway?

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 9:52 pm

December 27, 2019

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Diljit Dosanjh, Kiara Advani, Adil Hussain, Tisca Chopra

Director: Raj Mehta

Good Newwz, starring Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor, is not the most flattering endorsement of the medical profession. The film rests on the horrifying possibility that a reputed fertility clinic would mix up the sperm samples of two men, while each is undergoing IVF with his respective wife.

It’s an improbable but original premise, and with Akshay Kumar attached as star and producer it plays out as a farcical comedy of errors. If you think about it, currently it would appear that there are only two kinds of Akshay Kumar films – the nationalistic/patriotic film, and the lowbrow comedy. Good Newwz has fart jokes, short people jokes, old people jokes, masturbation jokes, sex jokes, and jokes on every low hanging fruit in plain sight. And yet this is no Housefull 5. The truth is that a lot of it is genuinely funny.
Akshay and Kareena play Varun and Deepti Batra, a swish Mumbai couple who’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while. She is desperate to have a baby, and treats it as a sort of mission for the couple to accomplish. He doesn’t have much of a paternal instinct, and likens the pressure in the bedroom to launching a surgical strike.

They’re referred to a specialist doctor couple, the Joshis (Adil Hussain and Tisca Chopra), who recommend in vitro fertilisation as a potential solution. But they’re not the only couple having trouble in the baby-making department. The doctors are also treating another pair of Batras from Chandigarh, Honey (Diljit Dosanjh) and Monika (Kiara Advani). You already know what happens next.

The film asks you to suspend disbelief, and rewards you when you do. The scenes between the two couples are crackling, much of the humour stemming from how different they are, and from the issue of the oncoming babies’ ‘ownership’ in this kind of situation. I don’t know about you but I’m bored of watching Akshay Kumar play different versions of the honourable patriot or the conscience keeper of the nation in every other film, so it’s especially refreshing to see him play this elitist jerk who, like his wife, wants to have nothing to do with the loud, unsophisticated Batras. Playing into that stereotype of the over-the-top Punjabis, Diljit and Kiara ham it up sportingly as the fashion challenged couple whose mangling of English words is a source of great amusement to the admittedly shallow Varun.

The film’s first hour coasts along breezily, benefitting from sharp dialogue and winning performances. It’s admirable that the writers take a grown up approach when it comes to talking about bodily functions and biological needs. But it also reveals a deeply conservative and frankly regressive worldview observed in its complete rejection of adoption. “Apna khoon toh aakhir apna khoon hota hai,” I heard uttered at least twice, and cringed as this outdated notion of lineage and legacy continue to be perpetuated. Not surprisingly, the conservatism extends also to the issue of abortion, and troublingly in one scene a female doctor no less, makes a point about childbearing being essential to the female experience.

In the second hour as the humour dries up, the film slips into full-blown melodrama and sentimentality. We watch the thawing of Varun, triggered by an impassioned speech by his wife on the physical, emotional, and psychological impact of childbirth and motherhood on a woman. I think the film lets him off too easily.

There is no question that the humour works better than the emotion in Good Newwz, but director Raj Mehta and his writers do make room to raise pertinent questions about whether men can truly understand and empathise what women go through with regards to pregnancy and childbirth. It asks us also to ponder the very meaning of what makes a parent. These are progressive ideas, and they’re frequently in conflict with the film’s otherwise conservative outlook.

If Good Newwz doesn’t go off the rails when the tone shifts, it’s because the actors stay sincere and committed as the narrative evolves. The heart of the film is its cast anyway. Akshay Kumar is in good form, serving up a reminder of just how funny he can be. There isn’t much heavy lifting expected from Kiara Advani, but she matches the comic timing of her co-stars without trouble. It’s Kareena Kapoor who deserves special mention for rooting her character in believability. Looking like she’s walked straight out a fashion glossy, her Deepti is nevertheless grounded, real, and provides the most honest insight into why it’s so important for her to be a mother. I also think Diljit Dosanjh is terrific as Honey Batra, whose loud exterior hides an unmistakably sensitive core. He’s also not far behind Akshay when it comes to comic timing.

I’m going with three out of five for Good Newwz. There’s a lot to enjoy in the film despite its bumps. I haven’t laughed this hard in weeks. Not a bad way to end the year.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

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