‘Zara Hatke Zara Bachke’ Review: More Of A Commercial For Govt. Schemes & Cadbury 5 Star Than A Movie

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It is quite difficult to explain the feeling of watching a Hollywood movie about family and a Bollywood movie about family back-to-back and coming to terms with the chasm that exists between them in terms of relevance and quality. On one hand, you have Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, which sends its central character, Miles Morales, on an eye-opening journey about protecting his family from the inevitable despite being a blot in the system. And on the other hand, you have Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, which highlights every regressive custom imaginable and promotes them in the name of “being together as a family.” It feels particularly irritating because Bollywood and the entirety of India always try to present themselves as the flag-bearers of family values. Yet, every time they open their mouths, they spew a bunch of nonsense, which is then slathered all over the big screen for everyone to “enjoy.”

If you have only seen the first trailer of Laxman Utekar’s Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, you’ll probably be under the impression that it’s all about a couple trying to get a divorce, thereby shocking their traditional family members because they can’t imagine a husband and a wife parting ways after marriage. I was duped by that trailer, too, because I thought that Utekar, along with co-writers Maitrey Bajpai and Ramiz Ilham Khan, wanted to start a conversation about how divorces should be normalized and why women shouldn’t tolerate their in-laws, whose annoying behavior is enabled by man-children masquerading as husbands. That’s not the case at all, and you’ll realize that only after watching the second trailer or the movie (like I did). Yes, Somya Chawla Dubey and Kapil Dubey do want a divorce, but only a fake one so that they can get an apartment via the “Jan Awas Yojana,” a government scheme that allows the underprivileged to have a roof over their heads at affordable prices.

Before getting into my qualms with Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, let’s first address the fact that Laxman Utekar has a problem, and he has turned it into a trilogy of films, which I have dubbed the “Kabhi Progressive Kabhie Regressive” trilogy. He does this thing where he picks up a seemingly modern topic, takes a completely obtuse route to resolve its themes, and then advises the audience to do progressive stuff while his characters stay regressive as hell. With Luka Chuppi, the first movie in this trilogy, he apparently wanted to talk about live-in relationships and how a bigoted political party had made it their mission to publicly shame anyone who wanted to fall in love without marrying. The romantic couple got married and merely exposed how the viewers should be open to the concept of live-in relationships. With Mimi, Utekar apparently wanted to talk about the ongoing trend of surrogacy. But he spent over 2 hours on an unnecessary Muslim joke and explained how being a mother is the greatest thing in the world; personal dreams and aspirations be damned. With his latest release, he says that you must embrace the bigoted nature of your family members, because that’s what keeps a family together, while respecting the intentions of government schemes.

Credit where credit is due, Utekar manages to get the facets of a typical upper-caste Indian family right. They joke about wishing to be born into a lower-caste family to access government schemes that are available for the upliftment of the underprivileged. Kapil’s mother defends her marriage and takes a stance against divorce by saying that, despite being married to Kapil’s father at the age of 15, she made all the life-altering adjustments that were necessary to maintain the marriage. No, she doesn’t even flinch. Adultery is treated as a joke as well. Somya and Kapil scoff at a divorced couple arguing about cheating on one another. They use the neighbor and Kapil’s childhood friend, Mehjabeen, to conjure a case of infidelity against Kapil, as that’ll convince the judge to grant the divorce between him and Somya. All that for what? So that the film can crack a Muslim-hating joke, courtesy of Kapil’s aunt, and Somya can berate Mehjabeen with hateful slurs. By the way, once the dust settles and the truth comes out, nobody even cares to apologize to the poor girl on screen. There’s the constant Punjabi stereotyping, which goes on for too long. And amidst all this, the topic of divorce is treated as something that’s only done by people with “bad roots”. People who are good, pious, and upper caste simply stay married till the end of eternity. However, the worst aspect of Zara Hatke Zara Bachke is the characterization of Sara Ali Khan’s Somya.

Much like the equally regressive Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar, Zara Hatke Zara Bachke essentially makes Somya the villain of the story because she made the grave mistake of wanting some space instead of living in that crowded house with Kapil’s family. Much like Ranbir Kapoor’s Rohan, Vicky Kaushal’s Kapil is a man-child who just does whatever Somya convinces him to do. Yes, his brain does start working when he has to give a guilt-tripping speech to Somya about how they should overlook his aunt’s internalized misogyny, caste pride, and general discrimination, his uncle’s casual homophobia, and the fact that his dad is basically a pedophile, because their mere presence turns a building into a home. There are several moments in the movie where I wanted to hurl something at the screen, but this whole conversation just takes the cake (yes, there’s a casteist, pure vegetarian joke in the movie too). Is the film self-aware about all this? Is there a message about upper-caste people feigning victimhood to further an oppressed caste or lower-class individual’s suffering? Has this movie been sponsored by Cadbury 5 Star? No, no, and maybe. If the film was self-aware, it would’ve advocated for self-correction. Instead, it says, “Embrace your discriminatory traits.” The stuff about not misusing government schemes is lip service. Also, I am never going to eat a Cadbury 5 star chocolate bar again.

In conclusion, if your brand of comedy is bigotry, over-the-top acting, and loud noises (Sandeep Shirodkar is a menace), then Zara Hatke Zara Bachke is certainly made for you. It wasn’t for me; hence, I didn’t like it. The sight of Vicky Kaushal flaunting a sacred thread and making casteist jokes after playing a member of the Dom community in Masaan deeply saddened me. I am thankful that Sara Ali Khan was cast in this movie, though, because nobody else should’ve wasted their talent on this horrid role. As for the rest of the cast and crew, I hope the paycheck was fat enough to clear their consciences for having a hand in the making of this infuriating as well as boring film. In addition to all that, I’ll request that filmmakers who are planning to make a feature-length government advertisement or an advertisement for any form of snack, kindly put that disclaimer in the trailer. I’d rather read all about it in a newspaper or watch a YouTube video than subject myself to 2 hours of pure cinematic torture.


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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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