As artificial intelligence finds its way into the deep recesses of human emotions, writer-director Amit Joshi and Aradhana Sah have conjured up an unlikely romantic drama between a man and a machine that, after a laboured start, compels you to log out of logic to realise the matrix of modern-day relationships in a fun way.
Aryan (Shahid Kapoor) is a dashing robotics engineer in the Mumbai office of a US company run by his aunt (Dimple Kapadia). Not ready to commit to anyone, Aryan longs for compatibility and adaptability in a relationship. He makes fun of his friend for being in a marriage where he is being treated like a robot. His middle-class family in Delhi is so desperate to see him settled that Aaryan even gets dreams of being hitched to an ungainly bot. When his aunt calls him for a work assignment to New York, little does he know that he is going to be a lab rat for testing her aunt’s most advanced robot Sifra (Kriti Sanon).
He falls for Sifra’s flawless beauty and perfection in the kitchen and household chores, perhaps, because she is programmed according to his needs and says a cute theek hai to everything that he wants. But the problem begins when the engineer can’t resist her charm even after realising that she is just a piece of software and takes the experiment home.
The secret of Sifra has already been spelt out in trailers, but the emotional hook lies in how the central conceit becomes a metaphor for the demands that the Indian middle class places on its women, so much so that it often feels only a robot could fulfil them. Sifra doesn’t question the tradition and when she flounders, she gets the benefit of the doubt because she is ‘manufactured’ in America.
Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya
Directors: Amit Joshi and Aradhana Sah
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kriti Sanon, Dimple Kapadia, Dharmendra, Rakesh Bedi, Rajesh Kumar, Grusha Kapoor
Duration: 143 minutes
Storyline: A man falls in love with a humanoid robot and introduces her to his family
Nobody seems to mind that Sifra’s smile is plastic. It comments on the larger-than-life expectations of men from modern-day relationships that can only be achieved by a software program which carries specifically his memories and his choices. And if it pesters, there is always an option to switch her off, temporarily. By the end, it becomes a cautionary tale where the line between the real and the robotic begins to blur. When Sifra’s software begins to play tricks, she gets the same derisive looks that a bahu of the family would have received. Aryan tells the unsuspecting police officer that his fiancée has mental issues. The writers play on the word admin to bring out how men want to be in control but then the machines and women have their ways to survive and upgrade.
However, as the idea is also to create a mass entertainer for those who are missing their sitcoms in the times of realistic content on streaming platforms, the makers keep it light and fluffy on the surface. From the length of the title to the treatment, there is an overt attempt to reach out to a family audience that grew up on I Dream of Jeannie and Small Wonder and later relished Karishma Ka Karishma and Bahu Humari Rajinikant in their living rooms.
The presence of actors like Rakesh Bedi, Rajesh Kumar and Grusha Kapoor, fondly remembered for their flair in situational humour, ensures that the humour lands well. The strong support cast is led by Dharmendra and Dimple. As symbols of the age of innocent romance, they are best suited to usher the youth into new possibilities of love.
After some intense turns, Shahid invokes his boyish charm, the endearing incertitude of youth, and brings on his electric dance moves to keep the fans charged. The script doesn’t provide him the depth of Her (2013) to develop his motivation behind gravitating towards Sifra but within the framework of a modern-day fantasy, he manages to develop Aryan’s soul connection with a code. Similarly, Kriti walks the thin line between robotic expressions and human emotions to build a credible humanoid character.
But the writing could have been a little sharper and wittier. At many points in the film, you feel that Joshi and Sah have the right plot points but they have not been able to fully milk the potential, leading to a flaccid middle portion that feels like a long skit written for commercial theatre.
A smart twist in the final act and a sassy epilogue leave us with delicious possibilities for future versions of Sifra. There is a scene in the film where Aryan says that the whole idea will make sense one day. True that!
Teri Baaton Main Aisa Uljha Jiya is currently running in theatres