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23 April 2024

Bollywood review: '2 States' crosses north-south divide to leave viewers happy

Official movie poster of '2 States' starring (L-R) Amrita Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Revathi. (SUPPLIED)

Published
By Bindu Rai

In literary circles, Chetan Bhagat is often cited as a writer for the masses.

While some may disagree with this assessment, few can argue that the author’s narrative touches a chord with middle class India – their dreams, hopes, aspirations and, most importantly, their relationships.

‘2 States’ is once such story that writer Bhagat reveals is an adaptation of his own struggle to bridge that cultural divide of north and south India.

While the Bollywood track record has a twisted tendency to manipulate this north/south divide into a stereotypical production for cheap humour, ‘2 States’ manages to shed all the baggage to serve up a more realistic slice of life that could very well be a love story that you may have heard of, or even your own.

Punjabi boy Krish Malhotra (Arjun Kapoor) and Tamilian Ananya Swaminathan (Alia Bhatt) are college sweethearts who fast track their way towards careers, life and commitment.

However, a monkey wrench is thrown in their ‘Happily Ever After’ ending when the cultural divide is served up like a demon from a wicked fairy tale.

The duo must now work their way into the hearts of their in-laws, and then work towards having the two families fall in love with each other.

Along this journey that takes them through a minefield of emotional struggles, Krish also has his own demons to slay at home with a volatile relationship with his own father, played by a stellar Ronit Roy.

Three-film old Alia is charming and spunky, without being bogged down by the image of Bollywood quintessential heroine. Of course, every film cannot be a ‘Highway’, but Alia is impressing with her choice in scripts, ready to experiment with roles that show off different facets of her acting prowess.

Arjun is the rock in ‘2 States’, excelling in the emotional scenes as he tackles his father’s betrayal, almost appearing to channel his own conflicted relationship of past with his real-life father, Boney Kapoor.

While one may not care too much for his unkempt appearance, Arjun still emerges as an endearing henpecked son and boyfriend that many a man could easily relate with. What helps is his great on-screen chemistry with both and Ananya and his ‘reel’ mother, Kavita.

Amrita Singh is charm personified as the overbearing Punjabi mother, who manages to rise above the caricature image the likes of Kiron Kher have excelled at on screen in the past, and brings her own stamp of joviality and grace to her brash Kavita. This gifted actress needs more film outings to do her justice.

Revathy and Shiv Kumar Subramaniam as Ananya’s parents bring their own quiet dignity to their characters.

But it is Ronit's Vikram who steals the show with his calm and understated performance of a disgraced army man, whose abusive behaviour has destroyed his chance of a relationship with his only child.

As his character develops, his inner struggles, the fear of dying an old lonely man is beautifully articulated with pregnant pauses and minimal dramatics that must be credited to director Abhishek Varman. 

It is never easy for a director to spin a narrative which has a clear ending from its first frame. To draw the audience in, he must create a film that is crisp and engaging, peppered with just the right amount of Bollywood kitsch that will entertain for nearly three hours.

With ‘2 States’, both Varman and writer Bhagat himself, have proven that a good film in Bollywood does not have to be loud and slapstick with stellar music and A-list stars, but that script and good direction is still king at the movies.

For the duo, the foot tapping music and a cast of actors that know their job, are simply the added bonus to watch ‘2 States’ in a happy state of mind.