Rani had to go all the way from Delhi to Paris and make new friends to find herself in the 2013 hit “Queen,” but Shilpa Shetty’s Sukhee just needs the courage to take a train from her small Punjab town to the national capital to reunite with her childhood friends and rediscover her lost spirit crushed by the grinds of being an unappreciated homemaker.
The 2023 slice-of-life Bollywood film “Sukhee” marks the directorial debut of Sonal Joshi and has been written by Radhika Anand, Paulomi Dutta, and Rupinder Inderjit. Shipa Shetty plays titular protagonist Sukhee, who wants to attend her high-school reunion in Delhi, but her domineering husband Guru (Chaitannya Choudhry) refuses to give her “permission” for the two-day trip she wants to take. Sukhee, however, rebels, goes to Delhi, much to the chagrin of her husband, and has the time of her life with her best friends – the feisty single Meher (Kusha Kapila), workaholic Tanu who works in London (Dilnaz Irani), and the modern royal bahu/socialite Manu (Pavleen Gujral).
Two of the best bits about ‘Sukhee’ were the endearing relationship she shares with her grandfather-in-law (Vinod Nagpal), the only person in her house who values her, and then the friendship she shares with her girlfriends. The loud squeals and shrieks the women let out when they meet in Delhi for their reunion were adorable, representing how most women turn into excited girls when they are around their squad. The cinematography is simple, bright and features some delectable scenes of Sukhee and her friends enjoying street-food in Delhi, followed by a rather un-funny sequence of “eating gone wrong” comedy though.
Sukhee” is a worthy attempt at showing how many women tend to lose their sense of individuality and self-worth after marriage. Shilpa Shetty, who doesn’t seem to have aged at all in the last two decades, is equally vivacious and vulnerable as Sukhee, who used to be the most popular girl in both her school and college but becomes an invisible doormat after marriage, despite settling down with the man she was in love with. “Doesn’t matter if it’s a love marriage or an arranged marriage; all men become the same after a few years of marriage,” a supporting character scoffs in the film. Except for one scene where Shilpa struggles with emoting a genuine emotional breakdown, the actor is quite charming in the lead. The actors playing her gang of friends are also fun to watch, while Amit Sadh has a small cameo as Vikram, a former classmate who encourages Sukhee to pursue a long-forgotten hobby after they meet at the reunion. The reunion party was mildly hilarious, where Sukhee and friends dress to kill and are massively disappointed to see balding men all around. In a ridiculous scene shift, there’s a song-dance number at the reunion, where suddenly, lots of young people (background dancers) emerge out of nowhere to dance at the party. Yeah, don’t expect too much realism from the story.
The script invariably blames everybody around Sukhee for her plight, leaning on stereotypes and cliches, instead of also acknowledging that Sukhee too has some share of blame in devolving. Chaitannya Choudhry is convincingly grey-shaded as Guru, the husband who takes his wife for granted, even going as far as belittling her in public spaces. Her 15-year-old daughter Jassi (Maahi Jain), who is the school topper and head-girl, is not much different in her disrespectful attitude towards her mom. With a 2-hour runtime, “Sukhee” isn’t too long but isn’t exactly riveting either, with some school scenes that were quite unnecessary and unreal. For example, there’s a scene where Jassi rants about her mother to a classmate, and the classmate gives her a rather grown-up lecture about how “at least you have a mom” and how “moms are always the best”. It’s a trope I am tired of seeing, and I wish writers could write kids like kids and not like condescending all-knowing adults.
Despite its flaws, “Sukhee” also has many redeeming qualities. The writers do a laudable job of conveying how both mutual respect and self-respect are key to a healthy relationship. While the climax includes an unnecessary cliched speech about how “moms are the best,” overall, “Sukhee” is an entertaining one-time watch.
Rating: 6 on 10 stars. You can watch “Sukhee” on Netflix.
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