At a time when the world worries over losing employment to AI, Bollywood looks upon it as an object of desire. Shahid Kapoor delivers a ham fest, Kriti Sanon is below par.

Rating: ( 1.5 / 5)

By Mayur Lookhar

‘Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya’. Phew, now that’s a long film title. 24 years ago, Canadian R&B singer Raghav earned fame for his private album Storyteller, with the Teri Baaton song becoming a huge rage. For long, producer Dinesh Vijan, director duo of Amit Joshi and Aradhana Sah didn’t have a title. The producers were going to remake the Raghav song. So lead actor Shahid Kapoor and Dinesh Vijan thought why not use the song title as the title of their film.

Luckily, the story is not as entangled [uljha) as its title. We have a Bollywood film where a man falls in love with a robot.

The human-robot bond might take some by surprise, but it’s a concept that’s well explored in Western cinema. Chuck away the science fiction, action genre, this reviewer’s first memory of human-robot bond is the American TV series Small Wonder [1985-89]. There an American engineer developed a child robot Vicki, who soon wins over the family. Till date, Small Wonder remains the most adored science fiction family drama. Tiffany Brissette became a household name for her stupendous show as Vicki the robot.

Though not a robot, but Hollywood film Mannequin: On the Move [1991] saw a man fall in love with a mannequin. Such was the power of his love, that it magically turned the mannequin into a woman. It had its unofficial Hindi remake in Prem Shakti [1994], starring Govinda and Karisma Kapoor.  Tamil sci-fi action thriller Enthiran [2010] had Chitti the robot having feelings for Sana [Aishwarya]. The most compelling example here though has to be Spike Jonze’s Her [2013] where Joaquin Phoenix fell in love with his AI virtual assistant Samantha [voiced brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson]. TBMAUJ questions whether AI can take the place of a life partner?

Presently, however, AI may not evoke such feelings as the world grapples with the loss of employment to technology. In times like this, Bollywood reduces AI to a mere object of desire. In Maddock’s scheme of things, a Sifra [Super Intelligent Female Robot Automation] is created to be a wife, bahu [daughter-in-law].  Therein lies the rut.  No, this view stems from the way Sifra is treated in this silly sci-fi comedy.

Aryan [Shahid Kapoor] is a programmer who is happy being single, much to the chagrin of his archetypal rich Dilliwali family. He works in Mumbai. Myra, a gorgeous office colleague is interested in him. She asks him out for coffee, and is left disappointed. Monty [Ashish Verma] his office colleague mocks him for spurning her advances. Our man replies, “What good looks! There ought to be compatibility between two people to be a pair.” How righteous.

Next scene, his aunt invites him to her American pad. Urmila [Dimple Kapadia] runs a robotics company. Aryan is introduced to Urmila’s manager Sifra [Kriti Sanon]. The duo hit off instantly, and they get under the sheets on the very first night. Looks don’t matter, compatibility, righteousness. All the big talk goes for a walk. It doesn’t take long for Aryan to realise that Sifra is no human but a robot.

In a population of 1.4 billion, one finds love in a robot. Well, it’s either reflection of the society or this person is a sociopath. Her [2013], even our Prem Shakti was about a man seeking companionship, not lust. Big money, advanced technology, time was ripe for Bollywood to explore the sci-fi romcom genre. Sadly, all throughout the film, you don’t get emotionally attached to the leading characters.

It’s baffling as to how a computer programmer can get attached to a Sifra, even after knowing the truth. Aryan does show his hurt initially. The constant smoking, long face, beard, is so reminiscent of his loser Kabir Singh avatar.  TBMAUJ [2024] is insufferable, rather inSIFRAble due to the ham fest by Shahid Kapoor. Take out a Kaminey [2009], Haider [2014], Shahid Kapoor has largely flattered to deceive in his 21 year career. He was fine in his maiden web series Farzi [2023] but this Aryan from Teri Baaton Mein… has farzi (fake) written all over it.

Kriti Sanon’s been around for a decade and like Kapoor, she, too, has struggled for consistency. The last few years have been tough for her. Yes, she did get a National Award for Best Actress for Mimi [2021], but was it truly deserving? Adipurush [2023] was followed by another disaster in Ganapath [2023]. Regrettably, Sanon is below par. Both Kapoor and Sanon have often copped criticism for their woody display. So was there merit in Sanon playing a robot?

This reviewer is no robotic expert, but can robots move their limbs, dance as freely like humans? What disappoints more is that Sanon seldom convinces you as a robot. In fact, for the best part of the role, Sifra comes across as more human than machine. Press the switch off button and Sifra resembles a still robot. It isn’t until the chaotic climax where Sifra truly operates like one.

Make no mistake. There was potential in this story, but the director duo of Amit Joshi, Aradhana Sah have made a complete meal of it. The insipid screenplay, shallow writing, direction hardly builds any engagement. For a programmer, it is shocking to see Aryan use slang words whilst communicating with Sifra. Throw a marvel, and trust Bollywood to reduce it to dust. Some of the banter is simply not worthy of family viewing.  Aryan’s little nephew catches him locking lips with Sifra. “Yeh toh hum sirf mooh meetha kar rahe the”, the uncle lies to his nephew. The boy hits backs, “Don’t fool me. I’ve seen my parents do the same many times”.  Phew, how did CBFC pass such scene? Though adorable, we didn’t appreciate this child artiste in his cocky avatar in a TV commercial of a noted hospitality company.

The lone saving grace of the film is Anubha Fatehpuria, who plays Aryan’s mother Sharmila.  Though a cameo, the veteran Dharmendra shows more energy than Shahid Kapoor. A couple of tracks are fine with Shahid Kapoor reminding why his dancing skills are largely untapped in Bollywood. The lip sync though could have been better in the Laal Peeli Akhiyan song. The production design, especially the swanky interior in Urmila’s American pad, and the Aryan family palatial house in Delhi, is a sight to behold for affluent customers than film enthusiasts. The largely dull screenplay makes it tough to sit for 143 minutes.

On the face of it, a human-robot bond might seem refreshing for some, but there is a sense of déjà vu to these so-called family dramas from Maddock. They often bank on guarding a secret. There’s nothing uljha about Teri Baaton Mein… The poor screenplay, average dialogues, and the below par performances can’t escape the eye of the discerning viewer. Despite their flaws, quite a few of Maddock’s preceding family dramas have tasted success. Whilst we found TBMAUJ inSIFRAble, neverknow, a Sifra can spring a surprise.

Watch the video review below.

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