Meenakshi Sundareshwar review – love better left long-distance

November 6, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
Film Reviews, Netflix, Streaming Service
2

Summary

Brutally overlong, predictable, and unconvincing, Meenakshi Sundareshwar tells a love story better left long-distance.

2

Summary

Brutally overlong, predictable, and unconvincing, Meenakshi Sundareshwar tells a love story better left long-distance.

This review of Meenakshi Sundareshwar is spoiler-free. 


It’s hard to tell if Meenakshi Sundareshwar is intended as a kind of advert for arranged marriage, but it ends up being a bit of a cautionary tale either way. Sure, if you’re a young, handsome engineering graduate, you might meet a pretty young lady who’s smart and charming, and you might hit it off. You might come to believe that your preordained union is providence, that your marriage is, in itself, a metaphor for the natural order of things. But, if this film is anything to go by, you’ll be sick of the whole endeavor after an hour. Sundareshwar and Meenakshi get married almost immediately after meeting, but it takes a tortuously long time for them to commit to the idea.

Sundareshwar and Meenakshi have chemistry, granted, but they also have a predicament. The former’s stern father has insisted that, if he doesn’t find a job post-haste, he’ll be forced to join the family sari business. So, somewhat desperate not to do that, he takes a distant employment opportunity in Bangalore that he thinks requires applicants with a bachelor’s degree but really requires actual bachelors. For one contrived reason or another, anyone who works at the company has to be single, and has to devote themselves completely to it for a full year, at which point they’ll be let go, presumably better off for the experience.

Without the arranged marriage conceit, none of this would even be acceptable, let alone work. Writer-director Vivek Soni expects us to buy into the idea that these two are married and thus will go to the ends of the earth to make things work, despite the fact that Sundareshwar is being indescribably selfish to keep up this charade. He leaves Meenakshi at the other end of the country, forces her to pose as a relative when she visits him and generally puts his job ahead of her in every instance. She’s left, meanwhile, to simply stew in the rejection, unable to pursue her own goals, and still subject to the strict ministrations of Sundareshwar’s family. It’s frankly bizarre.

The whole thing might work better if there was any real sense of what this opportunity might provide Sundareshwar. As far as I can tell, though, he’s simply working under a maniacal Steve Jobs-style tech dude who’s a borderline abuser. Part of his trial period involves designing an app that eventually factors into the overarching relationship drama in a laughable way. Soni co-wrote the screenplay with Aarsh Vora, but neither seems to have decided exactly where they want to come down on the issue of conservative family values versus modernity and romance. The unflinching acceptance of tradition ultimately pays off, predictably, which makes one wonder why the film would depict the whole process as being so miserable.

I must confess I was lulled by some early promise. The leads are likable, together and alone, and their relationship has some charms initially. It’s impressive how much I came to resent the pair of them, and how quickly and completely the film loses sight of what made them compelling in the first place. Eventually, obstacles – a love rival, a stern father-in-law – seem to manifest out of nowhere just to give everyone something to do. By this point, any compelling arguments that might have been made in favor of arranged marriage – though one confesses it’s difficult to think of any – have been abandoned in favor of torpid drama. This is a relationship better-left long-distance.

You can stream Meenakshi Sundareshwar exclusively on Netflix.

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