The year 2014, Chetan Bhagat-Ali Bhatt-Arjun Kapoor's Two States is the point where Bollywood's affair with showcasing Tamil lives and culture onscreen can be pinned. No, we haven't forgotten Chennai Express from 2013 but let's keep that aside for now.
Two States was the film where North meets South, on a big scale, actually happened. A Punjabi-Delhi boy (also Bollywood) was introduced to traditional courtyard homes, jasmine-clad hair, silk sarees, men in crisp white dhotis (lungi/veshti) in the heart of Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
Eight years down the line, Bollywood's half-researched endeavor to portray 'authentic' Tamil Nadu to its Hindi audience went a bit further; this time from the city of Chennai to Madurai.
Traditional homes, silk/cotton silk sarees, jasmine hair, cotton shirt and veshti-clad men, dosai, vadai, jigarthanda and Rajinikanth. The 2 hours 20 minutes film directed and co-written by Vivek Soni, starring Sanya Malhotra and Abhimanyu Dassani in lead roles gives picture-perfect results, a decent supportive cast for a commercial film, but is seemingly low on substance, chemistry, letting out a confused vibe.
The makers even brought back actor Shiv Kumar Subramaniam (Alia's father in Two States) probably for continuity's sake or possibly as a symbolic Tamil father figure in Hindi cinema. Although, this time, he is the protagonist Meenakshi's grandfather.
Also, remember the D-day scene from Two States where Alia Bhatt exchanges a heartwarming smile with her mother (portrayed by Revathi) on her way to the temple to get wedded. Yes, of course, Meenakshi Sundareshwar got a second-hand, cliche version of that scene too.
No wonder, the film sends a thank you note to Alia Bhatt and Rajinikanth during the film credits.
However, a section of social media is clearly unhappy with what Vivek Soni and Karan Johar have done to their favourite land.
I couldn't get to the end of the first minute of #MeenakshiSundareshwar— Sambashiva Srisailapathy (@Putchutney) November 6, 2021
Literally hit Stop, Gave a Thumbs Down to the Rating and got the hell out of there! What were you thinking, @Netflix_INSouth ? When we will people see beyond Gold Jewelry, Silk Dhotis and Sarees ?
Mixed bag of emotions
While some found the film tedious and consuming, a section of the OTT audience tolerated it well, maybe also to the extent of finding it sweet, thanks to Sanya Malhotra's on-screen skills and Abhimanyu's Madhavan resemblance.
The music of the film by Justin Prabhakaran is absolute relief at some points but tacky and jarring with odd-multilingual lyrics otherwise. The film has moments but oddballs outweigh the good. Watch it if you like sarees; fantasize about an app-making engineer, sweet meets dumb romance, have always wanted to visit South India but couldn't, and want a free visual trip.