Terrific Performances, But That’s All A Redundant Shiddat Has To Offer

Starring Radhika Madan, Sunny Kaushal, Mohit Raina and Diana Penty, Shiddat is now streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar…

Mental health is quite an ignored conversation in our country. A man accepting that he may need help, or actually going to therapy is somehow seen as “weak” because how can men need help? They’re self sufficient. Kunal Deshmukh’s Shiddat, while not about mental health, builds on the idea that true love is driven by madness. It builds on the DDLJ prototype of chasing love. I actually wouldn’t even call this love, because at no point does Radhika Madan’s Kartika fall for Sunny Kaushal’s Jaggi. She’s made to fall for him. This is a DDLJ meets Raanjhana meets Veer Zaara, and not in a good way. Like Raj, Jaggi is in love (or is it infatuation?), like Zaara, Kartika is already engaged and like Kundan he believes that love knows no boundaries. In Shiddat, it’s literally that when Jaggi tries to cross international borders by swimming in the English Channel.

Like DDLJ this film spans across Punjab and London. It’s a shame that Katrina Kaif isn’t playing this London return female lead. But we have the terrific Radhika Madan, who herself isn’t convinced of Jaggi’s love (?) for Kartika. She doesn’t know what this is, but she knows for a fact that it isn’t love. You see it in her eyes, that she knows this is more persistence than love. Throughout the film, I kept wondering why is Kartika so gullible to Jaggi’s actions, especially in the second half? He’s clearly read too much into a one-night stand. She is getting married in a couple of months, to a guy she doesn’t love. She’s practical, she knows what she wants from her life, and throughout you’re convinced that love isn’t something she’s looking for, you’re convinced that, both, Kartika and Madan are stuck in the wrong story.

Kartika never loves Jaggi. Madan convinces you of that. Why, then, does she give in? That’s perhaps a question I will live with, unless – god forbid – there’s a sequel. Kartika knows that this man is not a lover, but a stalker. He illegally crosses international borders, sits – not in airplane seats – next to airplane wheels (hello logic!). When he calls her from France, telling her that he’s coming to stop her wedding, she doesn’t believe him, because that’s not a story she wants to be a part of. Two days later she’s in love with him. How I see things – she is in love with the idea of the attention he gives her. Every time Kartika says that she loves Jaggi, you don’t believe her. And this is not a shortcoming of Radhika Madan’s capabilities as an actor. This is how Kartika is. In the initial half of the film, you see her as a modern day Hindi film heroine, but in the second half, she admits that she’s feeling like a 90s heroine, much like Kajol in DDLJ.

Shiddat is a wasted opportunity for the actors – Radhika Madan, Sunny Kaushal and Mohit Raina. The three of them are wonderful in their scenes, but the writing keeps pulling them down. They push hard to rise above the writing, and in some scenes they do, but this is too sloppy a mess to clean. Madan is a personal favourite of mine, Sunny Kaushal a revelation and Mohit Raina walks shoulder to shoulder with them. Together, they could’ve created a fantastic film. But like Kartika, they’re all stuck in the wrong story Diana Penty is the only one who seems to be a fit here, because like the writing, she doesn’t do much. Penty’s Iraa gets a couple of emotional scenes with high tension, but the actor isn’t able to build up on it. She says the deepest dialogues without emotions, unless you want to confuse tears as emotions.

Sports is a recurring theme in Shiddat but it’s the most redundant telling of national level games. Kartika, Jaggi and their friends are at a national camp. They get drunk almost every night and perform exceptionally in their individual sport. People can’t walk or even breathe on the day after a night of heavy drinking but Kartika can swim like a whale! I’ve been a national level player, I’ve attended these camps. There are rules. But like Shiddat ignores the rules of logical filmmaking, it ignores those at sports camps too.

Like sports, sexism is a prominent theme too. Jaggi looks at women in the swimming pool as “jalparis”. He takes a picture of Kartika in a swimsuit and also posts it on social media without her consent. She is “impressed” by his daringness and retaliates to this by walking into the men’s locker room and clicking photos of naked men, only to be infatuated by Jaggi’s abs. This is the kind of gender equality Deshmukh promotes.

Love is madness, Shiddat is logic-less. I really do love a film on mad love. But this is not a film about that. On paper, it wanted to be, but on the screen it’s a film glorifying stalking and the alpha-male ego. Honestly, I would’ve been happier with a mediocre film about Iraa and Gautam’s love, or the absence of it.

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