Personal Reviews


If you are dealing with a robot, you must handle it with care. And between an imperfect human and a perfect machine as a romantic option, it is advisable to go for the former. These are the two "lessons" of TBMAUJ. Delivered at the end of the movie, which is immediately followed by its already popular title/item song running through end-credits. Any inclination one may have to ponder on the consequences of a machine gone wrong is drowned out by the foot-tapping number. But this is the smallest problem of the film.

The biggest and central one is that it conceives the complexity & eventual failure of a human-robot relationship purely in terms of technological innovation and then malfunction. The elusive "connection" between the two is never explored. Why is Aryan unable to forget Sifra even after knowing she is a robot? What is the quality he finds in her that he didn't before in any woman? To explore that, one needs to devote at least some screen-time exclusively to the couple... but where is the scope for that in a 'family drama'? Even their attraction is quickly got over and done with in three scenes at the beginning, so the film could jump into its first song-and-dance, and then more importantly, to the (but obviously BIG) family waiting in India to get Aryan married.

After the first few scenes, it's the last part that holds one's attention, when Sifra turns from Barbie to horror queen. Shahid Kapoor is a fine actor whose talent is wasted in this film (which could have offered him so much more). Kriti Sanon is the best part of the film, doing the tough balancing act between being a robot and a robot that masquerades as a bride-to-be with competence. But even she doesn't get the chance to test her potential fully, with having to serve two stereotypes in the film.

This is the second time, after MIMI, where (despite the National award) I felt Kriti had the opportunity to challenge herself as an actor, but the script didn't allow enough scope for that (after nominally giving her a 'different' role). Just as in that film, the enormously complex subject of surrogacy dissolves into farcical comedy for the most part, similarly, in TBMAUJ, the profound irony of a human being not being able to connect with fellow humans but with a robot is never really explored. Even less, the essentially intangible nature of love - especially with a robot.

I couldn’t help thinking of HER, where Joaquin Phoenix's lonely, divorced character, Theodore Twomly, falls in love with an Operating System, Samantha, played by Scarlett Johansson. Samantha is an OS with a voice, capable of emoting everything through it. She becomes his friend and beloved, with whom he is able to share his deepest thoughts and insecurities; and in whose (virtual) presence, he finds happiness again.

Theodore's ex-wife freaks out when she gets to know about her, but his closest friend in life, his next-door neighbour Amy (Amy Adams), empathizes. In time, he also introduces Samantha to his colleague & his girlfriend, and once they even go out on a picnic together -- three humans & an OS. At that point, in the moral universe of that film, it seems perfectly normal! That was the scariest part of the film for me. And another scene, where Theodore is seen walking on a metro station, talking to Samantha on an ear-phone. All around him, people pass by, doing the same -- a future megaopolis of lonely individuals, all immersed in talking with virtual others, without even a hello or a faint nod or smile to fellow citizens on the street.

The OS was bound to fail at one point, immediately collapsing the reality of the virtual relationship between a man and a machine. The pain of that collapse is something that would (to some extent) resonate with many in virtual relationships, where technology enables connectedness but can't guarantee its continuation.

The most profoundly unnerving moment in the film, however, comes much before the OS fails. It's when Theodore comes to know that Samantha can - and has been - simultaneously interacting with thousands of others while communicating with him. There is thus no exclusive emotional attachment to him, though she insists he is still special to her.

Samantha, in a way, makes Theodore lonelier than before... but it's an enriched loneliness, having known other possibilities of love. Ultimately, he takes refuge in his friendship with Amy (who has recently parted with her lover and is heartbroken herself). The film thus ends on a note of the healing power of (asexual) friendships... and a resilient hope for human connection beyond those mediated by machines.

Seeing TBMAUJ only made me want to revisit HER.