Much before Shahid Kapoor came to be known for his author-backed serious films, he had craved a niche for himself as a boy next door in romantic films. Kapoor had burst into the scene in a sleeper hit called “Ishq Vishq” back in 2003 and its success paved the way for the actor to star in similar roles in subsequent years - all family-oriented, soft romances with Kapoor playing the romantic hero. His latest - “Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya” - co-starring Kriti Sanon somewhat takes you back to that era. A love story directed by Amit Joshi and Aradhana Sah, the film has a very modern take on love in the times of AI but it does transport viewers to the early 2000s when love stories wrapped in family entertainers ruled the box office.
Now with so much conversation around AI and its humanistic potential to take over possibly every sphere of life in the near future, can a romance between a human and a robot also be possible? The directors are also the writers of the film and explore this aspect and serve us an indulgent story in “Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya”. Kapoor plays a robotics specialist who works in a company that specialises in making robots. The +company’s owner is his aunt (Dimple Kapadia) who is placed in the US and calls Kapoor over for a new project. The project turns out to be a human-like robot called SIFRA (Sanon) -manager/caretaker of Kapadia’s home. As Aryan meets SIFRA, he falls head over heels in love with her without knowing her real identity. When he finally does come to terms with the fact that he is in love with a robot, he convinces his aunt to send SIFRA to India for more ‘testing’.
Aryan then proposes marriage to SIFRA, who is designed to tick all the boxes for becoming the perfect life partner for Aryan. His over-enthusiastic family is all too eager to bring a bahu home and welcome SIFRA home, unaware of her real identity even as Aryan’s aunt keeps urging him to tell them the truth.
The first half is full of cliches. Aryan’s family is a rich Delhi-based joint family, who live together, breathe together and worry about Aryan’s marriage together. The family, comprising of a cool grandfather (Dharmendra), perpetually worried parents and some over-intrusive aunts and uncles on the side have no emotional connection whatsoever with Aryan. He only connects to his US-based Maasi who is also his boss. It doesn’t matter to the family that their son is a robotics engineer living a good life in Mumbai and doing well at work. They are only bothered about him having a life partner. When they do meet SIFRA, her background, and her profession is asked in the passing.
The film also never really delves deep into why Aryan settles for a robot. The premise is similar to Joaquin Phoenix’s 2013 film “Her” where he had fallen in love with an AI-generated voice (Scarlett Johansson). The loneliness of a man in a world dominated by machines and commands was well captured in the film. In “Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya”, the loneliness is addressed but writers fail to dig deeper. A scene at the beginning of the film has Kapoor arguing and firing his maid for doing a shoddy job in keeping his house intact. The next moment he is dissing the concept of marriage to a friend. He also gets attracted to SIFRA for being intuitive about his needs, she likes what he likes and also cooks the best food, and keeps the house clean. So do the writers feel a companion is needed to only mend the house and be a yes-man to the partner? That’s a warped notion of relationships and marriage as a whole.
While the first half is drab, where most of the jokes also do not land well, it is in the second half, particularly the climax, that the film finally becomes interesting. A scene involving SIFRA at the police station is well-executed and genuinely funny.
Because it is a Shahid Kapoor film, there are plenty of foot-tapping songs and he burns the dance floor with his moves. Sanon matches steps with Kapoor (a well-known dancer) well and the two look good together.
“Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya” comes together in the last 20 minutes with an important message on whether it is ok to let machines take over the world in the near future. Sure, they are programmed in a way that they can do everything just like humans, but can AI ever replace humans and human emotions? The film highlights these questions well- even if the presentation is hugely dramatised and over the top.
“Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya” is made with the usual tropes of a commercial Hindi family entertainer but it still raises a pertinent question on the viability of AI - which I liked. The frills around the plot may seem silly, overindulgent and even outlandish - but it all comes together well in the end. (Agencies)