Film, Hindi, India, Review

Mr. & Mrs. Mahi

On the surface, Mr. & Mrs. Mahi, directed by Sharan Sharma, seems to resemble an underdog story of a man trying to live out his love for cricket vicariously by coaching his partner as a cricketer, but by making the hero more human – one who is complex, nuanced, full of deep-seated insecurities and even unlikeable at times but therefore relatable and even compelling, the film manages in parts to somewhat rise above its otherwise stereotypical tropes.

Cricket is one sport in India where intense emotions are the norm. A religion for many, it could well also serve as a strong bond between partners, who share a deep passion for the game, even if their drive for success may differ. The love story of Mahendra (played by Rajkummar Rao) and Mahima (portrayed by Jahnvi Kapoor) after an arranged marriage, to their common love of the game. However, tensions arise when Mahendra decides to coach Mahima after seeing her natural talent as a cricketer. As she becomes a successful cricketer, Mahendra becomes obsessed with reigniting his coaching career, eager to prove that he is not a failure and he too could become as successful as her.

Mr. & Mrs. Mahi isn’t just the journey of a cricketer and his love of the sport as much as it is about the partnership that arises between two individuals due to the sport being their love language. The film invests heavily into the complex character arc of a former cricketer who struggles to gain his father’s approval and earn respect in the wider world. Interestingly, his journey is structured incrementally rather than resorting to a complete turnaround in the final act.Of course, the film does have a moment of self-realization for Mahendra, through a monologue by his mother highlighting the presence of silent supporters like her in every family. Though delivered with gravitas by a very capable Zarina Wahab, this speech is also a typical part of the norm in films like these and thus comes off as rather predictable. This typifies the film as well – subversive in sections but ultimately never shying away from predictable ends.

Jahnvi Kapoor’s arc, while not absent in the screenplay, does feel muted in comparison to Rao’s. It doesn’t help that the hyper-focus on Rao almost sidelines the chemistry between him and Kapoor, which had a sweet gentleness carrying it in the first half. Add to that Kapoor’s adequate-at-best, limited performance and you cannot help but feel that Mahima’s character gets a raw deal in the film, thus leading to a somewhat lackluster second half.

Mr. & Mrs. Mahi’s slavish devotion to its underdog narrative sees all other intricacies being brushed off. The layerings to the story – the subtleties of the game or the Kafkaesque level of bureaucratic obstacles – all become secondary to a templatized narrative progression. Yet, in spite of the predictability, the film nevertheless remains somewhat engaging solely because of Rao’s ability as an actor to evoke the beta male effectively. Writers Sharan Sharma and Nikhil Mehrotra also skillfully infuse moments of humor into the narrative, using it to undercut Mahendra’s chauvinism and bruised male ego while also highlighting his lack of confidence and indecisiveness. One scene that stands out is when he initially refuses a coaching position under his former coach, only to change his mind after one of the state players gets selected for the Indian cricket team under the same tutelage.

The technicalities are average and don’t do much to lift the film. The background score and the songs utilized for the film mostly do not overwhelm the narrative but they aren’t memorable either.

For a movie whose title hints at a partnership, Mr. & Mrs. Mahi focuses far too much on a singular individual rather than the tribulations of the partnership at large, effectively sidelining the other in the relationship. This weakens the film overall even if Rajkummar Rao does raise the film a notch by his fine act.


Hindi, Drama, Color

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