A still from Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya. (courtesy: kritisanon)
A science fiction love story undone by a faulty battery, Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya is hopelessly half-baked fare. Nary a word that the Shahid Kapoor-Kriti Sanon starrer intones is in the realms of meaningful conversation, let alone comprehension. If it is ever funny, it is only unintentionally so.
Written and directed by Amit Joshi and Aradhana Sah for Dinesh Vijan of Maddock Films and Jio Studios, Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya is a rom-com that masquerades as a family drama and manages to be neither.
The film has shades of Maria Schrader's I Am Your Man, a German sci-fi drama released in 2021. The film's female protagonist, an archaeologist looking for funds for a research project, agrees to spend three weeks with a humanoid robot programmed to be a perfect partner attuned to her every single need, feeling and impulse.
This is not to suggest that Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya is a rip-off of I Am Your Man. It cannot be. The German film was a serious-minded, philosophy-tinged romance. The film under review is a fluffy, flaky affair that takes next to no time to come unstuck.
Once the novelty of the notion wears off - and that happens pretty quickly - there is little on offer here barring the fact that this is the first time that Shahid Kapoor and Kriti Sanon have teamed up.
More than anything else, it is a misogynist's unbridled fantasy. It reduces the 'perfect woman' to a super-robot designed to dance to the tune of its maker or owner, an obedient machine coded to take orders and be switched on or off at the flick of a button. That is anything but funny.
What Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya wants to drive at becomes amply clear when the single hero tells his married male friend that the robotic woman who has strayed into his life is better than a nagging wife. Neither of the two bats an eyelid when that line is delivered because they believe that a woman has got to be engineered to fall in line. If that is any consolation, the two men may be full of themselves but they aren't outright toxic.
The film that these characters populate is a casually, unabashedly sexist comedy of manners, a slapdash cross between an obnoxious Kabir Singh and an incoherent Pyaar Ka Punchnama.
The male protagonist of the film, Delhi lad Aryan Agnihotri (Shahid Kapoor), is a robotics engineer who, on a trip to the US, falls for Sifra (Kriti Sanon). He has no clue who the girl is until much damage has been done.
Sifra is the most ambitious creation of the hero's maternal aunt Urmila Shukla (Dimple Kapadia), owner of a thriving robotics firm in the US of A. The latter insists that the robot is meant to be a companion for lonely hearts but does not tell us why the 'humanoid' must be a woman at the beck and call of her master.
Aryan is lonely by choice. He not only turns down girl after girl chosen for him by his family, he also spurns the advances of a female colleague on the grounds of lack of compatibility. But a day out with Sifra, super-efficient caretaker of his workaholic mausi's home, forces the standoffish man to let his guard down. Life is not the same again for Aryan.
TBMAUJ starts silly. With every passing scene, it becomes sillier and sillier until it scrapes the bottom of the barrel. A besotted but confused Aryan is unable to get Sifra out of his head. He convinces his aunt to ship the robot to Mumbai, where he works. He takes the girl home and passes her off as an orphan.
A robot let loose in a conservative Delhi household is supposed to lead to funny situations. But the film remains steadfastly unfunny. The gags fall flat. The performers have to push themselves to squeeze something out of the sloppy script. But theirs is a losing battle.
Aryan calls his brood "a classic Indian family". He may be right because they are as orthodox and obstreperous as they come. His grandfather (Dharmendra), ironically, seems to be the most flexible of them all. Aryan's parents (Rakesh Bedi and Anubha Fatehpuria), his paternal aunt and her husband (Grusha Kapoor and Brij Bhushan Shukla) and an unmarried uncle (Rajesh Kumar), stick-in-the-muds of varying kinds an degrees, all have a say in Aryan's personal decisions.
Inevitable complications arise when Sifra enters Aryan's home in Delhi. She is way out of his family's league. She is fair and very beautiful, has flawless skin, and can cook exceptionally well and quickly. She can sing and dance, too. And is from America and yet sanskari to boot.
What more could a "classic Indian family" - especially of the kind that Bollywood movies have invented for mass consumption - ask of a potential bride? They collectively fall in love with the lady who can do no wrong.
Sifra obviously has no agency. She is after all a machine who does exactly what she is commanded to do and needs to be frequently charged. Well, the family is thrilled to bits to find her in their midst until her true identity is sprung upon them.
All the song and dance and the feeble attempts at tickling the funny bone do not yield much dividend. The film relies far too heavily on the chemistry between Shahid Kapoor and Kriti Sanon to help it tide over its gaping crater-sized holes. But since its progress is akin to that of a substandard automaton acquired from the grey market, Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya runs on empty and is not even mildly diverting.
It is all hollow prattle and no real substance. An experiment gone awry, it is two and a half hours of cinematic profligacy. Avoidable.
Shahid Kapoor, Kriti Sanon, Dharmendra, Dimple Kapadia
Amit Joshi and Aradhana Sah