Pyaar ka Punchnama 2 review: Hunks get 'pyaar' and babes get 'punches' in this offensive plot
Pyaar ka Punchnama 2 is misogynistic and full of offensive stereotypes that you'd hope modern India would want to shatter rather than reinforce.
Early on in Pyaar ka Punchnama 2, when a comely young woman dismisses engineers as boring, one of the film's three heroes decides that it falls upon him to redeem his tribe. That is, the tribe of male engineers (because women engineers? What's that nonsense?). What will he do? Build a bridge? Construct a machine? Create a chemical compound with nondescript kitchen supplies?
The word 'engineering' has evolved from the Latin word 'ingenium', which translates to "cleverness". No doubt tugging at that root, our hero opts for an act that will best showcase his ingenuity. He puts on a cassette — yes, those ancient objects that had spools of tape and are almost museum-worthy today — and performs a striptease.
Possibly drawing upon his memories of watching Magic Mike, he takes off his shirt and swivels his hips. Then, bare-chested, he prowls up to the woman, seated on the sofa before him. He raises a leg so that his crotch is a few inches from her face. He pops open the button of his pants and leans towards her. When their lips are millimetres away, he husks, "What's so interesting about you?"
She could have said that it's her bottom, which he ogled at pointedly at the gym just a few scenes ago. Or maybe it's the flair in her conversation that provoked him to strip half-naked. Instead, she stands up and starts to belly dance.
The critical question here is not whether director and writer Luv Ranjan is only a misogynist or a combination of talentlessness and misogyny, but this: does Ranjan seriously think that striptease has salvaged the honour of Indian engineers?
From the complete and adoring earnestness that characterises this scene, it seems the answer is yes. This begs another question. Indian men, since Ranjan has decided he's your spokesperson, what are you going to do to first distance and then redeem yourselves from the cocktail of idiocy and offensive chauvinism that passes for a film in Pyaar ka Punchnama 2?
According to Ranjan, women come in three flavours of manipulation: bimbo, spineless and gold-digger. They enter men's lives and ravage them with either their stupidity or their mind games. Men, fuelled by lust and luuurve, are defenceless against women. That in a nutshell is the plot of Pyaar ka Punchnama 2. The three heroes do everything the heroines demand, but it isn't ever enough. The women reduce the alpha males to unpaid labour, credit card debt and nail polish, so that by the end, the men are just beta. The Hindi beta, that is. Since spoilers are frowned upon, let's just say that for Pyaar ka Punchnama 2's three heroes, mum's the word.
From its posters and initial scenes, you'd be forgiven for thinking Pyaar ka Punchnama 2 is a Bridget Jones' Diary for Indian men. However, Ranjan misses the central point of a romantic comedy: you've got to love the objects of affection, imperfect as they may be. In Pyaar ka Punchnama 2, the men get the love and punchlines. All that's left for their sweethearts are punches.
As hunks of meat go, Delhi boys Gogo (Kartik Aryan), Thakur (Omkar Kapoor) and Chauka (Sunny Singh) are easy on the eye. They're also not unbearable as actors. Singh is almost endearing, which is an enormous credit to the actor given what a cretin his character turns out to be. Kapoor is the one who performs the aforementioned striptease and since he manages this without turning red in embarrassment or bursting out in laughter, he's clearly got some acting potential. Aryan is perhaps the weakest of the three, but he does manage to deliver a massive monologue (about what scums of the earth women are) that runs on for a good five minutes, which is a minor feat in itself.
In life, women in close proximity have menstrual synchrony; in Pyaar ka Punchnama 2, flatmates Gogo, Thakur and Chauka share a libidinous harmony. On the same day, Gogo falls in love with Chiku (Nusrat Bharucha), Chauka locks eyes with Supriya (Sonnalli Seygall) and Kusum (Ishita Raj) — beginning with her bottom — falls in Thakur's line of sight.
When we first meet Chiku, she seems like Rain Man in a short dress and bright make-up. Gogo strides up to her and before any small talk, he rattles off his phone number. Miraculously, Chiku does in fact remember it and call him back, which is all the more amazing a feat of memory when you keep in mind that she'd grabbed a beer instead of Gogo when he gave her his number. Remembering that sequence of numbers is the only sign of intelligence that Chiku is allowed to exhibit in Pyaar ka Punchnama 2. In no time, she's established as the patron saint of bimbos, interested in nothing but her clothes, make-up and bimbogiri.
Supriya and Chauka meet at a wedding. When she saunters over to the boys who are sneaking drinks out of the back of a car and asks for a whisky-soda, you might feel like raising a toast to her. However, that flame of modernity sputters out quickly. She's 25, works at a BPO, but is so thoroughly under her conservative father's thumb that she can't tell her family that she's dating Chauka. Instead, she mutely suffers her parents setting up a profile for her on shaadi.com and ties Chauka up in knots.
Kusum, with her sexual frankness and belly dancing, fights the good fight a little longer than her fellow actresses. She's feisty and asks Thakur uncomfortable but reasonable questions that he struggles to answer. However, soon enough, we get hints that she's the kryptonite to our Supermen and she quickly unravels to reveal herself as a greedy hypocrite who exploits Thakur's generosity.
Lest we think these women are old-fashioned stereotypes, they have premarital sex, use iPhones, wear revealing clothes and prance around in bikinis while on holiday with their boyfriends. Yay.
Opposite these magnificently flat and negative cliches of femininity are our three heroes. They're equally cliched, but in their case, the cliches are positive. Chauka is the naive, golden-hearted "almost sardar". Thakur is the level-headed mature one. Gogo is the strong, sensitive type. Neither the men nor the women in Pyaar ka Punchnama 2 are anywhere close to realistic.
However, while the women are either ridiculed or demonised, the men quite obviously have the writer and director's sympathy. It's because of the women that the men behave stupidly or badly or both. They're driven to it, the poor dears. All those who believe men are poor babies being twisted around feminine pinkies by women who think a relationship gives them a carte blanche to exploit men, will cheer loudly for Pyaar ka Punchnama 2.
Prior to intermission, Pyaar ka Punchnama 2's misogyny is gentle enough for some to ignore it and laugh at the few good jokes that Ranjan manages to crack through his unwieldy dialogues. For instance, there's a satire of the anti-smoking advertisement featuring the now famous Mukesh that is genuinely witty. Post-intermission, Ranjan ups the misogynist ante with a vengeance. The women lose whatever little humanity they had and become the daleks to Gogo, Chauka and Thakur's Doctor Who. Chiku's chatter becomes so inane that it would be more intellectually stimulating to hear the conversations of Keeping up with the Kardashians, on loop, recited by Alvin and the Chipmunks. Supriya seems to be schizophrenic, given her wildly inconsistent behaviour. Kusum becomes Shylock in a bra, eyeliner and hot pants; minus any of the Shakespearean complexity.
This is not just a disappointment because Pyaar ka Punchnama 2 is the sort of film that can turn a sensible feminist into the man-hating virago that haunts chauvinists' nightmares. Hindi cinema has a tradition of charming films that explore masculinity and alpha male behaviour in a way that's humorous, inoffensive and witty. Consider films like Golmaal (with its fixation on moustaches), Chupke Chupke (which sets up a contest between the shuddh Hindi Goliath and a botany professor David) and Shaukeen (which is both satire and ode to male lechery). They're cheeky and delightful in the way they shine an affectionate light on Indian masculinity while poking at its pomposity. In stark contrast is Pyaar ka Punchnama 2, which thinks the only way to get laughs is by making the women ridiculous. The film promotes prejudice and camouflaged in its 'insights' are offensive stereotypes that you'd hope modern India would want to shatter rather than reinforce. It makes you wonder just what sort of romantic trauma was survived by those who made, supported and produced this film.
Finding love has always been tough and the modern era brings with it a whole new set of challenges. To tell that story, it isn't necessary that you be fair. It's possible to be thoroughly unsympathetic towards women and still tell a tale that's funny, sensitive and moving. Take this snippet from comedian Stephen Merchant's Hello Ladies for example (warning: the audio is slightly NSFW)
Why does this work and not Ranjan's attempts at humour in Pyaar ka Punchnama 2? Because Merchant is honest and brave enough to put his own ridiculousness in the spotlight (somewhat literally) while whining about how difficult it is to woo a woman. He's also talented, which might be the critical factor separating Merchant's storytelling from Ranjan's.
If Ranjan's intention with Pyaar ka Punchnama 2 was to make men turn their backs on women and contemplate homosexuality as the more emotionally sustainable option, then he's hit the jackpot. A lot of women may well be turned off men too, despite the hunkiness of the heroes, because of the film's inherent misogyny. For those who were hoping for a fun look at romance in modern India, the only thing Pyaar ka Punchnama 2 confirms is that Porn MD's survey was probably right on the money when it listed "my friends hot mom" among the top searches among Indian porn users.
Pyaar ka Punchnama 2 has been produced by Viacom18, which is a part of the Network18 group along with FirstPost.
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