7 ½ years ago, Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions entertained viewers with 2 States, a film with a strong South Indian connect. Now Dharmatic Entertainment, the digital arm of Dharma, has released a film, Meenakshi Sundareshwar, on Netflix, which is on similar lines. Unlike 2 States, which was also set in the North, Meenakshi Sundareshwar consists of lovers, both of whom are from down South. But while 2 States was a well-made entertainer, Meenakshi Sundareshwar sadly turns out to be a disappointment.

The story of the movie: Sundar (Abhimanyu Dassani) has completed his engineering since a year but is unable to find a decent job. He has no interest in his father’s saree business and hence has become the black sheep of the family. Under pressure from his parents, he agrees to an arranged marriage. In a hilarious goof-up, Sundar’s family accidentally land up at the doorstep of Meenakshi (Sanya Malhotra) though they were supposed to meet some other family a few blocks away. However, Sundar and Meenakshi bond very well. Also, Meenakshi’s grandfather (Shivkumar Subramaniam) remarks that this blunder could be a sign of God. Moreover, their names are also that of Lord Shiv and Goddess Parvati. So they get married. On the wedding night, Sundar gets a message that he’s been selected as a trainee in a reputed company in Bengaluru, Syspace Technologies. He leaves for Electronic City the next morning. On the first day of work, his boss Senthil (Sukesh Arora) tells the employees that he wants to hire only bachelors. Sundar decides to hide his marital status in the office as he doesn’t want to lose out on the opportunity. Meenakshi, meanwhile, is supposed to join Sundar in Bengaluru. But Sundar now refuses Meenakshi to live with him in Bengaluru as it can damage his career prospects, lest someone finds out that he’s already hitched.

Meenakshi Sundareshwar has a lovely beginning, explaining the significance of the title and its connection with the renowned temple in Madurai. The scene where Sundar accidentally steps into the house of Meenakshi for marriage purposes reminds one of an exact scene in Mitron. However, one lets it pass as it’s treated nicely. The film gets a bit into the silly zone in the scene where Sundar and Meenakshi fail to consummate their marriage. The eccentricity of Senthil, especially the part where he goes for a haircut in front of the staff, doesn’t raise laughs. The film gets better when Sundar and Meenakshi try to be in touch despite the long distance and do cute things for one another. The interval point, where the couple get caught while doing role-play, is hilarious. Post-interval, the film again falls as they face troubles. The track of Ananthan (Varun Shashi Rao) and that of Rukmani Attai (Nivedita Bhargava) doesn’t reach a logical conclusion. The finale is sweet but one can guess it from a mile’s distance.

Sanya Malhotra is credited before Abhimanyu and is the best actor in the film. She plays her part with sensitivity and also to the gallery in certain scenes. Abhimanyu Dassani is decent although he has done better in his debut film, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. Purnendu Bhattacharya (Mani; Sundar’s father) is good as the strict father. He has a strong resemblance to that of Suresh Oberoi. Nivedita Bhargava has a strong presence but is wasted. Varun Shashi Rao is likeable. Sukesh Arora is fine as the weird boss. Shivkumar Subramaniam is memorable in a cameo. Manoj Mani Mathew (Vaman; Sundar’s brother) is too good. Kalp Shah (Rasu; Sundar’s nephew) raises laughs especially how he preempts what the next person is going to say. Ritika Atul Shrotri (Mukai; Sundar’s sister) is fair. Chetan Sharma (Sai Kumar), Khuman Nongyai (Diganta) and Danish Sood (PVR) are okay as Sundar’s colleagues. Komal Chhabriya (Suhasini; Sundar’s mother), Archana Iyer (Poojitha; Sundar’s bhabhi) and Saurabh Sharma (Tutor) don’t get much scope.

Justin Prabhakaran‘s music is niche but works well in the film. ‘Mann Kesar Kesar’ and ‘Tu Yahin Hai’ (sung beautifully by Madhushree) are well-woven. ‘Vaada Machaney’ is okay while ‘Tittar Bittar’ is very weird. ‘Ratti Ratti Reza Reza’ is soulful but won’t have a long shelf life. Justin Prabhakaran‘s background score has the South element feel. The theme song gives a nice déjà vu of RHTDM and works.

Debojeet Ray‘s cinematography is appropriate and the locales down South are well captured. Aparna Sud‘s production design and Veera Kapur Ee‘s costumes are realistic and convincing. Jahan Bakshi, Karan Kalra and New Folder Design‘s title design is very unique. Prashanth Ramachandran‘s editing is neat.

Aarsh Vora and Vivek Soni‘s story is novel, especially the long-distance marriage part. Hardly any film has tackled this idea. Aarsh Vora and Vivek Soni‘s screenplay is interesting only at places. The problem begins in the second half as the writing gets clichéd, predictable and even weird. The film also lacks in the humour department; there is a scope for far more comedy or rather simpler comedy. Aarsh Vora and Vivek Soni‘s dialogues are modern and urban. A few one-liners of Senthil go over the head.

Vivek Soni‘s direction is decent and technically, he handles the film very well. A few scenes are exceptionally handled and it’s sure to make viewers smile. But while the viewers would relate with the couple in their lovey-dovey moments, one fails to connect with them when their relationship gets strained. This is because the goings-on in the second half is not convincing. It also reminds one of the films like Saathiya and Chalte Chalte. Had Vivek Soni handled the post-interval part with panache, it would have probably made for a fine love story.

On the whole, Meenakshi Sundareshwar is technically first-rate and rests on a fine performance by Sanya Malhotra. But the clichéd and silly developments, more so in the second half, prevents the film from overall impressing audiences.

My rating – ** out of 5!

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