Subhash Jha on 'Teree Sang'

By Subhash K. Jha

Film: "Teree Sang"; Cast: Ruslaan Mumtaz, Sheena Shahabadi; Director: Satish Kaushik; Rating: ***

This is Raj Kapoor's "Bobby" with furtive sex and a baby thrown in for good measure. Otherwise the boy-meets-girl formula never seemed more homage-bound. Soft to the touch, but underpinned by a strong message on sex and the single parent, "Teree Sang" is a sweet and likable spin on premature parenthood.

The prim 'n' propah Rajat Kapoor and Neena Gupta, playing the debutante Sheena Shahabadi's stiff-upper-lipped parents, could well be the painfully-young Rishi Kapoor's parents in "Bobby"-Pran and Sonia Sahni -- with their social airs and graces borrowed from a tacky soap on Page 3 mores.

Sonia Sahni had dropped her pallu to show her disdain for motherhood. Neena Gupta doesn't seem sure of what to drop.

Neena's daughter Mahi's upper-class upbringing doesn't stop her from befriending the simple boy from Old Delhi. They meet, chat, flirt and... well, go all the way. And we don't mean that in any geopolitical sense, though director Satish Kaushik's film does travel that extra distance both emotionally and geographically.

Ruslaan Mumtaz, last seen in "Mera Pehla Pehla Pyaar", is endearing and sincere as the boy-next-door who kind of forgets that making love quite frequently means making a baby.

The whole episode where the callow couple discover that they are thrust with unwanted parenthood is awkward and selfconscious, kind of in-sync with the young protagonists' personalities. They don't know any better. Providentially, the film does.

Once they take off into the scenic hills to play mummy-daddy far from prying eyes, the film assumes the quaint colours of a "Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak" with the couple's disarming innocence adding a lemony lustre of harmony to the otherwise-predictable Romeo-meets-Juliet-in-the-maternity-ward tale of juvenile slip-ups and slip-ins.

Kaushik's direction is straight and sincere. The couple is given non-judgemental treatment till the end when 'judge' Anupam Kher shows up with his verdict on teen pregnancy. Though the narration makes a bold statement on premature hormonal exuberance, it doesn't quite acquire the poignant heart-warming intimacy and humour of Jason Reitman's "Juno". Nor does young Sheena have Juno's contagious premature wisdom. The girl looks clueless about the birds and the bees and the wanna-bes.

The best interludes in the film feature Ruslaan's plebian parents played with spirited earthiness by Satish Kaushik and Sushmita Mukherjee. Their life in the crusty dusty Old Delhi lanes are authentically recreated. In contrast, the female protagonist's world is awkward and cheaply stylized.

What ironically saves the day is the lack of chemistry between the lead pair. Painfully young and awkward Ruslaan and Sheena epitomise the premature householders grappling with house bills and pregnancy tests at a time when they should be at best worried about which party to attend next.

Kaushik gives the pair a fair chance to have their say. He isn't endorsing teenage pregnancy. But if it happens, you don't need to run to the nearest abortion clinic.

Own up and be a man. That's the message. Take it or leave it.

Ruslaan has a ball playing the boy-man looking seriously for bespectacled maturity. Jainendra Jain's sermonistic "Prem Rog" past surfaces in bits and spurts when the homilies get prominent. Earlier Jain addressed remarriage.

Here he addresses condoms without mentioning them.

On the whole "Teree Sang" is not quite the film to watch and discard. It does make you think about sex. And how the thrill goes out of the window when parenthood calls.

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