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Edgy but not vulgar! True happiness lies in being ‘atmanirbhar’ – Beyond Bollywood

The below-the-belt conversations will lead to polarized views, but go beyond the personal desires and director Karan Boolani’s film draws one’s attention to a fatherless-child, single parenting.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️✨️ (2.5 / 5)

By Mayur Lookhar

Rise, rebel, repeat! Such a catchline can only belong to an Ekta Kapoor, Rhea Kapoor co-production. Their maiden collaboration Veere Di Wedding [2018] was a surprise hit. The duo has now joined hands for Thank You For Coming [2023].  Rated A, it sure isn’t ideal for traditional audiences.

Ekta Kapoor film productions are vastly different from her TV soap operas. Rise, rebel, repeat.  The Supreme Court might have slammed her for spoiling the minds of the youth, but that hasn’t deterred rebel Ekta from repeating her bold, at times exaggerated feminist sagas.

Phew, the opening minutes of Thank You For Coming surely validate Supreme Court’s point of view. Here’s a school girl participating in a play and shouting nonchalantly that men and women need to have sex in order to reproduce. The school principal naturally reprimands the child and her mother [a single parent].  Poor Kanika is to apologize in front of all students. Before she can complete, the students send shockwaves by teasing her as ‘Kanika g**$u’. Phew, who says CBFC [Central Board of Film Certification] is tough?

The G tag has stuck in her head. Few years later, the high school girl loses her virginity.  Later on, she would go on to date other men, but one thing that has remained constant is Kanika Kapoor not experiencing any orgasm in her life so far. Clearly, the many men that she dated have missed the mysterious G-spot. Tired of wooing men, Kanika [Bhumi Pednekar] is advised by a friend that all along, she has made out with men who she desired, but to experience orgasm, she must have intercourse with a man who truly loves her.

Kanika doesn’t have to look far as Jeevan Anand, a simple but successful businessman in the neighborhood, has been drooling over her for years. She eventually gives in to his proposal. The Delhi couple have a dhinchak roka (engagement ceremony). Kanika gets on real high. She wakes up next morning to no hangover, but a feeling of pure bliss. She has her clothes on, but it’s a eureka moment for Kanika as she happily reveals to her besties that she’s finally experienced orgasm. Phew, but the confusion is here is, who helped her achieve the impossible?

With her fiancé ruled out, Kanika suspects her ex-boyfriends, which includes a Gulzar aficionado in Anil Kapoor.

Helmed by Karan Boolani, and penned by Radhika Anand, Prashasti Singh, Thank You For Coming [2023] comes across as a sex comedy. However, shortly into the second half, it throws up a serious concern where one high school girl Rania [Saloni Daini] is left distraught after her boyfriend has leaked a personal video. 

Perhaps Kanika’s orgasm saga had no convincing ending, and so the writers, maybe even producers, added the Rania story to set the base for a dramatic climax. A viewer was left stunned with little Kanika’s opening scene at school, and the climax, that also ends in a school, leads to jaw dropping moments. Kanika leaves the stage to the sound of school kids enjoying their cathartic moment. One munchkin even mutters, “No more pairi pauna”.

Jeez, who would force their kids to seek blessing of the elders?  It’s in that moment where you fear that Ekta Kapoor, Rhea Kapoor, Radhika Anand, and Prashasti Singh are creating rebels out of these children? Is that true rebellion though? Does Kanika’s ‘below the belt’ issues’ merit a rebellious attitude?  Often such tropes are passed off in the garb of feminism. Truth be told, these are classic example of woke feminism.

The female producers, female writers are unlikely to win much brownies points here. So, they package their misplaced feminism through the classic Western princess, frog prince fable. We never advocate any leave-your-brains behind theory, but if you can forget Kanika’s bodily issues, beneath it, lies a poignant tale of a girl raised by a single parent.

All along, Kanika has started to believe the nasty jibes. Her grandmother Kishori [Dolly Ahluwalia] perhaps led a lonely life. Her bachelorette mother Dr. Rubi Kapoor ignored the society and chose to give birth to the fatherless Kanika. From school, Kanika carried the G tag. Maybe, it’s drilled into her psyche that this family is for no man. Years of bearing such load, a Kanika is desperate to stand out from her mother and nanny. She felt sex was the way to her catharsis, a means to end the G-tag, but it’s only added to her internal turmoil. 

While there is a certain empathy towards to Kanika, no way can Kanika’s predicament be taken for any sign of feminism. Any such claim by the filmmakers is encouraging woke culture. Besides, Boolani doesn’t really explore the genuine problems of single parent, fatherless child.

Thank You For Coming will lead to polarized views, but there can be consensus one thing – stellar acts by the cast. Bhumi Pednekar has never been shy to challenge taboos. She’s often done that in traditional stories.  She copped criticism for Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare [2019].  Thank You for Coming is edgy, but it is not vulgar.  For all her overzealous nature, Kanika is a confused soul. The make-up can’t hide the stress on Pednekar’s face.  Here’s a lady who was once the darling of the traditional masses. When she does a TYFC or DKAWCS, the traditional audiences, who have made her, are likely to be shocked.

We leave that to individual opinion, but few would dispute another fine performance by Pednekar.  She emotes the internal turmoil, exuberance of her character well.  She threatens to push the envelope but never tears it.

Pednekar is in fine form, but the ones that steal the show here are Shibani Bedi, Dolly Singh who play Kanika’s best friends – Pallavi and Tina, respectively. Pallavi’s the odd one out in this girl gang. She is happily married but isn’t shy to have an argument with her portly husband Karan [Gautmik – simply brilliant]. The friendship is tested later with Pallavi lashing out at her childhood bestie [Kanika]. 

Shibani Bedi

Shibani Bedi comes like a breath of fresh air. She truly imbibes the Dilliwali spirit in her tone, body. Blessed with great screen presence, the unheralded actor backs it with her talent. Bedi is impressive as Tina, while former child stand-up artiste Saloni, who plays her daughter, is doubly impressive.  The young Saloni moves you when she discloses her ordeal to Kanika.

Shehnaaz Gill

Shehnaaz Gill has more of a cameo appearance. She was listless in Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan [2023].  Credit to director Karan Boolani, who doesn’t impose Rushi onto Shehnaaz. He simply lets Shehnaaz be Shehnaaz. Some like the Punjabi girl in her desi tone. Some find it nauseating. Gill has our respect though. Kusha Kapila, too, shines as the envious Neha.

Though a film about women, the men aren’t far behind. Pradhuman Singh is adorable as this simple Delhi businessman. There are moments where the director, writers are a little mean to the simple man, but the good thing is that Jeevan Anand [Pradhuman Singh] takes all in his stride. Karan Kundrra, Anil Kapoor, Sushant Divgikar all chip in with fine cameos.

Kanika and her story will evoke mixed views, but it’s the all-round fine showing by the ensemble cast that builds consistent engagement. The peppy playback music is also appealing. None of the songs is forced into the screenplay.  

Thank You For Coming is very much in a Veere Di Wedding mode. Maybe, it takes a little more liberty but the woke quotient is limited vis-à-vis Veere Di Wedding. It sure has better talent. TYFC will divide opinions, but there’s a universal truth that true happiness lies in being ‘atmanirbhar’ (independent).

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