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A Very Long Entanglement

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MOVIE REVIEW
Puaada (2021)

An intoxicating mix of rom-com and thriller, “Puaada” gets more hilarious the more dire the situation its characters face. It starts out pretty ordinary – Jaggi (Ammy Virk), a humble milkman from the countryside, only has eyes for Raunak (Sonam Bajwa), an educated daughter of snobbish Air Force officer Mr. Dhillon (Hardeep Gill). Despite her façade of playing hard to get, they’ve been an item for two years. He unexpectedly shows up and sabotages her first meeting with a suitor arranged by her parents, yet his own haphazard efforts to impress them have been laughable, to say the least.

Despite deeming Jaggi unsuitable for Raunak, Mr. Dhillon and Mrs. Dhillon (Seema Kaushal) reluctantly agree to entertain Jaggi’s family and his proposal. Unfortunately for him, Jaggi’s proud parents, Gajjan (Sukhwinder Chahal) and Jeete (Anita Devgan), are less than cooperative. After he finally convinces them to pay the Dhillons a visit, Jaggi’s family is taken hostage by a group of terrorists led by Tariq (Deepak Niaz) and Bilal (Balwinder Bullet of “Tunka Tunka”). Jaggi’s nosy relatives and friends who refuse to mind their own business despite ample warnings also unwittingly become captives. To avoid suspicion, Tariq and Bilal allow the family to attend the prearranged meeting but decide to tag along, which prompts Jaggi to feign getting cold feet, confounding Raunak. It will literally take a village to foil the bad guys.

Despite its cultural specificity, “Puaada” consistently defies expectations. It centers on genre conventions and Indian customs, yet it’s eager to spin those on their heads. When their families ultimately become agreeable, Jaggi and Raunak become quarrelsome. When the hostages try to seize the moment to outsmart their captors, they fumble big time. Given the film’s fun-and-games tenor, we don’t take the terrorists seriously until they finally strap explosives to Jaggi’s body.

Jaggi and Raunak bicker like a couple – the logical extension of opposites attracting. The young people seem to have their own ideas about romance, and their families seem fixated on caste rather than tradition. Is it wishful thinking on the film’s part, or have cultural tides finally turned? Do the terrorists symbolize a force that will help unite different social strata? Or maybe the film is really not that deep? “Puaada” tries to be everything to everyone and somehow succeeds. It’s thrilling. It’s romantic. It’s incredibly funny. It suspends your disbelief so disarmingly only to raise the stakes and escalate its outrageousness.

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