« Bite Club | Main | Folie à une »

A Slap in the Face

Courtesy photo

Family Star (2024)

He hits her in the face in what is meant to be a sweet love story. He hits her in the face and we're meant to think she owes him an apology for driving him to it. He hits her in the face and it's supposed to show just how committed he is to the welfare of his family that he would protect them at any cost. He hits her in the face in what’s supposed to be a romantic comedy. Better by far to die alone.

It rather derails "Family Star" when Govardhan (Vijay Deverakonda) hits Indu (Mrunal Thakur) in the face. He is an architect in Hyderabad, India, and the sole support to his extended family. One brother's a drunk and the other a loser, with their wives, five children and their mother (Rohini Hattangadi) all also dependent on his salary. But Govardhan doesn't mind at all; he loves everybody and anyway taking care of your family is what true Indian masculinity is supposed to do. When a student asks to rent the apartment on the roof of the house his mother is thrilled; and Indu is so pretty Govardhan is reduced to stuttering in her presence. Very quickly Indu has charmed everyone with outings and buckets of fried chicken, but there's an ulterior motive: She's writing a thesis on an archetypal middle-class family and names have not been changed. When Govardhan finds out, he marches into the university library where Indu is meeting with her thesis advisor and hits her in the face.

The rest of the movie is Govardhan’s attempts to improve his financial status, which involve him getting a job from someone who turns out to be Indu's father (Jagapathi Babu) and immediately asking for two entire years' salary as an advance. It's granted, as is a visa to run a construction project in New York alongside Indu while living in her basement, despite him having hit her in the face. (Why she was writing a sociology thesis when she’s also the C.E.O. of a construction company is anyone’s guess.) Govardhan spends his time in America acting the jackass and drinking with the assistant Samarth (Vennela Kishore), while Indu frowns over blueprints and gives Govardhan anything he asks for. By the end she's making a speech about how any Indian man who puts his family first is a superhero who should be worshipped and it's so offensive it's ridiculous. He hit her in the face!

Writer-director Parasuram has some clear ideas about gender roles and ableism and how toxic masculinity ought to be. The big finale has Govardhan making the usual romantic speech to Indu while covered in the blood of the dozens of people he’s just defeated in a fight, which wouldn’t be romantic even if he hadn’t previously hit her in the face. Earlier there’s a disturbing and violent fight in a kitchen showroom after a villain threatens one of his sisters-in-law, for which Govardhan takes his nieces and nephews out of school so they can learn how a family keeps its members safe: by watching him break the limbs and crack the skulls of various henchmen. None of this is a lesson anyone ought to learn. It should be impossible for a purported romantic film to involve one half of the couple hitting the other half in the face. And since “Family Star” did the impossible, it ought only to be shunned and forgotten.


Post a comment

This weblog only allows comments from registered users. To comment, please Sign In.

© 2008-2024 Critic's Notebook and its respective authors. All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Subscribe to Critic's Notebook | Follow Us on X
Contact Us | Write for Us | Reprints and Permissions | Powered by TypePad