“Good Newwz”… A lively comedy with a hollow emotional side!
Director Raj Mehta’s weirdly spelt film Good Newwz opens with a two-minute in-film advertisement starring its leading man. No, I am not referring to the one that throws a hilarious sanitary napkin versus cigarette parallel which the entire nation has mugged up by now. A top salesman at a showroom that sells Volkswagen cars, Varun Batra (Akshay Kumar) is selling their supposedly topnotch product Tiguan to a rich gentleman who is accompanied by his annoyed child. The length of the scene is such that we, the audience, find ourselves on the child’s side who simply wants to get the hell out of that place. Why does the scene exist besides filling the producers’ pockets with a chunky sum from the brand? Well, Good Newwz wishes to put forth a point that its leading man – the rich, sophisticated and also an obedient husband – is averse to making babies. Within minutes, we get to meet his stylish wife Deepti (Kareena Kapoor Khan) who is quite a hard-worker, in and out of the bed. The current purpose is her life to conceive. Theirs is a routine upper-class marriage and their goals are evidently different.
Talking about Varun and Deepti, this is perhaps the first time that we see the actors (Kumar and Khan) play a conventional couple dealing with immediate interpersonal issues despite having starred in half-a-dozen films. Married for close to a decade, the couple is constantly harassed by their well-wishers to give them the ‘good news’ – of pregnancy. The film does not really divulge about the area from which Deepti’s desire stems. Is it from a strong personal desire to be a mother? Or is it her method to shield herself from the embarrassment and a million questions at home and possibly at the workplace. Being the standard upper-class prototypes that they are, I would rather say that the characters (in design) worked for me individually rather than they did as a couple. Still, Deepti’s high-flying tabloid journo who makes token statements such as, “What about the interview with Alia?” comes with a decided air of disbelief. Why? Because the character looks 2x times more glamorous than a starlet who she will soon be interviewing. Varun is believable in the way that he deals with his friendships and familial relations with far more believability. However, the handsome man in all his salt-and-pepper glory, is not as desirable as the film wants him to be.
The first half of Good Newwz is pretty straightforward and legit fun. Varun and Deepti dabble with societal pressures, dance their elite dances and take a trip to a fertility clinic run by the pragmatic and equally creepy looking doctor couple – The Joshis (Adil Hussain and Tisca Chopra). One thing leads to another, a goof-up occurs wherein the laboratory mixes up their samples with yet another Batra couple – Honey and Monica (Diljit Dosanjh and Kiara Advani respectively). The latter duo appears only towards the middle of the second act and the film is a semi-riot from there until the interval point.
Humour is the mainstay in Good Newwz using which the writers (Jyoti Kapoor, Rishabh Sharma) treat terms such as sperm, egg and ovulation as if they are common parlance. The central element for humour is fully anchored on the class differences between the characters. Diljit Dosanjh, with his loud, goofy ways, is initially very amusing but as the film veers into the third and more so towards the final act, the freshness wears off. Ditto for Advani whose Punjabi wife act is needlessly emboldened with classist jibes by others, especially Kumar. There is this longish stretch where Varun, all high on grass, is seen to make fun of the English (Honours) grad Monica’s pronunciation. The sequence – which is pointless in the first place – is bound to grate on your nerves, for no fault of the actors. After a point, I wondered, ‘How long will they keep playing high-class-low-class ping pong?’ It is as if the lead characters first ought to get out of their shallow skins immediately so as to feel for the cause that they embody.
Good Newwz, unlike films of similar ilk, seldom makes attempts to expose the leading man’s insensitivity even though his wife repeatedly points it out. His transformation is sudden and unconvincing. All it takes is a generic outburst from his wife about the laborious task that pregnancy is. Didn’t a man as educated and aware as Varun know this information in advance? Making his jaw drop, at that hour, listening to perhaps the most commonplace speech on the subject matter was the least of the lessons that he deserved. The film also refuses to undo the mockery it makes of its second leads – the velvet tracksuit-clad, loud, pinniya-eating sardar couple. Honey and Monica are perennially dumb and they exist only so that our lead pair could operate comfortably from their ivory towers of privilege.
Another area where the film faces a mammoth conflict is in its attempt to please the classes and the masses. The ‘woke’ human in me endlessly awaited a reference to adoption at some point in the film. When it finally does, Good Newwz comfortably brushes its relevance under the carpet with an everyman statement – “apna khoon to apna hi hota hai,” The stance is not categorically wrong but the film wants the best of both worlds. As a result, it talks about things such as acceptance but also talks primitive gibberish on how becoming a mother completes a woman’s existence and whatnot. It opines on a woman’s right to abortion, again, in the most patriarchal and passive way possible.
While I am not a big fan of the gaudy colours that the film packs along (much like other Dharma films), the makeup was plain tacky with the blush and eye shadows staying intact even in labour rooms. The production design and costumes do complement the film’s haute couture skin to a T. The background score goes the loud route to create an impact whereas the film could have easily done away with a couple of songs. Dialogues for a large part of the film’s run-time are crackling and notably those in the humorous parts.
So yes, the comedic portions feel genuine throughout the first hour. The laughs are organic and the characters are rooted in their belief systems. The twist-in-the-tale, even though well-publicized already, contains enough juice to create hysteria around. Raj Mehta also extracts compelling performances from each of his actors, especially Akshay Kumar who is in fine form after a long time – that too in a genre that he absolutely excels in. Kareena Kapoor Khan puts a neat show but the film does not challenge her mettle as a performer one bit. Diljit Dosanjh is endearing to the hilt whereas Kiara Advani presents a good account of herself in a limited part. The supporting cast has its own moments with Adil Hussain and Tisca Chopra making their presence felt.
My main concern with Good Newwz is with respect to its limited ambitions. Raj Mehta’s film aspires to focus on a pertinent (and embarrassing) situation but it refuses to take a solid stand for itself. Unlike, say, Vicky Donor, there is hardly any room for character development and the IVF goof-up in the film is a mere token to generate humour from. Not that every form of cinema ought to have a responsible side but Good Newwz ends up as a generic popcorn entertainer which leaves your mind minutes after the show is over. Its emotional portions feel laboured and artificial. While it is reasonably funny and has an endearing set of actors, there is little effort being made to rise above the surface level besides its persistent effort to be in everyone’s good books. So be it, I say.