June Issue 2010
Woeful, not Wonderful
After several hit-and-miss movies such as Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice, Gurinder Chadha returns with yet another movie based on themes of love and marriage in a British-Indian setting. It’s a Wonderful Afterlife follows the same pattern that we have come to expect from Chadha; girl is pressured to get married, girl seeks prospects and faces rejections and anxiety, girl eventually finds true love and gets married. But this time, the relentless storyline hits a new low with a forced plot and shoddy special effects to suggest elements of horror and the grotesque. And here we thought the movie’s catch line, “a killer comedy,” was referring to the riotous humour we were about to experience!
The premise sounds pretty funny on paper. Mrs Sethi (Shabana Azmi) is a widowed mother who wants nothing more but to see her loving daughter married and settled. But when suitors reject Roopi (Goldy Notay) on the grounds of being overweight and unattractive, Mrs Sethi takes matters into her own hands and seeks revenge on them with the only weapon she has — food. The ghosts of the dead victims return to haunt Mrs Sethi — complete with meat skewers hanging from their necks and gut-spilling curry explosions intact. In trying to understand why they haven’t been able to proceed with their afterlives, they discover that their murderer, Mrs Sethi, too needs to die — but she refuses to go without completing her mission. Thus, the ghosts realise it is in their interests to help Roopi get married so that everybody can carry on with their afterlives. On a side note, a police investigation is taking place to uncover the killer of these murders. The detective (Heroes actor Sendhil Ramamurthy) turns out to be an old family-friend of the mother-daughter duo, and thus the movie proceeds with the investigation, the love story and the aftermath of a predictable storyline.
Far from evoking laughter, the movie fails to even evoke half-smiles. Everything about the movie, aside from the A-list actors who give A-minus performances, is awry and insipid. From the dreadful make-up jobs of the dead ghosts to the flat dialogue that doesn’t evoke emotion nor sympathy for the characters, it is a movie that fails on too many counts — which is surprising since Chadha spent nearly two-and-a-half years writing the script. The cynical humour, if you can call it that, incorporates gruesome and supernatural elements to further obscure the genre of the movie. Normally, moviegoers can reserve such films for when they are bored and need to switch off their brains — but this one is better left reserved for never.
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