Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
It’s a Wonderful Afterlife: Too little laughter, too much curry
Gurinder Chadha’s “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife” (‘Hai Marjaawaan’ in Hindi) is a comedy about a harassed Indian mother, who is so obsessed with marrying off her only daughter that she kills off anyone who dares to reject her.
Those killing methods are so corny, you want to puke when you see a victim’s stomach burst open due to an overdose of curry and another one stabbed with a skewer of chicken tikka kebabs. The victims come back to haunt her, chicken tikka skewers intact. They cannot be reincarnated unless their killer dies but Mrs Sethi doesn’t want to kill herself before her daughter is “settled”.
So the spirits and Mrs Sethi (played endearingly by Shabana Azmi) set out to look for a suitable groom for her daughter, leading to a somewhat comedic situation.
The problem here is that the comedy is as laboured and forced as the make-up job on the spirits and laughing becomes a chore. Chadha does bring in some of the sharp, British humour that characterised “Bend it like Beckham” but those moments are few and far between. For most of the time, there is only curry flying in all directions, making you think about the colossal waste of food shooting for this film would have involved.
Also, just because it is meant to be a comedy doesn’t mean you can account for a nonsensical storyline. Most of the events don’t make much sense and plot points are explained away by the flimsiest of excuses.
Azmi does play her role well and Sendhil Ramamurthy as a police officer investigating the attacks is good, but watching the film is such a laboured exercise that these two don’t quite make up for it.