In matters of romance, we say that opposites attract. That's not always the case with the parents. Such is the intrigue of "2 States," written and directed by Abhishek Varman, based on the novel by Chetan Bhagat. It's the love story between vivacious Ananya (Alia Bhatt) and Kris (Arjun Kapoor), her gloomy fellow business school student. She's a Tamilian Brahmin from Chennia. He's a North Indian Punjabi from Delhi. Different cultures? She doesn't care, he doesn't care. But there are impediments to the marriage of their true minds. To her parents (Revathy and Shiv Kumar Subramaniam), Punjabis are rich but uncultured. To his mother (Amitra Singh), Tamil's are dark-skinned. Montagues and Capulets? Try Hatfields and McCoys.
The film is notable for it's genre bending. The elements of a typical Bollywood romantic comedy are there. From the start, the story's strewn with obstacles. Kris is smitten, as are all the other men. When they meet, she's fielded almost a dozen marriage proposals. He helps her with her math and enters the friend zone. And then one things to another.
The film's formulaic, to be sure. But it moves beyond formulas. It provides depth to the characterizations. It turns expectations on their head. We think Ananya will henpeck Kris. She doesn't. He's got too much on his mind to be fully present. As in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?," we think family introductions are going to be awkward. They are, but we have no idea they'd be so nasty. We think the relationship will work, not work, work, not work. It does, it doesn't, it does, it doesn't. It, well, nevermind. We think, a la Romeo and Juliet, that one of them, as they tell their therapist, will commit suicide. Thank God that doesn't happen. We think that Kris will forever be held under the thumb of his mother. That doesn't happen. We think he will be forever estranged from his father (Ronit Roy). In a touching scene, that doesn't happen, either.
To Varman's credit, easy consolations of stereotype are thrown out the window. We get the full backstory of the problems with Kris' parent's marriage. This explains his mother's spite towards Ananya's parents. We get extended attempts by Kris to win over Ananya's parents and by Ananya to win over Kris' mother. We don't have a clue what's going to happen until the end. Nor do we realize that a written version of the story itself will figure mightily in the plot.
Though the film lasts two-and-a-half hours long, time flies. The two leads are fantastic. Bhatt's Ananya is effervescent. Under Kris's mother's nonstop assaults, though, you can see her glow diminish. Kapoor's Kris is an aw-shucks-nerd-in-love. He undercuts this with a broodiness that has nothing to do with his attempts to squire Ananya. The production design is captivating. The songs, especially "Offo!" and "Locha-E-Ulfat" are gorgeous. And the story's various twists and turns resonate with young people in the thralls of love and their parents in the thralls of their children in the thralls of love. Makes you wonder how couples -- and their parents -- get through, much endure, the crucibles of friendship, love, and marriage.