With Well Done Baby, I am mostly struggling to find the words for there is almost nothing to say at all and whatever little there is to say, is bleak and blah at best.
Directed by Priyanka Tanwar and written by Marmanda Gavhane, the film stars Pushkar Jog, Amruta Khanvilkar and Vandana Gupte in titular roles. The film has that big budget, almost Karan Johar-like quality-- a beautiful and expansive universe where all dreams come true, reminiscent of Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Salaam Namaste (2005), and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), set in a beautiful European location with everything that glitters like gold (a bit more than necessary to be honest, making it look like a cheap Hindi TV serial set).
Everything is bright, loud and far from real, quite similar to most big budget Hindi movies. The glossy production design and colourful quality of the frames make the film a tacky and visually unappealing one to sit through and the film carries none of the charm that big budget films usually do.
It attempts to be progressive for the most part and the first half after which it loses steam and becomes submissive, beaten into the mould and shape that only society allows it to be. Love, divorce, marital problems, therapy, sex and the needs of an “independent” woman - the film tries to address all the things that are not only progressive but also have great potential for drama and masala - neither of which the story is able to exploit.
The story goes from attempting to be progressive to becoming problematic and stripping all its characters of their organic agency very quickly.
Well done baby is an interesting premise - what happens when an unhappy couple, on the brink of divorce, discover that they are pregnant with their first child? And what then, do they do and how then does it change their lives and the fate of their relationship?
However, the film quickly forgets this and becomes a hot mess of clichés, endless conversations that lead nowhere (and really aren’t vital to the story or structure unlike the Before Sunrise series of films or films like Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil (2018)), and aren’t organic and only exist to further the plot, of sequences that are not only predictable and boring but also painfully cringe-worthy in their on-the-nose dialogue, repetitive motifs and obvious imagery along with performative affection and “wokeness".
The film wants desperately to show a couple at their most vulnerable, at their lowest, their toughest, their worst and wants us to empathize with them, wants us to root for victory (which, obviously, in the end will be theirs) but it fails on all these fronts.
We don’t know these characters and we never get to know them, we feel nothing and they become nothing more than unidimensional caricatures at best (if even that). Amruta’s Meera is a PhD student but besides a few shots of her in a designer lab coat, there is really nothing more to it and as for Pushkar’s Aditya, who is a counsellor, we see even less. Who are these people, what is their story, what are their faults, follies, happiness and sadness, we never really know.
We really get to know nothing about these people except that they are NRI’s on the brink of divorce. That is really it. There is an attempt to add complexity by inserting a nosy, meddling, but well-intentioned mother-in-law into the mix but that too, seems so fake, inorganic and downright unbelievable that it doesn’t pose as conflict for even a second. Instead, it becomes a comic aspect that stops being funny very quickly.
For a premise that is full of conflict, the film has none. All thanks to lazy writing, uninspiring direction and outdated background score, reminiscent of comedy shows on TV where in the name of humour the male leads indulge in female bashing, cross dressing is done as a way to both body shame men and women and casual sexual harassment is considered “friendliness”.
The editing too, belongs in the 2000’s, what with the glitchy fade in and fade outs. Well Done Baby is well intentioned, to begin with anyway, and sure, it leans and dances with slightly strange notions of motherhood and makes abortion out to be something that is sin, but the muddled ideological and political problems aren’t necessarily a reflection of the failure that is this film. That is a whole other can of worms.
This film fails for many reasons, and it pains me to even say so because the treatment of the subject and characters both makes it clear that the intention was good but the delivery leaves a lot to be desired.
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