Video Credit: Gulf News

There’s a lot packed into Rajkummar Rao and Janhvi Kapoor’s benign slice-of-life drama ‘Mr & Mrs Mahi’. On the surface, it’s a rallying cry of a young man, Mahendra, who suffers from severe low self-esteem and is looking for respect/redemption from his toxic father and the world around him.

If you look a bit closer, it’s about a man who turns cheerleader for his wife to become a professional cricketer, something he couldn’t be, and then resents her gloriously for it. It’s also about a petulant man who co-opts his wife’s success on the cricket field as his own.

The movie opens with Rao ruining his chances of playing professional cricket at a match selection and his stern father (Kumud Mishra) cracking the whip on him, forcing him to join his sports business as a salesman. He relents unhappily and finds himself marrying Dr. Mahi, a winsome Janhvi Kapoor.

The two are practically strangers in an arranged marriage, but sparks fly when they realize that they both love cricket. He’s mighty impressed when he realizes that she’s technically sound and, like him, harbored dreams of being a cricketer during her childhood. However, gentle conditioning from her parents and a soft nudge towards a more lucrative and conventional career by her passive-aggressive father made her park those dreams. But Mahendra, who couldn’t stand up against his own bully of a dad, decides to make his wife his pet project and funnel all his unrequited dreams of becoming a professional cricket player by becoming her coach. Those are the fun bits in the film where his staid life gets a shot in the arm when his life partner gives him renewed purpose.

A still from 'Mr & Mrs Mahi' featuring Janhvi Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao
A still from 'Mr & Mrs Mahi' featuring Janhvi Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao

It's endearing to watch Rao and Kapoor strike a healthy partnership at first. Both boost each other when the other’s down. The chemistry isn’t apparent in the beginning, but you begin to grow fond of the two. There’s something heartening about two young guns standing up to their provincial fathers and telling them that they should be given agency to make their own life choices.

Seasoned actor Mishra as the overbearing Indian dad, who walks around with the attitude that he knows best for his son, is utterly convincing. His beady eyes and his sadistic pleasure when his son, Mahendra, gets knocked down by life are surprisingly effective. There’s a particular scene in which Janhvi, who gets selected to play cricket for her Rajasthan state, doesn’t give credit to her coach and husband when she peaks professionally. The father’s crafty gleam in the eye and Rao’s understandable disappointment at his wife is a stirring scene. There are several such stirring scenes in this film.

Another scene in which Rao’s mother, Zarina Wahab, gives her son a crash course on adulting and finding joy in your own heart, rather than waiting for the world to respect you, is a joy to watch. But all these emotionally charged scenes are stitched together rapidly and don’t make the desired impact.

We understand the motivations behind Rao’s character, Mahendra, but the same attention isn’t given to Janhvi’s character. While the two are on great terms in the beginning, Mahendra’s inability to handle his wife’s growing success pushes their relationship towards a rough patch. The second half is all about Mahendra’s soft misogyny and entitlement. What Mrs. Mahi feels about being forced to co-opt her achievements isn’t fully explored.

As far as performances go, all the key players are in good form. Rajesh Sharma as Mahendra’s brutal coach, who tells him that he doesn’t have the pedigree and skill to be a professional athlete, is an interesting specimen. Rao shines in the dramatic scenes and Kapoor is on a strong wicket too. While the conflict of a jealous husband is staid and familiar, Rao makes it engaging through his acting prowess alone. For a one-time watch, this movie is serviceable. It may not be as exciting as an IPL final match, but it has its good moments that make it worth our time.

Our GN Rating:

Film: Mr & Mrs Mahi

Director: Sharan Sharma

Cast: Janhvi Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Kumud Mishra, Zarina Wahab, Rajesh Sharma

Stars: 2.5 out of 5