Directed by a National Award-winning filmmaker, Devanshu Singh, 14 Phere is a quirky social comedy-drama that follows the life of two people in love – Sanjay (Vikrant Massey) and Aditi (Kriti Kharbanda). After falling in love in college and finding jobs in the same company, they are faced with an eternal conundrum that has historically terrorized Indian couples…the expectation of their family to get married within their caste. So, rather than eloping, the pair comes up with a creative solution, i.e., con both families by setting up fake parents and reliable alibis to convince them that they have chosen a partner of the same caste. However, when Sanjay and Aditi are confident that their plan is successful, they become complacent and inevitably the wheels fall off in the latter half which forms the crux of the film.
When it comes to performances, this is one of the rare films in which the ensemble of actors has done a phenomenal job. We see Vikrant Massey playing a familiar role of a man from a small town, something he does it with absolute finesse and by displays his wide range as an actor. One such scene was his argument with Kriti Kharbanda while shoving his bags in a car’s trunk. Known for her work predominantly in South-Indian films, Kriti Kharbanda is a breath of fresh air. Playing the role of a 21st-century girl born to a traditional strict household could often become stereotypically caricaturistic in nature. However, Kirti portrays the role of Aditi in a fantastic manner. I also want to praise the effort of Yamina Das and Vineet Kumar, who play the roles of Sanjay’s parents in this film. They have added a different sense of authenticity to the film. Last but not least, I absolutely loved Gauahar Khan’s acting as she plays a budding theatre artist Zubina calling herself ‘Delhi’s Meryl Streep.’ Khan leaves a lasting impression with her acting and mannerisms, especially when she decides to serve as the fake mother of Sanjay and Aditi. I have always believed that Khan is a tremendous actress, and I’m hoping that this film opens more opportunities for her.
Even though Devanshu Singh has won a National Award for his short film ‘Tamaash,’ he has done an excellent job in directing this feature. Singh’s ability to focus on the nuisances of life in the small town of Jehanabad is impeccable. Having said that, I did feel there were a couple of elements for which I had to pause a few times to figure things out, but I can live with that. The visual grammar of the film is simplistic, and the upbeat music complemented the story well.
The film adds an interesting social commentary to honor killings and dowry, two of the devastating social curses prevalent in many parts of India. It also makes a modest attempt to leave a message towards the end. Not many people know that the town mentioned in the film Jehanabad (Bihar) is infamous for honor killings in India. For this reason, it was refreshing to see such a film tackle the above-mentioned social issues in a light-hearted manner.
If 14 Phere is any indication of the ZEE5’s upcoming film slate, I am looking forward to this platform as it promises to be globally diverse.
Reviewed by Puneet Ruparel