Good Newwz

India (2019) Dir. Raj Mehta

Pregnancy is a difficult situation for all involved, more so for the woman who has to carry a tiny human being in their belly for nine months but I digress. It can also be a cruel process where people who want children are unable to whilst others can, against their wishes, fall pregnant with ease. Science can help both parties, for better or worse.

Varun Batra (Akshay Kumar) and his wife Deepti (Kareena Kapoor) have been married for seven years and recently trying for a baby but nothing seems to happen. A medical check up reveals both are lacking in the fertility area so the doctor suggest IVF as an option. They visit the Silver Lining clinic run by husband and wife doctors Anand (Adil Hussain) and Sandhya Joshi (Tisca Chopra) and the procedure is carried out.

A few weeks later Varun and Deepti are called in to the clinic for an emergency check up. At the reception, they meet another couple, Honey (Diljit Dosanjh) and Monika (Kiara Advani) also with the surname Batra. Both couples are told a mix up meant the wives were given the sperm samples of the other’s husband, though with their track records it might not work. Unfortunately, this time it did – for both women.

Bollywood truly is a law unto itself. Cinema should follow its country’s culture but India takes this to a new level. Good Newwz (sic) tackles a unique and rather thorny moral dilemma but as a comedy, which is fair enough, as there is obvious room to make light of the mix up. The real issue is the musical numbers – one comes at what is arguably an inopportune moment – that contributes to the almighty tonal shifts found here.

There is also the matter of Indian humour not travelling so well, which isn’t as persistent a problem as it could be, but will incur a few eye rolls at the occasionally poor choice of target. Get past this however, and it is easy to find a comfortable groove that jives with what Raj Mehat is trying to achieve in what is quite an accessible film, despite concerns it needs to be more serious towards its subject.

Starting as cheeky sex comedy, Varun and Deepti’s characters are established almost immediately and barely change until the heavily dramatic final act. She is a successful magazine columnist, he is a car salesman, so life is good except for Deepti’s desire to have kids, which Varun doesn’t share. Whilst Deepti’s body is ready and willing, Varun is at the pub with his work mates, harming is “little swimmers” with booze and fags.

Whilst Varun doesn’t this seriously, he gets a wake-up call when the doctor informs him the problem is his seed faints whenever it enters Deepti’s “universe”, landing a huge blow to his alpha male ego. Both seem to be around 40-ish which isn’t quite over the hill but is in this instance for two busy people it can make all the difference.    

Honey and Monika on the other hand are clearly younger and whilst similarly, or maybe even more minted than their namesakes, prove that fertility issues don’t discriminate based on age. With Honeys rapper-esque appearance, complete with colour coordinated turbans, and Monika’s dolly bird chic look, they are as much of a caricature of youthful excess as the other Batras are for the older generation.

In fact, they reveal themselves to be lot more level headed where the mixed pregnancies are concerned, looking at it from a positive perspective, the complete opposite of Varun and Deepti who only see horror before them. The first serious development comes when Deepti decides to have an abortion, which upsets Honey and he steps in, but not before a change of heart when Deepti realises a miracle is finally happening for her.

Further exposure of how differently each couple takes this situation comes when Honey and Monika buy the apartment above Varun and Deepti’s, so they can keep an eye on Deepti’s progress. Honey proves well-meaning enough, always watching out for Deepti, carrying shopping bags, etc. whilst Varun is busy getting a legal contract drawn up to write Honey out of the child’s life.

Really, this should have been the main thrust of the story, exploring how two couples could co-exist with two babies sharing the same DNA as the other’s parents, but it lasts for one temporarily tense shouting match. Both have stipulation heavy contracts to offer, both with divergent ideas on how their child’s futures, and ne’er the twain shall meet. Unfortunately, the gravity of the scene is marred by Varun’s dope related giggles at Monika’s mispronunciation of English words and pregnancy-related flatulence.

But the laughter stops when Monika goes into early labour. Attitudes change, eyes are opened, and new bonds are formed in a very formulaic tear jerking segment. It’s a dramatic turn of events that would have had much greater impact had the rest of the film not be so comical, but it does its job in setting up the resolve we knew was coming anyway.

Previous reviews of Bollywood films on this site mention the issue of the long run time and this is true again here – the 131-minutes is not needed at all, not just because of the intrusive dance numbers, but in the protracted storytelling, It isn’t until 50 minutes before the central mix up is discovered, with Honey and Monika only being introduced two minutes prior to that.

Viewed through western eyes, Good Newwz is an excessively long, glossily presented, patchy comedy drama, yet has that intangible something about it, maybe the intriguing plot or the committed performances – Kareena Kapoor and the stunning Kiara Advani are excellent and Diljit Dosanjh is amusing as Honey – that make it an oddly enjoyable film. It was the fifth highest grossing film in India of 2019 and it is not difficult to see why, even if Bollywood isn’t your thing.