Shaadi Ke Side Effects (“The Side Effects of Marriage“) should be retitled Parenthood Ke Side Effects. The main characters — Sid (Farhan Akhtar) and Trisha (Vidya Balan) — enjoy their married life just fine until they have a kid. Then their lives go to hell.
Shaadi Ke Side Effects (SKSE, henceforth) is a standard marital romantic comedy, full of all the expected clichés about marriage. The wife controls the relationship, and the husband has to accede to her ridiculous demands to keep her from making his life miserable. Also, he must tell her that she’s not fat, despite the fact that he secretly thinks she is (and despite the fact that she objectively is not).
Trisha gets pregnant, and the couple decides to have the child, even though they’d planned to wait until they felt more settled financially. Parenthood turns Trisha into a control freak, and Sid goes to increasingly complicated lengths to get away from her and their daughter, Mili.
Writer-director Saket Chaudhary deserves credit for the progressive way he handles the couple’s response to Trisha’s pregnancy. They initially decide — due to Sid’s reluctance — to abort the fetus and try again in a few years. Sid changes his mind while Trisha is in the operating room, following a chance encounter with an overwhelmed father of quadruplets conceived as a result of fertility treatments. It’s refreshing to see a movie couple consider abortion as an option, like many real-life couples do.
Unfortunately, the rest of SKSE is unimaginative, and the considerable talents of Vidya Balan are underutilized because of it. Balan has little to do besides play the shrew, and her character only changes for the worse over the course of the film.
Akhtar’s character narrates the film as he evolves from free-spirited musician to henpecked husband to duplicitous lout. Like Balan’s role, Sid doesn’t give Akhtar many opportunities to shine. It’s nice that Akhtar gets to sing a couple of songs in the movie, but the trite script causes his talents behind the mic to overshadow his talents in front of the camera.
As safe as the script is, the story takes an unexpectedly dark turn in the last twenty minutes of the film. It’s jarring and by no means an improvement. If anything, it makes marriage and parenthood seem like traps to be avoided at all costs.
Such a turn might work if SKSE was meant to be subversive, but it isn’t. It’s light popcorn fare for couples to enjoy on a rare night out while Grandma watches the kids.
With such escapist fare, the outcome of the film should never be in doubt: Sid and Trisha overcome their problems to ultimately reaffirm their love for one another. We should never wonder if Sid and Trisha would be better off apart. After watching Shaadi Ke Side Effects, I’m not so sure.