Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya
Dir: Amit Joshi, Aradhana Sah
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kriti Sanon
Such is the title of this film that I’ve watched its trailer (once), bought its ticket (twice), and obviously watched the whole movie since—yet, I’ve had to Google before typing what this picture is called, on this page! Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya, of course, refers to the famous song by Canadian-born desi singer, Raghav Mathur.
But its choice for the film’s title the size of a sentence, making an abbreviation (TBMAUJ) necessary, probably relates to a time-tested practice of similarly naming Bollywood romances after popular lyrics. This is a film on love between a man and a robot. Have the filmmakers therefore pulled off a proper Bollywood song & dance, shaadi-sangeet pic, with artificial intelligence (AI) as its central theme? Yes. And that’s the reason I was excited about it, in the first place. The genre feels inclusively fun and fluffy to ensure basic footfalls.
Which is quite different from the only piece of similar desi content I’ve watched thus far—the Disney+ Hotstar series, OK Computer (2021), that felt far too convoluted and pretentious, beyond a point. The flip side of this film’s tone/genre is that it’s packed with such an OTT, stereotypically Delhi-Punjabi family, and other caricatures for characters, deliberately descending towards thorough silliness, that you might want to replace the rest of the humans in the movie with AI as well!
Only one character here is a robot. That’s Kriti Sanon’s—long neck, piercing eyes/gaze, high cheekbones, manned by an admin. This is a performance that’s totally robotic—seemingly okay to have been phoned in. For once, I mean that as a complete complement for the lead actor! A perfectly fine, desirable bloke (Shahid Kapoor) falls for this AI in the garb of a hot woman. They hook up almost instantly as they meet. It’s hard to imagine exactly what they must’ve done in bed together.
Do robots have sex? As we speak, through virtual-reality headsets, it is possible to simulate a sexual experience with AI, although that’s not what’s happening here. That said, while this film is set in the science fiction space—humans showing up as holograms; robots recreating the human world, with superior, automated/machine learning—the fact is, we already live inside what was once sci-fi in cinema.
Most of what’s going on here is technically possible. What’s the final frontier for AI then? Render humans useless, what else. The general assumption around AI has also been that it’ll master replicable tasks first. I sense the reverse has turned out to be the case. AI appears to have attacked artistic pursuits—design, architecture, painting, even literature—far more, lately.
What about Sanon’s protagonist Sifra in this pic? Well, so far, not so much. The character doesn’t get jokes, sarcasm, and irony—although in a way that many humans don’t either! She can feel emotions, off and on. She kisses passionately. Such that the hero mysteriously falls for her, and indeed wants to be with her!
How do you explain that? Well, I guess if genuine companionship trumps momentary sex, maybe human-robot compatibility might well be the future of relationships—probably not in our lifetime, but who knows. Aren’t we already in a long-term relationship with our cellphones?
Still, there’s only a motherboard inside Sifra, the machine. And that can always be gamed, if doesn’t go rogue/faulty on its own—breaking Issac Asimov’s first law for robots; i.e. thou shalt not harm humans. Hell, they can! Do any of these pertinent thoughts pass through my mind, while watching TBMAUJ? Only mildly, if at all. The filmmakers are way too busy attempting a comedy, with hardly a joke that lands, for us to be thinking about the essence of its purpose/point as much.
I’m not saying they should’ve gone deeply meditative, like Spike Jonze’s prescient masterpiece, Her (2013). That’s a call they took. But just a few pauses and strong moments for pennies to drop could salvage a script far more obsessed with a commercially safe fam-dram—barring the revival of golden oldies; Dharmendra (credited with Singh Deol), Dimple Kapadia—before fatigue eventually sets in.
As you can tell, I loved the idea behind this rom-com. I guess, over time, we will see more resonant stuff reflecting on this theme. By which I don’t necessarily mean the closing slate of this movie that confidently announces, “To be continued…”
*YUCK **WHATEVER ***GOOD ****SUPER *****AWESOME