Mr. Singh Mrs. Mehta is the title of the film though incongruously the lead protagonists happen to be Mr. Mehta and Mrs. Singh. First-timer Pravesh Bhardwaj’s direction keeps you as much puzzled as much as the intentional inversion in his film’s title.
With a painter protagonist going through artistic block, snail-paced tempo, self-styled aesthetic female nudity, circumstantially complicated human relationships and a climax so symbolic and subtle that you never comprehend when the end credits roll, Mr. Singh Mrs. Mehta meets all the requisite criteria of the alleged art-house cinema. Nothing wrong about it other than the fact that though the film expectedly runs out of entertainment, this one also fails to enlighten or even emotionally touch, move or bind you.
Artist Ashwin Mehta (Prashant Narayanan) paints his wife’s toenails more than he colours the canvas. Wife Sakhi Mehta (Lucy Hassan) is having an extramarital affair with Karan Singh (Naved Aslam). Karan’s wife Neera Singh (Aruna Shields) discovers her husband’s infidelity and seeks solace in Ashwin’s company. Though the adultery is openly evident since start, strangely both Ashwin and Neera never confront their respective partners and choose to have loyal illusions of their spouse.
Extensive footage of nudity seeps in the screenplay on the pretext that the artist can overcome his block by painting nude female form ala Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic or Randeep Hooda in Rang Rasiya . Surprisingly Neera initially shies away from posing nude despite the fact that she has been moving around naked in Ashwin’s warehouse for a major part of the film. And hold on... before your imagination runs wild, the fact remains that the continually censored blurs that ‘shields’ Aruna’s nude body will irritate you more than titillate.
Director Pravesh Bhardwaj spends liberal and lethargic screen-time in establishing the chemistry between Ashwin and Neera through corny conversations, transition songs and nude sketching which tends to get monotonous after a while. But when the relationships actually go crisscross and complicate in the concluding reels, Bhardwaj wraps up the narrative subtly and hastily without much clarity on the character correlations and conflicts, forcing you to do the guesswork.
With the film talking about Indian couples (with no notable NRI nuances) with desi values in Hindi language, the London setting makes absolutely no sense. Moreover with the outdoors restricted to some lame lanes of London, nothing distinctive is derived from the foreign setting either. And if he went ahead with a UK setting, one wonders why at all Bhardwaj opted to make the film in Hindi language? At least he could have spared Aruna Shields from struggling in her desi dialogue delivery and saved the audience from such illegitimate lousy lines like, “ Mera pati hamesha tumhari patni ko ghumata rehta hain, tumko bhi mujh par kharcha karna chahiye ” (My husband always takes your wife out, you should also spend on me).
Shujaat Hussain Khan’s ghazal based soothing soundtrack goes unnoticed in this film. Surprisingly the background score sounds suspiciously similar to ‘ Aye Khuda ’ track from Paathshaala .
The performances are average and never rise above the lackluster script. Prashant Narayanan is capable of much better. Aruna Shields is passable but doesn’t have anything exceptional to display including her anatomy. Sadly, both the artist and the muse fail to amuse in this colourless cinema.