Reviewed: Akshay Kumar’s ‘Good Newwz’ is Anything But That

Good Newwz, starring Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Diljit Dosanjh, and Kiara Advani, revolves around a mix-up at a fertility clinic that swaps the sperm of the two couples struggling to get pregnant. It’s humour is derived by playing up stereotypes, Dosanjh mispronouncing sperm as “spam”, and fart jokes.

If there’s anyone in Bollywood who is in drastic need of an intervention as we usher in a new year, it is Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions. Its slate of films in 2019 – KesariStudent of the Year 2KalankDrive, and now Good Newwz – have been various shades of abominable. If the first four films took to testing the average Indian patience like it were an adventure sport, then its final offering of the year – Raj Mehta’s Good Newwz – does everything imaginable to shatter any semblance of sanity.

The movie, co-written by Raj Mehta, Jyoti Kapur, and Rishabh Sharma, revolves around a mix-up at a fertility clinic that swaps the sperm of two couples struggling to get pregnant. The added hilarity is derived from the fact that both couples share the same surname and have nothing in common with each other – if one couple is based in Mumbai, then the other is simply oozing Chandigarh. Yet, they’re effectively having the other’s baby, which also means that they are left with no choice but to find a common ground. The two sets of Batras comprise the urban, designer-friendly, and unbearably elitist Varun (Akshay Kumar) and Deepti (Kareena Kapoor Khan), and the loud, “intellectually inferior”, and culturally comical Honey (Diljit Dosanjh) and Monika (Kiara Advani) who take wearing their names on their sleeves a little too literally.

To be fair, it’s not a half-bad premise, which is aided by the fact that Kapoor and Kumar are delightfully in sync in the first half of Good Newwz. But the charms are few and far in between and for the most part, the movie just ends up stretching a one-line joke for far too long. Given that it is a commercial Hindi film with a A-list star cast, it resorts to the usual unseemly impulses that have lately made watching a mainstream entertainer such a joyless affair. Much of the film’s comedy is derived only from playing up class stereotypes that highlight the distance between the worlds of the two protagonists. So there is Honey mispronouncing sperm as “spam” almost on cue every five minutes, fart jokes that feel straight out of a boys’ locker room, and some more unnecessary mispronunciation that involve a toilet flush. It’s the kind of humour that’s poor in taste.

It doesn’t help matters that the makers don’t possess the emotional maturity required to dissect the complexities of parentage, the labour of pregnancy, or even adoption, in order to afford the film’s premise some depth. So after a point, Good Newwz has very little idea of what to do with itself. So the film disguises its confusion with emotionally-laden monologues that redefine the art of making a spectacle out of saying nothing. In a way, Dosanjh physically embodies this hollowness in an exasperating performance as a small-town buffon that does little to redeem his uneven filmography. Advani’s efforts to turn in a performance are futile. Worse, Good Newwz fails to tap into Kumar’s underrated comic timing. If anything, it makes me yearn for the time when the actor was appropriating nationalism and not mocking women’s right to their own bodies.

The film’s utter lack of compassion is disorienting for it goes to the heart of what remains a crucial Dharma problem

Granted that it might be overtly optimistic to expect Dharma Productions to take a stance on any topic, much less on the ethics of abortion, but ensuring that they don’t equate abortion with murder, is literally asking for the bare mininum. That’s more or less the main problem with Good Newwz: The fact that it tremendously wastes its potential is excusable, but what is simply infuriating is how it tries to pretend to be progressive while doing nothing but furthering regressive attitudes with all its might. In that sense, a film that claims to tackle feminine subjects such as pregnancy and IVF ends up mocking them. In 2019, even your most judgemental neighbourhood Kantaben must have softened up to the idea of adoption. But that a big-budget Hindi film shepherded by the country’s most influential production house, stubbornly casts it as a villain, says a lot about the lengths of dishonesty that they are willingly to embrace to make money. 

The film’s utter lack of compassion is disorienting for it goes to the heart of what remains a crucial Dharma problem – their outings feel less like films and more like a product. Good Newwz is a chief example of the fault in Johar treating films solely as business propositions and not as modes of storytelling. It’s precisely why a Hindi film that reduces a woman’s decision to want a baby in 2019 to a big, fat locker-room joke is titled Good Newwz.

This article was originally published in Arre