'Bubblegum' even more dangerous than 'Animal', say critics

'Bubblegum' faces criticism for its portrayal of modern relationships, particularly for its reported normalisation of stalking and its misogynistic undertones

The plot revolves around Adi and Jahnvi, whose courtship is filled with problematic dynamics (photo: imdb.com)
The plot revolves around Adi and Jahnvi, whose courtship is filled with problematic dynamics (photo: imdb.com)

Subhash K Jha

Film: Bubblegum (Telugu, A-ha)
Rating: *

When this monstrously misogynistic, wildly rudderless and painfully misguided Telugu film opened on 29 December 2023, there was some  angry chatter over its offensive content.

Now that Bubblegum is out on streaming platform A-ha, it is time to say no to vitiated content. And it can’t get any more vitiated than this. Sample this: the heroine at one point tells the stalker hero, “You actually make stalking look romantic.”

Seriously? Come again? Are we really going back to the era when women were relentlessly stalked and bullied into submission by rakish heroes while Mohammed Rafi sang, 'Kahan chal diye idhar toh aao/ Mere dil ko na  tadpao...' etc?

By the time the song was over, the heroine was smiling and simpering. Well, bring it on all over again.

In Bubblegum, Adi is a butcher’s son (this gives the screenwriter a chance to write in some father-son bonding scenes which seem as awkward as everything else). He wants to be a “world famous” DJ. Meanwhile, Jahnvi is a spoilt, rich specimen of hedonism. But like Adi, she too has a 'cool' dad.

She claims to be a fashion designer. But I didn’t see her do anything but partying and clubbing. It is during one such stretched out soiree that Jahnvi meets Adi. And, well, it is love at thirst sight. She gives him tips on how to dress, takes over his life and wardrobe, gifts him her car so that he can “drop her, pick her up”. The monotony inherent in that ritual sums up the girl’s life.

Then during her happy-birthday party, Adi and Jahnvi have a massive fight  because she catches him kissing her best friend, or rather, the best friend kisses Adi because, as she says, she was “consoling” him. I think the last time I heard this explanation for relationship-betrayal was when Dilip Kumar was locked up with Asma in room with a ‘phew’.

I could go on describing the trashy portrayal of the young and the hip of Hyderabad as shown in Bubblegum. If I were a young Hyderabadi, I would sue the makers (which should actually be called 'Babble Gum' considerable how much nonsense the lead pair vomits on the screen) for showing the young upwardly mobile crowd as tawdry rather than trendy.

Just by having the young say ‘cool, bro’ and ‘dirty mind alert’, you don’t achieve that windy zest for life which we saw in other recent films about the young from the South, such as Onnaman or even Hanu Man.

Coming back to the 'happy birthday party', this is where Adi and Jahnvi have their first serious fight. Before that, the two suddenly discovered the pleasures of smooching and for about 30-35 minutes of their courtship, kept lunging for each other’s lips as if suffering from a respiratory disorder. The two actors, Roshan Kanakala and Maanasa Choudhary, are terrible  kissers, by the way.

Then at the aforementioned happy birthday party, Jahnvi rather uncharitably reminds Adi that all the fancy clothes and shoes he was wearing were paid for by her.

Ouch! The next thing we know, Adi does a striptease right there at the party, right down to his shorts. Whether he kept the shorts on out of a sense of modesty or because she had not paid for them, we will never know.

What we do know is that Bubblegum is the worst, most toxic depiction of modern love, in which stalking is normalised. In the first half, it is the boy  chasing the girl; in the second, it is girl chasing boy. The two lovers, played by the pair of extremely uncharismatic actors, deserve each other. The audience deserves a lot better.

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