At 32, Kanika Kapoor has never had an orgasm. This is the central problem that the character, played by a brilliant Bhumi Pednekar, sets out to solve in Karan Boolani’s feature film debut Thank You For Coming. But the film, which premiered as an official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival, is more than a sex-positive comedy.
Produced by Rhea Kapoor and co-written by screenwriter Radhika Anand and comedian Prashasti Singh, Thank You For Coming is a bright and original take on embedded patriarchal norms. The film is not exactly a rarity for contemporary Hindi cinema, but it’s still amongst a handful of takes on contemporary womanhood in India. The premise of sex and female pleasure is a wonderful anchor to the story, sure, but it is ultimately a window into the life of single Indian women living in the city, where judgement and expectation run rampant, and choices are so often made for the sake of others.
What is Thank You For Coming about?
Kanika is born to a single mother, a gynecologist who had a child out of wedlock and is subjected to criticism at every turn. Her mother (Natasha Rastogi) seems pretty unbothered by society’s glare, but Kanika wants to take every precaution to avoid a similar fate. So from a young age, she’s a serial dater, looking for the validation of men and hoping to eventually find someone she wants to marry, all set to energetic and suggestive background music. Through three significant but ended relationships, she remains unsatisfied (literally). Soon comes her thirtieth birthday when she tearfully admits to her horrified best friends Pallavi (Dolly Singh) and Tina (Shibani Bedi) that she’s never had an orgasm.
Bhumi Pednekar shines as the star of the film.
Bhumi Pednekar, Dolly Singh and Shibani Bedi are the film’s core trio.
Fast-forward two years and her predicament remains. Her loyal friends are by her side, along with Pallavi’s daughter Rabeya (Saloni Daini) who is struggling, in parallel to Kanika, with problems of her own. These issues are along similar lines. She’s a senior in school, faces breakups, and wonders whether she should sleep with her male best friend. With this storyline, generations of women face the same problems in different shades.
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Kanika eventually decides to get engaged to her friend Jeevan (Pradhuman Singh Mall), who has always been in love with her. Her mother disapproves, wanting her daughter to live anything but a “tick-mark life”, where women just have to check off boxes so that people around them will stop asking questions. On the night of her engagement, Kanika parties to her heart’s content, surrounded by her friends, family, and exes, clearly drinking away any doubt she has for her upcoming, chemistry-less marriage. But the next morning, she wakes up having finally attained her unreachable goal…she just can’t remember who got her there.
Thank You For Coming addresses societal norms with humor and empathy
Kanika’s journey towards regaining self-esteem and shedding deeply-embedded notions seems like a long-time coming. For many, this movie will resonate. Thank You For Coming uses its comedic foundation almost flawlessly to paint a wider portrait of a female community, female friendships, and a women-centric family. The cast wanders through each emotional arc naturally, although some moments reach melodramatic heights that could have been avoided.
Anil Kapoor and Bhumi Pednekar in “Thank You For Coming”.
The film’s portrayal of female friendship is also nuanced. Though the friends share loyalty and are, for the most part, non-judgmental and accepting, the film’s climax also illustrates how patriarchal notions are hard to shake. When chaos eventually erupts, as it does near the end of most narratives, the writers delve into an argument that is its greatest strength: women are so often and so quickly blamed for things, by both society and sometimes even by each other. Forgiveness and solidarity are needed for women to persevere, which the film’s characters ultimately and fundamentally recognize.
Not without its flaws, Thank You For Coming ties its loose ends almost too neatly, and sees its characters reaching resolutions in a montage-like style that arguably takes away from deeper message. But this doesn’t take away from the movie’s many core strengths: everything from the brightly-lit cinematography to the performances are undeniably delightful to watch. What’s most brilliant about it though, is its handling of themes like marital pressure, societal criticism, and sexual shame and independence. Conversations about masturbation, nonconsensual porn, and sexuality are smartly woven in. If its purpose is to serve as a feminist romp for modern India, it succeeded – and executed with fun. This is a welcome addition to the genre, reinforcing that female stories deserve to be told with humor, light and meaning.
Thank You for Coming was reviewed out of the Toronto International Film Festival. It opens in theaters Oct. 6.