Double XL movie review: Sonakshi Sinha, Huma Qureshi star in an empty, exhausting lecture masquerading as a movie

Published on Nov 04, 2022 09:02 AM IST

Double XL movie review: This Sonakshi Sinha and Huma Qureshi-starrer is a juvenile, male gaze-fuelled tickbox exercise masquerading as a movie that does nothing but undermine its central message.

Sonakshi Sinha and Huma Qureshi play the lead actors in Double XL.
Sonakshi Sinha and Huma Qureshi play the lead actors in Double XL.
BySuchin Mehrotra

Director Satram Ramani’s Double XL has distinct “you’re welcome” energy. It’s a film that smugly demands a pat on the back for telling a progressive, well-intentioned, muchWoke story for, I assume, Twitter audiences. Double XL is a “message film” if ever there was one - weaving a “movie” around the latest trending topic and social cause buzzword - in this case, body shaming - with minimal effort made into exploring that idea through a fleshed-out, engaging narrative or compelling characters. At one point in this film a character refers to a social media post and squeals “it’s trending guys..amazing sh*t!”. I imagine that’s not all that different from how the idea of this film came to life. Also read: Farah Khan says she relates to Huma Qureshi, Sonakshi Sinha's Double XL

And therein lies the conundrum. Are we to, as the makers expect, celebrate that this movie even exists and that it dares to champion sensitive themes that we rarely see in mainstream Hindi cinema? Or are we to be put off by just how stale and mind-numbing the storytelling on offer is? I'd argue that a well-intentioned dud like this does far more harm than good for its own cause. Double XL follows the story of two plus-sized women and their struggles to achieve their career ambitions within a society that refuses to see them beyond their size. That is until a chance encounter has them befriend each other and help one another achieve their dreams. I know, right? Such wonderfully wholesome potential. If only.

First up, there’s 30-year-old Meerut-based Rajshri (Huma Qureshi, also a producer on the film). For as long as she can remember, Rajshri has only ever dreamt of being a cricket presenter on a major TV network. But, aside from an industry that values a woman’s appearance over her ability, Rajshri must also contend with her token pushy mother who’s forever forcing rishtas, cardio, and Keto down her throat. Rajshri exists in an Ayushmann Khurana narrative universe. The packaging and setting are unoriginal but familiar. But it’s a comfortable charm we never see or feel again as we’re immediately yanked away to Delhi to meet our second protagonist.

Shikhar Dhawan also has a cameo in Double XL.
Shikhar Dhawan also has a cameo in Double XL.

Saira (Sonakshi Sinha) is a fashion designer (who looks like a child’s interpretation of what a fashion designer must look like) who dreams of starting her own label. It’s also important to note that while I myself may have the fashion sense of a door knob, all Saira’s designs that we’re forced to see through this film are truly, impressively awful and I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would choose to wear them. When Rajshri travels to Delhi for a sports presenter job interview (which obviously goes terribly) the two women meet and realise they can help each other. Saira is in need of a director for a fashion video she’s shooting in London for which Rajshri is apparently qualified because she made a few reels that one time. Before long, we’re shipped off to London for the remainder of the film. Does London have any sort of narrative purpose to either of their stories? Not really, but I imagine the actors and crew got a holiday out of it.

While the shallow, lifeless writing from Mudassar Aziz and Sasha Singh ensures that no actor comes away from this unscathed, Huma Qureshi brings a sense of vulnerability and conviction to Rajshri. An early scene of her looking at herself in the mirror with disdain, for example, stayed with me as one of the few poignant moments in an otherwise empty film. While Huma makes a sincere attempt to embody the struggles of being a plus-sized woman in society, Sonakshi Sinha seems to be busy imitating one. There’s an unintentionally painful scene, for example, where she’s heartbroken and eating junk food in tears, and I couldn’t tell whether the film wanted us to laugh or feel for her. As Saira, Sinha desperately needs something to do and struggles to just be. It’s a performance calibrated to hold onto every crutch around her. She needs the background score and constant cutting and other characters. Here the packaging informs and leads the performance and not vice versa.

Huma Qureshi and Sonakshi Sinha in a still from Double XL.
Huma Qureshi and Sonakshi Sinha in a still from Double XL.

Also along for the London-based adventures are forever stoned cameraman Srikant Srivardhan (Mahat Raghavendra) whose Tamil-ness and inability to speak Hindi are used as a juvenile punchline through much of the film. Rounding off the group is London-based line producer Zorawar Khan (an unwatchable Zaheer Iqbal). A painfully animated Zaheer seems to be in his own movie entirely as Zorawar, or as he introduces himself - Zo Za Zoo. I wish I was joking. I need to lie down while already lying down.

Post a truly baffling interval moment involving a cameo from a famous retired cricketer with inexplicable hair extensions walking in, in slow motion, Double XL transforms into what can only be described as a sci-fi movie. I swear to you, time stood still. Two hours felt like five as we seem to get lost in a repetitive loop of the four characters - who share not an ounce of chemistry or connection between them - taking it in turns to stare intensely at rivers and share their sob stories, with the film having no clear destination in sight. Double XL doesn’t educate you as much as beat you into submission. After a point, I started to imagine the notes that came from some Andheri studio exec chomping on a cigar and shouting “Monologue! More monologue!”.

Double XL is a juvenile, male gaze-fuelled tickbox exercise masquerading as a movie that does nothing but undermine its central message. For a movie that seeks to humanise these women and have us see them as more than their size, all it seems to do is have them talk about their size. In one scene, talking about the fashion video shoot, a character says “director ko itna tareef mat karna. Sar pe chadh jayega”. With this film, I don’t see that being a problem.

Double XL
Director: Satram Ramani
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Huma Qureshi, Zaheer Iqbal

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