My review on Badrinath Ki Dulhania got stuck in the recalcitrant wheels of my computer, who decided to sulk just when I started to write it out. Thus the delay and my having come across varied views to the film and so having had time to think those through as well.
Films, like food are individual in taste and likes and My impression though, remains the same and I like and enjoyed the film, as I had its precursor, “Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania”.
The film begins on an off-putting but truthful note, describing the birth of girls as liabilities and of boys as assets in the narrow mindsets of people. And then proceeds to state many more facts, which are part of our daily lives, and are all to do with not giving women their due respect and choices. A lot of it, while appearing extremely offensive to the more fortunate of us, is the bald truth of large parts of our country. Dowry, not being allowed to take up a job, kowtowing to a despotic husband-the issues women face. They are not always dramatic headlines. Rather, they are occurrences in our lives which happen to people we know well and around us.
(I recalled many situations which I had witnessed directly or fairly close to home-specifically to do with dowry, aborting female foetuses, not being allowed to work and underestimating women generally. All of these in and around the metros.)
What the film showed was that these issues are part of the conditioning we receive while growing up and shedding all or any of them is as difficult for women as is for men. Once the realisation, does happen, it is gradual, and one just has to keep it at it. Childhood conditioning can be deep and hard to budge and even acknowledging that a change is needed is a huge step forward-both for men and women.
Badrinath Bansal, 10th pass, son of a rich, tyrannical through illness kind of dad, resident of Jhansi, good natured chap. Life for him means marriage with a girl with good dowry, approved by father and joining into the family business and raising a brood of children.
Vaidehi Trivedi- feisty younger daughter, ambitious, pretty and resident of Kota. Cheated out of her dad’s money by the apparent love of her life, she remains valiant in her drive to become a career person –all of this without a ‘naari mukti morcha (women’s liberation march)’ but in a steadfast and spunky way.
Badrinath declares intention to marry Vaidehi and engineers a proposal being sent to her parents. Aghast when she says a firm no and threatens him with the cops if he persists, he is unable to wrap this novel concept of a girl not wanting to marry at all, and not marry him (!) and exhibits a spot of harassment but is promptly harassed right back. However, friendly relations are established.
Badri agrees to help her find a groom for her older sister (in an attempt to further his own cause) and actually succeeds! At which point Vaidehi, under some pressure, agrees to marry him as well. Badri also arranges for the shortfall in the dowry amount asked and discovers then, that his quiet, soft-spoken bhabhi (sister-in-law) is the brains behind his brother’s business success and that she can cook the books as well she does lunch (well just this onceJ). This is perhaps the beginning of Badri’s change –the realisation that a woman can be educated and qualified and yet be forced to stifle her own desires because”papa ne mana kar diya (my father forbade it.)”
The day dawns for the nuptials, and while the elder one gets hitched, Badrinath gets ditched. Vaidehi follows her heart and takes off to become an air hostess. Heartbroken and bewildered, he expresses his angst with violence. On his father’s caveman like instructions, he leaves to bring her back and flog her publicly for the embarrassment she had caused.
Except that he is faced with a Vaidehi who is financially independent, good at her job and has prospects of a flourishing career. She counters his anger with an apology but tries to get him to see her point of view. Over time, Badrinath finds his views changing slowly and steadily……
Badrinath is enacted very well by Varun Dhawan and one can see the metamorphosis from the set in thoughts and ways “man” to empathetic, thinking person. From his brash almost stalker to his declaration of independence to his emotionally blackmailing father (aided by spirits), he visibly evolves.
Alia as Vaidehi (interesting choice of name-one of Sita’s.) is brave, vulnerable and committed all at the same time. She takes a bold step to find her place in the sun, but loses none of her focus. Professional and hard working but missing her family very much, she does well, though not as brilliantly as in some of her other films.
These two are ably supported by Rituraj Singh as Badri’s heart clutching blackmailing father, Shweta Basu Prasad as his bhabhi and many more.
The dialogues are funny in parts and the look and feel very colourful. There is the hallmark Karan Johar synchronised song and dance. The music includes a reprisal of “tamma tamma loge’ from Thanedaar (1989) which had Madhuri Dixit and Sanjay Dutt look awful .This version was far more fun! Distinct notes of “pinjre wali muniya”from Teesri Kasam (1966) played out in the title track. The rest of the music was lacklustre.
As a second time director, Shashank Khaitan has handled his story, his actors and his film very well, and in just the right tone. One hopes he continues to make his films just so in the future as well.
On the whole, it is a fun, frothy film which does not turn preachy and does not portray dramatic, overnight transformations of thought and action. It shows that the jagged rocks of age old prejudices and subjugation can be smoothened through relentless efforts and the willingness to be open to change. And yes-the occasional confrontation or two does wonders!