Director - Shashank Khaitan
Starring – Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan
Rating - 3 out of 5
Hindi cinema loves weddings. And Alia Bhatt has been in three of them, actually four, if you also want to count Two States. Set in the towns of Kota and Jhansi (the city is chosen with good reason known for the fierce Rani of Jhansi), Badrinath ki Dulhaniya (BKD), as it entertains, does address a very pertinent issue of patriarchy and the practice of dowry. Heard it before in Daaawat-e-Ishq where the bride turns to conning grooms for money? Here the same issue by director Shashank Khaitan is dealt with greater finesse.
As most filmmakers will tell you, to show a progressive society, you do depict a regressive one. Badrinath Bansal’s patriarchal father played by Rituraj believes that boys are assets and girls are liabilities and need to be relegated to domestic roles only. Before we scoff out a clichéd reaction, let’s understand that despite the welcome change, there are families in India that are totally male-dominated and have assigned roles for women – solely as caretakers and homemakers. And all that is a ready ground to prove that the female protagonist is none of the above. She is Kranti and not Shanti as one dialogue of the film states. Alia has played this kraanti-kaari role before in Two States where she addresses the issue of dowry. Only here, she embodies it and rallies against it by living a life she chooses.
Vaidehi (Alia’s character) is a fiery lass from Kota, who has been cheated in love and now only has eyes towards her career. Varun in his most endearing role to date, charms as Badrinath Bansal, who assists his father in recovering money from debtors. The rustic Govindaesque Badri falls in love with Vaidehi and woos her with song and dance and more. Some of Hindi cinema’s most memorable scenes by male protagonists have been drunken scenes. Varun in one such heart-broken scene at the beach steals your heart. But my favourite scene in the film is when he buys a ‘kamino’ (kimono) for Vaidehi and straps on her ‘seat-belt’ - the sheer guilelessness of the character is what makes you go awww!
The lyrics fit the film really well. “Tune English mai humko daanta toh aashiq surrender ho gaya” depicts the protagonist’s inability to master the language. His macho character in the film is no match for Alia’s witty interludes and he even breaks down. And you realise that it is not every day you see the male protagonist cry on his friend’s shoulder saying, “Ab rona aa rahi hai toh kya karen?”
The film has various small pointers to characters – the giant chess-board outside Badri’s house that is dominated by his father, Alia answering ‘claustrophobia’ to a question posed to her and later explaining it as ghutan or being stifled into roles expected of her.
The film has ample room for humour – the JMD (Jai Mata Di) song for instance or bus conversations between Alia and Varun, where she asks him full forms of IIT, ABS and the difference between simple and compound interest. Some humour is subtle as well such as the scene when the two fathers, played by Swanand Kirkire and Rituraj, meet each other and one compliments the other’s oxygen cylinder. The fight between Badri and his friend Somdev is endearing too – the film is nuanced with these instances and well-chosen moments.
Badrinath… stretches post interval and the much-awaited Tamma Tamma Loge song appears towards the end. The groom-choosing scene didn’t work for me – it was too flighty in a set-up that was real. The film twists towards the end when Badri’s character changes from being totally patriarchal to understanding the challenges of women and then, accosting his father. It ends as being idealistic but takes forward the cause it espouses. Varun is endearing and earnest and shines in the role matching it with Alia’s luminous presence and histrionics.
Succinctly put, it is a Varun Dhawan film and adds to his repertoire of memorable roles.