Badrinath ki Dulhaniya is an out and out ‘paisa-vasool’ entertainer and makes for delightful viewing thanks to the dollops of humour laced into the enjoyable narrative and superb performances from Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan. But it is not just another flimsy entertainer because entwined in the plot are topical issues like dowry, male chauvinism, our society’s ridiculous obsession with a male child and above all the parental pressures which mentally and emotionally influence the youngsters and rob them of their freedom to choose the kind of life they want to lead or the life-partners they want to be with …
To writer-director Shashank Khaitan goes the credit for putting across all these points without making it look too grim and preachy yet conveying the message loud and clear. The dialogues are really hilariously written and in a way the movie is like a mirror being held in front of the audience to show them the senseless mind-set which still exists in our country especially in the smaller towns and villages. Here young girls are still not allowed to dream, their wings being clipped as they are forced to ‘to settle down’ due to various reasons. And guys grow up thinking that just being a guy (literate or not) and that too the son of a rich landlord not only makes them ‘perfect’ groom material but also grants them the right to stalk the girl they fall for and harass her till she says yes! (Yes, that is a frightening reality!)
The story of Badri (Varun Dhawan) and Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt) who hail from the small towns of Jhansi and Kota respectively starts off when he sees her at a friend’s wedding and he falls for her immediately but at that time she is not interested. However being the film’s hero our stalker is in reality a good man but brought up on warped principles which have instilled in him the wrong perceptions of marriage and relationships. So he is not able to handle or understand her rejection.
And Alia-our new-age ‘dulhaniya’ is no Madhuri Dixit of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun who wordlessly agrees to marry her brother-in-law when her sister dies or Kajol of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge who accepts her fate and is ready to bury her love for SRK to become the bride to the man of her father’s choice. Alia has a mind of her own and is not willing to compromise at any cost. However she is also in a dilemma for she genuinely starts liking Badri. But the claustrophobic old-fashioned outlook of his parents and his inability to fight for her leave her with no alternative but to turn him down. When her repeated pleas to him and to her parents fall on deaf ears, she agrees to the proposal but leaves him in the lurch at the marriage altar much to the embarrassment of her parents and humiliation of her would-be in-laws.
She flies off to Singapore to become an air-hostess. Not one to give up Badri follows her there too till circumstances start to change his understanding and he learns it the hard way that a woman wants respect more than love and that her ideas are also equally important in a marriage for there is but one life for everyone… He is deported and he comes back a changed man. He realizes that the free-spirited Vaidehi would be miserable in his household where his father’s rule dominates unless he has the guts to stand up and oppose him.
Of course! In the end things are sorted and the lovers do get together but not before the interesting scene where Badri gathers enough courage to confront his father on the day when his family is conducting a puja to pray for a grandson to be born to their pregnant daughter-in-law! Badri then has a show-down with his father and questions him on the absurdity of the very idea of such a function and reminds him that the city of Jhansi where they live is known for a daughter –the Rani of Jhansi– and not for any son. The era of gender equality had arrived and the earlier people like him accepted this truth, the better it would be for all of them…
The story may sound clichéd but the treatment is definitely not. Further it is a fact that however much we may talk of women empowerment in reality social evils of dowry and patriarchy still exist. Hence such love-stories will always find takers and hit the jackpot in whatever era they are made.
(Note: Actors Yash Sinha and Shweta Basu Prasad playing Varun’s ‘Bhaiyya’ and ‘Bhabhi’ respectively will definitely remind us of Mohnish Behl and Renuka Shahane from Hum Aapke Hain Kaun!)
The choice of Kota as the film’s setting deserves a special mention for attractively capturing the ‘Seven Wonders Park’ on the banks of Lake Kishore Sagar . Frankly, I had no idea of its existence and now it has made it to my list of ‘must-see places’!
Finally, no film is perfect and there are situations and scenes which need to be taken with a pinch of salt. And yet the film does stand out for raising some pertinent issues. As the framework is within a typical family drama, it will appeal to a large section of the audience across the country. Added to that the songs are catchy, the canvas is colourful and pleasing and the performances are good. Both Alia and Varun are not only perfectly cast and look good, their acting is spot-on and their on-screen chemistry is terrific!
So just go and enjoy this ‘typical’ Bollywood block-buster… It won’t disappoint you!