I watched “Badrinath ki Dulhaniya” after trying my best to avoid it. I am not a big fan of mindless entertainers, but the family wanted to watch it. The niece is a big fan of Alia Bhatt. Sister likes Varun Dhawan. Parents believe that life is stressful enough, why not go to the theatre to have a good laugh and watch a “light” movie? Friends had told me the movie is about dowry, gender equality, and women empowerment. Alia Bhatt is an interview had said her character is a “feminist”.
So, this was enough to convince me to sit through what I had expected be a very tortuous experience. From a social perspective, although they have given a disclaimer that the movie does not promote “dowry” and other “social evils”, and the events are dramatized, I could not help but cringe at the stupidity that unfolded on screen. This article is inspired by but not limited to the movie.
The movie begins by giving a shameless (and unfortunately true) account of dowry in North India.
I am now diverting from the movie as I have witnessed this in the state that the characters belong to in the movie, adjacent to my home state. “How much is your budget?” is a common question that initiates the discussion of arranged marriages. Even parents who consider themselves righteous, who would never accept / give bribes and are against corruption see no harm in this. The tolerance level for evil is high. Daughters who try to speak up against dowry in all its forms are shut up by saying that they would end up alone if they try to act smart. They are told that this is the culture, this is society and this is how ALL GROOM’S FAMILIES ARE. Either they marry into one of them, or become an unhappy, frustrated spinster all their lives. Choice is theirs, and what an empowering choice it is!
They are also fooled into believing that the wedding is just one event. Once they are married, they will live happily ever-after with such (greedy, ill-treating) families. Most women give in and the disaster begins.
1. The boy cannot speak against his father
Badri cannot speak to his father against his greed for dowry. There are two reasons for this. One, he is an unqualified man heavily dependent on his parents’ money. So, rebellion will not do him any good. Second, being a regressive man himself, he probably does not see much harm in the privileges of patriarchy.
He represents the quintessential Indian man. He “respects” his parents (Depends on them for money and therefore, does not have the spine to speak up against them). Dowry from a woman’s family does not offend him. Her rejection does.
2. Stalk, gag, put a girl in car trunk as it is “love”
Stalking and harassing is taken to another level. The message is clear. Keep pursuing a girl despite her being persistent about saying no. Even if you beat up random strangers outside her house, gag her, and stuff her into your trunk it is all acceptable as you are in “love”. The girl who should by now realize that you were not just uninteresting enough to reject in the first place, but also immature, abusive, unstable and dangerous will instead realise that this is “true love”!!
3. Molestation of men
In a strange and absurd scene, Badri gets touched and teased by a group of men. Vaidehi gives him something to cover up, and all his friends laugh at him, embarrassing him. This was supposed to be a comedy scene.
All over the world, people are becoming sensitive about the fact that men get abused too. Men are being encouraged to speak up about it. It certainly is not a reflection of their masculinity. Sadly, the entire scene made a big joke out of an issue that has globally just started gaining some momentum.
4. I want to be a “Beta!”
Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt) is a “feminist” who wants to work and be independent. In one of the scenes, she says she tried so hard to be the “beta” of her family.
This is the most demeaning thing to say. What the hell does it mean? That a woman must be a “son” to be validated? Then the man-child, good for nothing, lover boy tells this “feminist” character, “Tum to beti hi kamal ki ho!”
Whoever wrote the dialogues has no clue what feminism is. No feminist would ever say she wants to be a beta!!
The ending of the movie is intended to be a call for social change. Badri finally speaks upto his father, and is supportive of Vaidehi’s dream to work.
I don’t care. Three hours of non-sense does not get redeemed by this ending. Bollywood, please spare us the rubbish. Or at the least don’t make claims for making socially reformed, women empowering movies.
© 2017, Tanvi Sinha. All rights reserved.