Badhaai Do : A complete family entertainer
After a long wait Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar starrer 'Badhaai Do' was released in theaters on February 11. Ever since the trailer of Badhaai Do was unveiled, the film has become the talk of the town. Released during Valentine week, Badhaai Do revolves around the concept of lavender marriages. Besides critics, the audience also hailed the film for its 'inclusive' storyline and soulful acting. Rajkummar and Bhumi starrer opened to mixed reviews with many loving the 'hatke' subject of the story while some feel it was a little stretched. Sumi and Shardul lead dual and socially-suppressed lives as closeted members of the gay and lesbian community. When they settle for a marriage of compromise to please their intrusive families, they assume this would give them cover while they pursue partners of their choice. What they eventually achieve by this and how forms the narrative of this family entertainer.
Just what makes two people decide to tie the knot? There are marriages of all kinds. Love. Arranged. And Arranged-cum-Love, which happens only in India. Shaadi toh compromise hai (marriage is a compromise)’, says Shardul Thakur in ‘Badhaai Do’: by then, his family knows exactly what ‘compromise’ he is talking about, leading to consternation all round. Shardul (RajKummar Rao) and Sumi Singh (Bhumi Pednekar) have got together in holy matrimony for good reasons of their own. The small town they live in has very little understanding of same-sex love or ‘samlaingikta’. For both Shardul, the cop who loves to build his body, ingesting indigestible protein shakes on the way; and Sumi the no-nonsense physical instructor who teaches in a school as she navigates her way through a dating app, the marriage is a perfect cover. They can keep their ‘jaldi-shaadi-karo’ families at bay, and they can continue to be true to their sexual orientation: ‘zamana kya kahega, mummy-papa mar jayenge agar sacchai saamne aa gayi toh (What will society say, and mummy-papa will die if the truth comes out)’.
For a mainstream Hindi film to focus on a ‘lavender marriage’ in a small-town setting takes some doing. And ‘Badhaai Do’ does feel a tad radical in some of the things it manages to do, given the constraints of wanting to inhabit the family entertainment space. The instant recognition of a person on the same side of the spectrum, the sexual charge in an exchange of glances between two young women, and the overpowering desire to be together physically, is done with a welcome degree of frankness.
But then ‘Badhaai Do’ falls into the same trap films with ‘brave subjects’ gravitate towards. Once it is put out there, it starts developing cold feet, and wraps up its crucial core under layers of heavy-handed humor, and the tiresome boister of a joint family we’ve seen over and over.The film goes on, corralling in other subjects. Amongst them is the deep desire to have children, the difficulties of adoption amongst people who are gay or lesbian: that these words are spoken out loud, by the leads, in a defiant act of ownership, is a good thing. But it takes almost the whole of 2.5 hours to do so, while sending Shardul and Sumi spinning off in other directions. So many diversions, while trying to keep on track, becomes tiring, and the novelty factor, which includes the presence of the spirited Chenaki (Chum Darang) wears off. It is 2022, and we have to be happy about a North-Eastern actor in a main role.
Rao and Pednekar do full justice to their roles. Sheeba Chaddha makes the most of her flaky-but-compassionate mother. It’s really good to see Nitesh Pandey being given something substantial. There’s a female cop in the ‘mahila thana’ that Shardul is so reluctantly employed at, who catches the eye. And Gulshan Devaiah, in his tiny part, steals every scene he is featured in.
Yes, there are different strokes for different folks. And yes, we love rainbows. If only it didn’t get mainstream Bollywood so long to come to the point, and stick with it.
Movie cast: Rajkummar Rao, Bhumi Pednekar, Chum Darang, Sheeba Chadhha, Seema Pahwa, Loveleen Mishra, Nitesh Pandey, Gulshan Devaiah
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