Badrinath Ki Dulhania: Well-crafted take on vexing issue

Humour, relatable characters and effortless performances make Badrinath Ki Dulhania, the second in the Dulhania series featuring Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt a breezy watch.

It is hard to dislike the movie with its deft mash up of situational comedy, new locales and some tender 'family moments' with a rather predictable romance. And it stands out by pinpointing the regressive social system of dowry without making the proceedings melodramatic or overdrawn. In fact, the regression is passive - and almost accepted by all.

That is why the detailed disclaimer at the start of the film, asserting that neither the film nor the cast endorses anything related to discriminating women is relevant. Typically, therefore, the film goes to establish the patriarchal order of families, and how women - despite their dreams or qualification - are relegated to being 'house-wives.'

The hero Badrinath (Varun Dhawan) conforms to the equation; he doesn't see anything wrong or right in the dowry system - he simply plays along because he doesn't want to challenge the order or take on his powerful dad.

Badri's characterisation by Shashank Khaitan, who writes and directs the film, could not have been more spot on in contemporary India.

While women cry foul at the social inequalities, it is not surprising that the prevailing order continue uninterrupted - after all, not everyone has the nerve or need to fight back. When Badri meets the rather feisty yet friendly Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt), he doesn't even bother to think if she likes him; he believes he is the best in Uttar Pradesh for her.

Shashank shows great restraint in not making Vaidehi a caricatured feminist; this is just any girl, who dreams and dares to do. Post-interval, the film shifts gears after a disturbing turn in the life of Badri and Vaidehi brings to spotlight not just the dowry system but also the core theme of the film - women's empowerment.

While the inevitable compromises are called in to wrap it all up, the film's message is clear: That the individuality of a girl is second to none.

Badrinath Ki Dulhania is set in Jhansi, and the choice could not have been coincidental. After all, this city has been home to one of the most courageous women warriors of India. In choosing Jhansi and Kota, the film also presents the other side of India - far removed from the consistent battering down of Delhi and Mumbai by our filmmakers.

Small cities and towns with believable characters and the earthy settings always make for flavourful viewing. Varun Dhawan has that right mix of goofiness, natural charm and attitude for Badri. And he gets the right foil in Alia Bhatt; their chemistry is crackling.

And while the two take the film forward with absolute confidence, it is the supporting crew that makes the world believable. With some great lines - father to daughter, brother to brother and sister to sister - Badrinath Ki Dulhania shapes a new Mills & Boon narrative for Bollywood without making real issues seem trivial or forced.

It never tends to get preachy nor does it become outrightly 'feminist'. It delivers what it aims to give viewers: a popcorn movie that also has a social message. 

Badrinath Ki Dulhania is instantly likeable, and uses situational humour to highlight the menace of the dowry system, writes Deepa Gauri.

It's 2017 And It's Shocking That A Film Like 'Badrinath Ki Dulhania' Actually Got Made

If Badrinath Ki Dulhania claims to be a love story, I can safely claim I am Neil Armstrong. You can call yourself Barack Obama and the noisy pigeon on your AC box Falguni Pathak.

I can now proceed to narrate the boy-spots-creature-with-breasts-and-they-live-happily-ever-after-in-Aki Narula-clothes story. Or I can tell you how said lover boy picks up said lover girl, tries to gag her, stuffs her inside the trunk of a car and drives around as she begs to be let out. And all's forgiven. Because, with two Arijit Singh songs that scream 'What kind of a pathhar dil naagin can't see this is love', you've been asked to believe that the boy doesn't deserve to be thrown into jail and be given two tight slaps. Instead he deserves to walk down the mandap with the girl he just grabbed like she's a plate of samosa. Pyaar. Ishq. Mohabbat. My foot.

If Badrinath Ki Dulhania claims to be a love story, I can safely claim I am Neil Armstrong.
Badrinath Ki Dulhania, as you can see, was probably aspiring to be in the tradition of sappy Bollywood films where dulhanias wait in a corner like credit cards, to be snapped up by a man who spend most of his waking hours in a gymnasium.

It begins with Badri (played by Varun Dhawan) spotting Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt) at a friend's wedding in Kota, Rajasthan. His lackey, a man called Somdev, immediately starts following the girl and her sister around with a camera, because, awww, what else are men supposed to do if not sneakily take photos of women? They don't stop at that, they turn up at the girls' house when they're not there to convince their parents to share their 'kundali' and other details. Badri, after one dance at the wedding and a conversation that lasted less than a minute, has decided he wants to marry her.

Actually, I have a similar relationship with chicken biryani, so at this point, I am only willing to call the boy just stupid.
Actually, I have a similar relationship with chicken biryani, so at this point, I am only willing to call the boy just stupid. There's a glimmer of hope when Vaidehi tells Badri over Skype that she doesn't want to marry him and will report him for molestation if he persists. Hero's lackey, who can operate a tablet and Facetime, tries to pronounce molestation and can't — the entire half-full auditorium breaks out laughing. I can hear mostly male voices chortling. Funny, na?

The next part of the film rests on the boy trying to woo the girl. How? By trying to find her sister a husband and also arrange dowry for her. When all that falls into place — husband, dowry, patriarchy-wrapped-in-peppy-songs — Vaidehi too decides she will marry Badri. But then, she gets cold feet. And I am going all #BhagwanNeMeriSunli.

But I soon realise, this isn't my lucky day. So, Badri tries to abduct the girl, beats up a man randomly because he's heartbroken, threatens to hit the girl but says love is holding him back, nearly strangles her, beats up another man he sees Vaidehi laughing and talking to, gets drunk and accosts guards at her workplace. And all this while, as I mince the popcorn like it was responsible for writing the script, the woman flutters around the boy like she was wrong in not marrying this peanut which has mutated into a violent humanoid.

The next part of the film rests on the boy trying woo the girl. How? By trying to find her sister a husband and also arrange dowry for her.
At one point, Badri asks Vaidehi, "Have I ever misbehaved with you, tried to hurt you?" I almost feared he will next demand to be made the President of the country because, come on, that's really a talent — not being violent to a woman. A sad music played in the background. I imagined it was for the film's viewers and the slow demise of their brains.

As if I had very little doubt left over the filmmaker's complete misinterpretation of the term 'gender equality', they have a sequence where they have the beefcake hero accosted. How? By men in masks, grabbing, pinching, molesting him and tearing his clothes off. Then, in what the filmmaker must have thought was a classic 'empowering' case of 'role reversal', the girl gives her stole to the boy to cover his exposed chest. Everyone laughs. Inside the film and outside it. And I wish I could turn into popcorn and not have to bear the burden of having to call myself a human being.

A sad music played in the background. I imagined it was for the film's viewers and the slow demise of their brains.
The film's concept of women's rights, gender equality and basic human decency is more confusing than the BJP ad asking people to plant trees so that they can be sold off to pay for their daughters' weddings.

Oh, you might say Badri is an inspiring man — to mobile phone companies. What Badri is in the film, mobile towers should be in real life. He unfailingly follows the girl when she's off to college in a bus, or making a trip to the local temple, having a cup of coffee in the balcony after a long workday or walking into the college in the morning.

There was an important disclaimer/warning that Badrinath Ki Dulhania missed showing. That stalking is injurious to health and can land you in jail. And that the events and characters in the film are purely fictitious and trying to achieve any resemblance with them in real life won't land you a dulhania. But a criminal record? Sure.

Badrinath Ki Dulhania collection Day 1: Alia-Varun's film smashes Humpty's opening day record

Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan's jodi returned to the big screen after three years with Badrinath Ki Dulhania, and the film had a great start at the box office. In fact, the first day collections of the film overtook the prequel, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania's collections. Registering around 60% occupancy in the earlier shows, Badrinath Ki Dulhania raked in around Rs 13-14 crore at the box office, according to early estimates.

Directed by Shashank Khaitan, the rom-com revolves around barely literate Badrinath Bansal (Varun) and fiercely independent Vaidehi Trivedi (Alia) in a patriarchal society where women are expected to stay within their "maryaada (limits)". When Vaidehi ditches Badri at the shaadi ka mandap to follow her air-hostess dreams, it remains to be seen how he will get his dulhania.

The film had an edge on its opening day, cashing in on the success of Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. It is expected to pick up through word of mouth on the weekend.

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