Badrinath Ki Dulhania review: A mixed message movie
It’s nice the film has a heroine with ambition but why normalize stalking, harassment and sexist dialogue?
Saturday 11 March 2017
Badrinath Ki Dulhania
Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Sahil Ved
There are certain films, like certain people, that claim to be pro-equality (with regards to feminism/ racism/ whatever) but give themselves up when they unconsciously make an embarrassingly objectionable joke. Human-beings can be complex; and films too. Like Badrinath Ki Dulhania…which is supposedly about feminism, but keeps throwing sexist salvos at us throughout.
Set in Jhansi (a region known for its queen as the film points out), Badri (Varun Dhawan) works for his father’s loan business. He sympathizes with his sister-in-law who despite having a sharp business sense is restricted to doing housework.
Badri’s father is more a symbol of patriarchy, less a flesh-and-blood character. So he growls orders to everyone, unabashedly talks dowry for Badri’s wedding, proudly gloats that his bahu has not worked after marriage, and threatens to kill people who offend him.
Badri meets feisty and ambitious Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt) at a wedding, and falls for her in an instant. Next, he’s merrily stalking her, despite her folding hands and telling him a ‘no.’ Naturally, our hero gets even more aggressive in his pursuit of the said girl, following her around everywhere. All this is very uncomfortable to watch, especially the girl’s smiling response to being stalked. Marriage is spoken about, and the issue of dowry crops up. The film indulges in some superficial criticism of dowry, reminding one of the film Daawat-E-Ishq that also attempted to explore the subject.
The more problematic areas surface in the second half when our lover-boy thinks it’s absolutely A-okay to throttle his girlfriend, kidnap her in the back of a car, bash up a guy who she’s talking to, and generally behave like a deranged person. He gets arrested twice doing all this in a foreign country, but all this has a very curious effect on Vaidehi. Far from blocking this person from her life, she begins warming up to him. Not to forget, Badri’s best friend suggesting he “act like a man. And either teach the girl a lesson or leave the place.” What sort of message is the film sending?
This bitter pill is sugar-coated with Badri giving a passionate monologue about women’s rights. Of course, and this is truly priceless, he says that it is respecting women that goes in the making of an “asli mard”. In another twisted variant of gender equations, Badri getting molested by a group of thugs and saved by Vaidehi and friends, is made out to be a joke.
It’s nice that the film has a heroine with an ambition; god knows how puzzlingly rare that is. It’s wonderful to see the relationship evolve as the two understand each other better, and develop respect along with love.
But did such a wonderful message have to be incorporated with chauvinistic clichés like stalking and sexist dialogue? Several films, in their bid to please a varied audience, give muddled insights, but this one is the queen of the mixed message movie.