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The much awaited film Veere Di Wedding released, garnering a series of mixed reviews. Read this one, which says that despite being a chick-flick the movie does stand out.
The Indian version of what seems to be a Sex and the City twist has been one of the most awaited films this year. Try as they may (the actors) in their interviews to convince people that it is not a chick flick, Veere Di Wedding surely happens to be one.
We have 4 women from urban elite backgrounds who have access to big houses, luxury cars and holidays abroad, basically the works. The movie opens to a scene with the girls completing Grade 12 and celebrating their new found freedom. Sure enough, it can ruffle parental feathers easily, as the celebration includes toasting each other with alcohol and one talking about losing her virginity to her high school boyfriend.
As much as I initially felt that this was a tad overdone, I chose to play optimist and realized that this is in fact a reality of the socio-economic background they chose to highlight in the movie. How do I know this? Having worked in the education sector with teenagers primarily makes me aware of this new culture. We can avert our gaze, but the fact is that this is happening. The movie I am sure was not looking to make a statement through this scene but we could choose to take that into account, that this is a reality with teenagers. So, instead of being those parents that squirm in their seats, we use this new found ‘entertainment’ to start a dialogue with our teens, if we have not done so already.
We have Kalindi (Kareena Kapoor) who comes from a home where she has seen enough family strife and marital conflict to put her off marriage for life. However, she is soon engaged and this now moves quickly into the central theme – the wedding. Avni (Sonam Kapoor) plays a divorce lawyer and a strong, independent and outspoken woman who is dealing with heartbreak and her mother’s pressure of getting married. Her issues are relatable to single working women in her demographic.
Meera (Shikha Talsania) is natural and effortless, playing a woman who went against her father’s wishes and married a white man. Sakshi (Swara Bhaskar) is a woman from an extremely affluent family and she is on the brink of a divorce within a year of marriage.
Pretty soon the movie moves into the discomfort faced by Kalindi who is having a tough time dealing with the pressures not of a marriage, but just a wedding. A larger than life affair as we know it to be in India with a 1000 guest list and countless rounds of shopping. Through it all, we have cuss words in English and Hindi alike with probably more crassness thrown in than seems real (cue Swara Bhaskar’s character). But, by the time the movie was coming to a predictable close I had a thought- “It wasn’t half bad!”
Sure, I had my set of expectations from a movie that is ‘female centric’ but I did not expect it to make a powerful statement. And it doesn’t. Yet it does!
What I mean is that it does not in any way try to take on a feminist angle or show women as victims. The actors even mentioned in their promotional interviews for the movie that it’s not a feminist movie and is just for entertainment and to have a good time. And of course it is just the opposite of the Bechdel Test! But, it does have its moments now that I think of it. (Beyond the one about the teenagers as mentioned already.)
Kalindi portrays most women today who have trouble understanding the hoopla around a wedding and don’t want to be bound by having to constantly think before they speak in front of family members. It also drives home a point that our childhood and family life does have an impact on how we view relationships and our commitment to the same. It talks of women having fears and doubts with regards to a marriage and another family (the husband’s) – not just superficial fears like what to wear or whom to hire for the makeup.
Avni has the ‘typical’ Indian mother played by Neena Gupta who is trying relentlessly to fix her up with a ‘suitable’ boy. And try as she might to escape this constant conversation in her house, she gives in and agrees to meet a man through the arranged medium – online marriage sites. As things do not go as planned and she realizes that her ‘forward’ behavior is too independent for a man, she ends up sleeping with one she meets from the groom’s side of the family. Depicting a woman as going through a heartbreak, yet putting herself out there and risking being hurt or moving on impulse by sleeping with someone to avoid facing her own issues would be relatable to young adult women who are probably in the same stage of life as portrayed by Sonam.
The movie also portrays a homosexual family member who is married to his partner and depicts them without showing them as flamboyantly gay. This was a pleasant change indeed. Yes, there are shades to one of the men in the couple who seems more obviously gay than the other (as usually depicted), but perhaps that was more to ensure that audiences understand the homosexual nature of the relationship. Besides those subtle gestures and tone in his voice there is nothing overtly discussed about them being gay or having the gay community mocked at (which most movies seem to do in Bollywood).
The difficult relationship that a woman, Meera has with her father because of having married someone he disapproves of purely for the color of his skin, highlights the importance a woman has for her parents. It also brings forth the importance of her own choices and how she hopes to have these two people come to an understanding. There does seem hope, when we see her young son playing with his grandfather, having been invited by the son-in-law himself.
The characters talk unabashedly about sex toys and orgasms, sex before or after marriage or rather the lack of it as well as masturbation. It addresses the fact that women are sexual beings and have desires and that doesn’t make them the devil. Yes we have the trip abroad thrown in but let’s get real. I don’t understand why people saw it as unrealistic (as overheard when walking out). Let us keep in mind the fact that these women have MONEY! They are representing a certain strata of society and we are well aware that yes, these days women do take trips together whether for a bachelorette or even just to get over a heartbreak with their girlfriends.
It shows relationships being mended within families and the dilemma faced by Kalindi and her fiancé (Sumeet Vyas). It brings to light that no matter how great a friendship may be, there are trying times when Kalindi ends the engagement and has an outburst, basically telling off her friends for not being there for her when she needed them at the function the night before. She in fact calls them out for their own behavior and choices in life. So, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. It does show what friendship looks like from the inside, minus the group hugs, when you also have real issues to deal with.
The movie shows the side of life where we are all too concerned about society. From the father of the groom landing up in jail due to bounced cheques just to prove a point to the guests by having a lavish wedding to nosy neighborhood aunties who constantly comment on Sakshi for a failed marriage / partying / affairs / smoking etc. That’s the harsh reality for women irrespective of the socio- economic background – the fact that their life and choices (or at times not choices but state of life) are always fodder to this so called society.
One of the scenes I liked best in the movie was when Swara tells her parents that her husband has been blackmailing her, having caught her masturbating when he came home early for work. It was indeed a refreshing reaction from the parents to see them burst out laughing and the relief that washes over her seeing them giggle about this. Yes, it may seem a bold story to tell one’s parents but she does do this to ensure, she is not swindled out of money by a man who clearly thinks publicly defaming a woman will ensure him riches.
But, more than that I loved the support exhibited from the parents. Years back I was told by a friend how her childhood friend committed suicide. The girl’s marriage had ended due to demands for money and she had been living with her parents for almost a year. From an extremely well off family she got tired of hearing her parents humiliated by society for having a daughter who had ‘brought shame’ by leaving the husband’s home, she saw no choice but to end her life. That’s what lack of support or even the fear of parents ‘not understanding’ can do to a child.
I was glad to see a different take on such an issue in the movie. As unrealistic or shocking one may think it is to tell the parents something so intimate, it shows just how much their support is needed and how much their reaction and unconditional acceptance can make a difference.
All in all, a movie that makes its own contribution to showing women in a refreshing light. Whether we consider it bold, blunt or crass the truth is that we as women lead different lives and shaming women for living the life that they have in itself is going against the sisterhood. And so, I stand by the women, whatever life they may lead. Whether it relates to mine or not. I stand by the women!
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