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If a couple split up (or get married) after years of dating, why should we assume that its the woman who has more to lose (or win)?
So…Rajkummar Rao married Patralekha a few days back. And I heaved a sigh of relief.
In case you’re wondering why I should feel relieved…trust me, I’m wondering that myself. My knee-jerk, (almost reflexive reaction) was one of peace and solace when I saw news media flooded with smiling and happy wedded pictures of the couple.
And I wasn’t able to quite understand why.
Let’s get a few things out of the way first. I like Rao. As an actor he’s beyond brilliant. And the few times I’ve read about him – he’s always come across as a very sorted, level-headed, and most importantly, a very decent man.
While most people love to dress up and dance and eat and make merry when someone’s getting engaged, married or celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, barely anyone shows up when someone’s sad, desperate…when they’re in grief. Not Rao. He is one of the few people who almost always shows up to most film industry funerals. That means a lot in this fickle world that is only too ready to share one’s happiness but is never to be found during one’s tough times. So, the fact that even during the peak of Covid’s first wave last year – that Rao showed up for many of the funerals of film industry stalwarts, including Sushant Singh Rajput, showed just what a good dude he is.
Over the years I’ve also read about his crazy stupid love for his then partner and now wife – Patralekha. He wore his love for her on his sleeve and celebrated her in his life. And in an industry, where film folks still act coy and circumspect about their significant others – the few of them like Rao who openly celebrate their partners is fresh. Again, like I said, Rao has always been one of the decent guys.
Rao has also been vocal over the years about his feelings towards marriage and how it ‘wasn’t for him’ and that he and Patralekha were united in their love and did not need a marriage certificate to show the world how connected they really are. This is what he said about his relationship with Patralekha some years back to Indian Express.
Asked when he’s marrying Patralekha, Rajkummar said: “No marriage for a long time. She has just started her career. And I am not ready for the institution of marriage. I respect the institution. But it’s not for me. We are happy to be together. I consult her on all my roles.”
So, yes. As much as Rao came across as a sorted and nice human, I have to admit…his stance on marriage made me uneasy. And this is from someone who is single and has never been married. My issue, therefore, was not with people staying single – hell, I am. My issue, my sense of uneasiness, came from what I now realize is a very patriarchal mindset that worried that Rao may string Patralekha around without really making a commitment to her.
You know…the whole, “Why pay for something when you can get it for free?”
Or, “What if after being in a live-in relationship for 11 years…he dumped her?” There is a very popular Hollywood saying (and I’m totally paraphrasing here) which goes something like, “The first wife helps get the stardom. With stardom comes the second wife.”
So, yes. So many things came to mind when I read somewhere a few months back that Rao and Patralekha had been together for 11 years, which is a long time without actually getting married.
But…here’s the problem with my ‘feeling uneasy.’
I forgot SO MANY THINGS HERE.
I forgot that Patralekha is a smart, modern woman who can make up her own mind. And if SHE was OK being in a live-in relationship – who was I to question her? I also assumed that Patralekha would want to be married (because, you know…she’s a woman and a woman’s life is ONLY complete when she’s married) and was in a live-in relationship because she was too much in love with Rao to say no to him.
Again, I assumed that Patralekha had NO agency when she made decisions about her own life.
And I know why I felt that way.
The film industry – both in Bollywood and Hollywood – are full of long-term couples whose relationship falls apart when one of them wants more. I thought about couples like Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt who broke up after 18 years of living together because Hamm did not want kids and Westfeldt did. Swara Bhasker was in a relationship with screenwriter Himanshu Sharma for five years before they called it quits and the unofficial chatter (read, rumours) behind the breakup was that she wanted to get married but he didn’t. Except, immediately after, Sharma hooked up with writer Kanika Dhillon and not just did her marry her, the couple recently had a child.
I have NO idea what the real truth behind the situation is but I confess…my heart broke just a little for Swara. It felt as though Sharma was not against marriage but just against marrying Swara. The late Sushant Singh Rajput had dumped Ankita Lokhande after years of living together, and again people said that it was because he’d moved up the Bollywood ladder while she stayed a TV actress.
In all these scenarios I thought – the woman gives so much of herself to a man without getting a commitment from the guy.
Look…maybe the women in these scenarios did want commitment and children. Maybe not. What bothered me about my own reaction was how much I – a modern in-your-face feminist – worried about these really old-fashioned ideas of what women want and need. The way I made women like Patralekha and Ankita and Swara and Jennifer Westfeldt into some kind of victims really bothered me. Despite all my bravura exhortations…I found myself thinking in ways that are so patriarchal in nature.
I also conveniently forgot about long-term non-marriage relationships that have survived and thrived. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell are one of Hollywood’s most successful partners. And they’d never been married. Neither have Gerard Pique and Shakira. Or Anna Kournikova and Enrique Iglesias. Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham. This list also goes on.
But it’s always the doomsday scenarios that haunt us.
Back to Rao and Patralekha. I’m just happy and gratified that Rao put his money where his mouth is and after years and years of eulogizing about his love for Patralekha…he did the right thing by putting a ring on her finger. I know I shouldn’t feel relieved. But I do. And I will analyze that feeling further some other day. For now…it’s good to know that the world still has men who are gentlemen.
Congratulations Rajkummar Rao and Patralekha! May you be married and live happily forever. And ever.
Image credits Rajkummar Rao’s instagram
Hi...I'm Roopa. I'm also a messy optimist! I'm an academic-cum-artist. I'm a writer, filmmaker and professor of creative writing. Academically, I've a Double Masters and a Phd read more...
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