All About The Girls

When I started this blog it was mainly as an outlet for my musings about life and books, but the last post and this one seems to be about Bollywood. Being an Indian, Bollywood is something which we cannot ignore and is a guilty pleasure for quite a few of us. Though not strictly a movie review this post is about the impact of the movie “Veere Di Wedding”.The film was in the news for a lot of reasons, some good and some bad. There were some people who called for a boycott of the movie since a couple of lead heroines had political views contrary to those people. In fact, a recent criticism I read was that this movie is promoting debauchery amongst the women. The film, however, has done and is doing, a pretty brisk business with reviews ranging from people who trashed it to people who cannot stop raving about it due to its content. On the surface, the movie looks like regular Bollywood fare, top-rated actors, foot tapping music, designer dresses and exotic locales. It, however, breaks quite a few stereotypes, for starters, the movie is about women, their friendship and it is the women who take the centre-stage. The male actors are relegated to the sidelines with the focus firmly on the female protagonists. This in itself is quite a departure from the hero/heroine format of most mainstream movies with the heroine usually playing a second-fiddle to the hero. In Bollywood filmography, there are movies like Dil Chahta Hai and Zindagi Na Mile Dobara which focus on the male friendship and bonding as the central theme. Veere Di Wedding is thus a trendsetter in the fact that it is about female bonding and their friendships. The only other movie I can think of which had female companionship at the core was Angry Indian Goddesses.

The story is about four friends, Kalindi, Sakshi, Meera and Avni who have been together for a long time even though they are in different places and all have different personalities. It starts with the character Kalindi being proposed and accepting to get married to her longtime boyfriend. Kalindi, due to circumstances from her younger life, starts to get cold feet just before the wedding. It shows how the expectations of the new family, taking care of hordes of new relatives, conforming to standards of society can get daunting to a young, modern woman who is used to fending for herself. The scene where Kalindi’s would be mother-in-law instructs her in a long list of rituals and customs while following up with the statement “I don’t want to force anyone” is at once funny and ironic. It shows how on one hand you are instructing the intended bride of what all rituals she needs to do all the while trying to prove that you are modern and forward thinking. The whole wedding setup shows the hypocrisy and the modern-day penchant for showing off in today’s weddings. The constant pointing of how much a wedding or each function cost, is something most of us have either bragged about or been bragged too!

The pressures that an individual faces, when they don’t conform to the standards of society, are shown in the story of the character Sakshi. Sakshi smokes, drinks, goes clubbing and wants a divorce from her relatively new husband of six months. She is sexually independent and knows how to take things into her own hands (literally). She is bold and independent but is still tied down by her love for her parents. She knows that if she asks or tells her parents about the divorce and the reasons for it, it is her parents who will face the social stigma. It is only when she gets the support of her parents she gets the courage to give back to the society gossips. Though this storyline has a few loopholes it shows a mirror to a society who gossip about someone and follow it with the most ironical “Sannu Ki!”

Meera’s character is different in the terms that though on the surface she is fun loving and is happily married she feels the lack of family, having married over their objections. She is honest enough to admit she misses making love with her husband after the birth of her son. It shows young motherhood with all the doubts, when you want your love life but feel guilty if you have to make your toddler sleep in his own room; when you are struggling to lose weight; when you long for your own parents but stubbornness keeps you apart. It is also about family and forgiveness. How forgiveness is a balm to the soul and enriches your life.

Avni’s character is mine and probably many a young woman’s favourite.  Avni is a character with which any modern thirty-something career woman in India can identify with. She is smart, successful, independent, pretty but her mother wants her to “settle down”. To this end, she goes through the process of looking through prospective grooms even though arranged marriage is not to her or her friends taste. During the course of meeting and getting to know the men she realizes that even though Indian men might advertise for career women, they eventually want traditional Indian wives, not one who may speak her mind or heaven forbid even knows how to kiss! One of her dialogues (which is my favourite) says that even though you could have a complete education, a good career, be financially independent but a “mangalsutra” becomes the holy grail. It is almost as if marriage is the end goal of a woman’s life rather than a part of a life’s path ( and that too not a necessary part in my opinion). In India when you reach a particular age marriage becomes a necessity in the eyes of society and the sad part is that it is usually the women who are expected to conform and give in. Avni also meets the prospective grooms only because she is pressurized by her mother especially after Kalindi also decides to take the plunge. She tries to conform and even alters her behaviour subtly when she meets the men even though she is someone little bit different. Her dialogue “I want it all” shows the dilemma a young woman in India faces these days. She wants her career and love and marriage but not one at the cost of the other, and therein is the crux of the problem.

In my opinion, this movie, also dubbed the desi Sex and the City, is a good watch. The girls all look gorgeous in the movie with wonderful styling and makeup. The implications of this movie are beyond the styling but involve the way the characters have been framed and their treatment. First of all, it has made bonding with women in real life too. Theatres are full of women groups who have come to watch a movie of girl squad with their girl squads. This movie is a path breaker not because of its plot or acting by the characters, but because it has shown real women rather than the Sati Savitri’s usually shown in the movies. Here the women smoke, drink, talk and enjoy sex, but they are not negative characters, it can be any middle/upper-middle-class group of girls who have studied/worked hard for their careers and now want to live life on their own terms. It brings out the point that women too can make their own choices and live with it. Personal choice has nothing to do with society and it’s hypocritical standards.

While watching this movie I couldn’t help but compare it with “Angry Indian Goddesses”. That movie was darker, talked about same-sex marriage and unlike this one did not end on a happy note. There too the girls were financially and mentally independent but were judged on their choices of clothes, drinking alcohol and their sexual preferences with heartbreaking consequences. Angry Indian Goddesses was starker and more real while Veere Di Wedding is more of a chick-flick (if you pardon the word). However, in an industry where there are no chick-flicks being made this movie is exceptional. With this movie being mainstream Bollywood the number of people who have seen it is more and thus its impact will also be more. While most of us will come out of the movie wowed by the costumes and makeup, there might be a young woman in a small town who might be inspired by someone like Avni who decides that while she does want to get married it has to be on her terms rather than what the society dictates. The young woman might realise that she does have a choice with what to do in her life rather than being told what to do. And therein will be the true success of this movie.


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