Just How Frothy Is ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya’?
Director: Shashank Khaitan
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Sahil Vaid, Rituraj Singh
Finally, a Dharma Productions movie that’s not orbiting the rarefied solar system of the rich but has its feet on plebeian ground. The film has been directed by Shashank Khaitan, whose previous outing Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya also starred Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt, the lead pair of Badrinath. Both films were produced by Karan Johar, who generally makes movies about wealthy folks and their troubles. As with Dear Zindagi, a feminist impulse drives Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya. It makes a case for the girl child that’s about as subtle as a government commercial. But couched in frothy humour, Badrinath is a watchable romantic comedy.
Badrinath showcases small-town India
Badrinath (Varun Dhawan) is a mischievous fellow with the attitude of a street tough and the belief he’s manna for womankind. He moves around his hometown Jhansi with Somdev (Sahil Vaid), collecting cash owed to his moneylender father (Rituraj Singh). His father, something of a chieftain-type figure in Jhansi, is a domineering patriarch, who considers working women anathema. Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt), a feisty, feminist college girl lives in Kota with parents keen to get her married. She’d rather fly out of Kota to chase her dream of being an air hostess. Badrinath, a high school graduate who speaks almost no English, pursues her thinking she’d immediately acquiesce to getting married. She rejects him, fuelling his desire for her, and later enlists him in a plot to get her older sister married.
The movie is entertaining owing to romantic and ‘bromantic’ chemistry
The film is as predictable as Dadar East flooding in July. You know that Badrinath will experience the first major upheaval in his life before the interval. You know that after the interval, Badrinath will undergo a transformation from hyper patriarch to feminist champion. And you know he will rebel against his father in dramatic fashion before the happy ending. Yet it’s rescued from utter boredom by Dhawan, Bhatt and Vaid. Dhawan, who ably performs his career shtick as the goofball hero, and Bhatt have a playful chemistry. So do Dhawan and Vaid. Their bromance is a cheeky nod to small-town male friendships characterised by a lot of physical affection and hand-holding.
After the interval, the film becomes a Singapore tourism commercial
Badrinath’s change of outlook takes place in Singapore, where Vaidehi is training is to be an air hostess. The process unfolds like an extended tourism ad across Singapore, in theme parks, the Marina Bay Sands and malls. In a moment meant to deflate Badrinath’s sense of masculinity, he’s set upon by a bunch of thugs on the street. Instead of beating him up, the men rip his shirt and practically fondle him. It’s odd enough to have goons in Singapore, which has one of the lowest rates of street crime in the world. It’s odder still to have goons who want nothing – not money, not Vaidehi who’s with him – but to cop a feel. After Vaidehi and her friends chase them away, Badrinath is left shielding his chest like a woman whose dupatta has been ripped off. The scene seems to have been inserted into the film for the heck of it and has no bearing on the story, unlike the terrific moment in Chak De! India in which the women hockey players emasculate a group of lecherous men in a canteen by going after them with their sticks. However it’s best not to think too deeply about this film since it’s a lightweight romance, albeit one with a noble message.
Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya was released in cinemas across the city on Friday, March 10.