Thamizh Talkies: The ten rules broken by Veere Di Wedding
The writer talks about the recent Bollywood film, Veere Di Wedding, and how it has managed to shatter stereotypes
A weekday afternoon in Chennai. The show was housefull. The film was not Kaala, but Veere Di Wedding. It is about four women -- four friends -- and their personalities, lives, choices. After reading mixed reviews (one Facebook update from a young girl was particularly scathing) and looking up the stunning box-office numbers, I was convinced that the film must have something going for it and I wasn’t disappointed. People who confuse the film to be some sort of feminist agenda are totally wrong. This is an unapologetic fun film, which also has some serious points to make -- which it makes by just being what it is. The characters make these points by just being who they are and in the process, aid the makers of this film in successfully breaking the glass ceiling.
There are quite a few rules of Indian commercial cinema which get broken in Veere Di Wedding:
1. Heroines can’t play lead roles after marriage, especially if they have had kids. (Kareena Kapoor Khan and Sonam A Kapoor, take a bow.)
2. Heroines can’t play roles younger than their real age.
3. Heroines can’t romance men younger than them. (What heroes ALWAYS get to do when they romance heroines half their age.)
4. A commercial heroine can’t swear on screen. (And what an earful of it all four of them unleash in this film!)
5. Partying women are 'bad' girls (Shika Talsania’s moves are a must watch).
6. Girls who have had more than one relationship are vamps.
7. The idea of a man, for women, has to be synonymous with marriage, children, and household duties.
8. A woman can't be the one to propose to a man. (A scene straight out of Runaway Bride, but so nicely done here as well.)
9. A relationship has to lead to matrimony, and eventually, children.
10. Women don’t get an equal say in sex.
The last rule shatters the ceiling to smithereens in what is perhaps the scene of the century, when one of the girls (Swara Bhaskar) narrating explains why her marriage broke. It's one thing to write such a scene but quite something to enact it and to be able to deal with it after the scene is over, in the most everyday manner possible. No, I’m not using that word here. Go figure!
There’s also a lot of heart in this tale, much like in real life. A typical mom-daughter equation is shared by Neena Gupta and Sonam Kapoor where the disagreements do not result in hatred. It is reassuring to see the focus on essentials like love, family support, friendship and warmth that comes out of living together, and yet, the women get to be their own people, having their own views and lifestyle. The film is an important one for the India of today which is pulling us in multiple directions -- the main topic being about where women stand.
The word, empowerment, is so vast and so overly used that it almost makes it sound like it’s a gift someone else is giving us. The thin line between patronising and supporting a woman often makes it very confusing for women, many of whom say things like, "Oh, but my husband allows me to have my one evening off with my friends" or "He looked after our kid that evening" or "My in-laws are very good people. They let me go to work." While being good and supportive are qualities to be grateful for, the idea that a man or a family 'allows' a woman to set foot out in the world is one of the main rules of that get broken in this film.
The female leads in this story are urban characters -- perhaps more edgy and independent than your everyday character, but totally identifiable with those of us who have ventured out to not fly rockets or conquer China, but to just live a life on our terms. To that extent, the film satisfies the need to see a modern depiction of women in India without being apologetic about the modern or the "satisfaction" (I smile gleefully at why this word is in quotes).
It was most heartening to see the attentive audience in the theatre, and the applause and laughter and giggles at all the right places. That the clothes or the music could have been better is for a film review. What IS better is the story and the four girls who give 'female-centric films' a whole new meaning.
Who are the heroines who can play these four roles with aplomb in the south? I can think of Trisha for Kareena because there is a simmering boldness to her demure smile. Besides her, who’s your choice for the cast? Hey, also, what is the Tamil word for the Big O? (Wink)