To celebrate the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act in the United States, I present a nice day for a…uh…lavender wedding…okay, my timing could have been better, but I scheduled this months ago.
It is early morning in the Thakur household. Mrs. Thakur, more like her late husband’s brother and his wife, have gathered the family together to discuss the marriage of their son, Shardul…who is…not present. Actually, more like Shardul’s late father’s brother’s wife, or Shardul’s Tayi Ji. It is decided that Shardul…oh, hold on. Rekha, one of Tayi Ji’s five daughters has something to say. If it is decided, then why have this family meeting and make them drop all of their morning chores to come here? For her marriage, there was no discussion, just arrangements and orders.
Tayi Ji, says that they did not readily agree to this marriage, but that Shardul has been adamant for four years that he would not marry any other woman except for her and they could not just let him remain a bachelor forever. And, besides, Tayi Ji says, it is noble that he has upheld the family honor for all that time. Vineeta, another of Tayi Ji’s daughter’s, agrees, saying that he has been living alone far away all that time and could have easily eloped. Tayi Ji turns to Mrs. Thakur and asks for her opinion. Rekha has had enough, saying that Auntie Baby has not decided after a year whether to have her cataracts operated or not, and walks out. And, indeed, Baby punts. If Shardul’s father were still around, she says, then he could have counseled the young man. Tayi Ji reminds her that her husband died eight years ago, so responsibility had fallen to her.
Oh, and here is Shardul, by the way.
Vineeta, Reekha’s husband Anoop, and Shardul’s sisters look through pictures of that he had sent of Naaznin, his wife-to-be. His young sisters think that she looks a little plump for such a fit man like Shardul, but Anoop says that there is more meat to grab onto. Everyone glares at him, particularly Reekha, who storms off.
Reekha (and Anoop) go outside just in time to hear Tayi Ji get her husband Taya Ji to agree to meet Naaznin’s family and set a wedding date. Great. All set.
Okay, back to Shardul. He is currently a sub-inspector at a Women Police Station in Dehradun, capital city for the state of Uttarakhand. However, he tells Station House Officer Mahila Thana that he is bored dealing with domestic squabbles and would like to transfer to something more exciting. SHO Thana says that other men would kill to be posted at a Women’s Police Station, but here he is…uh…playing saint in a garden of temptation. He tells her that he is simply not enjoying it. People ranting about their in-laws, the recipe swapping, the goddamn nursery full of yelling kids. Well, Thana is less than sympathetic, handing him back his team’s First Information Report that she says is substandard.
Shardul shows the FIR to Constable…Naaznin (WHAT?) Baig, and chews her out for it being so messy. He tells her to put her heart into it, and she responds that it is an FIR, not a love letter. Another cop chuckles at that, which ticks of Shardul. So…these two are going to get married?
Just then, Shardul gets a phone call from his Tayi Ji. The family had a “discussion” about him marrying Naaznin and everyone has agreed. Great news…except, Shardul tells her that the family had took so long to say yes that Naaznin said yes to someone else.
The family is crushed, but Reekha considers this to be good news. They can finally look for a girl from their own caste now. So, Reekha goes through looking for girls on a dating app…wait. This isn’t Reekha. Who is this?
This is Suman “Sumi” Singh. And she has just matched with a woman named Raju.
And here is Sumi’s family. There is her father Prem, her younger brother Naman, and her mother…who has taken a vow of silence that extends to avoiding texting, but not hitting metal repeatedly to display her disapproval of Sumi wearing her Phys Ed clothes outside.
So, Sumi is a PE teacher. And I guess that she is a co-teacher. She tells her co-teacher about the dating app, that she matched with a guy and they are meeting up. Her co-teacher warns her to not get physical on the first date. I am not sure if that was a joke, but they both laugh.
Speaking of getting physical, Shardul is leading a raid in a park for couples engaged in…I don’t know. Indecent behavior or something. They could have been having sex or just holding hands. I don’t know, but it is enough to make them line up and exercise. There are even a pair of gay men caught in the in the park, though Shardul orders them to leave instead of having them get in line. He mutters that such people are ruining this country.
Sumi is teaching class when she is called to the library to meet her aunt Priya and a prospective mother-in-law named Kusum. Kusum complains that she is darker than what was promised. Priya gets…a little invasive…in the library. Sumi goes to the gym and the two follow her. Priya says that Sumi is merely tanned from being on the field outside, but will no longer work once married. That part gets to Sumi and, after a little back-and-forth, she reveals to Kusum that she had been engaged before, but her first fiancé died just before the wedding. She asks if this is Kusum only child and if she is willing to take such a risk. Kusum storms. Priya follows after her and tells Sumi to tell her mother to never call her again.
Looks like Sumi’s mother has ended her vow of silence, asking what Sumi said to Priya. Sumi says that the guy was too old. Sumi’s mother counters that she is already 31 and would be lucky to get a guy that young. I would just like to point out that Bhumi Pednekar, who plays Sumi, was 31 when the movie was being filmed and her marital status is none of Wikipedia’s concern. Anyways, her mother claims that there is always an excuse and Sumi brings up the boy whom she did like and agreed to marry. Sumi’s mother says that she has been holding onto his death for six when even his parents must have moved on.
Then Sumi’s mother somehow pivots to complaining about her becoming a PE teacher instead of math or science. Sumi counters that she had been selected for the nationals in handball, but her mother refused. And, yet, her parents gave her “loser” brother a fake certificate for some sort of sports thingamee so he can play in a younger league, but he wasn’t selected for anything. AND Sumi had to pay for it. Naman doesn’t appreciate her saying that so loudly. She also calls her brother a duffer.
While Sumi is helping out her father at his printing shop, she tells him of her plan to move in with her colleague Urvashi, who lives near the school. Prem does not appear to be paying attention, not even looking up from whatever he is doing except to joke (maybe?) that a customer is flirting with him because she smiled after he waived her printing fee. Sumi has to get in his face and say that he is leaving to get him to respond. He worries that people would say that they washed their hands of her for having her leave before getting married. Prem recommends that she stop taking her mother’s words so seriously, just turn a deaf ear like he does and live in peace. Sumi says that there will be peace in the house only when her mother departs…and then she looks up. A shocked Prem says that that will be a long wait. They both laugh. Sumi says that he should move in with her and escape.
Sumi gets a call from Komal. Komal was a handball teammate and her girlfriend. Seeing her name brings back fond memories. Sumi nervously looks at her father and goes out to take the call. It is Komal and her daughter Nonu, who apparently misses Sumi. Once Nonu leaves, though, Sumi is rather curt. Why is she calling? Komal tells her that she is coming home next week and wants to meet. She asks Sumi to not avoid her this time, but Sumi tells Komal to just focus on her family and hangs up.
One door closes, another opens. Raju wants to meet. Please please please. So, Sumi goes to the spot and waits for her. And…uh…Raju is a guy. You know, Shardul using his coworkers name and photographs to pretend that he has a fiancée whom he had no intention of marrying may be unethical, but I was under the impression that outright Catfishing had legal consequences. In any case, Sumi walks out. “Raju” follows her for a bit, but she tells him to get away from her and avoid contacting her. Turns out that that door was…not to where she wanted to go.
“Raju” does not avoid contacting her. Instead, he tracks down both her phone number and goes to the copy shop while she is there. He asks Naman to print…quite a few pages, leaving time to have a quiet conversation with Sumi. She tells him that she will report him if he doesn’t leave her alone. He says that he will report her right back. He claims that he is not looking for a girlfriend. Just do it once. Wait, what once? Anyways, he does the transaction with Naman and leaves. Naman is completely clueless.
Sumi goes to see Shardul, who has a newspaper on his desk with an article about the…sex racket…that he broke up in the park. That was a sex racket? Okay. Anyways. Shardul does not appear to be all that interested in Sumi’s harassment report, but he does manage to arrest Raju, or Rajeev Paddisetti. And he…um…makes him squat for a while in his underwear in the hallway. The nursery is closed now, right?
Shardul catches Sumi later on. She asks if he had caught “Raju” and he says yes. That boy will not bother her again. Shardul…told him off. Sumi is not exactly happy to hear that last part. She would have preferred Rajeev to be beaten naked on an ice-slab, or at least have his limbs broken. This is not going how Shardul had hoped and he suddenly gets really really awkward. When Sumi finally leaves, it is like a relief to the both of them. And they would never meet again.
Just kidding. Shardul shows up at random times and just looks at Sumi from afar. What the heck? Eventually, she confronts him and asks who does she go to report a stalker if the stalker is a policeman? Shardul…God, his awkwardness is about as creepy as Rajeev’s smiles. Anyways, they go that park, where they will not be disturbed. I am not sure that this is a good idea. Still, Shardul tries to lay out his case. According to the personal information from her report, they are from the same caste and of similar age. He figures that she has been under pressure to get married. Sumi tells him the dead fiancé story, though it doesn’t work as well as she had hoped. Eventually…he starts to get to the point. “Raju” had told him that she had no interest in men. And just as she has no interest in men, he…is…is…homosexual. Right here, Shardul’s subordinate Sirohi pops up, but he heard nothing, so back to Shardul stating his case. If they get married, then their families will get off their backs and they can live in peace. They will have to live together, but like roommates. Sumi is skeptical. How does she know that he is gay? He asks why he would fake that, as if that Indian Chuck and Larry movie wasn’t a thing. Well, he does say that she will be under his protection. And…well…I guess.
So, there is a wedding. And it is set to a song that…um…has a sample of the “oh no no no” bit from the “Look at this dude” meme. Okay. Sumi’s mother, father, and brother are here, as are Shardul’s twenty-four extended family members. Members of Shardul’s police station are here…except for Naaznin. Around 500 people or so. It goes off well, with only one person accidently kicked in the nose.
Shardul and Sumi go on their honeymoon in Goa, which involves separate hotel rooms. And while Sumi goes walking through the town, and riding though the countryside on a rented moped, Shardul stays in, waiting for his boyfriend Kabir. There is a request for honeymoon pictures, so Sumi eventually makes her way back to the hotel. Shardul has been trying to get in contact with Kabir all day to no avail and has gotten drunk. Apparently, he has not told anyone about Kabir until telling Sumi earlier. Anyways, they try to get a selfie, but Shardul staggers too much, so Sumi decides that they should wait until tomorrow.
Sumi starts to leave, but Shardul asks her to stay. So, she stays…and it is awkward again. Sumi asks about Shardul’s desire to be a cop. And Shardul…uh…flexes his muscles for a while. And then he says that he wanted to be Mr. India. He trained for three years. And then his father died. In a border skirmish? Perhaps. Well, no Mr. India for Shardul. The government offered him the police job and of course he took it. But he fears his colleagues more than the criminals do.
Kabir finally arrives the next morning. Sumi thinks that he looks very young, but Shardul claims that Kabir is getting his MBA. In any case, Shardul can finally go out and view the countryside. Sumi is kind of third wheeling, but it can’t be helped. In any case, Shardal and Kabir take their vacation selfies while Kabir takes honeymoon photographs for Shardul and Sumi to send back to the family.
At some point, Shardul and Sumi are by themselves. Sumi asks if Kabir has a problem with this marriage. Shardul says no. Sumi asks how he and Kabir met. Three years ago at a traffic stop thingamee. Apparently, Shardul’s breathalyzer wasn’t working, so he had to have the drivers blow in his hand and he would smell it. Well, Kabir spit. Shardul was angry. Kabir was terrified. The best way to start a relationship. Sumi finds this hilarious.
The honeymoon is over. Kabir returns to the school. And the new couple enter their new apartment at Aradhana Greens. Shardul says that all expenses will be split equally. After all, he and Sumi are merely roommates. Sumi notes that they are a little cut off from the city. Shardul claims that it is safer here; no one knows them. Sumi says that they might as well have moved to Siberia.
The first night, Sumi is awoken up by Shardul arguing with Kabir in his room. It is unclear exactly what they are arguing about, but one could intuit that it is about who is to be the top and who is the bottom…maybe. Maybe not.
Sumi takes Prem to the doctor, who says prescribes some tests that require him to send a stool sample to the clinic. Since Naman is at soccer practice and the clinic is on the way to Sumi’s new home, Prem asks her to take the sample…in some sort of food container. She brings it to the clinic and the doctor…or nurse. In any case, Sumi tries to hide that she is immediately smitten and the doctor is surprised that there is so much. She gives a small jar to an embarrassed Sumi and asks her to put what she can in that. After Sumi leaves, the doctor and the receptionists all laugh at the sheer volume of what Sumi had brought.
Sumi returns, telling the doctor, that she kept the sample, but flushed down the rest. Lovely. She asks the doctor, Rimjhim, when should she come to collect the test results. Rimjhim tells her that the reports are online. Sumi is obviously disappointed, and Rimjhim can see it, but she gives a playful little wave when Sumi turns back as she leaves.
Sumi returns on another day and anxiously waits for Rimjhim to show up at the front desk. Rimjhim sees her…and the same food container from before. AGAIN? No, no, no. It is not hers. It is a delivery for one of Rimjhim’s colleagues. Well, they both laugh as the bewildered deliveryman leaves. Rimjhim asks if Sumi received the reports. She did. Then…uh…well, she wants to get a test. Which one? Uh…Rimjhim goes through the list and Sumi picks the one for 299 rupees. Yeah, Rimjhim knows exactly what Sumi is doing, but goes along with it. 299 rupees is 299 rupees. Except…she can see that Sumi is super scared to …have blood taken. Yeah, that is totally what this scene is about, having blood taken. So…how about coffee instead?
Sumi wants to be honest at the outset to avoid problems later. So, at the café, she tells Rimjhim about the wedding…and her living situation with Shardul…and that their families have no idea. Rimjhim seems apprehensive, but says that it is fine. Her own parents don’t even speak to her and her sister will not let her anywhere near her niece. Sumi asks why she told them. Rimjhim says that they’re family; she thought that they would understand. Sumi says that people think that they are perverts, and they should not have to explain themselves anyway.
Shardul and his colleagues are trying to prevent a couple from jumping off of a water tower when the big boss shows up. He tells Shardul that he will shift on Monday. In the middle of a suicide prevention operation? Shardul is happy to hear that. New job. Apparently, Shardul’s aunt asked him to do so during the wedding, and had asked him to get a flat allotted for him in the police colony. Oh, so not new job, but…new…residence…surrounded by other police officers. Shardul is less happy to hear that.
Well…Sumi wanted to be closer to the city, so here she is…in a building full of cops. She is less happy that she gets the smaller room, just like in Goa and in the previous building. Shardul argues that the place is allotted to him, so Sumi offers to pay less rent. And, since the car was a gift from her father, it is allotted to her and she should have the keys. Later, Shardul meets the downstairs neighbor. Oh, shit, it is big boss’s wife. He realizes that it is too risky to hire a maid. He tells Sumi, who responds that all chores will be split evenly.
The big boss and his wife come by to visit. The wife says that she had sent the maid around, did they not hire her? Sumi is about to respond when Shardul says that Sumi leaves school in the afternoon and does all of the housework to relieve boredom. He then tries to get Sumi to make them some tea as he asks the big boss for a transfer out of the Women’s Station. The boss seems to comply…but Sumi doesn’t…seeming to pretend to have not heard the tea order.
Shardul and Sumi go to the kitchen to have a little argument about the chores. Sumi says that it is his turn to make the tea, but Shardul argues that he has a reputation to maintain. Sumi tells him that she is not his servant, and his need to act cocky in front of his boss is his problem. Shardul insists that it is about looking convincing as a married couple, and Sumi asks if she should chase him with a broom. She makes an offer: she will perform her wifely duties in front of the neighbors, and in return, he does all of the chores today, and then wash the dishes and the bathroom for the entire week. Shardul hesitates, but relents. In front of them, Shardul throws his weight around and Sumi complies. The wife goes to see Sumi in the kitchen and warns her that Shardul will walk all over him unless she takes charge. Meanwhile, the boss commends Shardul for taking the reins early.
Sumi gets a leather jacket and goes on a day through the town with Rimjhim. They spend some time at a house party and Sumi invites her back to her apartment.
Oh, well, good morning to you too. Shardul Thakur? Meet Rimjhim Jongkey.
Shardul is not happy about this. He never risked being found out by bringing Kabir to the police colony. Sumi doesn’t see what the big deal is. Their argument is cut short by Mrs. Big Boss, who has stopped by with some temple offerings. And…oh, that is…uh Rimjhim…Sumi’s cousin. Her…real cousin. I tried looking up what “real cousin” meant in case I was making assumptions and, well, I didn’t get a good answer. If the face that Mrs. Big Boss makes is any indication, then it probably means cousin by blood. Which, haha…they look nothing alike. Anyways, “Cousin” Rimjhim is moving in…which is not something that Shardul was consulted on. Oh well…
Rimjhim is settling in when she notices Sumi’s passport. It’s blank. Why did she make it if she is not going anywhere? Maybe she needs it for her RealID. Oh, no. It’s about Komal. Remember Komal? The ex who seemed like she was going to become a big part of the story and then never showed up again? Well, Sumi tells Rimjhim that, after a few months of marriage, Komal returned pregnant. She and Sumi started seeing each other again, but Komal made her do all of the chores. Anyways, when Nonu was born, Sumi thought of her as her own. Then the husband came, taking Komal and Nonu back to Delhi. Sumi felt worse about losing the girl than losing the girlfriend. Wanting a child of her own, Sumi agreed to get married. But she felt so repulsed and sick whenever the man touched her that she contemplated suicide. Ironically, the poor guy died two weeks before the marriage. Sumi realized that she would have to move abroad if she wanted a child. She filed many applications to no avail. Rimjhim says that it should be okay now. She is married and go through IVF. Sumi shakes her head. She wants to adopt. Rimjhim also has a passport, so they can both go abroad and become parents. The two embrace.
Shardul interrupts this touching moment to say that the expenses will be split three ways if Rimjhim stays…and she will have to do the dishes. Sumi looks at Rimjhim. A kid…with HIM?
So, a few questions to get out right now. First, no, Shardul and Sumi do not end up falling in heterosexual love for real. Second, no known queer character dies in the movie. Personally, I wasn’t sure about either when I started the movie, as I knew very little about the movie going in. But the answer turned out to be no to both and now you know.
Third, were there actually any queer people involved in the making of this movie? That, I don’t know.
Fourth, no, there is no gay kissing in the movie, other than a peck on the cheek. This is still an Indian movie where kissing at all is pretty rare. There IS a scene of someone watching a movie with a couple kissing, but it is played for jokes, not for romance. Also, it is pretty clear that sex has been going on, even though we don’t witness any of it.
This movie is a spiritual sequel to the 2018 film Badhaai Ho, about a young man who struggles to cope with his mother’s accidental pregnancy. It is…fine…I guess. Yet, it made about eight times its budge. Badhaai Do…erm…did not. As it was released theatrically and on Netflix during COVID, its box office of 75% is a little misleading. So, it could have made around 2.37 times its budget. Either way, it is far below what Badhaai Ho made. There is a throughline of stress over what the greater society would think about family scandal, but I kind of feel like the stakes are higher here. I guess that the story of a man throwing tantrums over his mother getting pregnant was more palatable than a man who is trying to hide that he is homosexual. Hmmm…also, Badhaai Ho had a scene with a character who was probably there for a gay joke. Meh. I much prefer this movie.
There have been previous Indian movies that featured queer characters, though they have mostly been small independent “parallel cinema” productions or had them be side characters, or just one part of a series of stories. The actor who plays Shardul, Rajkummar Rao, has actually been in at least two other movies with queer storylines: an indie film called Aligarh from 2015 and the more mainstream Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga in 2019. And he plays very different roles. Like, Badhaai Do, they were well received by critics, but did not make much money. It is kind of interesting to compare the movies a little. I won’t do it a lot, but a little, just to show that the Rajkummar Raoniverse is a spectrum.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga has a major sympathetic character who is queer, but that is somehow not revealed until right before the intermission break halfway through the movie, like plot twist that recontextualizes a bunch of previous scenes, of course. In Aligarh, there is an opening text specifically about Indian law regarding homosexuality and then the first scene is about a gay couple. Between eighty-eight seconds and fifty-eight minutes is Badhaai Do. Sumi is introduced unambiguously as a lesbian less than eight minutes into the movie. While it is obvious that Sumi is a lesbian immediately, it takes about twenty minutes between Shardul’s introduction (not counting the gym scene) and when he admits to Sumi that he is gay and then another twelve minutes before Kabir shows up to give Sumi the confirmation that she had asked earlier. Of course, there are hints if you are looking for it, but those could have all been dismissed. It could be a direct reference to Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga in a way that I kind of don’t want to spoil, though I sort of did already. Also, unlike in Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga and even Aligarh to a lesser extent, the gay characters in Badhaai Do are either driving the narrative or at least trying to. Additionally, while I would not say that the kissing in Aligarh is major by any extent, it is slightly more than in Badhaai Do, while Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is extremely chaste.
I am glad that this movie does not have its main characters be perfect angels. And I do find it refreshing that it acknowledges that they are sexual beings and not punishing them for being so. Though I also did smirk when the movie shied away from an actual kiss, I can kind of see why. This movie works as a movie, but it is also contains a bit of advocacy beyond the argument that homosexuals are human. In a sense, it incorporates a standard template to make it palatable to mainstream audiences. And, thus, it cannot be too transgressive in its content or esoteric in its references. So…yeah it is one of those LGBTQ movies. This does send the story in a specific direction that overtly leaves a certain other plot thread left loose. The movie wanted to present a specific argument regarding homosexuality. It also acknowledges another, but kind of cuts it off without following the thread. Perhaps tackling that as well would have been a distraction, but it was an…interesting decision.
This movie has a fairly standard overall comedy structure of characters finding it necessary to tell a big lie for whatever reason and the humor comes from them desperately struggling to prevent the charade from falling apart as it falls apart. In that sense, the movie is rather predictable. Yet, I think that a main reason for the movie getting made sets it apart. What that is, I don’t want to spoil, but there are clues in the summary.
The premise is not the sole source of comedy, though it is the primary one. There is the quirky family dynamics as well. Sumi’s overbearing mother is amusing. Shardul’s whole family is pretty funny. Of course, even though Reekha frequently pushes back, Tayi Ji has taken the reigns of the family while pretending that all of her decisions were her husband’s idea. He can barely say anything except for agree to whatever she says. Shardul’s mother may be a little more articulate than her brother-in-law, she is so passive that I had initially thought in the first scene that she would not say anything at all, but just as Tayi Ji pretends that her husband came up with her ideas, she pretends to consult Shardul’s mother, only so that Shardul can punt responsibility.
Shardul’s father is almost a character in his absence. It is not clear whether he was a more effective patriarch than his brother. One could perhaps argue that, if he were more hands-on that his wife or brother at taking care of his son, then he could have possibly found out about his son’s sexuality and…done something about it or steered Shardul away. That said, though, it is revealed later on that Shardul had been in a relationship with a man before his father died, so perhaps not.
Another source of humor is Shardul himself. While he is gay, he has still internalized what it is to be a man and a husband, and Sumi calls him out on it at least once. He is muscular police officer and, yet, he has almost no ability to throw his weight around. He works in the women’s police station, which he finds emasculating. His coworkers, even his subordinates, can subvert his authority and laugh at him, even without knowing that he is homosexual. He wants to be an imposing figure, but he stumbles over his words and is prone to panicking. His sense of masculinity may be wrapped up in his need to be seen as straight. And when either gets punctured or undermined, he becomes terrified that the whole thing will unravel. People who are ignorant of his sexuality may not always understand why he behaves in such a contradictory, but they can sense his weakness and exploit it, sometimes even subconsciously. Additionally, his inability to be open about his sexuality undermines his ability to tell Sumi about his plan, making him come across like a creep like that student stalker, but with muscles and a badge. I don’t know if this was meant to be funny or a parody of Bollywood romantic movies to show how icky this trope is, but I personally found it to be unsettling. And, since there are Indian movie tropes towards the end played rather…uh…seriously, then I cannot just say that it was meant as a joke. Eh…
And, of course, the sham marriage. It is neither a “love” marriage or an arranged marriage, but a “lavender” one. Shardul and Sumi engage in this surely out of convenience, but actually going through with it proves to be not as convenient. Shardul may have hoped that getting married would get his family to leave them alone, but it not only does not prevent them from leaving him alone, but results him living in a building full of cops, which limits his personal freedom like never before. On top of his own “values” regarding gender roles, he is desperate to maintain an image in front of his family members, neighbors, and colleagues, regardless of how successful he is.
Sumi also feels it necessary to pretend to be straight, but she doesn’t feel the need to maintain the charade at home unless her family members are around. Her family may be closer in terms of proximity, but it is already clear that she had wanted to get away for a while. So, as long as she does not reveal her true self in places where her parents are usually, then she would be fine. Her coworkers don’t show up at her house and the neighbors probably will not tell her coworkers, so she doesn’t care as much. As such, she is not as willing to put up with Shardul’s antics. She will maybe play the dutiful wife to Shardul in order to prevent scandal, but she draws a line at lowering herself to satiate his fragile male ego. There, she will demand to renegotiate details of their relationship, even if it risks tanking the entire scheme.
Shardul seems to believe that the sham marriage requires a strict adherence to traditional gender roles. Sumi does not quite feel that way. On the one hand, she has a point about being annoyed. She entered this marriage to escape from the stifling prison that is her family, not to place herself under the thumb of a male chauvinist pig. If this is not a real marriage, then why should she suffer due to his nonsense? Heck, why should any wife? At the same time, Shardul does not quite have the same freedom from his family that she does. Shardul may live further away from his family than Sumi does or his cousins do. Yet that means only that it takes a little more effort to interfere. As a woman, Sumi’s tie to her family is more tenuous. Her brother may be a loser, but he is a man, and the heir to the family in a way that she is not. She is treated like a burden to be married off and she acts like it. In a family full of women, Shardul is the only blood heir of his late father. There is a lot of responsibility upon his shoulders to continue the family line. Even if his mother is comedically passive about making sure that he does, his aunt is comedically not. Shardul needs Sumi to be under his thumb so that he can get out from under his aunt’s thumb. Sumi may acknowledge that discrepancy, but she will not take that inequality sitting down. If Shardul does not show her the respect that she deserves, then to hell with him and his entire family. Sure, this push-pull dynamic may be present in many marriages, as is evident in how Mr. and Mrs. Big Boss discuss theirs. That many of their arguments could edited very minimally in order to sound like arguments that married couples in general supposedly have is also part of the joke. I am not sure if it is meant to be a deliberate choice to have the biggest familial obstacles in both their lives be women (Shardul’s aunt and Sumi’s mother), but it is something to ponder.
The clash becomes even worse when Rimjhim moves in. Shardul considers Rimjhim’s constant presence a threat to the charade; can’t she be elsewhere like Kabir? It is unclear whether Rimjhim is out to her colleagues, but she appears to be deep in the local queer community, unlike Shardul and Sumi. And she had long since bit the bullet in regards to her own family. And, well, it didn’t turn out well, and she may never see her niece again. On the other hand, she is free in a way that Shardul and Sumi are not. While she does play along kind of, it is mostly out of love for Sumi’s feelings and sometimes out of amusement. It is clear that she does not really respect all of this lying and gets angry when Sumi starts spouting Shardul’s arguments despite not really believing it either. She wants Sumi to be with her and just be, which Shardul sees as too much of a risk.
I have to say that, while I have enjoyed all of the movies that I have discussed here, I do appreciate that this movie has featured someone who represents me. And by that, I mean someone from the Northeast. Yes, the Northeast of the United States and the Northeast of India are not the same thing at all, but it is the thought that counts. Sure, that thought may have probably been about that “real cousin” gag, but I will take what I can get. After all, it was only eight years ago that there was that movie about Mary Kom that starred Priyanka Chopra. Chum Darang is from Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh, which is about 1700 kilometers from Dehradun. She was primarily a model and pageant contestant, along with an activist and entrepreneur. While I think that she has had done short films or whatever for some productions in the Northeast, this was her first real role. She had had a thirty-second bit in a 2020 show called Pataal Lok, where she did this.
A few weeks after this movie was released, an Alia Bhatt movie called Gangubai Kathiawadi was released, where Darang was in several scenes, but had pretty much no lines. The movie was alright; Bhatt did a great job. Really, Badhaai Do is her first real movie, even though it was not as financially successful as Gangubai Kathiawadi. Regardless, I do hope that this signals more acting work for her, even if she is busy with other non-acting projects. I cannot say how good her Hindi is (Hindi is a very small minority language in Arunachal Pradesh), but she held her own acting-wise. Sidenote: she says that a passerby had yelled out “Corona” at her while she was heading to the audition for Badhaai Do. Very nice. I am sure that those people and all of the others who have called her Chinese are totally fine with giving up Arunachal Pradesh to China.
Secondary Sidenote: Her inclusion in this movie did get me to track down movies from the Northeast. I have seen a couple, but I put quite a few more on my watchlist. I will say, though, that…well…I am not necessarily knowledgeable regarding filming style or…local appeal…and resource allocation, but…erm…at least in terms of aesthetics, tone, and acting, I don’t have high hopes for many of these movies. We’ll see. Some of the older ones may be good maybe. Anyways…
I enjoyed this movie. And yes, it maybe a necessary movie now. It is not the first step, but it is a step of many steps. There are compromises and concessions made to be sure, but that is kind of what the story is about: the compromises that may be necessary to get what one needs until one no longer needs to compromise. And…well…that may have to do…for now. But it is highly enjoyable regardless.
WTF ASIA 244: Tomiris (Kazakhstan: 2019, approx. 155 minutes)
WTF ASIA 245: Bandits Vs. Samurai Squadron (Japan: 1978, approx. 163 minutes)