Humour, relatable characters and effortless performances make Badrinath Ki Dulhania, the second in the Dulhania series featuring Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt a breezy watch.
It is hard to dislike the movie with its deft mash up of situational comedy, new locales and some tender ‘family moments’ with a rather predictable romance. And it stands out by pinpointing the regressive social system of dowry without making the proceedings melodramatic or overdrawn. In fact, the regression is passive – and almost accepted by all.
That is why the detailed disclaimer at the start of the film, asserting that neither the film nor the cast endorses anything related to discriminating women is relevant. Typically, therefore, the film goes to establish the patriarchal order of families, and how women – despite their dreams or qualification – are relegated to being ‘house-wives.’
The hero Badrinath (Varun Dhawan) conforms to the equation; he doesn’t see anything wrong or right in the dowry system – he simply plays along because he doesn’t want to challenge the order or take on his powerful dad.
Badri’s characterisation by Shashank Khaitan, who writes and directs the film, could not have been more spot on in contemporary India.
While women cry foul at the social inequalities, it is not surprising that the prevailing order continue uninterrupted – after all, not everyone has the nerve or need to fight back. When Badri meets the rather feisty yet friendly Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt), he doesn’t even bother to think if she likes him; he believes he is the best in Uttar Pradesh for her.
Shashank shows great restraint in not making Vaidehi a caricatured feminist; this is just any girl, who dreams and dares to do. Post-interval, the film shifts gears after a disturbing turn in the life of Badri and Vaidehi brings to spotlight not just the dowry system but also the core theme of the film – women’s empowerment.
While the inevitable compromises are called in to wrap it all up, the film’s message is clear: That the individuality of a girl is second to none.
Badrinath Ki Dulhania is set in Jhansi, and the choice could not have been coincidental. After all, this city has been home to one of the most courageous women warriors of India. In choosing Jhansi and Kota, the film also presents the other side of India – far removed from the consistent battering down of Delhi and Mumbai by our filmmakers.
Small cities and towns with believable characters and the earthy settings always make for flavourful viewing. Varun Dhawan has that right mix of goofiness, natural charm and attitude for Badri. And he gets the right foil in Alia Bhatt; their chemistry is crackling.
And while the two take the film forward with absolute confidence, it is the supporting crew that makes the world believable. With some great lines – father to daughter, brother to brother and sister to sister – Badrinath Ki Dulhania shapes a new Mills & Boon narrative for Bollywood without making real issues seem trivial or forced.
It never tends to get preachy nor does it become outrightly ‘feminist’. It delivers what it aims to give viewers: a popcorn movie that also has a social message.
Badrinath Ki Dulhania
Starring: Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt
Directed by Shashank Khaitan