Badrinath Ki Dulhania begins as a cute sweet love story between a Jhansi boy and a Kota girl, but the director understands the current tide of films that celebrate powerful, liberated women, so it transforms into a progressive story before turning cute-sweet again.
Badrinath Bansal (Varun Dhawan) is your gym-type boy-next-door. Slightly outspoken but mostly lovable. He may remind you of Govinda of the early ‘90s: Scheming, harmless, quick-witted and conventional. He belongs to a family that suffocates under his dominating father Amarnath Bansal’s (Rituraj Singh) thumb. Badrinath’s prime duty is to collect debt on behalf of his wealthy, patronising father.
His heart skips a beat in a chance encounter with Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt) at a wedding. She is an ambitious, career-oriented woman who’s nursing a broken heart. Once bitten, twice shy, she isn’t looking for a healing touch, especially from another suitor.
Director Shashank Khaitan, who had an impressive debut in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014), begins coating his otherwise predictable story with funny, ironic plots from here on. If Vaidehi is rebellious, Badri is hot-headed.
It’s like walking on a razor’s edge because they need to match steps with the current scenario and also carry the weight of typical, commercial Bollywood.
It could also be the most convenient way out. The boy will follow a patriarchal curve and change only after falling in love. The onus to change him rests on the girl’s shoulders. It’s not an automatic process for Bollywood yet. This has been happening in mainstream Hindi films since time immemorial.
However, to Khaitan’s credit, he has carved out Vaidehi’s character really fine. She speaks her mind when needed, but the social pressure is too much to cope with so she decides to opt out of the game when she was supposed to take a decisive step.
It’s an important juncture in the story, and Khaitan probably had to delve deep into it. The real urgency to leave a social set-up hasn’t been conveyed well.
Bhatt tries to make up for what the screenplay fails to bring out with her dialogues and pauses. She emerges as a confident woman who chooses respect over love. She doesn’t mince her words and says it in as many words: That love is nothing without respect.
Bhatt steals the show, again.
On the other hand, Dhawan seems to be highly influenced by Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar’s popular image: Be nice to the girl, but rest assured that she will accept you sooner or later. It’s like Kapil Sharma’s show where you laugh at his jokes targeting Sumona but also worry about its implications.
Discrepancies in screenplay don’t help either. In order to keep up a fast pace, the story hops locations. It appears that the filmmakers succumbed to the conventional demand to feature an exotic, shooting-friendly location rather than being guided by the script. So the story moves from Jhansi to Singapore via Mumbai. Sahil Vaid, Badri’s English-fearing friend, grabs his chance here and shines.
But Badrinath Ki Dulhania remains the breeding ground of love between its two leads. It’s a Dharma film after all.
On second thoughts, it works in favour of the film because of Dhawan and Bhatt’s sparkling chemistry. Their camaraderie is visible in the songs, especially in the new-age rendition of Tamma Tamma Loge, which for a change, sounds as foot-tapping as the original.
But Khaitan loses his grip before the high-voltage finale. In the end, he submits to cheesy-funny ‘dialoguebaazi’.
That could help him in evoking some whistles, but it dilutes the purpose of featuring an ‘emancipated woman’.
Still, Badrinath Ki Dulhania has its moments, especially the comic ones. Dhawan and Vaid show impeccable timing, but overall the film belongs to Alia Bhatt.
This film may not offer a substantial take on any cause, but it is one of the many that take the debate forward. Being mainstream will only help it.