“Veere Di Wedding”… Girls, Uninterrupted!
Have we seen a film in the recent past which has been as big a victim of vicious attack by the online troll army? Starting from every place where a normal filmgoer frequents on the internet, the allies of a certain political ideology are busy dissing it all over – be it on social media, music apps or on ticket booking portals. Not that it matters beyond a point but the idea gives us an insight now important and, more importantly, threatening a film (or even an idea) like Veere Di Wedding is in divisive times as today. A story headlined by four women, the film contains zero male-bashing but they do talk a lot about them (much to my dismay). The film is also one that chronicles the life of the main protagonist Kalindi (Kareena Kapoor Khan) while throwing equal light on her friends’ life issues. Some profanities notwithstanding, Veere Di Wedding neither veers into zones of empowerment nor does it become a classic coming-of-age drama.
Directed by Shashanka Ghosh, the film, as the trailer suggests, is about the super-rich Delhi elite. They are so affluent that they frown upon the slightly less affluent (though pompous to unimaginable levels) West Delhi in-laws of Kalindi. The young girl who has been proposed by her live-in boyfriend Rishabh (Sumeet Vyas) is in a fix because she has witnessed a bad marriage at home. Kalindi grows up in an atmosphere where a façade was thrown to convince her of a happy family ideal whereas within closed doors her parents fought like cats and dogs. Equations worsen further upon her mother’s demise which leads her to flee to Australia following which her father marries another woman – who, incidentally, is constantly mocked by the film for unknown reasons. For a moment we recollect how Kareena’s dreamer protagonist Geet in Jab We Met had endorsed how everything is fair in love and war. Hmmm…
Coming to the central characters, it is, unfortunately, Kareena who gets the sketchiest of parts. Not only are her challenges wearisome, but the solutions, too, are simplistic to the hilt. While happiness stands inches away from her, Kalindi’s impulses at crucial junctures are hard to fathom. We see her cracking punchlines and within minutes she takes decisions that would change the course of her life. It doesn’t help that the entire drama is padded with an overtly dressy exterior – as in, the characters are impeccably dressed and made-up even in moments of extreme distress. One of Kalindi’s best friends, Meera (Shikha Taslania) is married to a foreigner, has had a baby quite early and is also the happiest. Avni (Sonam K Ahuja) is at that point in her life where one is successful and marriageable and is being pushed to meet possible options or else, in the film’s own admission, she might have to freeze her eggs. Sakshi (Swara Bhasker) has a colourful tongue and also a hard time batting a bad marriage and judgmental eyes around. Markedly, the gang consists of people with different character traits, with Kalindi being the most Hindi film heroine-like. While Avni gets some relatable bits to wade through, it is Meera and Sakshi who bring the house down with notably quirky characterizations.
Coming to the wedding angle, the film exposes the artifice surrounding every opulent Delhi wedding. One that is complete with Russian dancers, choreographed performances and a stage that seats the couple on a crescent moon replica, the engagement ceremony lands the groom’s father in a legal soup. The film doesn’t hit hard on this front as it has bigger issues to tend to. Soon after the engagement, Veere Di Wedding zooms off to a brief vacation where the girls are shown to indulge, open up and have fun like it’s nobody else’s business. This, predictably, is the film’s finest and most unabashed stretch and we wish the writers (Nidhi Mehra, Mehul Suri) had taken the momentum onto a far more progressive tangent than to get back to half-baked closures. The film asserts how life isn’t a fairy tale but ironically that is exactly the route that Veere Di Wedding swerves into. It is particularly disheartening to see Kalindi’s issues getting an unbelievably sloppy culmination.
Among other things that the film attempts to touch, it is refreshing to see Vivek Mushran as Kalindi’s homosexual uncle. The film doesn’t sell his sexuality outright and the fact that he lives with his partner is portrayed sans a monologue on the same. This, in fact, is a far more progressive note than what the film actually sets out to achieve, although certain stereotypical mannerisms do cringe a little. We also see Meera and her husband John divide parental duties without much hoo-haa. In a one-off scene, Meera is shown to be puking while her baby imitates her. She quizzes how this incident is going to affect him in the long. Pat comes a reply, “It’s going to take him several sessions of therapy,” followed by an uproar. We get an easy insight how young parents and their minds work. They drink, they throw up but are also aware how a child’s character formation is done is his/her early years. In another path-breaking moment, we see Sakshi use a vibrator. A refreshing change in a mainstream Hindi film, the scene is not forced and Swara Bhasker makes it appear like a cakewalk. We also see the pushy, over smart West Delhi guy who is not exactly projected as a creep. There is no veiled regression in him and his persistence breaks quite a few pretences that Avni might have bred over the years.
What conceals the film’s anomalies and also amps up its appealing bits are the performances which are unanimously impressive. While Kareena Kapoor Khan does very well in the least defined (and sparingly expository) part out of all, Shikha Talsania makes for a complete revelation. For Swara Bhasker, the atmosphere initially feels a little bumpy but the actress takes giant strides as the film progresses and pitches in a bravura performance. Sonam K Ahuja looks stunning and is more or less in character if we ignore a couple of instances where her natural persona emerges out of Avni’s vacillating skin. Sumeet Vyas, Vishwas Kini and Edward Sonnenblick lead the male brigade with confidence and are ably supported by Vivek Mushran and Manoj Pahwa in notable cameos.
As you walk out of the cinema, there are multiple things that linger on. Be it Kareena ’s nuanced comeback performance, the comfortable equation between the girls, the men who are not compartmentalized by their gender and few more aforementioned plusses. However, the film doesn’t completely soar as the writing stands compromised for most parts of the film. Stylishly shot, the film also falls short of a necessary chartbuster [‘Tareefan’ is the only good song and is not a part of the narrative] which could have added zest to the wedding shenanigans. Nevertheless, the film with its (rather) unabashed tone is a win and a refreshing change for female-centric cinema in Bollywood. Although it doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test [not that I expected it to], Veere Di Wedding is more of an unintentional kick start to better times for mainstream actresses above 30. Can our better filmmakers take over now?