The Hindi film Veere di Wedding tells us that it’s okay for a woman to drink, smoke and have sex even if she’s not married
Could it be that the Hindi film industry has finally stepped into the 21st century? That it’s realised that you no longer need to be a “good girl” to get the guy? And that whether an actress is married in real life or not has little bearing on her ability to pull in audiences into film theatres.
Veere di Wedding, the multi-starrer commercial blockbuster, has many firsts. One, it’s a commercial Hindi film which doesn’t have even one male superstar in the cast, not even in a cameo. The “heroes” of the film are the heroines. Four actresses are the protagonists, two of whom are today’s leading stars – Kareena Kapoor Khan and the recently re-christened, Sonam K Ahuja née Kapoor. Both of whom are married. One, in fact, is shockingly married to someone who was married before. A move, which till a few years back, would have meant instant ostracisation and career suicide. Unless, of course, it was a male actor who was divorcing his wife and marrying again. That was absolutely kosher, in fact, it showed how popular he was.
Two, the film shows that every woman isn’t dying to get married, some are in fact dying to get divorced from their feckless husbands, and that all four female characters enjoy having sex, talk about sex, one even masturbates (shocking, I know), they drink, they smoke, they have each other’s backs and don’t idolise the men in their lives.
This is definitely not the best-scripted film and much of the character arcs and the plot line don’t make sense. There’s so much lazy writing and poor acting in this film, that you really wonder why someone in the cast or crew didn’t notice and do something about it.
Also, the product placements are really tiring — you see tubs of Amul ice cream and packets of Bhikaji bhujia (even in Phuket), driving a Tata Tigor and making a point to say they’re going to travel in an Uber and then using the app only to have a car with Uber emblazoned on it, pull up. Clever product placements, marketing people, come on now.
But this is a Hindi film and one has to indulge in a certain willing suspension of disbelief.
What makes Veere di Wedding interesting is the ground that it has broken both on- and off-screen. This is not parallel or independent cinema. And neither are the actresses helming the film, actresses known as “thinking actresses” which is a phrase not used as a compliment in Bollywood, but to refer to actresses who, to borrow a phrase from Swara Bhaskar, act only as “Bimaru state characters” and are shown as being slightly morally flexible. These are Sonam Kapur Ahuja and Kareena Kapoor Khan. It doesn’t get more mainstream than them. That actresses are no longer baulking from playing characters who are considered flawed and are what we would call normal, might be a small step for ordinary people but is a massive step for heroines.
Till now, our heroines – other than in films by Madhur Bhandarkar or Anurag Kashyap or other nouveau arthouse directors – would never take on such roles, out of some misguided impression that this would make them lose their allure with audiences.
Films rarely get more big-budget than Veere. It’s produced by Anil Kapoor Productions and is shot abroad and is about the lifestyles of the rich and famous. None of the four women except one, has a job. All are shown as the kids of uber-rich Delhi parents, live in sprawling bungalows, have expense accounts and fly business class for holidays planned on a whim. This film is catering to the Karan Johar audience set, which is as provincial as it is affluent.
And for that, I give Veere a standing applause. Because in a country like India which venerates Bollywood as it does, it takes a superstar to break prejudices and outdated perceptions. So, if it takes a film like this to make Pammi aunty and her kitty party friends in Sainik Farms realise that it’s okay for a woman to drink, smoke and have sex even if she’s not married – then this film would have done all us women and middle class India a great yeoman service.
What’s also impressive is that these same actors and actresses seem to have grown up and realised that they no longer need to portray what is considered a “perfect” image, off-screen. Suddenly over the past few years, film stars across genders have stopped denying their relationships, or that they’re living with someone, star wives are (shockingly) getting divorced and people are remarrying, there are pictures of actresses drinking, partying, hanging out with male co-stars. Being normal. Imagine that. This is a brave new world.
Yes, there are small hiccups along this path to the promised land, when Kareena Kapoor Khan while promoting a film helmed by women, produced by women and about women, says that she believes in equal rights but is not a feminist and also adds for good measure, that she is proud to be the wife of Saif Ali Khan. But let’s not expect our actresses to become Gloria Steinem overnight. That we can walk into a movie hall and watch a blockbuster with more than a passing relationship with reality, is a moment to cherish – till the next edition of Student of the Year and Karan Johar’s idea of school education in India hits our screens and melts our brains, that is.