REVIEW: Marriages are made in heaven, or so they say. Interestingly, many of these “heavenly weddings” seem all shiny and shiny due to the compromises made by the couples on different levels. In Badhaai Do, this matrimonial compromise is of a different kind, which is not often talked about but has always existed.
For those who don’t know, it’s called a lavender wedding – which is a straight marriage between two gay people, who agree to this arrangement of convenience for various reasons like trying to fit into society, avoiding the social stigma emanating from their single status and use it as a cover so they can live their lives with some semblance of freedom. Harshavardhan Kulkarni’s film portrays this complicated arrangement with humor and wit – but not to the detriment of the characters – and treats the dilemma of the protagonists with great sensitivity. The film is an attempt to send the message that sexual orientation should not and does not define who an individual is. Sequel to the multi-award winning film Badhaai Ho, the film is an entertaining family watch.
In the film, newlyweds Sumi and Shardul (Bhumi Pednekar and Rajkummar Rao) live as roommates. What follows Sumi and Shardul’s wedding is their journey of walking on eggshells to keep their secret from their families, friends, and neighbors, while trying to stay true to who they are. In the process, they find themselves running from one chaotic situation to another. Shardul and Sumi’s romantic interludes with their real partners unfold with the kind of ease, comfort and turbulence we’ve seen between any other couple in our films – an indication that the film’s intent is not not to stereotype the gay and lesbian community but to change mentalities and eliminate prejudice against them.
The film sensitively depicts the immense loneliness and sense of isolation that a gay person feels, especially when they have no window to communicate openly with their family and are forced to deal with issues by themselves. -same. The way the protagonists try to come out of loneliness and communicate with their families is highlighted in the second half.
Badhaai Do attempts to normalize the big-screen portrayal of the gay and lesbian community and their romantic relationships. The complexities of marriages, traditional bourgeois families and their demands on individuals were also shown with sensitivity and realism. The beauty of the narrative is that there is no judgment – the characters are not treated differently for being gay. Right off the bat, the film deals with the main couple’s sexual orientation as simply as possible.
Shardul’s portrayal by Rajkummar Rao is spot on. The emotionally charged moments in particular are heartbreakingly beautiful. He has a firm grip on his character, which he plays with absolute grace and honesty. Bhumi Pednekar’s portrayal of Sumi is sensitive, nuanced and to the point. Expressing the turbulence she fights inside without words is a charm she has in abundance.
Chum Darang is making a fine debut in Bollywood with a role that takes courage from a newcomer. The creators are to be commended here for choosing an artist from the northeast as their parallel lead, which is rare in Hindi cinema. Gulshan Devaiah deserves a special mention, her cameo is the surprise package. Watch out for this one! The supporting cast, made up of veteran artists like Seema Pahwa and Sheeba Chaddha, adds gravitas to the story. In fact, some of the most laughable moments stem from their conversations.
The first half could have been better edited to give rhythm to the proceedings. The narrative, in its attempt to add layers, wanders a few times, but ultimately it hits home. The film was well shot, capturing the beauty and simplicity of Uttarakhand. In the music department, the title track of Badhaai Do by Tanishk Bagchi and Bandi Tot by Ankit Tiwari stand out. Amit Trivedi’s Hum Thay Seedhe Saadhe is also a beautiful love track that lingers long after the film ends.
When the Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in 2018, Justice DY Chandrachud quoted the late Justice Leila Seth and said, “The right that makes us human is the right to love. Criminalizing the expression of this right is cruel and inhumane. In a country where it took decades to decriminalize consensual same-sex relationships and where same-sex marriages are still not recognized in law or accepted by society at large, films like Badhaai Do matter. He normalizes the subject for the average Indian family and strikes up a conversation. While Bollywood has seen several films where the stories revolve around the gay and lesbian community, this film tries to give perspective to families, especially in small towns. Instead of moving away from them, the film brings the families into the center of the fold.