If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past couple of months, then you must have watched or at least heard of the highly controversial film Veere Di Wedding (2018) directed by Shashanka Ghosh which includes Bollywood A-listers; Kareena Kapoor Khan and Sonam Kapoor, rising stars Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania as part of the most epic female buddy group film.
Initially, there was a lot of anticipation not only because it would star an all-female cast but also because it would be the return of Kareena Kapoor Khan to the big screen post-pregnancy. But as soon as the trailer dropped, we started to see a rise in people voicing their opinions on elements that they are strictly against the values of what “an Indian woman.” What classifies and or are values that an Indian woman must abide by and how are they portrayed any different on screen. In that 2 minutes and 50 seconds trailer, critics were quick to judge the film and deem it “unwatchable.” Although, it managed to push all their naysayers aside and emerged as one of the highest-grossing Hindi films featuring female protagonists.
This was, however, a very unusual film to hit mainstream Bollywood, because it did not include any star-studded male casts or any type of features that would attract a male audience. But rather the filmmakers decided to narrow their target group to mainly “young modern desi women.” If you were to compare it to any other Hollywood film geared towards females also known as a “chick flick” you will realize that the narrative and the type of language chosen is very typical (Girls Trip and Girls Night Out, just to name a few) but because it was based in India with Indian women as the central characters, who were shown to be born and brought up in a very progressive community, it became a bigger issue than it should have.
There was a specific scene which was the driving force for the massive outburst and controversy against it. The scene, in particular, was where we saw Swara Bhasker’s character pleasuring herself, there was also the abundance of profanity both in Hindi and English. It was not privy to headlines such as; “5 Reasons Why Veere Di Wedding Didn’t Entertain Me” and Yes, Veere Di Wedding is not a chick flick; it’s barely even a flick.” In fact, every chance a skeptic of the film got they took. It was not watched or seen as a new chapter for Indian cinema and the women in it but more of a stain that needed to be erased at once.
It was progressive in many ways which is why it is not surprising why the public have such strong opinions and views towards the film and its’ cast. But we have to realize that we are in 2018, times are changing whether we like it or not and we have to change with it. However, the most surprising issue about this whole ordeal is that the negativity mostly stems from other women. It is a revelation in some ways and was able to capture the attention of the audience all the while trying to fight the traditions and they were acknowledged for their efforts. “Veere di Wedding’ tackles traditions in a fun and adult fashion” and “ Veere Di Wedding isn’t perfect, but Bollywood needs such female-buddy films”.
And now what you have been waiting for: let’s compare it to Dil Chahta Hai and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara. When Dil Chahta Hai (2001), starring Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, and Akshaye Khanna. It was the first of its kind to be released at that time. It is the story of three inseparable friends, who are fresh out of college, all of whom come from significantly wealthy families. It was a movie about boys becoming men and learning to own up to their responsibilities all the while navigating their lives with their many approaches to starting and or maintaining relationships and of course, there is some tension that arises between the group and they learn to live their lives separate from one and another. But unlike Veere Di Wedding, the film got nothing but praises and has since become a cult classic.
Moving on, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), starring Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, and Abhay Deol, is also about three friends who have decided to all reunite for a big extreme adventure bachelor party in Europe after the first friend gets engaged. All the characters in the film follow the same formula as the other films where all the characters are different in each and every way. It is centered around the group doing very seemingly action adventure sports all the while trying to fight internal group tensions and admitting and or confessing their faults to each other. Much like Dil Chahta Hai, it garnered many accolades and gained immense popularity worldwide.
Speaking from personal experience, I saw the film with my mother and cousin. Although there were awkward moments, the fact that I was able to see it with them and not feel the least bit discomfort is what we need to strive for. Discussion of taboo topics such as sex needs to be talked about so that our society can progress. I would recommend all the women to watch it with their moms because it’ll give insight into each other’s daily struggles. Societal pressures are going to be omnipresent and today’s women feel the need to abide by them. This film shows the struggle of modern women in a repressed society and how they learn to navigate their lives. Just because they are women does not mean that they automatically know what to do and when to do it. It’s a process and we will make mistakes along the way, we will swear because we are humans. The only problem is that when it comes to women, everything must revert to the traditional rules and social codes of conduct. I think it’s about time people start to change their way of thinking and that can only be done through open discussion between individuals.
It would not be fair to compare the three films because they are trying to highlight very different topics. Dil Chahta Hai was about the three main characters’ transition to adulthood. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is about the main characters trying to overcome their fears. Veere Di Wedding is about fighting the traditional societal pressures. However, they all share the theme of the importance of friendship in life and how easy and hard it is to go about our lives with or without great friends who understand each other.
Veere Di Wedding has become a trendsetter for mainstream Bollywood and given the success of the film we can expect to see many of its kind very soon at a theatre near us.