Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya: Weighed down by contradictions

Film: Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya

Cast: Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Gauahar Khan, Aakanksha Singh, Shweta Basu Prasad, Puneet Singh Ratn, Rituraj Singh, Kanupriya Pandit, Atul Narang, Gaurav Pandey, Yash Sinha, Sahil Vaid

Director: Shashank Khaitan

This film marks the third outing for the hit couple Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt – first with their debut film Dharma’s ‘Student of the year’ then ‘Humpty Sharma ki Dulhaniya’ and now ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya,’ which as the name suggests is a sort of franchise addition to the ‘Dulhaniya’ series. The filmmakers have gone to great pains to let us know that this is not a sequel, just another addition to Dharma’s long list of syrupy romances that hit the screen year after year. Expect the continuation of ‘Humpty Sharma’ antics though. And it’s all so irritatingly familiar. There’s really nothing new on offer here.

The story defies conventional wisdom and tries to make mountains out of molehills. This film is no different from umpteen other romances we’ve seen in the past but the witty dialogues and the casting is what does the trick here. The writers in fact camouflage their cause happy intent in decadent patriarchal tenets.

Badrinath Bansal (Varun Dhawan) belongs to a rich family from Jhansi. He bumps into Vaidehi Trivedi (Alia Bhatt) a spunky assertive head-turner from Kota, at a wedding and as expected falls madly in love with her. But hey she’s too strong willed to fall instantly in love. And it comes as no surprise when she turns him down …how else will we have a 2 hour plus film eh?

Badri of course is not given to rejection and literally stalks her with serenade after serenade. Eventually she has to give in, right? The idiocy of it is that she is interested in a career as an air hostess and therefore not ready for marriage. If it is love then it can wait it out. But in Hindi films love is too fragile to wait out the lead character’s ambitions.

And love means marriage in almost all cases of pulpy cinema romance. So given the cinematic universe of the mainstream Bollywood film someone will have to turn turtle for the romance to work out. Badri and Vaidehi are at the opposite ends of the spectrum as far as their views on gender and life are concerned. So where’s the meeting place you might well ask? In order to paper over the vividly discernible cracks in chancy characterization director Shashank Khaitan employs a whole lot of vivid colour, dance, music convoluted drama and ritualistic flavours in the heavy-duty narrative, staggering under the weight of its many stereotypical conflicts and contradictions.

So Badri, going against type and in spite of his innate biases in favour of patriarchy decides to go pro-choice. The woman here has supposedly stood her ground and brought about a change in the man’s mindset. Badri even goes to the extreme of accosting his father in support of his girl. Platitudes of course get thrown out of the window when the director wishes to spark up a revolution of sorts.

And the movie gets bogged down by the intricacies of Vaidehi’s attempts to come good as an air hostess.

It’s a boring, unexciting stretch of film that exists mainly because the writers and director ran out of engaging ideas as fillers. Varun gets goofy and guileless in his act as Badrinath the son of a money lender while Alia breathes fire as the spunky Vaidehi whose one harsh lesson in love lets loose an assertiveness that is all encompassing.

Together they can charm the socks out of a stone. That’s the kind of amiable chemistry they share. In fact these two are the heart of the film. The dialogues lend spice and the supporting cast is winningly incorporated while the music has enough pep to keep you humming. The smarmy lessons in love and the contrived messaging though, leaves a lot to be desired. While ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya’ doesn’t have the weight of intelligence powering it, there’s a fair bit of entertainment to be had.

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