Thursday, December 12, 2013

Shuddh Desi Romance

A long time back I wrote a short story, where a married woman leaves her husband. When they meet after so many years, she gives the poor, heart-broken man a rather absurd explanation: “I left because I was married to you. I did not like my relationship being dictated by society.” The story was published, but I was not sure if the woman’s argument was reasonable. Finally, I feel vindicated, as there is a Hindi film which ends with exactly a similar argument.

‘Shuddh Desi Romance’ may not be a great film, but it is one of the most important films to come out of Bollywood in 2013, not just because it dares to be different — cigarette-smoking heroine, live-in relationship, and a film with marriage as a central motif that does not end in a wedding. Most importantly, it is a landmark achievement from the studio that gave us the tradition-upholding ‘DDLJ’. If Bollywood films are a marker of how Indian thinks, then ‘Shuddh Desi Romance’ points to a changing trend.

The longest-running Hindi film, DDLJ, which is perhaps still running in Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir, which came out at the height of economic liberation in India, which was a collaboration of a host of young people from its director to its starts, was also pointedly regressive the way it upheld the tradition. The moral centre of the film hinges on the fact that Rahul, played by Shah Rukh Khan wouldn’t marry the love of his life, Simran, played by Kajol, unless her patriarch father agrees to the union. This is especially when the women in the film are perfectly okay with the idea of them eloping. For the studio, who made its fortune on the success of DDLJ, to make a movie like SDR, where the lead characters refuse to marry each other but remain lovers, is indeed game-changing.

This is not the first time that Yash Raj Films, the producers have tried to act progressive, so-called youth-oriented, but the results have always been cosmetic at best – the very popular bike films Dhoom and its sequel presented its women as ultimate sex objects, and let’s not talk about the regressive ‘Laga Chunri Mein Daag’. The only film that came closest to being ground-breaking (apart from Chak De! India, of course), is last year’s ‘Ishaqzaade’, which incidentally also starred Parineeti Chopra, protagonists of the present film.

This is actually commendable especially because the film builds itself around familiar tropes – the great Indian wedding. The wedding business, of course, takes its toll to the plot, but that’s a small complaint. Yes, I had problems with the film, on several occasion, especially when they are so casual about a big, fat wedding before deciding to flee from it. They continue run away throughout the film, first the groom, then the bride and then both. Yet, the film managed to say so much.

The best thing I liked about the film is that the girl, who lives in Jaipur, is said to be from ‘Assam, Guwahati’, as one stray character says. But there is no baggage involved with the information. We are even told if she is an Asomiya. But I would not find it difficult to imagine Gayatri as an Asomiya girl – she is independent, strong, and knows what she wants and is not shy about demanding it. She sounds like a typical Asomiya girl.

Oh, I also like the designer shirts that Shushant Singh Rajput wore. Are they available in the market? I would like to get my hands in couple of those.

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