Small town India and small town conservatism, chauvinism and sexism is represented by the Bansal family of Jhansi. The younger son of a businessman and money lender is following convention and seeking out a suitable girl. Badrinath (Varun Dhawan) doesn’t balk at dowry demands, arranged marriages and submissive wives who are required to produce male heirs. Via voiceover, Badri tells us that in his community a girl child is viewed as a liability and a male child as an asset.
One day Badri meets Vaidehi, and he’s immediately attracted to her confidence and ability to speak English. The meet-cute happens over a breifcase of dowry money and moong dal halwa at a friend’s wedding. With the help of his best friend Somdev, who runs a matchmaking service, Badri begins his process of trying to persuade Vaidehi Trivedi that in spite of his lack of education (he’s 10th pass, she’s learning English and dreams of becoming a stewardess with an international airline) he’s a good guy. In one enjoyable scene Badri and Vaidehi engage in a battle of words and wit on a local Kota bus. It’s the usual Bollywood stalker character who won’t take no for an answer. He focuses all his energies on convincing the girl he’s obsessed with – including agreeing to find her older sister a suitable boy thereby clearing the way for the younger Vaidehi to marry.
But Vaidehi is a 21st century woman – once badly jilted and scarred she is determined to be a self made woman. She despises old practices and wishes for Badri to show some courage and spine.
Until mid point director Shashank Khaitan’s story and storytelling are breezy and the canvas colourful with a few supporting characters to keep the narrative tickling along. Sadly the music doesn’t buoy your spirits and drags back the flow. You can easily predict the plot points – after all the stalker, whose father (a gent with a fake and fuzzy beard who looks and behaves like a reject from Sarkar 3) declares honour killing to avenge the humiliation suffered by his family, must experience some kind of epiphany. What you may not be able to predict is that change of heart is accelerated by an incident in Singapore where Badri becomes the victim of male objectification. It’s a scene designed as a cheap laugh which works only because Varun Dhawan is on point.
In another scene, when asked why she’s not interested in Badri, Vaidehi replies that love is important, but so is respect and they don’t respect each other. This is a great through thought by its underdeveloped and delivered after almost 2 hours of waiting for something meaningful and significant to happen. The second half is an excruciating ad for an airline and for Singapore tourism.
So, after touching on dowry, s*x discrimination, prejudice, gender inequality, women’s liberation and honour killings, of course Badri finds his dulhania, but only after Dhawan is given a platform to stand up to his father. With a happy ending delivered, the stage is set for Varun Dhawan to play a hapless wannabe groom searching for his mate one more time. And given the undeniable chemistry and playful onscreen repartee between that lead pair, why not see Bhatt in another dulhania avatar. Hopefully the next time Khaitan won’t try so hard to balance message with commerce.
Badrinath Ki Dulhania Rating: **1/2