Badrinath Ki Dulhania is a 2017 romantic-drama film written and directed by Shashank Khaitan and stars Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt. The film follows the life of a carefree young man and a practical young woman from a patriarchal society and their respective journeys to achieve their specific life goals.
I usually walk into a Dharma Productions film with a few reservations. I know what I am going to get, big sets, foreign locations, bright colors, a few big musical numbers, good-looking people and, recently, social commentary but of this comes with a heavy dose of saccharin. This movie delivers on a few them to full effect and a few of the others get severely short changed. I know as well as you do that, one need not look too deeply into these movies. The messages are on the surface and they are only trying to entertain but this movie wants me to take a deep dive into it because of how its told. The closest similarity for the feeling I was left with after watching this film was the feeling I was left with after watching Zootopia. Yes, there are no animated animals running around here but the methodology of story telling feels eerily similar to me.
The setup the movie gave me was fabulous. I was uncharacteristically hooked to the film and its characters. “Most Punch-able Face Magazine” cover boy Varun Dhawan had made me empathize with him, Alia Bhatt was doing her usual good job and everything was a bit cliched and predictable but the humor and the film’s charm carried it through. Then, the intermission “bang” happens, oh no. The film had a few smidgen of uniqueness to it until this “reveal” that surprised all the 6-year olds in my cinema hall came to the forefront.
The film goes down a slippery slide of mishandled morals and characters who behave unfaithfully to their established selves. And no, saying “Badri, you are not this guy or I love him because he is here (that’s about it)” does not change much when it comes to this specific issue. Yes, this is not an issue most people who watch the film will catch on to because they are all not raging dicks like I am but, there is something about films that want to leave the audience with morals that make me look closer at them. I take my time to deconstruct them and seeing a hair out of place puts me off to it. I did not despise this film, on the contrary, I had quite the good time with it. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil syndrome if you will. A lot to like but the stuff you don’t like sticks out like a sore thumb.
The cliched nature of a film that was doing so well for itself for the better part of its first hour makes me sad thinking of the lost potential. The biggest issue plaguing this film was its bloated second half. For a film that was laser focused during its first half, whilst dealing with a huge array of characters, it does itself a disservice when it resorts to cheap ploys of tension to keep the focus on its stars as the second period rolls around. The final rah-rah speech resolution moment fell flat for me as well as our hero still can’t pull off talking about his emotions without a handy supply of alcohol. I don’t know how muh in terms of character growth that offers. Also, isn’t he contributing to the chain of heartbreak here. Also also, I was of the understanding that the profession Alia Bhatt’s Vaidehi chooses for herself is of a bygone era, it feels nice to be corrected once in a while. Putting all that aside, when I rewatch this film I’ll put all my crabbiness aside and enjoy it for what it is.
A film with some good performances, funny lines, mediocre at best songs and bumper-sticker morals which play to the audience at large and which have been playing to them since age old times. The film is a hodgepodge because of what it is trying to achieve, it wants to be an honest to god entertainer but because “woman’s issues” are the flavor of the month, we will fit that square peg into this round hole which really does not put out more than a few lines about the matter. I see your efforts and I like that you are making a stand but choose one of the two types of film you were trying to make here on your next effort and we are going to have a good time.
I honestly swear that I will not dare look deeper into it anymore because I know the web of issues I’ll fall into and that will just make me crabbier and I’m a crabby old guy already.
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