“We have to be in the system, to change the system,” Atul Kulkarni tells Konkona Sen Sharma in Shashank Khaitan’s hit movie Page 3.
Khaitan seems to have taken that advice to heart - his latest film Badrinath ki Dulhania, starring Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan, has all the ingredients of a typical Bollywood entertainer. From foot tapping numbers peppered indulgently to colourful frames, foreign locales and typical family drama - the film ticks all the boxes for the Bollywood masala entertainer.
The film, nonetheless, raises and touches upon some path-breaking moments in bringing gender equality to Bollywood.
Despite the flawed screenplay, clichéd scenes/dialogues and sometimes over-dramatic scenes, Badrinath ki Dulhania needs to be applauded for the revolutionary ideas that Khaitan has in his plot. The film is not bold enough to wage an all-out war against onscreen patriarchy, but the good part is that there is an effort to challenge the status quo.
Varun aka Badrinath goes down the age-old path of stalking the girl to woo her but for a change, our heroine does not simply fall for the stalker after a few encounters. Rather, she decides to make him realise her worth by pointing out all the educational qualities the hero could have had if he had he studied.
Remember all those thousands of times when a Bollywood hero offered his coat to the heroine when she felt cold or exposed? Well, Alia turns the tables here. There is a scene where Varun is attacked and his shirt is torn and Alia takes off her dupatta and covers him up. In another sequence, a drunk Alia tells Varun, “Bachpan se main apne ghar ka beta banane ko koshish kar rahi hu,” - echoing the sentiments of hundreds of middle class girls from small towns. Varun assures her, “Tum beti kamaal ki ho, beta banane ki koshish kyu kar rahi ho?”
The rather over-dramatic climax of the film scarily touches upon the social evil of female foeticide and the importance of educating the girl child. As if, too afraid to disturb the social status quo, the lead pair tells the patriarch “We cannot carry forward the burden of your principles.” And the best part is, they do so not for some cheesy love but to respect the mere independence and individuality of the heroine.
It is because of these, that despite its flaws, Badrinath ki Dulhaniya could prove to be a landmark film in Hindi cinema.