Badhaai Do review: Rajkummar Rao, Bhumi Pednekar’s family entertainer is bold but could have been braver
Badhaai Do review: Rajkummar Rao is in full form and on point as a gay cop. Bhumi Pednekar, too, delivers an excellent performance.
Bollywood's fixation with humour to narrate stories on taboo subjects seems to be working pretty well so far. And when it comes to touching upon a sensitive topic such as homosexuality, films like Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan and Dostana have relied on this concept and succeeded in sending out positive messages. So, it comes as no surprise to see Badhaai Do also resort to a lighter tone while highlighting an important issue.
Badhaai Do revolves around the story of Shardul (Rajkummar Rao) and Sumi (Bhumi Pednekar), who are closeted members of the LGBTQ+ community, living together as roommates after they agree to get into a 'marriage of convenience'. The film shows how an individual's sexual orientation defines and decides their fate in the society. While Shardul, a police officer, and Sumi, a PE teacher, agree to this arrangement — referred to as a lavender marriage — to shut their families up and get rid of the constant pressure to get married, the journeys they take on with their respective partners eventually lead to several realisations about their realities.
Director Harshvardhan Kulkarni deals with the subject in an extremely mature and sensitive manner, and in his attempt to sound witty or add punchlines, at no point does he trivialise the ordeal homosexual people go through.
There's an ease and comfort with which Rajkummar and Bhumi own and portray these parts onscreen, but even while staying true to their real identity, they continue to struggle to be seen as 'normal people' in the society. That's where Badhaai Do really works for me. It's doesn't get preachy or tell homosexual people to turn rebels. Instead, the film shows the real and actual evils they fight every day, not just in the society but also at home.
Another element I really liked about the film is that Badhaai Do also explores the dynamics of families of homosexual people, especially those living in small towns, and shows how they deal with this deep-rooted stigma. In the movie, there's a very realistic and relatable portrayal of conflicts that exist within families when a son/daughter wishes to come out of the closet - Badhaai Do shows how it is considered as some sort of a 'disease'.
The first half of Badhaai Do shows the teething troubles Rajkummar and Bhumi face while staying together as a married couple and connecting with their real personalities and partners, while the second half shifts focus on how they try to de-stigmatise and normalise homosexuality for their families. Here, I must mention that the director didn't try to please everyone and made viewers forcefully understand and accept the reality of Shardul and Sumi.
Rajkummar is in full form and on point as a gay cop. You'd love the references where he admits that being gay and in police force is the perhaps the biggest irony. His dialogues, the accent he speaks in and the muscles he flaunts breaks away from the stereotypical portrayal of gay men onscreen. The scenes in which he narrates his inner pain strike a chord with the audience. Bhumi, too, delivers an excellent performance and at no point looks like she's awkwardly playing a lesbian character. She is unapologetic about her sexual orientation and makes it evident with a strong grip on the story. The intimate scenes with her girlfriend Rimjhim (played by debutant Chum Darang) are exceptional and beautifully captured.
It is quite brave of the makers to cast a newcomer from the North East as a parallel lead and one only hopes this paves way for more such casting opportunities. Chum brings her own flair onscreen and doesn't seem any less confident playing such a bold part along with Rajkummar and Bhumi as leads.
Among other actors, Seema Pahwa, Sheeba Chaddha, Nitesh Pandey lend a strong support to the story. Their hilarious conversations trigger some genuine laughs. Not to forget Gulshan Devaiah, whose special cameo is just unmissable. It is definitely one of the most endearing moments in the film.
Having said that, the length of the film is a bit of a stretch and the editing could definitely have been much crisper. There are times when the narrative goes off track, and gets dragged longer. But thankfully, it returns well within time and gets back on the message it intended to send. Badhaai Do is bold but could have been braver.
In a country where decriminalising consensual gay sex took ages and where same-sex marriages are still not legal, merely showing a happy pride parade won't really bring about much of a change. We definitely need many more such films to break the stigma. But yes, Badhaai Do surely starts a conversation, more so for the families of homosexual people, which, I feel, is the most important takeaway from this film.
Movie: Badhaai Do
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Bhumi Pednekar, Chum Darang, Gulshan Devaiah
Direction: Harshvardhan Kulkarni