Just what makes two people decide to tie the knot? There are marriages of all kinds. Love. Arranged. And Arranged-cum-Love, which happens only in India. ‘Shaadi toh compromise hai (marriage is a compromise)’, says Shardul Thakur in ‘Badhaai Do’: by then, his family knows exactly what ‘compromise’ he is talking about, leading to consternation all round. Shardul (Rajkummar Rao) and Sumi Singh (Bhumi Pednekar) have got together in holy matrimony for good reasons of their own. The small town they live in has very little understanding of same-sex love or ‘samlaingikta’. For both Shardul, the cop who loves to build his body, ingesting indigestible protein shakes on the way; and Sumi the no-nonsense physical instructor who teaches in a school as she navigates her way through a dating app, the marriage is a perfect cover. They can keep their ‘jaldi-shaadi-karo’ families at bay, and they can continue to be true to their sexual orientation: ‘zamana kya kahega, mummy-papa mar jayenge agar sacchai saamne aa gayi toh (What will society say, and mummy-papa will die if the truth comes out)’.
For a mainstream Hindi film to focus on a ‘lavender marriage’ in a small-town setting takes some doing. And ‘Badhaai Do’ does feel a tad radical in some of the things it manages to do, given the constraints of wanting to inhabit the family entertainment space. The instant recognition of a person on the same side of the spectrum, the sexual charge in an exchange of glances between two young women, and the overpowering desire to be together physically, is done with a welcome degree of frankness.
But then ‘Badhaai Do’ falls into the same trap films with ‘brave subjects’ gravitate towards. Once it is put out there, it starts developing cold feet, and wraps up its crucial core under layers of heavy-handed humour, and the tiresome boister of a joint family we’ve seen over and over.