Shuddh Desi Romance : When Getting Married and Staying Married is not an Indian woman’s life purpose.

So here’s an Indian movie where good women (and others who know them) do not view their lives as ruined because they do not marry the person they were about to marry, or they do not marry the men they sleep with.

The movie also does not (atleast not directly) comment upon the life of one of the main characters, a woman who lives alone, smokes, has had an abortion and has been in more than one relationship. Please watch the movie, not adding any spoilers. 

Amongst one of the many points the movie made, here’s one that struck a chord. Traditionally being what’s considered ‘almost ruined’ (e.g. being widowed very young, broken engagement, being an ‘innocent’ divorcee, being too ugly to find a man to marry, some physical disabilities etc) can sometimes be liberating for Indian women – when there is acceptance that a woman is unlikely to find a Protector and Provider, the family elders decide to let her fend for herself, encouraging her to follow her dreams, be self reliant etc.

What do young Indian men feel? Hrishi, 26 shared his thoughts [link]:

• Not only men but women also have desires, and they look for different things when they check out/look for a partner. While in itself it is not the revealing of a hitherto unknown fact, but the admission of it is deviation from many Bollywood movies.

• Even if a guy and girl just talk, they become Vikram and the rest of the world becomes Vetaal to hound them.

• He can’t understand why people tell him ‘Zyaada mat socho, bus settle ho jaao.’ (Don’t think too much, just settle down) as if ‘Shaadi na hui, glucose/ ICU ho gaya, har chees ka ilaaj’ (As if marriage is like glucose/ ICU which is a treatment for every ail)

• The best part was: ‘saara hindustan settlement karane pe laga hai… saatth saal se do padosi se settlement kara nahi paae bade chaudhary bante hain’ (The whole nation is behind getting settled, they couldn’t settle two neighbors in 60 years but still think of themselves as something great)

Do many other Indian men share these views on the main characters?

Hrishi on Gayatri –  I can understand her having been in a relationship before (even if they were ones where she slept with her boyfriend). I would be miffed on finding out that she had had an abortion, and would wait for sometime for her to bring it up to me, until I couldn’t handle it anymore and ask her about it. You see, I can’t sleep around with my girl friend and then judge her ( in a demeaning way) if she had slept with her previous boy friends as well. About the abortion, I would want to have a talk as to what we need to keep in mind to have safe sex.

While smoking once in a while is understandable, I might not be able to manage a chain smoker. The smell is put off.

Hrishi on Raghu –  At a level I think he is courageous and questions the conditioning family and society have brought upon him. I can relate to him questioning things, and being commitment phobic. However I cannot relate to how quickly Gayatri and Taara wanted to get in a relationship with him.

Is Tara easier to like?

Hrishi: Taara is my favorite character in the movie. While Gayatri is an independent woman as well, Taara shows more presence of mind, an understanding for human emotions, and is the only character who accepts things for what they truly are, so that she can move on. When she is left standing when Raghu runs away, her reaction is to ask for a cold drink instead of breaking down (for which she gives a good reason later).

Whose responsibility are Indian women’s personal lives? (this includes not how they manage their safety, meals and rent, but who they befriend, marry, divorce, live or sleep with)

Hrishi: She says that she alone is responsible for her life, and she doesn’t need help from an uncle who met her only once in the last four years … In fact they were doing this not because they felt for her, but they wanted revenge for themselves.

But,

Hrishi: There  is one thing that didn’t click with me: The three central character are shown as people who don’t have much family ties or are orphans.. I would like to have seen people from the traditional family structure to go through this.. It might lead to stereotyping

I couldn’t help noticing that Raghu couldn’t decide if he should be concerned about the kind of men a future Indian wife, an Air Hostess, had to deal with at work – Raghu had seen (and participated in) single-women-living-alone handling neighbours’ curiosity.

Please share links to your reviews if you have seen, liked or hated the movie😀

The movie doesn’t pass Bechdel’s Test though.

Related Posts:

Sudh Desi Romance: Movie Review by dhwanis

“I need suggestions – these girls are ruining their lives with their stupid ideas about love.”

Dhobi Ghat. Zara Hat ke.

Delhi Belly: Indecent, immoral, abusive language. Permitted everywhere except on screen.

Dev D: Practical Paro Artless Chandramukhi

Heard about ‘Bol’ – from the maker of ‘Khuda ke liye’?

Bechdel Test: Apply this test to Bollywood movies.

Love Aajkal is against Indian Culture, but Kicking is legal?

Ek main aur ek tu. Guess why I loved this movie.

If I ever made a movie…

Three thoughts on Bhag Milkha Bhag.

50 thoughts on “Shuddh Desi Romance : When Getting Married and Staying Married is not an Indian woman’s life purpose.

  1. I Liked the movie mainly because girls were girls..and not classified as one good girl who gets the guy in the end and another bad girl, who in the end, turns good or looses her guy as she is bad..

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  2. I haven’t seen the movie but I believe generally there are two extremes always in our movies as far as portrayal of women goes. reminds me of MAYA from a classic IZAZZAT. The free spirited woman can’t have a home and a family and the one who devotes(read sacrifices) everything for the family can’t be free-spirited as if the two were dichotomous. Why can’t women be married, working ,parents and yet be their own person and make their choices? that would be the ideal, maybe asking too much?
    Even a latest 300 cr. making blockbuster has her beau and father decide her future . Her “choice” has to be validated.????why?

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  3. So I read the synopsis over at Hrishi’s blog, and I definitely agree with him that the movie doesn’t explain why the two women are so intent on getting into a relationship with Raghu. And all the running away makes me think that perhaps the director was trying to show that these characters are getting married too quickly without letting the relationship take a natural course. In any case, it’s good that Bwood is getting more diverse story lines.

    I’m not a Bwood fan, but there’s a movie called Pyar Ka Side Effects which I found hilarious. It’s kinda stereotypic in that it shows men as commitment phobic and women as marriage-crazy, but I think it beats other stereotypes about Indian women/culture.

    In real life, from what I’ve read on this blog and others, I’m sometimes stumped when people describe a ‘love’ marriage–in some cases, they’ve only known each other for a year or so, and in others they’ve never even lived in the same city. I think pop-culture needs to show that relationships take time–it might change people’s perspective on ‘love’ marriage.

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    • **Wanted to add: About the abortion–it’s a very personal topic, I can’t see someone bringing something so personal up unless they’ve been together for a significant amount of time.

      And prior relationships–if someone is really concerned over who their partner has dated before, they are not mature enough to be in a relationship to begin with. They should stick with getting an arranged marriage, preferably in their early 20s right out of Uni.

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    • and there is

      ..Love Marriage
      …Arranged Marriage
      …Love Cum Arranged Marriage

      Indian perspective of Marriages are truly Business Like .
      No wonder the Side effects are many and the din in the kitchen never resolves.
      The kids addiction to the parental blackmail is very high – Women/Men irrespective.

      In Most cases the couple do not respect the Man/Wife unit and if the woman has an upper hand she too plays the same card as the Man traditionally did. And the Power is never at the centre , Always IMBALANCED , TILTED. and SKEWED.

      To keep power at the centre it is A LOT OF work, respect, discussion and debate and most Indian couples do not engage in this work that is required for a unit to grow.

      So the question here is – How does the couple respect themselves as a unit First and everything else comes later ? In many cases the man/woman is eager for the other partner to do things that will be liked by their families .

      Chow !

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    • I think one main reason that ‘love’ marriages take off so fast is because the partners are afraid that the parents might push them into an arranged marriage in the meanwhile, so their entire energy is focused on getting their choice approved, getting to know him be damned! This happened to a friend of mine and there was a furore because her relationship with her Muslim bf turned abusive and her family got to know about it, and she was too afraid they would push her on to the first eligible guy they found, so she developed a quick relationship with a guy she met only twice before her marriage and knew him only for six months. This kind of thing generally happens more and more frequently as one grows older because the threat of an ‘arranged’ marriage looms larger.

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      • Agree with the entire discussion above and Fern explains this rush to fall in love and get married well with “their entire energy is focused on getting their choice approved, getting to know him be damned” due to parental pressure.
        As a society we still view partner relationships as business arrangements – there has to be a definite outcome, a bottom line, and the all important timeline.
        If a couple are together with no end in mind, it makes people around them very anxious – “Are you in LOVE???” – “WHEN will you get married??” – “Your bio clock is ticking!!” – “When will you SETTLE DOWN?” “Settling down” seems to be the national goal. To which the couple ought to say, “When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.”

        When will they get it that what happens between 2 consenting adults is nobody’s business – maybe the questioners’ endless time and curious minds coud be better spent contributing to scientific development or volunteering at a non-profit, rather than micromanaging someone else’s personal life.

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      • the latest ad : what about the new assisted marriage ….the mother is having a scared look on her face when love marriage is mentioned and no arranged marriage her looks are amazing…then comes assisted marriage …some new BS

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    • @Kay
      *Spoiler alert*
      The girls do break the fourth wall to explain why they fall for the guy.
      Gayatri is impressed by Raghu’s bluntness and flattered that he left his beautiful fiancee at the altar for her.
      Tara (said fiancee) is flattered that having once ditched her, he’s obviously regretting it and doing everything he can to win her over.

      Other thoughts on the movie-
      -The writer has conveniently done away with parents (Tara is an orphan/Gayatri’s mum is dead and dad lives too far away to matter), which to me was a device that seems wholly necessary for this sort of story, else parental reactions would have become factored into the dynamics , given how things are in India.

      -Gayatri and Raghu’s relationship begins almost *purely* based on physical attraction, especially on Gayatri’s side.They sleep together the second time they meet, and begin to live in almost instantaneously. Some people (on other fora) have found this to be unrealistic, but actually it’s not. Relationships begin in all sorts of ways- and I liked how this type of relationship was normalised.

      -There is zero judgement for any of these characters choices. (abortion,smoking,commitment-phobia, premarital sex, getting cold feet before wedding,questioning the idea of marriage). These things are obviously not new to Hindi movies, but there is a deliberate lack of explanation for such things that makes the portrayal even more progressive.

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    • “In real life, from what I’ve read on this blog and others, I’m sometimes stumped when people describe a ‘love’ marriage–in some cases, they’ve only known each other for a year or so, and in others they’ve never even lived in the same city. ” – I think these depends on experience and maturity of individuals involved in the relationship..How would this experience happen ?? – obviously by mingling.. being in relationships..handling situations in case it is not working out.. so even after knowing for one year, a couple thinks they want to be together (married or live together) , they should have the choice to do so, with the belief that if things do not work out they can very well part their ways and start afresh.. This whole concept of having own choice is very empowering.. so in case things don’t work out the situation for both the boy and girl should not be ‘you did a mistake so you suffer’.. rather it should be ‘you feel you did a mistake? fine, move on., be careful next time..’ ..
      Practically if you are not starting early(preferably college) it is very difficult to spend ample time for relationships in today’s 8 – unlimited
      working hour environment..

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    • Thanks for the response(s) everyone! That definitely helps explain a lot of things.

      @Simplegirl–while I do agree that making your own choice (and having the power to make your own choice) will make things simpler, I don’t think that’s true for getting a divorce. Even in the US or Canada (even if it’s a mutually amicable divorce), you are required to fill out a considerable amount of paper work and have some legal/ court fees.

      From what I’ve been told about divorces in India (even amicable ones), they’re a nightmare. So while people do have the choice to end a marriage and walk away, it’s still a ton of work. It’s much easier to do when there aren’t any legal hassles–which is why I think taking time before signing that piece of paper is extremely important.

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  4. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and the questions it raised about the hypocrisy of Indian weddings in general. However, the scenarios depicted would not have been even remotely probable if the three protagonists had parents/close family members whom they were living with. Live-in relationships would then have been most unlikely.
    Thought provoking, definitely. Also showed how crudely single woman are perceived, by and large:(

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  5. “Traditionally being what’s considered ‘almost ruined’ can sometimes be liberating for Indian women”

    COULD NOT AGREE MORE!!! I’ve never cared too much about my social capital ANYWAY, but when I got a divorce, the sheer fearlessness I felt was something to behold and experience! I was invincible. Nothing could hurt me (i.e. my social capital) any more, except maybe a child out of wedlock.

    I’m anyway not planning to have kids, so I don’t have to worry about that either.

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  6. There’s some ray of hope when I see progressive and realistic movies like Shuddh Desi Romance being made AND being received well. Shows a definite shift in the mindsets of the people for the better..

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  7. I LOVED it. was a little too long and draggy sometimes… but nontheless… heres why i loved it..

    – They DON’T get married in the end, but instead just decide to live together. So marriage is not the end goal for either of them , or their relationship.

    – Raghu was really a good depiction of the confused Indian man. The one who thinks hes in love after a steamy night on the bus, who is commitment phobic but will agree to an arranged marriage with a beautiful girl, who knows that he loves Gayatri and is happiest with her and yet is bothered when other people talk about her past relationships and abortion, the one who is comtemplating running away from his own wedding, but is really hurt that Gayatri runs away.

    – I love that neither of the girls *needs* a man. I love that they both stand up for themselves, unapologetically do what makes sense ro them, dont make a big deal about virginity or past relationships or ‘log kya kahenge’ .
    And I agree with Hrishi… I simply cannot understand what attracts them to Raghu.

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    • “Raghu was really a good depiction of the confused Indian man.” Yes, definitely. It has become a distinct ‘type’- the immature and commitment-phobic young man. What was different here was that Gayatri is also similarly immature, who began the relationship on a ‘let’s see’ note, without really thinking long-term. She *also* prefers running away to sitting down to a proper adult conversation.

      “I simply cannot understand what attracts them to Raghu.”
      His immaturity does come back to annoy them, and there’s plenty of scenes showing their annoyance at his blundering , but in the end he is a good-looking guy, who clearly states that he loves them, and appear to judge them for their sexuality. I can see how that would be enough to initiate a relationship.

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  8. I always have mixed feelings about Live-ins because most people I know in it prefer to keep it a secret. This leaves room for partner abuse for the girl has no one to turn to (has seen it happening to my friends). Girl dont even tell friends bcz shes afraid that friends might look down on her or inform home (has seen some ‘well-meaning’ friends do exactly that)…
    When the girl finds tht live-in is not exactly a dream (not all) she finds it difficult to confide & get help because she fears disgust followed by ‘i-told-you-so’.
    Live-in is a bold & liberal concept, agreed. But most of the girls I know hadn’t taken this step because they were bold or liberal. Most of the live-ins I know about werent even properly planned out – a sleep-over at the guy’s place after a party or in a weak moment or something like that.
    If they were really bold & liberal, they wouldnt stand for verbal/physical abuse, right? Heck, they dont even have the option of getting legal help (they do, but we all know what will happen if they try).
    Of course I know that there are good live-ins with mutual respect… But I just cannot call everyone who opted for live-in are modern/liberal etc. Thats like assuming all jeans-clad women are progressive.
    But I just wish these girls could get help (if shes unable to walk out for some reason) when the relationship turns abusive. But unfortunately no- cant tell parents, cant tell a teacher… Some friends may help Some may not…
    If we can remove the clandestine nature of live-ins (like in the west), then may be its good. I dont know…

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    • Agree. When live ins are still clandestine, it protects abusers. If a woman in a live-in complains of abuse, unfortunately our society and police have an attitude of “well, she asked for it” or worse, “she deserves it” attitude. Not that married women who complain of abuse are taken seriously either but if a woman is not married to the man, she probably has it a lot worse.

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    • I agree with you on this.

      As a woman, I would not do a live together relationship without getting engaged or having firm commitment to get married in the near future from the guy. Living together and actually sharing a household, splitting rent/mortgage/electric/cable bill with someone who is just a boyfriend is giving up too much of myself. I like my space, privacy and roof over my head that is absolutely “mine” before I am in a firmly committed relationship. I have seen many friends slide into living together just because it is convenient, cheaper and socially accepted in US but if the guy and girl had very different implicit expectation of their future plans, it never ends too well. In my last serious relationship, we would stay overnight at each others place few times a week, keep a toothbrush, towel, and gave keys to our apartment but we each still had our “own” separate homes that we paid for ourselves. Once we broke up when he came back hastily engaged to someone else after a 10 day trip to India because his mother went on a hunger strike and threatened to jump off the balcony (or so he claims) at least I did not have to worry about where I was going to live. Breakups are bad as is, but having to pay full rent if other person moves out or finding a new place in dead of the winter is absolutely traumatic and a logistic nightmare. I had a close friend sleep on my couch for a month after a live-in breakup. You really need mental and physical space to objectively evaluate a relationship after initial dating euphoria wears off, moving in together makes the stakes too high and increases the inertia to leave if things go bad. Sure you still have the risk of breaking up living together after engagement or marriage, but at least both of you went into the arrangement with shared future goals of building a life together with legally binding implications (in marriage) or publicly expressed commitment (engaged). Again, I am saying this as an independent, liberated woman who wants to protect her best interest financially and otherwise if the worse happens, not from point of “log kya kahenge” bullshit.

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  9. I haven’t seen the movie but feel a woman also has sexual desires and urges. Doesn’t make sense to condemn a woman who slept with her earlier boy friends and don’t have any issue with my girl friend if she had sex before. C’mon, let’s stop being hypocrites. A woman is a human being and she has the right to experience relationships and grow in life as a unique entity:)

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  10. Tara’s character left me confused though. She pursued him, and then just like that fell out of love with him and left. It’s like the makers were in a hurry to wrap it up and wanted Tara out of the way.

    I felt the best part of the movie was the ending. Leave the youth to their choices. It’s when you force choices down their throat that they want to run away (from be it anything).

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  11. It was the first Bollywood movie I’ve seen on the big screen.😀 At first I was little surprised that the characters didn’t get married in the end, but it just shows there’s been a shift. I liked how it focused on working class characters, instead of the typical middle and upper middle class protagonists I’ve gotten so used to seeing. I also liked how the film didn’t push which was more ideal. The Gayatri and Raghu chose a live in, the film didn’t the send the “live in relationships=good/arranged marriage=bad. It was more about what worked for them.

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  12. Me and my wife watched the movie together , and we both absolutely hated it. We had gone for a late night show and in my wife words ” the night was ruined ”

    The movie makes absolutely no sense to us . Its not about the live – in – relationsship, pre marital sex, or commitment – phobia . It is about the uncertainity of the charaters and their thought process.

    Gayatri runs away from her marriage with raghu. Why ? Because she does not want to commit. Fair enough. But than who actually asked them to go for marriage in the first place? There is no family in picture putting pressure on those two. To get married was their own decision. And how easily they backtrack from it.

    Same is for raghu , again no family , no one to put pressure for marriage . They all get into marriage mode by themselves , repeatedly and than run away , repeatedly. Seems totally illogical to me.

    What is most bewildering to me is how easily both the girls get into relationship with Raghu. All gayatri needs is for raghu to ask her for a coffee and they start living together. Same for tara. I wonder if that happens in real life scenario. Meet a girl , tell her you love her , and few hours later you are living together.

    And towards the end , when they say” you should have the freedom to get out of the door at any moment” , I just shook my head in utter disappointment. Not being able to/ want to commit is one thing, to not value it / appreciate it / realise its worth for what it is, is sheer falling of all the characters.

    Also none of the characters are professionally qualified , have good independent lives and overall succesful.No where is the impact of the realtionship styles talked about. No body is shown to really believe their actions to be correct. The flip side of such lifestyle is simply not shown in the movie.

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    • Why is commitment important? Am not trying to be antagonistic to your comment, but would like to understand the logic behind it. In committed, one is free, one can redefine ones life, move on, committed, one is chained to a definitions and a partner….

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      • First things first, I am not saying that commitment is mandatory , relationships can and do happen without commitment. What I am saying and what I believe is that commitment actually adds value to the relationship, a purpose , a sense of meaning. And a long term relationships cannot happen without commitment

        In this movie Raghu runs out on tara because he meets gayatri , who is to say that tomorrow he will not run out on gayatri because he meets some other girl? And when that happens , will his relationship with gayatri actually mean anything at all? except being a ” friend of good times “.
        Can the two characters trust each other, trust that the person they have chosen as partner will be there for them when he / she needs her/him and not run away at the moment of their dire needs ?

        My complain with this movie and many more like this is , that they take selective pot-shots at the concept of marriage, bringing out its flaws but not acknowledging its positives. And also ignoring the downfalls of non – committal relationships. IN the movie when gayatri talks about her ex-boy friend who got her pregnant she says ” I did not cheated him , he cheated me “. If the two were in free / open / non-committal relationships as both raghu/gayatri wants, they why does she feels “cheated”? After all is the ex-boyfriend not allowed to “move out when he wants” to define his life, to move on, to be free? Then why this bitterness? Is that not the deal she had struck herself and wants for herself?

        The fact that she feels cheated shows that even she wants commitment, but is not willing to offer that herself.

        At the end all I will say is that I am not against live-in relationships , neither have a ‘marriage is pure’ mentality . All I am saying is that both let not think that live-in-relationships are perfect and marriage are waste.

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