Please watch Dum Laga Ke Haisha – where a man is asked to Please adjust and save his marriage.

When a Dulhan hi dahej hai then men are asked to make their marriage work.

Please watch Dum Laga Ke Haisha.

The movie is a warm, gentle story about a traditional semi forced arranged marriage. A hard working but dependent, thoughtless and a little insecure Gappu (Ayushmann Khurrana), 25, is forced to marry an independent and confident 22 year old Sandhya Verma, who he does not want to marry.

I loved the shades of grey, or rather a drab but beautiful brown of simple practicality in all the characters. Nobody is really a bad guy, and the good guys are real people not superwomen.

And there is humour.

The movie raises, very subtly, some of the issues we discuss on this blog.

Like, the low divorce rate in India, specially when marriages have parental approval. The movie would have been impossible if there was no semi forced marriage and two sets of parents wanting it to work.

Like, how education self reliance confidence lets women choose to marry someone they like and to leave them if they so decide. [is that a spoiler? Find out for yourself!]

After watching countless movies about men falling in love with a woman’s eyes, cheeks and hair – it’s good to hear, in a casual remark – that varjish (exercise) to win love doesn’t make sense, because when we like someone then these things don’t matter.

It was also change to see a woman being assertive, and not being demonised for it, or for not bending backwards to ‘win the love’ of her pati parmeshwar.

It was not unexpected to see Sandhya’s mother warning her not to attempt ‘baraabari’ with her Pati parmeshwar. Baraabari translates to – daring to compare oneself with someone who is understood to be Superior – like a husband or family elders.

It was unexpected to see her ignore it – casually🙂

Sandhya Verma does not change her name when she gets married to Gappu – Prem Prakash Tiwari. She is not superstitious, a sneeze indicates an allergy to her – not bad luck. Her first goal in life – also shown in the trailer, is not to Get Married and Stay Married. She expects her husband to treat her with respect.

And she makes it clear to her husband that she does not like being told what she can or can’t do. This alone makes me want to watch the movie again🙂

Sandhya lives is in a society where domestic violence is viewed as normal – her mother and mother in law remember, and remind Sandhya of this. Obedience in children is expected and enforced with violence and insults.

What would have happened if Sandhya was not so confident? Where did her expectation of being treated with dignity come from? Can a woman marry and change an uninterested (in marrying her) man into a responsible, loving husband? [Read what could have happened]

In one scene, she has gone back to her parents’ home and finds her brother has shifted into what used to be her room. She throws out his stuff saying something like, “Four days I was gone, and you took over my room!” Nobody tells her the room (or the house or family, or parents…) ceased to be hers when she went to her ‘own’ home – her sasuraal.  Or that she is paraya dhan. Sandhya’s parents reminded me of Rani’s parents in Queen [Please watch Queen.] – her happiness was not of no consequence to them, no matter how limited their dreams for her happiness.

Dulahn hi dahej hai is a popular anti-dowry campaign slogan – displayed on public transport and scribbled on walls (mainly in UP I think) –  to create awareness. It translates to ‘Bride is Dowry’ – i.e. don’t ask for Dowry, be satisfied with the bride. But one could also view it as – Acquire a bride who can earn, she will then prove to be her own dowry – a life long supply of dowry.

Perhaps since the dulhan is dahej she is treated well by the family – more when they realise she was capable of walking out of the marriage. How does Prem feel about this?

The movie also looks (without any judgment?) at how Patriarchal societies treat men.

Prem Prakash Tiwari is humiliated for his lack of academic qualifications. One could compare the father-son relationship to the more discussed mother in law and daughter in law relationship.

Though there is typical advice for men (never for women) to not marry at all, men in the movie are seen talking about getting married. So, the movie is a change in a sexist society where men ‘joke’ about getting married by comparing it to being chained (etc), ‘shaadi ka laddu jo khaye wo pachtaye jo naa khaye wo bhi pachtaye’ (Translates to: Shaadi is such a laddu that men who eat it regret it and men who don’t eat it also regret it).

And in how many Indian movies have we seen men expressing any sensitive opinion about their relationships? We expect either indifference, or hatred, or a readiness to die for a beautiful woman.

Prem is advised by all – including his peers, to adjust, accept and to make this forced marriage work. And it’s not surprising – remember it’s a forced marriage arranged with parental approval.

Edited to add: Turns out I am not the only one who loved this movie🙂

Related Posts:

Please watch Queen. Feels like our country is finally changing.

Question about Sexuality in Indian Arranged Marriages

What about girls who are not very academic? Must they be condemned to forced marriages?

Mardaani

When a daughter refuses to go back…

Can dowry ensure happiness and security for a girl?

Can dowry be compared to inheritance?

 

 

 

 

 

28 thoughts on “Please watch Dum Laga Ke Haisha – where a man is asked to Please adjust and save his marriage.

  1. I loved the movie. Yes, the race was silly, or is it? All the actors acted their part well. I loved the way the mother asks her daughter to watch ‘provoking’ movies before going to bed and the daughter following it! This is a movie just for laughing and ‘thinking’ also for a bit.

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  2. Spoilers ahead!

    I liked the film because it was slightly different from the run of the mill stuff. It was also an interesting and well-crafted story, which showed great acting by everyone. But I still don’t think this is in any way a great film by feminist standards.

    Positives

    1. Fat woman

    I love that the main female lead is fat. There are many women that size and they have their own stories. They don’t just spend their lives being friends or minor characters in real life. So I loved that part about how she just goes ahead with her life without worrying about her weight. This is about the only feminist angle to this film.

    2. RSS

    I enjoyed how the film pokes fun at the RSS and its maleness and bachelorhood ethics. With the current political situation in the country, I think we need more films doing this.

    Negatives

    1. Acceptance of forced marriage

    I am sorry, but the entire film ends with a win for forced marriage. Prem is forced into a marriage and then he gradually ‘adjusts’ into the life because he is worn down by being told day in and day out that he was wrong to behave the way he did. No one really addresses the core problem of their relationship. No one apologises to Prem and helps him deal with life with a woman he does not like. I would have found this film better if in the end, the two had got an amicable divorce, realising they never suited each other. But instead, it ends with a really unrealistic ‘falling in love’ approach. To me, it just smacks of ‘adjustment’.

    2. Attraction

    Weight is a social issue, especially for women. But that does not mean that on an individual basis, people should be forced into relationships when they don’t like the other person because they are fat. Yes, it’s shallow but it is still not feasible. You cannot force attraction from one moment to the next, and if there is no chemistry, there is no chemistry. This is a typical problem in our society with arranged marriages where attraction is a hit and miss with most couples. This is completely overlooked in the film.

    3. Abuse

    Feminism is not just about liberation of women, it is also about liberation of men. There was no moment in the film where Prem’s father showed he was sorry for having done something wrong. Something criminal. What the film does is show the stark reality of life, but does not really address the problems or leave us with some hope that things might change in future. Only Sandhya really notices and speaks out about the injustices being done to Prem, but there is no indication that anyone really takes her seriously.

    4. Sandhya’s lack of ambition

    Sandhya is happy to leave her fresh career opportunities to stay with her husband. Why shouldn’t Prem have offered to go with her to Meerut instead? That would have been so much more satisfactory? They could both have got some space from their claustrophobic families and could have actually grown together properly without being forced into silly competitions by family members.

    5. Compatibility

    I am not sure if it is possible for someone who is highly educated to have the same level of compatibility with someone who is not. This is not an elitist thing, but at the end of the day, I would want to talk about many things with a partner and someone who is only 10th pass might not enter into my interests. This is not to say that such compatibility can never exist, but we never see Prem making any effort to improve himself by reading (in Hindi) more or entering into Sandhya’s interests. Even if there was nothing else, they could have shown some sort of compatibility via the 90s music, which was a focal point of the film.

    6. Male ego

    I think more could have been achieved without the race at the end. It was only a show of male superiority that makes Prem reconciled to his ‘superior’ wife. Can a man not be comfortable in his own skin without such displays of physical superiority?

    In short, I find the message of this film problematic. What it does right is show the problems in a realistic manner and it brings us very lovable and relatable characters. But in the end, it is a love story and nothing more. It does not bring new issues on the table. It does not show us that it is okay for people to reject forced marriage. It does not stop normalisation or infantalisation of young adults. I did not find this film feminist, but I enjoyed it very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Forgot number 7!

      7. Lack of support

      Sandhya did not receive any support from her family when she wanted to apply for divorce. I don’t think we should be thankful that no overt violence was used against her and call it progressive! What was shown is very typical abusive behaviour of parents who claim to love you but do not understand that your self-respect means more than your marital status. They coerced her with love some times and with jibes at other times. I don’t consider this support in any way, just because they have allowed her to stay in their home. Our standards are very low indeed!

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    • I watched this movie yesterday (finally).. And I frankly didn’t think it was anything too great. Loved that the female protagonist is on the heavier side, and the fact that many things shown are realistic, but I totally agree to all the points in the negative which you have mentioned.

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      • Also, I didnt think higlhy of sandhya’s parents at all! Passive aggressive, thats what they were. Rani’s parents in queen were more supportive of her in more active way, methinks.

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    • Although WHEN is the big question. I thought it had released here but have just been told ‘no’ and people are not sure if it will even be released outside India.

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  3. Sigh, I SO want to watch this movie after the rave reviews everywhere – but no international release yet! We’re being tantalized by statements that it will happen “soon”!

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  4. Hi IHM, a long time avid but silent reader of your blog, and absolutely love everything about it (It wouldn’t be too far fetched to say it changed my life in some ways). Thought of commenting many times but didn’t, and funnily such a trivial (comparatively speaking) post made me want to comment, maybe because I didn’t see this issue come up anywhere else, and I think I can ask your readers what they thouught of it-
    I loved the aspects of this movie that you refer to in this post, and it certainly was a heart warming change in that respect- brilliant potrayal of the woman protagnist- especially (radically?) progressive for the time period of this movie. However while I was watching this movie, there was an uneasy sense of discomfort I felt throughout with respect to Prem’s character. I simply wasn’t able to accept the fact that ‘his’ being told to ‘please adjust’ for a change can be seen in a positive light…Throughout the movie, I kept thinking about how I would react had the roles been reversed- would I still laud the spouse for behaving the way they did? In a particular scene, Sandhya tries to get intimate with her husband when he is visibly uncomfortable and unwilling abd attempts to resist her advances. Yes, there might not have been ‘coercion’ or ‘violence’ as could be expected had the roles been reversed, but even if this was the scene of a well-meaning, well-intentioned husband trying to get intimate with a visibly uncomfortable wife, would it have been equally funny or dismissed as easily?
    Even as a staunch feminst (who is more often than not chided for ‘radical’ views), I belive it is a myopic view to replace one power binary with another, as often unientionally seems to be the case when we speak for the voices of the oppressed- a sort of PR failure if you ask me, that then tends to label feminists as men haters.
    While I loved the portrayal of Sandhya for exactly the very points that you so brilliantly spoke of in your post, I think any praise for this movie should also come with a word of caution. I don’t endorse, personally speaking ofcourse, the many problematic things that Prem was forced to go through in the movie (outside of the patriarchal expectations that you mention)- of having to adjust with a wife he does not love, of having sex or getting intimate so soon after marriage when he is obviously not okay with it, of his wife asking him ‘if you didn’t want this why would you marry me’, of him being asked to adjust and not get divorced, of being dependent on the financially stronger partner (who is the only one who can initiate a divorce) and of the implicit understanding that something would happen ‘magically’ so to speak soon after you marry against your wishes to make you fall in love with your spouse (in this case a silly race?). My point ultimately is that if we would obviously have a lot of problems accepting these things had the roles been reversed, why are we so dismissive of it the other way round? Is this not replacing one problem with another?
    Please excuse the length of this post, I really appreciate the readers of your blog and would love to hear what you and the others think of this-or if I am overthinking this? Thankyou!

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    • You are not over thinking – I think these are the things the movie is very subtly pointing out.

      I don’t think Patriarchy treats men fairly – and Prem is a victim. The only, or atleast one big reason why the family treats Sandhya well is – dulhan hi dahej hai (the bride is the dowry).

      He openly admits, in the court, that he married her because they were going through financial difficulties and nobody raises an eyebrow. Sandhya is shown to be able to ‘choose’ who she marries because she is earning (the way men mostly do).

      Prem was forced to make the marriage work – like sons in rigidly patriarchal families are. The family was okay because he wasn’t in love with the wife and treating her well was a practical requirement for them all – he is shown to resent it, but he sees no choice. Like Sandhya points out – instead of focusin on his marriage, they could have focussed on his education.

      The movie is subtle. It makes us see our society in ways we generally don’t.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. If we are uncomfortable with women being told to adjust, we should be equally uncomfortable with men being told to do so.

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    • It’s not actually shuddh Hindi of the literary type. It’s the local dialect, which would be rather difficult to most Hindi-speakers unless they are from the region. So don’t worry!

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