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.
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 :)