Rajkummar Rao, Bhumo Pednekar’s film hides its core under layers of humor
What makes two people decide to get married? There are all kinds of weddings. To like. Arranged. And Arranged-cum-Love, which only happens 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, causing widespread consternation. Chardul (Rajkummar Rao) and Sumi Singh (Bhumi Pednekar) have come together in a 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 Shardul, the muscle-loving cop, ingesting stodgy protein shakes along the way; and Sumi, the no-nonsense physical instructor who teaches at a school as she navigates a dating app marriage is perfect cover. They can keep their “jaldi-shaadi-karo” families at a distance and they can continue to be true to their sexual orientation: “zamana kya kahega, mama-papa mar jayenge agar sacchai saamne aa gayi toh” (What will society say, and mom-dad will die if the truth comes out)’.
For a mainstream Hindi film to focus on a “lavender wedding” in a small town setting, it takes work. And ‘Badhaai Do’ feels a bit 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 someone on the same side of the spectrum, the sexual charge in an exchange of glances between two young women, and the irresistible desire to be physically together, is done with welcome frankness.
But then “Badhaai Do” falls into the same trap as the movies that “brave subjects” are drawn to. Once he’s out, he begins to develop cold feet and wraps his crucial core under layers of heavy humor and the annoying banging of a shared family that we’ve seen time and time again.
The film continues, returning to other subjects. Among them, the deep desire to have children, the difficulties of adoption among homosexuals or lesbians: that these words are spoken aloud, by the protagonists, in a defiant act of ownership, it is a good thing . But it takes almost the entire 2.5 hours to do so, while sending Shardul and Sumi spinning in other directions. So many diversions, while trying to stay on track, become tiring and the novelty factor, which includes the presence of the fiery Chenaki (Chum Darang), fades. It’s 2022, and a Northeast actor in a lead role is to be welcomed.
Rao and Pednekar do their roles full justice. Sheeba Chaddha makes the most of her flaky but compassionate mother. It’s really good to see Nitesh Pandey receiving something substantial. There is a female cop in the ‘mahila thana’ where Shardul is reluctantly employed, who attracts attention. And Gulshan Devaiah, in his tiny bit, steals every scene he’s featured in.
Yes, there are different strokes for different people. And yes, we love rainbows. If only Bollywood hadn’t taken so long to get to the point and stick to it.
Badhaai Do Movie Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Bhumi Pednekar, Chum Darang, Sheeba Chadhha, Seema Pahwa, Loveleen Mishra, Nitesh Pandey, Gulshan Devaiah
Director of Badhaai Do: Harshvardhan Kulkarni
Badhaai Do Movie Rating: 2.5 stars