‘Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania’, the film which Shashank Khaitan made his debut as a writer and a director with, was one of the biggest surprises of the year. The film which was supposed to pay homage to ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’, seemed to be a regular rom-com with no novelty to boast of. Sure, the film had a routine plot but it was the treatment that made all the difference. The relatable characters, a crisp screenplay and some really smart dialogues came together to form a highly entertaining film. Three years later, the lead pair of the film is back together in the director’s new film ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’, the second film in the Dulhania franchise.
Badrinath Bansal/Badri (Varun Dhawan) is a happy-go-lucky who whiles away his time in the small town of Jhansi with his best friend Somdev (Sahil Vaid) doing nothing substantial. Badri’s father is a man who strongly believes in patriarchy and believes women are supposed to be nothing but housewives. Badri has seen his elder brother (Yash Sinha) being forced to severe his ties with a girl he loved and forced to marry a girl of his father’s choice. Badri meets Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt) at a wedding, falls in love with her and decides she is the one he will get married to. Vaidehi, a strong minded and independent woman, does not show any interest in Badri, whose most prominent educational qualification is to finish tenth standard. Badri does not give up on his attempts to win over Vaidehi’s heart and sends Somdev, who runs a matrimonial website, to talk to her parents. While Vaidehi does not agree to get married to Badri, she seeks his help to find a suitable match for her elder sister Kritika (Sukhmani Lamba). Badri helps her out and hopes that in due course of time, he will be able to make her agree to get married to him.
The film is set in small-town India and gives one a good glimpse of the orthodox cultural sensibilities existing in these places. The film talks about patriarchy, gender quality and a host of related issues without forcing any of them in the plot. These elements are neatly woven into a largely engaging film that, on the surface level, is a romantic drama. Though the film has been promoted as a love story and the Badri-Vaidehi love story does take centre stage here, the film is a lot more than that. Very filmmakers portray small towns as authentically as Shashank Khaitan does here. The accent, the milieu, the ethos of small towns is brought out fabulously in the film. Humour plays a key part in the film (especially in the first half); one finds oneself laughing and smiling at numerous junctures in the film which dole out witty, amusing dialogues and some genuinely hilarious moments arising organically from certain situations. The first half is a laugh riot with some nice, emotional moments put in at the appropriate places. In the second half, both the landscape and the tone of the film changes. Humour takes a backseat and one is treated to some heart-warming moments between the lead pair. Yes, the second half could have been pacier but the film manages to maintain a firm grip on your attention as it marches towards the climax.
It is unfortunate for a film that turns out to be entertaining for most of its part, to have a climax that is a little underwhelming. The film makes a solid case for gender quality and talks about other atrocities committed in India but the ending, to some extent, dilutes the impact of the message. Shashank Khaitan settles for a convenient ending for the film which, one assumes, he thought would be lapped up by the conservative audience. If you strongly believe in the message the film tries to put across, you might not be troubled by the way the film ends but you would not heartily approve of it either. The film speaks against the dowry system, talks about empowering women but why is it insensitive towards men? There is a sequence involving Varun Dhawan being groped by a bunch of gay men. After Alia and her friends rescue him, they burst into a laugh realizing what had happened. A man being subjected to sexual abuse/violence is not funny.
Though Alia Bhatt plays a free-spirited, career driven young woman and Varun portrays the role of a character who starts off as being an aimless fellow who believes men to be superior than woman owing to his patriarchal upbringing, it is Badri who stays with you as the character completes a full circle from being a mildly chauvinistic character to being someone who realizes women are no less than men and how the society treats him is wrong. Varun Dhawan gets into the ski of his character and makes you forget about the urbane characters he had played in his earlier films. Alia struggles with the U.P accent at times but delivers a strong performance nevertheless. Though some of her character’s actions and behaviour are in sharp contrast to the upright person she is being portrayed, you do not ponder over it too much as she plays the role with a lot of conviction. Sahil Vaid, who played Humpty’s friend Poplu in the first instalment, gets a meatier and better etched out role this time and he plays t exceedingly well. Gaurav Pandey, who played another one of his friends, gets a smaller but impactful role. Sukhmani Lamba has a very strong screen presence and leaves a mark as Kritika. Apaarshakti Khurrana is terrific in his cameo as Bhushan Patnaik. Yash Sinha and Shweta Basu Prasad, who play Badri’s brother and sister-in-law respectively, get some good moments to shine as actors.
‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’ has the earthiness and realism of ‘Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania’, which explains it being the second installment in the franchise. But, overall, it boasts of a much different plot and most importantly, it is a better film than the first one.