Tag Archives: Shashank Khaitan

Movie Review: Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017)

1 Star (out of 4)

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The romantic-comedy Badrinath Ki Dulhania (“Badrinath’s Bride“) fails as both a romance and a comedy. A somewhat amusing first half is undone by a disturbing second half that is no fun to watch.

One of the qualities that made the main characters in writer-director Shashank Khaitan’s previous film, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (which starred the same lead actors in different roles) so likeable was that they both had strong moral values guiding their actions. That element is missing from Badrinath Ki Dulhania, resulting in a male lead character who is outdated at best.

Badrinath (Varun Dhawan) is the good-for-nothing youngest son of a money-lender, Mr. Bhansal (Rituraj Singh), in the town of Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. The elder Bhansal already managed to guilt-trip Badrinath’s brother, Alok (Yash Sinha), into giving up the woman he loved in favor of an arranged marriage. Bhansal’s penchant for clutching his chest and reaching for an oxygen tank he doesn’t need prompts Badrinath to explain: “An Indian father has the weakest heart in all the world.”

This would be amusing were Bhansal not a sinister enforcer of repressive gender politics. Mrs. Bhansal never speaks, period. Alok’s wife, Urmila (Shweta Prasad), is a financial expert with an advanced education, but Bhansal will not allow his daughter-in-law to work. It’s as though he takes pride in forcing such an accomplished woman into a life of domestic servitude. Alok is too much of a coward to stand up to his father, despite his wife’s suffering.

Badrinath is just as cowardly as Alok, but also more entitled. Badrinath is so assured that he can have whatever he wants — taking it by force, if necessary — that he pursues a woman who is his intellectual superior and not the least bit interested in him: Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt).

After repeatedly rebuffing Badrinath’s stalkery come-ons, Vaidehi consents to let him and his friend, Somdev (Sahil Vaid), find a groom for her elder sister, Kritika. Though Vaidehi explains that this act of kindness will not lead to a romance between her and Badrinath, he’s sure it will.

The relationship between Badrinath and Vaidehi is cute enough until she wounds his pride, prompting a chilling post-interval turn in Badrinath. He shows some violent tendencies earlier in the film in his role as his father’s bill collector, but the sense of entitlement that drives his actions in the second half adds an element of menace.

It’s almost as if Khaitan believes that Dhawan’s good looks make his character’s actions less dangerous. A boy that cute wouldn’t really hurt her, right? Dhawan already showed that he can play scary in Badlapur, and there are echoes of that performance in this film.

Another knock against Badrinath is his cowardice. This fear on the part of everyone in the family to stand up to Mr. Bhansal — even when they know he is morally wrong — taints all of the them, but Badrinath most of all as the main character. He simply has too far to grow within the constraints of the story.

Karan Johar’s role as producer of the film is a problem because his name evokes memories of his own movie about a son challenging his overbearing father: Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…. The hero of that film seems vastly more progressive than Badrinath, despite the fact that K3G came out sixteen years ago.

Throughout Badrinath Ki Dulhania, there’s a feeling that Vaidehi deserves better. She and Badrinath may look nice together on the dance floor, but he can’t offer her anything she can’t achieve for herself on her own terms. All the credit goes to Bhatt, whose natural charisma outshines her co-stars.

With such an imbalance among the characters, we’re left with just another movie about a overachieving woman who must choose whether to sacrifice her goals for the sake of a man who wants a trophy for learning how to use a microwave.

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Movie Review: Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014)

Humpty_Sharma_Ki_Dulhania_Poster3 Stars (out of 4)

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First Student of the Year, then Main Tera Hero, and now Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (“Humpty Sharma’s Bride“). Three films into his career, and Varun Dhawan has positioned himself as Bollywood’s hero of the future.

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (HSKD, henceforth) is made in the mold of classic romcoms, most explicitly Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. [Though references to DDLJ are sprinkled throughout, one need not have seen that movie in order to appreciate HSKD.] This requires Dhawan to carry the film with his dancing, crying, and goofing around, and he’s more than up to the task.

Dhawan plays Humpty Sharma, a good-natured college student prone to slacking off. He’s destined to take over the campus bookstore from his tolerant father (Kenny Desai), so why push himself in school? Humpty’s constant companions are Shonty (Gaurav Pandey) and Poplu (Sahil Vaid).

The trio are busted by Kavya (Alia Bhatt) when they try to extort passing grades from their history professor, her uncle. When Kavya agrees to fix their grades behind her uncle’s back in exchange for a bribe, the guys recognize a kindred spirit and friendship blossoms.

Humpty and Kavya fall in love, even though she’s engaged to an American guy she’s never met. Humpty must convince Kavya’s father (Ashutosh Rana) to let him marry Kavya instead of her betrothed, Angad (Siddharth Shukla), a nearly impossible task given that Angad is perfect.

Angad’s perfection sets up some especially funny scenes. Despite his loyalty to Humpty, heterosexual Poplu finds himself becoming enamored of Angad’s winsome demeanor, delicious cooking, and chiseled abs. Big thumbs up to the casting department for hiring Shukla, who looks like Superman.

Angad is also great for driving home the film’s theme that most people aren’t perfect, but that doesn’t preclude us from being loving partners or from striving to be better versions of ourselves.

In an effort to differentiate Angad from Humpty, debutant writer-director Shashank Khaitan finds the right balance in making Humpty flawed but likeable. None of his weaknesses are deal breakers, and values like love and loyalty govern all of his decisions.

Kavya is likewise written with a moral code. Her sense of justice is what first appeals to Humpty, making up for her short fuse and selective materialism.

Bhatt — whose had an even stronger start to her career than Dhawan after debuting alongside him in Student of the Year — is very good again, especially in quieter interactions between Kavya and Humpty. It’s a shame that her character’s dynamism is sublimated in the second half. Humpty must try to save their relationship mostly by himself, whereas he and Kavya had been partners to that point.

Dhawan is the total package: good looks, dance moves, and nuanced acting skills. He comfortably transitions between comedy and sexually charged romance.

Strong performances by Pandey and Vaid augment Dhawan’s performance and reinforce Humpty’s status as a good guy. The supportive and empathetic women of Kavya’s family make the story feel complete.

The story’s weakest point is that some of the supporting characters are denied satisfying conclusions, or any conclusion at all. Khaitan so effectively populated this universe that the movie becomes about more than Humpty’s and Kavya’s will-they-or-won’t-they romance.

But for light romantic comedy, HSKD hits the spot. It has some inventive dance numbers and strong turns by a pair of Bollywood’s brightest up-and-comers. It’s definitely worth a watch.

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