In an unusual departure to my usual method of selecting movies from new releases, I decided to watch Dil Dhadakne Do on the first day without waiting for the reviews to be out. I had faith in Zoya Akhtar's good taste and ability to deliver something which is better than the average Bollywood stuff in any case. The Akhtars usually never leave you wanting for sense and feel-good factor in their movies, two things which are pretty much all that I look forward to in movies :) Besides, to boost up the feel-good tone, the movie is set-up in a cool, urban backdrop that is typical of the Akhtar movies. So it shouldn't come as any surprise that I found the movie quite enjoyable: it was funny, entertaining and scores special points for (sensibly) touching on some of my close-to-heart subjects. As to the performances, Anil Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra (special mention) were predictably good, but Ranveer Singh was the surprise package. Humor department was completely handled by Ranveer. He was the soul of the funniest moments in the film, and managed to make us laugh without even speaking a word. Kudos to Zoya for reviving subtle humor: I thought most movie makers have long forgotten the term!!
Spoiler alert - Brownie points to the movie for touching on the below subjects:
1. The hypocrisy of Bharatiya Sanskar and Indian parenting which put social acceptance above everything else, including their children's happiness.
2. How parents and society make it difficult for women (even women who are extremely successful and independent) to walk out of unhappy marriages, virtually making no support system available for women choosing to walk out.
3. How shattering it is for a girl child to be not treated as a part of her maternal home after her marriage, despite being as loving and responsible towards her family as male sibling(s).
4. Society's unwillingness to understand that an unhappy marriage doesn't involve an extra-marital affair or physical abuse, and that not indulging in these don't necessarily make a 'good husband'.
5. Also, society's unwillingness to respect a woman's decision to walk out of an unhappy marriage.
6. After marriage, having
children sons is viewed as the single most important purpose in a woman's life, irrespective of what she may have achieved or is trying to achieve.
7. Physical abuse is not the only proof of abuse by an intimate partner. Abuse begins through subtler forms of control.
8. Special mention of one scene: Priyanka Chopra has done a superb job in depicting the pain, the excruciating pain of a woman who is told by her father that she will not be welcome in her maternal home and that she will receive no support of any kind from her family during one of the most difficult phases in her life: divorce.
Special points for setting this up in high society, to bust myths around correlation between gender equality and social status.
For all this and more, I can forgive the movie's shoddy ending which seemed patched-up with too many high-drama scenes, scaling many notches below the level of sensibility with which the rest of the movie was made. I wish Zoya Akhtar had not taken the easy route out, but I guess she had to please the audience by putting in some masala to create a 'perfectly happy ending'. I cannot believe I am complaining about that!! But somehow I felt that when movies like Queen and Aaksahvaani managed to do full justice to the topics they were dealing with and have happy endings, Zoya could've done better than what she had. I can overlook the ending though, like I said, for what is in the rest of the movie.
Spoiler alert again - Some questions worth reflecting on:
1. In the real world. everything does not come together perfectly at the end. Most Indian parents will not suddenly transform and become supportive of their daughter's divorce like Ayesha's. Ayesha even had a supportive brother and an ex boyfriend to count on. In a society which makes it difficult for women to have any support system outside their family circles, where women are not encouraged to socialize outside their own families or to get 'too involved' with their careers, how difficult must it be for a woman to have anyone to count on if she wants to walk out of an unhappy marriage? How many women are deterred from walking out of abusive and unhappy marriages because of lack of emotional support?
On a positive note, I do hope the 'perfectly happy ending' makes parents see that it is not only their responsibility, but it also feels like the most wonderful thing in the world to be supportive of daughters who choose to walk out of unhappy marriages.
2. If her parents didn't support her divorce, would Aisha still have gone ahead and divorced her husband? Or would she have remained unhappily married for the rest of her life to remain in the good books of her parents? Why do we have to make it such a difficult choice for women: Family Vs. Happiness? Is it fair to expect someone to choose between family and freedom?
3. Why do Indian parents take pride in 'happily married daughters'? If their daughter is unhappy in marriage, to what extent are they willing to sacrifice their daughter's happiness to please the society?
4. Ayesha's mother admits that she didn't leave her own husband because she had 'no where to go'. Even for someone as successful and financially independent as Ayesha (who also had an ex-BF with open arms to go back to and be happily married again), divorce was a very difficult choice. So her mother's choice is understandable even with all the alimony laws we have in place. At the same time, can you really blame her mother for not having planned for this, in a society which expects women to solely take care of their families and not prioritize financial independence? Shouldn't her contribution in supporting her husband's career and bringing up their children count for 'something'? Doesn't she deserve to have 'some place to go to' if she wants to walk out of an unhappy marriage?
While I deeply recognize the value of the contribution made by homemakers to our society, and I do understand the need for empowering them financially with the help of the legal system, it saddens me to say that most of their work goes unrecognized and unpaid for in our society. Even their own family members often take them for granted. This reminds me to strongly emphasize the need for young women, to those who still can, to build careers, pursue dreams beyond marriage ad children, socialize and create their own support systems, make dependable friends outside their families and most importantly, be financially independent.
1. Piku: Warm, lovable, funny and engaging - link
Recommended reads - From Indian Home Maker's blog:
1. Eleven questions the family elders ask women in unhappy marriages - link
2. Women and Friendship - Building a Support System - link