Too often than not, Bollywood movies take a departure from certain logic or realism. You have to suspend your disbelief and veer away from thoughts like 'that's not what I would do'. 'Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana' however, is probably one of the rarest movies that plays out with a rationale and reasoning that is rarely applied to Bollywood stories.
'Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana' is a tense and well written movie with commendable performances.
Rating: 4 out of 5
The movie starts out with the very traditional pressure put on two singles to get married by their parents. Satyendra (Rajkumar Rao) is a young man with an up coming government position (a big deal in India) who's is ready to settle down. He goes to a first meeting with a potential bride, a girl who is very reluctant for marriage, given her own career ambitions. However, upon meeting her potential groom, Aarti (Kriti Kharbanda) changes her mind on marriage, seeing how like-minded Satyendra is.
The first half of 'Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana' plays out like an incredibly lighthearted and breezy romance. Rao and Kharbanda have pretty decent chemistry, and it's cute as hell! This is further enhanced by the romantic soundtrack by Anand Raj Anand that adds a lot of depth to the goings-on.
When their marriage is finalized and the families start meeting, there is an obvious conflict presented by the nature of Satyendra's parents. While his father, (K. K. Raina) a college professor, is englihtened enough to not ask for a dowry, his mother Shanti, (Alka Amin) comes off as the typical scheming woman in charge. Along with her brother (Vipin Sharma) the two dominate Aarti's father (Govind Namdeo) into agreeing to a dowry far beyond his means. The night of the wedding, Shanti even discloses her old-school mentality of not letting Aarti work after marriage, to Aarti's own sister, Abha.
Concerned for her sister's future, Abha (Nayani Dixit) reveals it all to Aarti, and encourages her to run away, and choose the freedom of her life, over the risk of being trapped in a marriage with a dominating mother-in-law, and sacrificing her career goals. It's a plot point that may seem to be blown out of proportion, but is very much a reality in the South Asian community for new brides.
'Shaadi Mein Aana Zaroor' is incredibly well written by Kamal Pandey, and even better executed by first time director Ratnaa Sinha. The story takes painstaking effort to avoid placing the blame of the situation on any one character, or group of characters. Even the clear family drama antagonist in Shanti is, at one point, humanized to us.
This isn't a he said, she said, story. It's a story that's incredibly well thought out, with difficult situations and characters using reason and logic to react in a manner that feels genuine and not over-dramatized in a 2-plus hour movie. And most importantly, the characters maintain their motivations through out the film. No one apologizes or backs away from their actions, or has a dramatic about-turn within the third act that negates the entire story prior to.
Abha has to be one of the most sensible and well thought out characters in the history of Bollywood cinema, played to perfection by Nayani Dixit and her incredible range. Dixit seamlessly goes from concerned sister to downtrodden daughter and back to a dutiful sister in the blink of an eye, and it's amazing to watch.
It's her performance as this character, that brings the most sense of realism to the pivotal plot point in the first act. Her measured responses to her sister, her advise and reasoning is beyond reproach. It's almost like Pandey and Sinha tried to foresee every plot hole in the story, and used Dixit's character to plug all of them by being the voice of reason among the chaotic events occurring.
The performances further add to the well written story. Rao is top notch, as usual, in a role where he's able to be the typical romantic hero in the beginning, but also showcases some intensely strong dramatic chops in the second half. The surprise element is Kriti Kharbanda, who really stands out in a role that has many layers, and is given a lot of significance. The dynamic between the two main leads is usually that seen in typical Bollywood movies, but with a refreshing gender-bending twist.
Most Bollywood love-stories feature a status quo that is skewed towards the male character. It's the man's motivations, family life, issues and problems that we're introduced to. Any complexities of the female character usually are served to add to the male's character arc; something for him to fix, help her get over, or resolve... making her fall in love with him.
'Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana' works completely the opposite. For most of the movie, it's Aarti's life that we're a part of. Her family and their amazing relationships with her, the impact of her actions on them. Whereas for Satyendra, we're shown very little of his personal or professional life independent of Aarti, and only given caricatures of his family; a sweet father and a dominating mother, existing only to create conflict in the story. It's refreshing to see director Sinhaa point out the usual uneven characters' significance in these stories, or the male gaze in story form, if you will, by giving us a female character that is much more realized than the male.
While the movie isn't perfect, with the third act seemingly coming out of nowhere, it still works as a character drama between two people who are placed in an impossible situation, and having to deal with the consequences of their choices thereafter.
'Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana' is an incredibly well written, amazingly directed and wonderfully acted movie that needs a lot more recognition. The film works on many levels; as a romance, family drama and intensely dramatic story about the pitfalls of, even modern day arranged marriages and the importance of communication.