It appears that the idea of a lavender marriage—a marriage of convenience between two partners to hide the sexual orientation of one or both of such individuals—has been around since the 20th century. The main, if not only, cause of the rationale is social shame. The lavender marriage serves as the basis for Badhaai Do. A member of a conventional middle-class family, Shardul Thakur (Rajkummar Rao) gets elevated to the upper caste due to the innate privilege he possesses. He is a bodybuilder-aspiring man who was forced into becoming a police officer in search of that coveted, safe government position that nobody would want to give up. According to cultural norms, he is the epitome of what it means to be a man: a police officer, a tall, muscular guy with prominence in society. He is gay, save for a minor wrinkle.
Elsewhere Sumi, played by Bhumi Pednekar, is a PT instructor who was compelled to wed a man who was not compatible with her sexual orientation as a result of a prior romance gone wrong. Unexpectedly, her fiance passed away just a few weeks before their wedding. She longs to date the lady of her choice, adopt a kid, and become a mother, but is unable to do so because of legal complications and societal norms.
Until Shardul Thakur approaches her and asks her to take part in this marriage of convenience so that their family would stop bothering them about marriage (clearly straight) and they could live their lives in secret. Life, unfortunately, has other ideas.
Badhaai Do has every reason to develop into the typical North Indian social concern film. It would be naive to claim that the movie is a total subversion of the genre, but it succeeds in telling a full story while putting an emphasis on natural character development rather than serving as a vehicle for a social message, which is something that the majority of these message-driven films do not manage to do.
With the help of his co-writers, director Harshvardhan Kulkarni creates a tale that explores the effects of the “lavender marriage,” lying, sneaking about, and countless other devices used to avoid and deal with cultural and familial obligations. Sumi seeks to break free of these expectations, which have become crutches for her freedom of living, while Shardul struggles to escape the inherent privilege he seems more bound to than Sumi by the established conventions of the family unit. The main appeal of Badhaai Do is its cast of characters. The main subject of the film is their sexuality, but it doesn’t downplay any of their weaknesses. They are also prone to perplexity when making decisions and acting awkwardly when they should be forceful. They also struggle with cheating, seduction, heartbreak, and the need for freedom. These individuals’ innately imperfect humanity emerges in fleeting moments.
By emphasising these small details, Kulkarni elevates this film above the average material produced by the Hindi Film Industry. The meeting between Shardul and Sumi to discuss their impending nuptials occurs at a park that is manned by police officers to deter incest. Sumi was experiencing a sense of surprise, bafflement, and annoyance as she was hearing Shardul’s marriage proposal, particularly because she couldn’t believe she was here before she knew Shardul’s sexual orientation. She changes her tone and offers Shardul a bottle of water as she notices him perspiring and attempting to charm one of the guards who had seen them in the act. This straightforward deed demonstrates a sense of kinship, which gradually develops as the film goes on. Even though they frequently argue and struggle to cope with Shardul’s family’s oppressive demeanour, their friendship is increasingly appealing to witness. When Sumi moves in with her partner Rimjhim (Chum Darang), Shardul’s awareness and acceptance of differences in the public and private places of his life reach a breaking point. Credits go to the Badhaai writers Make sure that Shardul doesn’t close the film by combining both facets of his life into a single whole because the truth is very different. We observe Shardul unable to talk until, in the third act, he comes out to his family and runs to the terrace to call for Sumi. Shardul is so accustomed to living in the closet that the act of leaving it crushes him while also setting him free, a reaction echoed by his mother, who is performed to perfection by Sheeba Chaddha. Incapable of navigating her life following the death of her husband and accustomed to being put down in the face of considerably more powerful members of her joint family, the lady eventually embraces her son, realising the agony of living in silence and letting her emotions out.
Rajkummar Rao’s Shardul Thakur is unquestionably one of the more memorable Hindi film industry protagonists we have seen in a while, even in a genre dominated by parts portrayed by Ayushmann Khurana. The scene in which Shardul dons the mask to join in solidarity with the Pride Parade while remaining outside of the parade as an officer of the law is a highlight of acting in an already outstanding performance. He is vain, awkward, funny, privileged, and yet sensitive and vulnerable when he wants to be. While Gulshan Devaiah steals the show in a humorous and charming appearance, Bhumi Pednekar matches him stride for stride. The performances cover up the flaws of the film, which is a little bit too long and where the humour falls flat in crucial scenes. Even if their archetypal definitions were excellent, the remainder of the supporting characters isn’t as fully defined as I would have hoped. The songs were far more effective, while adding to the runtime’s length. Despite these shortcomings, the small details add up to a much richer experience overall.
The release of Badhaai Do coincided with that of Gehraiyaan, the latter of which generated a great deal of controversy and discussion while the former was almost completely ignored. It’s unfortunate since Badhaai Do does a much better job of delicately and successfully establishing LGBT romance in mainstream Hindi film culture than Shubh Mangal Saavdhaan ever did.
Harshavardhan Kulkarni is the director of the 2022 Indian romantic comedy movie Badhaai Do.