Pulling off interventions at a wedding has been a Bollywood hallmark for some time now. The valiant hero (along with his golden-hearted friends) reaches just in time to prevent the heroine from being married off to the wrong guy, generally at the behest of her parents. Well-meaning family elders break off a marriage because of inadequate dowry and/or the unspeakably criminal past of the bridegroom (Bluffmaster). Sometimes, the jilted hero would take matters into his own hands and kill the bride dramatically (Sanam Bewafa, one among the ’90s so-bad-it’s-good brigade). Of late, Bollywood has found surprising ways to refer to its own dossier of wedding interventions.
Take Dolly Ki Doli for instance. The film wasn’t great, to be honest: films with Sonam Kapoor in them have, so far, successfully staved off any pretensions to quality (except Delhi-6, which had the pretensions but not the quality). But the premise of the film was an interesting subversion of a prominent Bollywood theme of the late ’90s and early 2000s: the happy-go-lucky roguish leading man, who woos a girl for economic reasons. Sanjay Dutt has played this role on more than one occasion: as an honest-to-God swindler in Khoobsurat (1999) and a more slapstick version of the same guy in Ek Aur Ek Gyarah (2003). Govinda, too, had a phase where he specialised in this marriage of convenience, case in point being Kyunki Main Jhooth Nahi Bolta, the desi spin on Liar, Liar.
Two things were a given for this brand of cinema. Firstly, the hero’s need for money is prompted by a Very Valid Reason: in Khoobsurat, Sanjay Dutt needs to pay off a large debt owed to the notorious smuggler Jogiya (Paresh Rawal). Secondly, the hero’s lust for money is quickly remedied by his true love for the comely heroine, leading him to confess his status as a bona fide con man. Dolly Ki Doli does the exact opposite of each of these things: Dolly is not into the game because of an ailing family; her “family” is in the game with her. Dolly ties the knot with the true-lovin’ hero (Pulkit Samrat), only to betray him just as she had betrayed so many hapless men in the past. Most importantly, Dolly is never apologetic or philosophical about her preferred career: she is what she is and there is no Freudian scar to explain it away politely.
Kangana Ranaut, with Queen as well as Tanu Weds Manu Returns, has been at the forefront of Bollywood’s crusade to get more than just a foot-tapping number out of a wedding. Queen begins with a wedding intervention: Vijay (Rajkummar Rao) backs out of marrying Rani (Ranaut) because he finds her too conservative. The Tanu Weds Manu films — both of them — are basically a series of self-referential wedding intervention gags. Using a friend’s marriage to find yourself a bride of your own? Check. Helping said friend to sneak a rendezvous with his wife-to-be (with the added incentive of gawping stupidly at bride’s hot friend)? Check. Epic wedding showdown involving hero, heroine and heroine’s smoothly villainous suitor? Check.
Kangana Ranaut, with Queen as well as Tanu Weds Manu Returns, has been at the forefront of Bollywood’s crusade to get more than just a foot-tapping number out of a wedding.
In Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Ranaut also coolly turns out another trope: the generous second lead who sacrifices his love so that the hero can get the girl (Salman Khan in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and, much earlier, Sirf Tum). Here, it is the inimitable Datto who nudges Manu (R. Madhavan) to get back with his estranged wife Tanuja. The Datto character worked so well because her priorities in life have not been decided by anybody apart from herself: the only link to old Bollywood (or old India, if you will) is that she wants what she wants (economic independence) to escape being swiftly married off by her parents. Datto ends the film with a wedding intervention of her own: punching the daylights out of a mischief-maker who jeopardised Tanu and Manu’s marriage.
Also laudable is the mature way that filmmakers are depicting characters who are dealing with a loveless marriage (Priyanka Chopra in Dil Dhadakne Do) or trying to make up for romantic indiscretions in the past (Hunterr). In the ’90s (or in the odd regressive tearjerker like Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani), these characters would have been reduced to caricatures defined by the state of their marriages/romantic lives. Instead we have Priyanka, in Dil Dhadakne Do, an entrepreneur with a knack for business.
Hell, we are even looking for ways to spice up the intervention climax. A few years ago, Pankaj Kapur set the bar pretty high for this one, stopping a wedding while riding a buffalo in Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola. In Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, a fairly clever wedding meta-comedy, Alia Bhatt pulled off an SRK impression that capped off a series of jibes at Bollywood’s shaadi obsession.
Bhatt will soon be seen opposite Shahid Kapoor in Shaandar, directed by Vikas Bahl, the director of Queen. It is already being marketed as “India’s first destination wedding film”. What tricks does Bahl have in store now? Watch this space for more details.