Review by Russell Whitehouse
From the mind of director Shashanka Ghosh comes Veere Di Wedding, what could succinctly be described as Bollywood’s Bridesmaids… In other words, a wedding movie in the burgeoning female-buddy comedy subgenre, helmed by two familiar-and two unfamiliar- actresses.
Kareena Kapoor stars as Kaloo, a woman in a long-term relationship that has stalled… until Rishab (Sumeet Vyas) proposes to her (in front of a Port-a-Potty). Kaloo is overwhelmed by not joy, but doubt. She has been dating Rishab for three years, but is scared of marriage, due to her parent’s rocky relationship and her widowed father’s subsequent marriage to a prostitute. After ruminating inside the Port-a-Potty, she says “OK” to the proposal, mainly to please Rishab.
Sonam Kapoor (Kareena’s distant cousin) stars as Anvi, a by-the-books divorce lawyer. Anvi is content with her career, but her mother insists on shepherding her to meet various suitors, saying “She won’t need to work a job after marriage.” Though Anvi’s mother’s efforts make her roll her eyes, she privately worries about getting old without a husband.
Rounding out the cast are relative Bollywood newcomers Swara Bhaskar, who plays Sakshi, and Shikha Talsania, who plays Meera. Sakshi is a spoiled, tatted wino who’s jumping from a mansion to a six-month marriage to a divorce. Meera, by contrast, is a devoted mother in a loving household.
The four former schoolgirl friends reunite in Delhi to celebrate Kaloo’s wedding, but the reunion is really an excuse for group therapy sessions on the ladies’ love lives. Though each woman is wrapped in a tough exterior, they all have problems defining themselves in relation to their relationships. Bickering relatives, crazy in-laws and nosy neighbors all pour fire on matters of the heart here. The Anvi Musketeers must juggle the intense pressure of parents asking for in-laws/grandchildren, as well as society’s strict expectations regarding a woman’s sexuality and work life. And let’s not get started on the motley crew of husbands, potential husbands & soon-to-be ex-husbands.
One of the film’s choruses goes, “Lose your inhibitions, let go of traditions!” The character’s conflicting ties to their hearts and tradition extends to Delhi (and India as a whole), as portrayed in the film. Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti’s cinematography bounces between West Delhi coziness to the Bentleys of South Delhi. India is a nation of contradictions: urban metropolis vs. rural majority, secularism vs. piety, opulence vs. squalor. Veere’s four heroines embody what it’s like to be young and in India.
Most particularly, the film tackles many of the nation’s taboos around sexuality: casual dating, fornication, masturbation and choosing not to get married/have children. Shashanka Ghosh even touches on LGBT life via Kaloo’s gay uncle Cookie in a subtle, yet humanizing way. The audience can’t help but to notice that Cookie and his boyfriend seem to have the only stable love life in the film, one anchored by devotion and wit. There is also a brief appearance by a few kathoeys, members of Thailand’s “third gender”.
Veere Di Wedding is a film that addresses all of these social issues, while also providing laughs (and wedding choreography) throughout. Let us hope to see much more of fresh starlets Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania on the big screen. Most importantly, let us hope for more female-focused films coming out of Bollywood!