Sick and tired of the decadent West-inspired perversion (extra-marital affairs, husband swapping, playing basketball in the rain) that is passed off as “acceptable” by today’s Hindi movies , I have to confess I eagerly look forward to Sooraj Barjatya’s clean, sensitive, morally well-grounded movies that smell of gajar ka halwa and Bharatiya sanskiriti if only to convince myself that there is still some good left in this world gone crazy with lust and licentiousness.
Which is why Sooraj Barjatiya’s “Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon” was a catastrophe with its depiction of pre-marital naughtiness and Hritik’s bare torso which, along with the digitally generated parrot, haunted me for many a night. I must say I was happy that the audience rejected the movie because it made Mr. Barjatya move back to his roots: making movies for the “middle class”, a class he defines thusly.
My audience is the hardcore middle class – my son’s tuition teacher, my maid, not South Mumbai residents,” Barjatya told IANS in an interview.
Vivah is a testament to Sooraj’s return to what made his famous—-an endearing two-and-half hours of ambiguously happy people, innocent girls running around in sylvan surroundings where a song is always around the corner, people with names like Harishchandra, tycoons who do no work and go for month-long vacations, picture-postcard villages, profound lyrics like “Neeche jo dekhoon to ocean hi ocean hain, upar jo dekhoon to tu akash main roshan hain“, self-sacrifice, soft focus, coy giggles and rivers of tears.
And most importantly, rock strong Indian values. College-going girls are covered from head to toe (no short skirts), love to go to temples (instead of discos) and read “adhyattik kitab” (instead of making naughty MMS-s), wrap shawls around their fathers as they go out for a walk (no “Hey dad, gimme 10,000 bucks —I need an abortion), talk in suddh Hindi (‘Hum Aap Se Bahoot Prem Karte Hain’) bring water in copper glasses for their beaus, and though they are allowed to work after marriage by their father-in-laws still show that they know their place by spontaneously quitting their careers once they bear children. The “fair” girl is pretty, the “not-so-fair” one is not, women, in general, are referred to as “Jagatjananiyan” (Mothers of the World) and people ‘undress’ to ‘dress’ on suhaag-raats (watch the movie to find out more)
However Vivah’s biggest selling point is its performances. Alok Nath is back as the ever-suffering, reservoir of love and gentleness that has come to be associated with this old Sooraj Barjatya favourite—–it is almost impossible to think of this man as a softcore pornstar which is how he started his career in the movie “Kamagni” opposite Ms. Ambani, the then Tina Munim. After playing Phoolan Devi in “Bandit Queen” where she was subject to the most horrible degradation, Seema Biswas ups the pain in ‘Vivah’—playing the role of Alok Nath’s wife. They have two daughters—-1) the “fair and beautiful” adopted daughter is Poonam (Amrita Rao) whose demure whisperings and downcast eyes show a reassuring understanding of the Barjatya ethos and 2) the biological daughter (Chote) who bears her darkness and the sooty, black makeup she is plastered with throughout the movie with uncommon dignity. Anupam Kher is as brilliant as usual playing the golden-hearted, saintly tycoon and Shahid Kapoor takes a break from smooching women in public to essay the righteous, virginal son-and-husband (Prem) fitting into the role like a right hand into a left-handed glove. And then of course the force of nature otherwise known as Monish Behl who plays, in my opinion, the most brutal doctor ever seen on screen, comforting a father whose daughter has been burnt in an accidental fire a few hours before her marriage: “Marriage? Out of the question. She is so badly burnt even her very own will wash their hands off her. Forget about her in-laws.” (Such charming bed-side manners) and then instructing his orderlies, in all seriousness “Nayee dulhan ko operation main laiye please”.
The movie is not perfect —-for instance I missed the ‘faithful servant and dog’ routine (there was not even a private tutor to compensate for that) and the “antakshari” scene but these are minor quibbles in the face of something as beautiful and moving and as affirming of our faith in what’s noble and good as Vivah.