Film: ‘Badhaai Do’ (Running in Theatres); Duration: 147 minutes.
Director: Harshavardhan Kulkarni. Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Bhumi Pednekar, Sheeba Chaddha, Seema Pahwa, Loveleen Mishra and Nitesh Pandey.
IANS Rating: **1/2
Bold themes reflecting the changing reality of our society are slowly but surely making their way into Hindi films.
While the honesty and intention are laudable, Harshavardhan Kulkarni’s ‘Badhai Do’ is forcefully stretched to make this point palatable to the audience. Also, somewhere down the line, the message loses its impact and earnestness.
Shardul Thakur (Rajkummar Rao) and Sumi Singh (Bhumi Pednekar) come from middle-class families where societal norms are expected to be complied with. The two of them however are ‘different’.
They belong to the queer community, and discovering a common goal, enter into a marriage of convenience, wherein each one leads his or her life freely while keeping up pretences of being a happily married couple.
The societal pressure of having a baby, and elders in the family trying hard to make it happen, make things spiral out of control, and a chance discovery of Sumi with her partner, Rimjhim (Chum Darang), causes the Pandora’s Box to be opened. How they explain to their families that they are born to be different and are not suffering from a ‘disease’ forms the crux of the film.
Rajkummar Rao, as the policeman, fixated upon fitness and body-building, flaunting his six-pack abs and an enviable physique, every inch looks his part. But somewhere, in his bid to be different and not use stereotypical mannerisms, as he essays this character, he tries too hard and fails to impress. One does not empathise with him and one cannot feel his predicament.
Bhumi Pednekar as Sumi, a Physical Education teacher, scores over Rao in her realistic portrayal and seems to be more comfortable portraying her bold character. Yet, somewhere, neither of them is deeply convincing.
The supporting cast of veteran actors deliver what is expected of them. The scene on the terrace where Shardul’s mother (Sheeba Chaddha) embraces her sobbing son in acceptance is poignant.
The plot is linear, with the narrative having a single-minded focus on delivering this message to its audience. The length of the film and the lacklustre chemistry between the lead cast, however, dilute this impact.
The setting of the film — middle-class small-town families and societal expectations — are a tad exaggerated, merely to drive home the point and heighten the contrast.
The LGBTQ+ rally towards the end, to reiterate their liberation and acceptance of who they are, is one of the several uncalled-for instances in the film, which merely adds to its length, not its gravitas.
Also, the sensitivity of the issue and the societal reactions, particularly those of middle-class families, are made to look trite, and with the several forced attempts to highlight the struggles of this community, somewhere along the way, the seriousness of the message is lost.
The music meshes well with the theme of the film. ‘Atak Gaya’ by Arijit Singh, in particular, encapsulates the essence of the film.
Overall, this film appears to be just another take on LGBTQ+ issues, this time adding the adoption angle to the otherwise commonplace matter of coming out of the closet and making your families understand. Mounted with moderate production values the film tends to get tedious at times.