Don’t worry about the inevitable comparisons with Sex and the City. Don’t worry about the film failing the Bechdel test. Never mind the brash product placement. It might be “frivolous” and “fluffy” – not my words — but if you, like me, believe that to achieve realism one has to set language free, Veere Di Wedding accomplishes more than what it sets out to do.
For those shocked by the language — well, that was the point. If you are shocked by the way we speak, then where have you been living? Delhi deploys four languages when cursing —Panjabi, Hindi, Haryanvi and English. All four feature in the film, giving the lingo a saturated feel, the way it is.
Besides, the bi-lingual cuss word language barrier was broken first by YRF’S Ladies Room. The web series, about two fast-talking millennial “girl bros”, smuggled in and got away with so much (and “meaningfully” so), that Veere feels a bit tame in comparison.
Don’t worry about the inevitable comparisons with Sex and the City
It’s also testament to the tremendous range of Hindi cinema (and producer Ektaa Kapoor). Earlier this year, in Padmaavat, we had a Hindu woman walk into fire to protect her chastity. Here, we have the sanctity of the mangalsutra being sent up by a ubiquitous Punjabi cuss word. A married character pleasures herself on a luxurious double bed. Veere takes the wedding film trope and turns it on its head.
While Pakistan banned the film, in India it was released with an ‘A’ certificate and little fuss. Just this tells us something about how far civil society has travelled in the twin countries, separated at birth.
In the recent past, Delhi has featured in a wide range of Hindi films: Old Delhi in Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra’s Dilli 6, Janakapuri in Maneesh Sharma’s Band Baaja Baaraat, Gurgaon in Shanker Raman’s Gurgaon, while Kangana Ranaut’s character in Queen hails from Rajouri Garden. In Veere, it’s Delhi’s super rich.
If Gurgaon had female foeticide as its central concern and Pink had rape, Veere is essentially about conversations that wealthy girls have – it can seem a trifling matter, especially when they make casually disparaging remarks about bais and naukranis.
Martin Amis once wondered about Truman Capote’s obsession with writing about rich people, whether rich people had enough depth for one to waste so much of one’s time writing about them. What gives Veere an extra edge is that it’s about how the Indian women of a certain class behave, drink, toke, speak, curse, spit, love, fly, keep it together. That they belong to a certain class doesn’t by itself make the film shallow. There’s also a gay couple, parents to one of the characters, who are slipped in to the script with canny nonchalance.
The film ends with a practical message: “It’s not going to be easy. Family never is.”
Leave aside the language, there’s plenty of Delhi in here. The lay-down-the-law hypocritical import-export aunties, who pop “Calmpose like Gems” and whose sons snort the white stuff; flashy west Delhi jewellery versus “sophisticated” south Delhi jewellery; the unscrupulous whisky-drinking business man (groom’s father) whose cheques bounce; Sonam Kapoor’s character gets offended when someone asks her if she’s attended Khalsa college — she replies “Symbi”, (Symbiosis, Pune) with some snootiness, apt because she is a matrimonial lawyer at Tis Hazari (“the corridors are stained with paan; the loos are filthy”). A wife reminisces about the courtship days when her husband would come to visit her in GK, all the way from Civil Lines.
From destination weddings and farmhouse weddings to the couple sitting on a crescent moon, suspended in mid-air (“ring ceremony”), the absurdity of the Indian wedding is a constant highlight. There are also quietly human moments when a mother, throwing up after drinking too much, wonders if her two-year-old son, squatting next to her and mimicking her retching sounds, will remember this, years later. The scene ends with a non-judgemental joke, while the film ends with a practical message: “It’s not going to be easy. Family never is.”
That they belong to a certain class doesn’t by itself make the film shallow
Watching Veere, I was also reminded of a memoir that released last month. Ritu Bhatia’s Manspotting: Chronicles of Mid-Life Romance, also set in Delhi, in a similar English-speaking milieu, talks about sex and loving in the city, but from a middle-aged perspective.
Manspotting tells us what it means to be liberated, middle-aged and single in the compromised modernity and tetchy dating landscape of south Delhi. Biting, tender and wise by turns, Bhatia reflects on her rebellion and quest for autonomy in an engagingly funny confessional.
In many ways, this scorching summer has been a coming out party for the city’s women, across generations. This is as bold as it gets.
It’s the thing about books and cinema — they have a habit of worming their way through the cracks. In this vast country, we don’t know the ways in which people consume art, what doors of possibility and aspiration it opens for them. It’s important that it’s all put out in the public domain. For instance, Lipstick Under My Burkha, the seminal film about thwarted female desire in small town India, opened the eyes of a billion people while they were sleeping. That was some achievement.