Movie: Vivah – A Journey from Engagement to Marriage
Year of Release: 2006
Starring (in patriarchal order): Shahid Kapoor, Alok Nath, Anupam Kher, Amrita Rao, and Seema Biswas.
The Indian package comes with many perks. Arranged marriage is an inclusion. Love, as many elders deem, will eventually sprout between the bride and groom. Hence the time between the engagement and marriage is the falling in love phase. This movie is nothing about that.
The movie begins in a village/town called Madhupur with Krishnakanthji (Alok Nath) reciting the importance of daughters in the family. Progressive you say? Wait for it. We are introduced to Poonam (Amrita Rao) a.k.a Bitto (bit-toe), Krishnakanth’s niece. We are given a lengthy monologue of how she is the apple of his eye, how she takes care of his daughter, Chutki (Amrita Prakash) as her own sister. His wife, Rama (Seema Biswas) on the other hand, is not too fond of Bitto because Bitto is “fair and lovely” whereas her own daughter is not and thus is indifferent to her. That’s the introduction; an entire paragraph dedicated to Poonam and a line about his wife. His poor daughter gets a small mention.
Yes, everything in this movie is about Bitto because she is white and beautiful. She is a Mary-Sue who is everything that an Indian heterosexual male would want in his partner; religious, righteous, fair, servile, educated (albeit negligible) and most importantly a virgin.
Why am I emphasizing on her beauty you ask? Because, that’s what everyone in the movie talks about. In the first 15 minutes we have 3 references to how beautiful Poonam is. Maybe this is why Krishnakanthji adores her. And this, my friends, is the central theme of the movie. This movie is the perfect ad for Fair and Lovely.
The leading man is Prem (Shahid Kapoor). He is the son of super-wealthy but sanskaari businessman Harischandra (Anupam Kher). Prem’s family consists of his dad, brother, sister-in-law, and an annoying nephew.
Moving on, Prem is taken to see Poonam and he falls in love with her because she is beautiful. Everyone, except Rama, is happy. The marriage is fixed and thus begins their love story. Everything is diabetically sweet.
The interactions between Prem and Poonam are exaggerated. She always has her eyes down while talking to him because she is shy. They talk in hushed tones because they are so cultured. I had to actually turn up the volume during these scenes. It was added to make the love story endearing. Quite frankly, it was really funny. Seriously, what is the deal with people talking like they are up to something?
The movie tries to pass off as a marriage in the engagement stage or a girl wanting a mother figure in her life or that arranged marriages can become love marriages. In fact, all it really portrays is that if you are beautiful you get everything you want in life. Get this. In the climax, the night before the wedding, a fire breaks out in Krishnakanth’s house. Poonam risks her life to save Chutki but gets trapped and burned. While her body is burned horribly (not shown onscreen) her face is untouched; not a mark on that white face, no soot, not even a small scratch. Prem’s family still accepts her even though she is scarred. Her beauty is still intact. Thank God. Miracles favour the fair and this movie endorses it.
Acting-wise, everyone does a pretty decent job. I was not really bored with this movie as I was offended. Offended, not because of the comparisons between skin colour, because such discrimination occurs often in Indian society, but because this movie, like most Sooraj Barjatiya movies, is regressive. The Adarsh Bharatiya Naari (Ideal Indian Woman) is typically the good-looking, cooking, cleaning, house-sitter, whose sole purpose in life is to abide by the rules set by her family. Plus the actress playing Chutki, the dark and ugly sister is actually pretty fair. They had to smother her face in black muck to make her look as ugly as possible. Because the blacker you are the uglier you will be. This is ridiculous. I would have appreciated it if they had retained her original colour and worked around that. Yet, they had to resort to weird make-up techniques to get their point across.
This movie was a hit. People loved the sweet love story and the innocence of the characters. I felt neither the sweetness nor the love between the leads. It’s nice to watch but it gave me a headache.