Veere Di Wedding Is Nothing You Haven’t Seen Before
Sex, city, and clothes, but very little feminism.
I actually want to see Veere Di Wedding (VDW) again with my girlfriends. I can’t imagine a better backdrop for the most epic drinking game of all time.
Every time there’s a cliché or stolen idea from other movies, you do a shot. Or you could play a style-based drinking game: chug each time a character appears on screen in an off-the-shoulder dress, artfully arranged and fastened with double-sided tape. Or better yet, the Cheese and Wine Game: every time an actor delivers a line so stilted it’s practically cheese already, glug glug glug. Or the Product Placement drinking game – line up that lemon slice every time the camera closes in on sponsorships, especially of tacky snack bags even in foreign settings. In every iteration, a hangover is guaranteed.
Veere Di Wedding has been marketed as a film about strong female friendship, at the forefront of women’s empowerment. If you’ve never seen Sex in the City, then you might think VDW is revolutionary. This is a movie for Indians who’ve never seen female buddy movies before. Or female buddy-rom com movies. Or women drinking. Or women cursing. Or women sleeping with someone. Or women having jobs. Or plots. Or twists. Or witty dialogue.
How, you will ponder as you watch the movie, did they come up with these four distinct personalities: The Horny One, The Uptight One, The Mom, and The One at the Centre of the Story? Gosh. Writers are so clever. I’d like to agree, but lemme take a shot first.
Carrie Kareena Kapoor Khan, Charlotte Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Miranda Shikha Talsania and Samantha Swara Bhaskar are BFFs – the Veere. A la Desperate Housewives, there’s a voiceover by Carrie’s dead mum– I think. I’m sort of 95% sure but I was dreaming of alcohol within 10 minutes so I can’t be sure.
The girls are best friends from childhood – and remain that way, regardless of timezones, physical distances, life and more puzzlingly, work.
Sidebar: Kapoor Ahuja is a divorce lawyer and the only one with a definable job. Her introductory scene is one where she denigrates a gold-digger wife in a court – people, we first meet her as she’s coldly telling a wife she deserves nothing and certainly not alimony. Do you even feminist, sis? End of sidebar.
Kapoor Khan decides to get married but — and this is straight from the screenwriter’s handbook — with conflict from her past leaking into the present and future. Kapoor Ahuja, Talsania, and Bhaskar rally around her, with their own individual conflicts to stretch the time and sell some popcorn. Talsania and Bhaskar’s plotlines are slimmer than the straps of all their tops and almost laughably simple in resolution.
Every single outfit the women wear is polished and pretty. They live in an alt version of Delhi, where everyone is rich – Pseudo Samantha drives a Bentley through the mean streets of the capital. Kapoor Khan, for some reason, wears one pair of boots throughout the movie, even under her garish engagement outfit – am I supposed to sigh in adoration and think, God that Kalindi – so quirky, so relatable? No, I’m thinking: Why is this woman wearing combat boots under a gown in Delhi heat?
And Talsania’s husband is American – in a hilarious scene set in their house, we’re meant to understand that they live in the US – because, and I’m not even kidding, two US flags are visible from the windows. Even though the house looks disturbingly Indian, with power sockets and all – it’s all right. There’s the flag, so this is clearly ‘Murica.
There are some moments of glory – Bhasker is effortless and brilliant. Talsania is also fab – I want to see a buddy movie with these two, written by Nora Ephron or Aaron Sorkin – failing which I’ll settle for Zoya Akhtar as writer and director, but only if she’s doing it all abroad.
Sonam Kapoor Ahuja is sweet; she tries super hard to be likeable in this movie – I’ve unwillingly seen Aisha twice and let me tell you, her efforts are visible in this one. If there’s ever a woman who can beat Bollywood’s apathy to married female actors or actors who are mothers, it’s Kareena Kapoor Khan. She’s luminous, and when she’s confused about whether to get married or keep her mouth shut in front of ostentatious in-laws, we really feel for her. But overall, the script lets the actors down, and how.
The movie borrows liberally from American tropes like women crowding into the bathroom and sitting on toilets (Kapoor Khan sits on the toilet in a PortaPotty at a festival/concert – making me want to bathe in sanitizer), and much pointless screaming; more Squeal Girls than Mean Girls. There’s a gay uncle and his partner – which goes nowhere and seems to exist just to give said partner a chance to swish his hands and parade around for the girls’ benefit. Kapoor Khan’s dad has a second wife who is pretty much Janice from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, laugh included – and is pretty much every trophy wife trope. You’re left wondering why everyone in this movie is so…one-dimensional.
There’s lots of cursing, swear words in both English and Hindi. Some of it is funny and real. There’s a lot of drinking and some sleeping around – neither is eyebrow raising as such, but clearly is meant to be. But is it really surprising that big-budget Bollywood thinks women having sex lives is provocative?
And worryingly, even though this movie is about at least four women, I can’t conclusively say that it would pass the Bechdel Test. The conversation is always about men – fathers, husbands, lovers, exes, and even guys off Shaadi.com; or men-related topics like marriage, people pushing them into marriage-related things, divorce, and sex. I can’t recall a single scene in which they discuss hobbies or food or even clothes.
We don’t know what these women want besides friendship, booze, men and the approval of their parents. Reading? Movies? Music? Art? Don’t be silly, women aren’t into all that. The girls are all blind support, then they fight, and then make up during a vacation to Thailand after a wedding plot twist – no wait, that’s Sex and the City. No, wait, that’s VDW too.
Of course, I couldn’t not touch upon the much-discussed masturbation scene.
Bhaskar’s character, despite being The Horny One, is actually a good Indian girl. She hasn’t cheated or slept around. She only gets it on with her vibrator because her husband won’t, and horrors, he catches her in the act. And is disgusted? Dude, what? And is blackmailing her for five, count ‘em, five crores so no one knows she jerked off because her husband isn’t doing his husbandly duty? This was her conflict? Oh honey, I wish I had your problems. And also, given your OTT performance during the scene, I wish I had your vibrator too.
I’ll be honest – I actually felt for everyone associated with VDW. Most Bollywood films centered on women have horrible things happening to the women in the first half and them turning vigilante in the second. These are not #AccheDin, the film-makers must have thought. Let’s make a light-hearted, good-looking film, about women, for women – and surprisingly, by women too. At the same time, they insisted that this so-called “estrogen tsunami” was not a chick flick. These mixed messages are at the heart of the film. VDW may have attempted to take part in the feminist film revolution, but couldn’t keep up with its more progressive peers and ends up, instead, clumsily trailing at its edges.
I didn’t loathe the movie – it actually made me a little bit sad, because it’s the first happy female buddy movie in India and I wanted to like it and tell people to go see it – but I can’t. It’s a nothingburger of a film, that ideally you should watch only if free, time and money wise, and even then, like me, you’ll forget about it within a couple of hours.
Drinking to this film, at the very least, will produce a heavy buzz; although maybe not the kind of buzz the film-makers wanted. Can they make Veere Di Hangover next?
Akhila Vijaykumar is a writer with experience across advertising and journalism. Occasionally, the crossover does make her demand truth from soap and try to cajole quotes into starbursts, but no harm no foul. She loves books by Terry Pratchett, dogs and pizza, often at the same time.