BY ANUJ RADIA

Shashanka Ghosh’s Veere Di Wedding (VDW) has been the talk-of-the-town with high expectations from it. Besides it has the tagline of ‘I’m not a chick flick’, this is the first time we have seen an all-female cast in a Hindi buddy film.

Furthermore, we have often seen scenarios in Bollywood where a group of men talk openly about sex, swearing, drinking and smoking but to see ladies doing this, that too in a Bollywood film, is quite unconventional.

As a British Asian viewer, I was expecting a story about four friends (played by Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Shikha Talsania and Swara Bhasker), instead, I found this venture was way too focused on the sex, alcohol and excessive profanity.

This made me ponder on whether the movie is actually a form of entertainment or feminism propaganda coated as entertainment. Regardless of my views, a handful of Indian critics have lauded the film. For example, Times of India praised the movie, calling it a ‘brave effort’: “We’ve rarely seen women on screen who are so uninhibited about their life, sexuality and desires.”

Comparatively, Reuters UK highlighted the film for its obvious replication of films like Sex and the City: “Ghosh and his leading cast make enough adjustments to ‘Indianise’ the film, bringing in elements like interfering in-laws, ostentatious Indian weddings and pushy mothers who want their daughters to either get married or stay married. But at its heart, this is an Indian redux of Carrie Bradshaw and friends.”

It seems like this formulaic trend of Bollywood aping Hollywood has been on-going for several years now. Therefore, as a British Asian viewer who is fortunate to be able to view a plethora of films ranging from Hollywood, to British to Pakistani to Chinese to Indian cinema for me VDW is not doing anything new. However, one has to accept that despite it being a not-so-original film, the comedy is proving to be a public pleaser.

Even though the audience is fully aware of the palpable similarities with other western all-female comedies like Mean Girls and Sex and the City, the film is appealing to audiences here in the UK, as well as in India. Within just a week’s release, the movie has collected nearly £200,000, according to Bollywood Hungama.

This first-week box-office collection of VDW is reaching the lifetime collection of Queen, which was also another unconventional comparatively to other female-centric Bollywood. So what has driven the success of the film? Is it just the comedic element? The combination of the fresh female talent? Or is it the sexual content, combined with all other factors?

Recently, there is a lot being said regarding Swara Bhasker’s masturbating scene. As such, the film highlights how the marriage of Bhasker’s character unravels after her husband finds her in bed “flying solo”. This ‘bold’ and ‘explicit’ scene has resulted in a mixture of opinions on social media.

On one hand, a Twitter user expressed: “Hey @ReallySwara just watched #VeereDiWedding with my grandmother. We got embarrassed when that masturabation (misspelling of the word) scene came on screen. As we came out of the theatre my grandmother said ‘I’m Hindustan and I am ashamed of #VeereDiWedding’.”

On the other hand, another audience member has commented: “For those who want Veere Di Wedding to be “smarter” or “have a brain”, just remember it is not the job of a “woman-led” film to have a message every time. Why can’t you tolerate women having fun?

The issue with this ‘flying solo’ sequence is not to do with the sexuality of the scene per se, but the way it has been incorporated within the film’s narrative. This, in my view, is questionable.

For me, it seems as though the director has included this scene as a pretentious statement in order to make the film seem ‘different’ and ‘fresh’. Perhaps it is this controversy and most importantly the sexual quotient which has made the audience curious to watch Veere Di Wedding.

On the whole, regardless of the opinions, one cannot deny that the film has struck a chord with the audience, as reflected in the box-office collections.

However, one cannot help but question, Does Bollywood really need films with excessive swearing and over-the-top explicit nature to show how independent and strong modern Indian women are? Maybe, VDW is a reflection of the changing face of Hindi cinema.