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Badrinath’s Yatra Is Worth Experiencing: Movie Review

Starring: Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt

Written & Directed by: Shashank Khaitan

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From Jhansi to Singapore….phew! This is one helluva  joyride.Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya(BKD) starts  off looking like one of those obnoxious rom-coms where the hero won’t take  a no for an answer and the reluctant heroine will finally say yes.

You know those Govinda-Karisma Kapoor types? Gosh, didn’t we leave  them behind?

But no! BKD surprises you. It even steals your heart at the end of the journey. As writer-director  Shashank Khaitan’s portrayal of small-town ambitions  explodes on screen in  multiple manoeuvres of high drama and  cunning comedy, he never  allows the proceedings to get out of hand.

The number of times the narration threatens to fall over the edge, is not funny. No one topples over even when the characters are boozed out of their heads.

Yup, this  film knows where to  draw the line. Then of course writer-director Shashank Khaitan has a lead pair that oozes charm and warmth. Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan  are undoubtedly  the most accomplished performers among the post-Khan group of stars. They know their chops and they use them without showing off. The film gets rock-solid performances  out of both.

Varun has the tougher role. He must play the small-town stalker who thinks it  is cool to  keep asking a girl for her yes, even if she insists the answer is no.I can see the makers of Pink creating a  stink.

But if there is any actor who can make stalking look forgivable it isVarun Dhawan. He chases down the very determined  Alia Bhatt’s defences all the way from her  home-town in Kota to Singapore where she’s fled to pursue her career ambitions. Like all “good” Indian girls Alia’s Vaidehi must make a choice between marriage and career.The choice, in this film , is not such an awfully regressive dilemma.

I think BKD is a tremendous step forward  from the films that have earlier shown the career woman being emotionally if not physically battered for her aspirations. As played by the astonishingly intuitive Alia Bhatt, Vaidehi reveals blazing sparks of selfishness at  key points in the narration.If Varun’s spoilt-brat approach to obsessive love makes you cringe, Alia’s selfish behaviour will make you blush. ‘Nice’girls don’t dump their devoted bridegrooms at the altar.

This runaway bride in film that is sure to be  runaway hit,  won’t play the victim card. BKD happily and naughtily breaks gender stereotypes , so much so that Varun’s Badrinath frequently assumes the role of the victim in the love relationship. At one hilarious juncture in the plot the character is literally a victim as he  is attacked by a bunch of lusting goons who grope him noisily until Vaidehi storms in with her friends to  rescue him.

I can’t remember any other Hindi film where the hero almost gets raped.

Varun Dhawan is saddled with a part that requires him to be bratty and obsessive. He is never afraid to look like a silly clownish exhibitionist on screen. He is Govinda with a lot more chutzpah and restrain.In the scenes where he is supposed to show hurt and anger , Varun lets it all hang out fearlessly and with maddening insistence. He gets solid support from Sahil Vaid who plays his best friend. They have a wonderful bromantic sequence in the sea  which could have easily become mawkish and outright ridiculous. The two actors hold the film together.  Another heartwarming performance comes  from AparshaktiKhurrana a Mataji singer who falls head over heels in love with the heroine’s sister.Gauran Pandey as a goodhearted but not stereotypicalSardarji and Swanand Kirkire as Alia’s dowry-burdened father hold up well. The marginal characters are written with such care and sensitivity that we are able to enter their heartspace without much ado.

On the minus side, the songs most play themselves by the number. They are strictly functional .The Tamma tamma number is pushed into the somber thoughtful second-half from fans of frivolity.

Clearly this film is huge triumph for the lead pair. Dhawan and Bhattare so gorgeously in-tune with  their individual characters and with their mutual relationship that you are finally looking  at two charismatic actors build  a world apart from reality and  yet so credible that they seem to be your nextdoor neighbours.

Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya is actually a far deeper film than it would like to accept.  Khel khel mein,haseen-mazaaq mein, it tells us bahotkuch about the way women are STILL treated in patriarchal societies and  how bank balances rule the destiny of wedding couples much more than their horoscopes.


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