What Veere Di Wedding reveals about Indian films centered on women and how it can learn from Ocean's 8
One sincerely hopes Veere Di Wedding will give contemporary, Indian women wings to fly. Also women can entertain while going beyond women-centered matters, too. That's a promise Ocean's 8 makes all too well.
The past two years have had a significant surge in conversations and discourse around portrayal and treatment of women in different film industries. Here in India too, contemporary actresses have consistently spoken up for more stories and films to be told around women.
Speaking of representation of women onscreen, June will see an interesting juxtaposition in Bollywood and in Hollywood. Perhaps it’s sheer coincidence that two major films where women call the shots will release this summer. While comparisons are not fair, the way both portray tales of women deserves a close look, especially given the fact that the Hindi film in question is primarily bankrolled by women.
Veere Di Wedding is produced by Rhea and Sonam Kapoor along with Ekta Kapoor of Balaji Films. It is directed by Shashanka Ghosh. A glossy tale about a marriage and friends of the bride, it features Kareena Kapoor Khan as Veere, alongside Sonam, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania. To be fair, the film’s trailer stands out for its uncanny, smooth display of educated, posh women mouthing expletives as normal conversation.
Swearing is, no doubt, ‘in’ — as a safe tactic to make a trailer talked about. But when women swear freely and without inhibitions in Hindi cinema, it becomes a talking point, and gets noticed. Often, a woman swearing draws the focus away from what the character or the trailer is actually aiming to show. Yet, in the case of Veere Di Wedding, director Shashanka Ghosh has been able to make it seem natural and effortless. The four characters play friends who let it all out when they hang out together.
As is evident from the film’s title, Veere Di Wedding is about Veere’s impending marriage. She is conflicted about changing a surname and becoming a wife. She cancels her wedding at the eleventh hour when she gets cold feet over rituals, ceremonies and celebrations. Each of her three friends are battling their own relationship issues - with one seeking divorce, another bringing up a baby and one struggling to stay married. In a nutshell, as Sonam Kapoor’s character says in the trailer, it doesn’t matter how educated or accomplished you are, if you’re a woman, marriage is all that matters.
Here in India, marriage is a huge social marker — you are either in the married club or out. Every aspect of a person’s social life is impacted by their marital or relationship status. And so, Veere Di Wedding, though stating the obvious, gets this angle right.
However, the liberating element stops here. Ever since the film’s songs and its pictures have released — a large part of the spotlight has been put on the glamour, ooomph and don’t-you-dare-miss-how-hot-she-is-post-delivery aspect of Kareena Kapoor Khan.
One can’t help but feel that if this film is indeed exploring the conflicts of a woman and her relationships, going beyond the swearing and the gloss would have been more effective. Right now, with visually enhancing elements dominant in the film’s glimpses, one wonders — is Veere Di Wedding a film about women conflicted with their relationships or is it a glorified wedding video? How does a woman who is not so happy with her life always manage to be spruced, prepped and made up to look bikini or night club ready? Clearly, Veere and her buddies — while conflicted — don’t mind having a good time.
Compare this to Oceans’ 8 — the two trailers that have hit online. One look at the sass and style, without fuss or frills, and you can’t help but smile. With an all female star cast that’s eye-poppingly-impressive, this film is about girls taking the lead in committing a headline-worthy theft.
With Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Awkwafina, Dakota Fanning, Mindy Kaling and a list of stars, the glamour element in the film overshadows a dozen Veere Di Weddings. The glamorous setting of this heist is just a footnote though, while the crime planned and the promise of a sleek heist holds prime interest. In terms of banter, valuable skills and sheer scale of Debbie Ocean’s imagination, this film doesn’t feel any different from the Oceans movies by Steven Soderbergh — lined-up with a collection of male stars. That there are women in charge only adds to it’s all round appeal.
Director Gary Ross holds out the promise of no holds barred entertainment with Ocean's 8, which is a positive sign. That a major Hollywood studio would back and fund this project — a film without market-tested stereotypes of a chick flick or a 'woman centric' drama, is also a sign of good times (to come). Women getting their hands dirty and playing dangerous games can surely get audiences interested, men too. Wonder Woman aced this space by delivering a superheroine film that went beyond underlining the feminine qualities of its protagonist. Ocean's 8 might be the second film to do the same.
As for Veere Di Wedding, its focus on marriage being central to conflict, confusion and trauma for women in India is definitely based in fact. Having said that, constant reiteration of just how much ‘fun’ Veere and her friends have, in glitzy settings and flush with funds existences, is beginning to dilute the film’s plot and central theme. Glamour is integral to Hindi films, but that alone will not draw audiences or inculcate interest. Therefore, at least on celluloid, one sincerely hopes Veere Di Wedding will give contemporary, financially well-off Indian women wings to fly. Oh, and also, women can entertain while going beyond women-centered matters, too. That's a promise Ocean's 8 makes all too well.
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