When Hari Got Married review: a rom-com of a documentary

Deepanjana Pal

Aug 30, 2013 13:10:32 IST

Hari and Suman have been engaged for two years. When he calls her, he asks her to say “I love you”. When she obliges, there’s a silly grin that lights up Hari’s face. Except Suman doesn’t know what Hari looks like when she says those three little words to him. She can’t even imagine it, because Hari and Suman have no idea what the other looks like. All they have of each other are phone numbers and the sound of a voice, wrapped in the crackle of a cheap cellphone’s speakers.

When Hari Got Married review: a rom-com of a documentary

Grounded and candid, Hari doesn’t pretend to be cooler, more liberal or knowledgeable than he is.

It’s the stuff of a romantic comedy, made all the more poignant because it’s real. In Hari, a Pahadi taxi driver from Dharamsala, documentary filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam have a shuddh desi hero. He’s the little guy that you can’t help but warm up to because he’s just so utterly adorable. Pocket-sized and a motor-mouth, Hari chatters his way through When Hari Got Married. As he candidly talks about everything from the financial prospects of being a taxi driver to the caste system, it’s easy to imagine someone could fall in love with this man just because of his words. In their honesty, simplicity and wit lies a modern Indian man who may not be perfect, but whom you want to cheer for all the same.

Sarin and Sonam followed Hari and his family as they prepared for Hari’s wedding. In the process, we get a document of how traditions and change are being negotiated by a section of society into whose lives we don’t often get a glimpse. Usually, when we’re taken into these worlds, the stories are bleak and despairing. Not this time. When Hari Got Married is unvarnished, but full of hope and happiness. It’s also intimate, with the filmmakers and the camera becoming participants rather than aloof observers. They’re there when the family is buying sweaters for bride-to-be. It’s to them that Suman turns, when she wants to know how Hari spoke of her, as though the filmmakers are the couple’s confidants.

Hari's life is a mix-and-match of old and new ways of life. Traditions like an arranged marriage to someone you’ve never met thrive next to modern additions, like playlists on USB sticks, sending girls to school and, of course, the cellphone. Perhaps what is most charming about Hari is his openness. At the same time, he’s a proud Pahadi and mindful that he has to negotiate his way through the traditions and thinking that he has inherited.

Grounded and candid, Hari doesn’t pretend to be cooler, more liberal or knowledgeable than he is. For example, during one wedding ritual, he tells the filmmakers, “It’s the first time I’m getting married, so I don’t know what’s happening either.” He thinks discriminating on the basis of caste is wrong, but he also thinks sons are better than daughters. His expectations of a wife are very traditional – she should be a good homemaker – and yet, when he senses tension in Suman’s voice during one of their chats, he tells her, “I just want you. I don’t care about what you bring or dowry or anything.”

Ultimately, perhaps the most heartwarming part of When Hari Got Married is seeing the delight on Hari’s face when he becomes the father of a daughter. He doesn't pretend they weren't hoping for a son, but there’s not a smudge of regret on his face as he proudly shows off his five-day-old daughter, Anjali, to the camera and plants a kiss on Suman’s cheek.

At which point, all you can do is wish for Hari, Suman and Anjali, a very happily-ever-after.

Updated Date: Aug 30, 2013 13:10:33 IST