The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again. But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.
“Was it a love marriage?”
I’m my lifetime, the concept of Indian cinema in Australia has gone from virtually unknown, to novelty, to almost mainstream in the number of Indian movies that appear (however briefly) on Australian cinema screens. Sure, film buffs have been able to seek out older, Indian classics, and I’m sure Australia’s large Indian community meant plenty of movies have made their way here and sold well over the years. But the last ten or fifteen years has seen Bollywood output gain more and more attention. Which is why I feel like a terrible movie nerd, because I only just watched my first Bollywood movie, Dum Laga Ke Haisha.
It’s the mid 90s, and Prem (Ayushmann Khurrana) spends his days working in his cassette tape shop in a market. Now in his 20s with no high school or college qualification, his parents are determined to marry him off to someone with decent prospects who can earn a living and contribute to the family. So they arrange a marriage between Prem and Sandhya (Bhumi Pednekar). She’s about to graduate uni as a teacher and ticks all of Prem’s parents’ boxes. The only problem is, Prem thinks he deserves a super model, and Sandhya is too overweight to fit his ideal.
But, the spineless Prem is too scared of his father to oppose the plan, and the wedding takes place anyway. Openly rude and dismissive of his new wife, Prem makes no effort to get to know Sandhya or make her feel welcome. But he succumbs to his primal urges anyway, and things only become more complicated. When a new music store opens in Prem’s market boasting the crazy new technology of compact discs, his work pressures pile on top of his domestic woes. Will it be enough to totally destroy him, or will it be the boot in the ass he needs to get his life together?
IMDB describes Dum Laga Ke Haisha as a comedy, drama and romance. I’ll buy the second two, but comedy feels like a stretch. There are a few laughs, but not nearly enough for it to be called a comedy. And I don’t think it’s trying to be a comedy anyway. The main focus is on the romance and drama, as Prem learns to accept the responsibilities of becoming a man. The infrequent jokes are more about relieving tension here and there.
But that focus on romance and drama doesn’t mean Dum Laga Ke Haisha is in any way a downer. It’s actually really upbeat, and sweet and optimistic. Even when Prem is at his most dickish, there’s an energy and brightness to the movie that makes it very clear that everything will be alright in the end. It may not have made me laugh very much, but I did have a smile on my face pretty much the whole time. And if that’s common to Bollywood movies, I need to see more.