The invisibility of films like ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ is disappointing. These are stories that need to be told. They pass us by with a silent whimper between the deafening uproar of the movies like Kick, Happy New Year and Singham. Of the many threads around which the fabric of this film is woven, the one that is the most prominent is that of Yin and Yang, of him and her, of man and woman, of blue and pink. India would probably be one of the few remaining societies in the world where choosing a spouse is the choice of the family and not the individuals involved. In the ‘arranged marriage’ scenario as it is commonly known, the story of the man is seldom told.
Indian society hypocritically pretends to be conventional. We might be sky rocketing in pre-marital sex, extra marital affairs and STD’s, we might be the land of Khajuraho and Kamasutra, but let all of us shut our eyes towards that now. The 90% of the country, the non-metro part of India, is tangibly divided into two – men and women. The narrative of the movie depicts the issue of men and women not socializing. Girls and boys in our society still are discouraged to mingle, talk, be comfortable and normal around each other. During the school-going, teenage years, talking to the opposite gender is mocked and defamed as having an affair. The girls who talk to boys are bad and of a loose character. The boys who talk to girls have to narrate their brag-story later. This makes ‘talking-to-him/her’ look like a triumph, hence trivializing and making a mockery of camaraderie, affection and fondness that one might feel during those years.
So primitive is our society that even during my post graduate years, in one of the prominent universities of Delhi, the getting-in time of the hostel was 6 pm. I repeat, 6 pm. If found violating the 6 pm rule, a huge hue and cry was made. Local guardians were contacted, notices were sent to parents, a written apology was insisted at the threat of being dispelled with immediate effect. Essentially an epic of defamation took place. This, we were told unabashedly, was all in the name of women’s safety. While the boy’s hostel enjoyed a ‘no time limit’ rule, could entertain visitors, drink and make merry 24X7. So uncomfortable we are made to feel in the presence of opposite gender, that a shoulder to cry on, holding hands while walking, calling each other at 3 am, simply asking for help when required, an affectionate hug or peck on the cheek are made to appear as far as definitely sleeping with each other. Then simply, after having raised with all this strangeness, one fine day, we are thrown into a lifelong relationship of marriage.
The woman does leave everything behind to enter a household full of strangers and new responsibilities. But as truly as this movie could depict, the man is equally or more clueless as suddenly he is now supposed to be the ‘man’, take lead, be responsible, guide and have all the answers. He is supposed to initiate sex the first night, or questions of his virility become the talk of extended family and the whole town. It come as no surprise that most of the time the bride and the groom see each other’s faces properly for the first time and lose their virginity to each other on the wedding night. Even before they can explore themselves with each other, establish a rapport and be comfortable with each other, an offspring is on its way in less than a year. Such an important relationship that is supposed to last a lifetime begins with chaos, discomfort, strangeness, absolute absence of communication and over scrutiny under the public glare.
Even in 2015, we hear cases of individuals wanting to choose their life partner as an act of rebellion. The kids are disowned and threats are pronounced. Beautiful relationships are called off to appease parents and society, who anyway go absent after the ‘party’ is over. In many extreme cases lives ended either by families in the name of honour killings or by depressed couples seeing no solution in sight.
Love is slaughtered everyday in my country, one relationship at a time.
How has a culture as embracing and magnanimous as ours, repeatedly failed to see that marriage should have its roots in friendship, love, lust, a mutual willingness to spend a lifetime together while retaining individual identities? What scares me the most is that we have gradually become a generation of and raised by couples who never actually wanted to be with each other. Yes, they would have found love eventually and it might have turned out to be beautiful finally. The pertinent question here remains of choice.
The ‘what-if’ is a scary thing you see. What if they would have in fact chosen to never get married and become someone else, someone different and better, with someone else? What if they would have met someone and married someone of their own liking? What if they would have lived a life that they could make the choices they always wanted and had been able to take responsibility of their choices? ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ is an important story that needs to be told. We as a society are still sacrificing the wishes and desires of individuals that exist; to appease a society that is abstract and borderline hypocritical.