Friday, June 15, 2018

"Veere Di Wedding" Challenges South Asian Social Norms

I had a chance this week to see Veere Di Wedding, the latest Bollywood flick released recently in Silicon Valley, CA. The movie's story revolves around the lives of four childhood friends Kalindi (Kareena Kapoor), Avni (Sonam kapoor), Meera (ShikhaTalsania) and Sakshi (Swara Bhaskar).

The film appears to be India's version of the popular HBO series "Sex and the City" that ran from 1998 to 2004 in the United States. Sex and the City features lives of four unmarried career women living in New York City. The series explores changing women's' roles in American society and how the changes are impacting workplaces and women's relationships with men.

Directed by Shashanka Ghosh, it is a story of four drinking, smoking, foul-mouthed female friends from upscale South Delhi. These are well-educated young women asserting their independence by challenging social norms in a highly patriarchal Indian society.  The behavior and the language of the female characters in the movie has shocked and outraged many in India. The screening of the movie has been banned in Pakistan and slammed by Hindu groups in India.

As the name suggests, Veere Di Wedding (Friend's Wedding) features a wedding, a big fat Indian wedding. It is the celebration of the union of Kalindi with Rishabh (Sumeet Vyas) that brings together the four main female characters. They share their stories and the drama unfolds.

Each of the four characters is defying traditions in their own way with the common thread being refusal to accept arranged marriages within their caste and class. Meera has married an American against her parents' will. Sakshi is a frustrated wife of an Indian man in London when he catches her using a mechanical device to pleasure herself. Avni, a divorce lawyer, is dumped by an Indian man picked by her mother as a "suitable" mate for her.  Kalindi has been happily living with Rishabh in Australia. She only reluctantly agrees to solemnize the relationship upon Rishabh's insistence.

The film and the cast have generated a lot of controversy in both India and Pakistan. Box office receipts so far suggest the controversy has helped sell more tickets.

Swara Bhaskar drew sharp criticism from several Pakistani celebrities for saying  that "Pakistan is a failing state run by sharia laws" and then she added "why should we take pleasure in all the silly things that happen in Pakistan? Apologies to all my Pakistani friends…”

Swara was heavily trolled by right-wing Hindu groups after she protested the rape-murder of an 8 year old Muslim Kashmiri girl Asifa by posting a picture of herself holding a placard that said: “ I am Hindustan. I am Ashamed. 8 years old ! Gangraped! Murdered!! In 'Devi'-sthan temple!!! #Kathua”.

"At least Indians and Pakistanis have finally managed to find something to agree about,” Bhaskar told BuzzFeed News. “Maybe this is the Indo-Pak peace talk we needed.”

Veere Di Wedding is not suitable for moviegoers of all ages. The film would shock and outrage many South Asians for its content. It does, however, begin to explore the possibility of significant social and workplace impact of the growing population of educated career women in the region.  It is recommended for adult audiences who have watched R-rated western movies in the past.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Silent Social Revolution in Pakistan

Arif Hasan's Website

The Eclipse of Feudalism in Pakistan

Social and Structural Transformations in Pakistan

Malala Moment: Profiles in Courage-Not!

Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia

Rising Economic Mobility in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan


Rashid A. said...

Social Norms are always under challenge everywhere. After a while the new norms gets challenged too.

BTW, the phrase “Veer di Wedding” means “Brother’s wedding”. In Punjabi language in which this phrase is coined, Veer means brother.

See the lyrics from Classic Punjabi film Kartar Singh:

Desan da raja meray babul da pyara

Amrdie dhay dil day sahara

Nee veer mera ghorri charraya,

Babul: Father
Amrdi= Mother
Veer= Brother

Riaz Haq said...

Rashid: " Social Norms are always under challenge everywhere. After a while the new norms gets challenged too. "

Millions watching new social behaviors on big screens has a bigger impact on young minds who end up imitating

Rashid A. said...

That means,

Art imitates life?

No, life immitates art! There lies the power, or fearsome power of media to mood minds.

This was demonstrated by another movie.

Joota Chupayee custom was almost dead, till the movie Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. The song “ Paisay lay lo, jootay day do” revives this ritual in weddings. Now no shadi is complete with this ritual and playing of this song.

Riaz Haq said...

Rashid: No, life immitates art! There lies the power, or fearsome power of media to mood minds.

It's the age-old debate on whether the popular media reflect or shape societies.

My view is the media do both. Media reflect societies with their own embellishments and exaggerations.

Ahmad F. said...

So why use the English word "wedding" in the title of this film?

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "So why use the English word "wedding" in the title of this film?"

Veere Di Wedding portrays Delhi's elite; hence the use of the English word "wedding".

The movie characters are Punjabis living in upscale South Delhi.

I know many of Delhi's rich Punjabis migrated from Lahore in 1947. I have worked with some of them here in Silicon Valley.

Lahore's elite was essentially Sikh and Hindu before partition. Lahore's Muslims were mostly poor peasants.

In Punjab, two-thirds of the land-holdings and 99% of bank deposits of Rs. 100 crore in Lahore were held by Hindus and Sikhs, according to the British archives researched by Dr. Kirpal Singh, author of "PARTITION of PUNJAB", published in 1972.

Only 3 out of 16 colleges in Lahore were run by Muslims. Of the 15 professional colleges, excluding 3 run by the government, all were run by non-Muslims. All 12 hospitals were operated by non-Muslims. Muslims in undivided Punjab had very low standards of living relative to Hindus and Sikhs, they were poor and backward, and there was no Muslim professional or business class in Lahore of 1947.

Rizwan said...

"Veer" is the affectionate form of "bhai" (brother) in Punjabi, not "dost" (friend).

Z Basha Jr said...

We better not follow their culture.. Already our society suffering from the onslaught of Bollywood and alien cultures on tv...