Director: Harshavardhan Kulkarni
Cast:; Bhumi Pednekar, Rajkummar Rao, Chum Darang, Sheeba Chaddha
Platform: Theatrical Release
With more and more filmmakers bringing LGBTQIA stories to the big screen, Harshavardhan Kulkarni’s Badhaai Do also takes a chance by dipping his feet in the water. Starring Rajkummar Rao as Shardul Thakur, a gay cop, and Bhumi Pednekar as Sumi – the lesbian physical education teacher, Badhaai Do follows these two individuals and their coming out of the closet story.
Set in the scenic hill tops of Dehradhun, Badhaai Do kicks off with family members discussing one of their most favourite topics – marriage. Both Shardul and Sumi’s parents are looking for a suitor, oblivious to the fact that they are not straight. While the duo have been going about their lives, it is the sharp witted and smart Sumi’s dating experiment that leads her to the macho-yet-humble and pampered cop Shardul.
Writers Suman Adhikary, Akshat Ghildial and Harshavardhan Kulkarni waste no time in establishing the characters and their background. From their first meeting to their convenient yet not-so-convenient marriage, everything falls into place rather easily and quickly. Rest of the film’s first half then explores their honeymoon adventures and individual love stories that seem tedious. Why are only songs the most preferred way to convey a budding romance in Hindi films?
In a country where Indians are ignorant of the LGBTQIA community, against them or simply not inclusive, Badhaai Do tries to break that first door and make inroads. However, it does so, with casual jokes on moral policing, body shaming and not being fair enough to marry. The film’s first half is riddled with some of these cringe-worthy jokes.
With Sumi and Shardul in a lavender marriage setting, the couple have to now deal with their own personal world as well as the one they have created together. Director Harshvardhan Kulkarni poses several small conflicts in his screenplay, but it never becomes a major point of contention. Fights, arguments and family issues are resolved with much ease, making you wonder where the story is headed.
It is the film’s second half that shines brighter than the first, all thanks to actress Sheeba Chaddha, who breathes life into the mundane relationship saga. Playing Shardul’s mother, Sheeba offers comic relief and brings her own charm with her weird but affable character.
Rajkummar and Bhumi dish out an earnest performance as one would expect. The film’s casting is on point as Chum Darang, Seema Pahwa, a surprise appearance by Gulshan Devaiah and the supporting cast keep you interested as well as nail comic timing.
With the hills of Dehradun as the backdrop, cinematographers Manoj Shaw and Swapnil Sonawane immerse you into the scenic sights as and when they get a chance. Likewise, Rohit Chaturvedi also plays with dark costume colours until the film’s climax when colours of the pride flag dominate the screen. However, it is the film’s underwhelming music that’s a dampener. Looks like the filmmakers also took note of the backlash it received and have edited out the ‘Straight Pride’ flag from the film’s climax.
At the heart of it, Badhaai Do is a coming out of the closet story for a gay and lesbian individual. Kulkarni largely treats it with compassion but also does not shy away from showing the realities and acceptance in modern-day India’s tier-2 and tier-3 cities. Be it living your own truth or legalising adoption for the LGBTQIA community, Badhaai Do strives to start a conversation but shines light on the actuality that we have a long way to go by holding a mirror to the society.