He is a goofy, good-natured, 10th standard-pass lout from Jhansi. She is an ambitious, diligent and driven girl from Kota. In life someone like Vaidehi Trivedi would never fall in love with someone like Badrinath Bansal. Which is why we have Bollywood.
Director and writer Shashank Khaitan uses this improbable narrative to create an amiable, moving, frothy romance. Badrinath ki Dulhania is the second installment in Dharma’s rom-com franchise, after Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania. These stories have no connection. The only links are the actors – Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt. And the setting – once again, we are in small town India where archaic traditions are warring with modern ideas – like a woman who wants a career instead of marriage.
Shashank clearly establishes that Vaidehi is a hero – she takes tough decisions in the pursuit of her dreams. But he also gives us a hero who learns the true definition of masculinity. It isn’t the toxic aggression that his overbearing father preaches. It’s the strength to respect her choices. Of course the story stays simplistic and sunny – when Vaidehi breaks the rules, there are disturbing threats of violence but the darkness dispels quickly. Which is not a bad thing. Think of Badrinath ki Dulhania as a dose of feminism-lite. I was smiling through the film.
Thanks mostly to Varun Dhawan and Sahil Vaid, who plays Badri’s hapless friend Somdev. Varun excels as Badri. He has an earnestness that connects instantly. He captures each nuance of Badri – his longing for Vaidehi, his confusion and hurt and the eventual transformation of his rage into understanding and respect. Alia was born with high beam charm but she also has a natural verve that makes her believable and engaging. Onscreen, the two seemed like old friends – there is a comfort level here that surpasses chemistry. Pay special attention to Alia’s gorgeous styling by Manish Malhotra. And to the supporting cast – courtesy Mukesh Chhabra. Sahil is terrific as Badri’s best friend. And I enjoyed Swanand Kirkire as Vaidehi’s traumatized father. This is not a stern patriarch. This is simply a man struggling to make sense of a world in which all the rules have changed.
Badrinath ki Dulhania should have been tighter. There are moments in the second half when it feels like Shashank has run out of ideas. Does every romance need a Badshah club song? There’s also a weird scene in which Badri is accosted by muggers who tear his shirt and grope him. This is supposed to be funny but it’s just seemed creepy and unnecessary. You will also have to overlook the easy resolution.