Badhaai Ho, the film that was one of the biggest surprise hits of 2018, made the audience and the Hindi filmmakers sit back and notice that mainstream films could be out of the box, and still work wonders. The film was a big hit at the box office, and even picked a National Film award. Four years later, the producers of Badhaai Ho are back with a “spiritual sequel” titled Badhaai Do. Starring Bhumi Pednekar and Rajkummar Rao, Badhaai Do is directed by Harshvardhan Kulkarni. The film is based on the subject of lavender marriage (where a man and a woman, who are queer, pretend to be straight and get married to each other to avoid social/parental pressure), and like many other films in a similar space, this one too is a comedy.
Harshvardhan shared with us that his way of looking at the subject was “slightly tongue in cheek” and not a requirement that was thrust upon him. “This is how I like cinema to be. It is middle of the road, it is funny, quirky and full of life and obviously, there are a lot of emotions too,” he said. That being said, Harshvardhan added that humour in a film like this does not necessarily need to be slapstick or juvenile; it can be a parody, irony or just go dark. “You are laughing but you are feeling the pain inside, it is very delicately woven into this film. I wouldn’t say it is a funny film or a comedy film. It’s the way you might be moved by it despite you laughing all the way,” he said.
In the recent past, films like Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhanand Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga have dealt with queer subjects, and gained audience’s acceptance. But in the case of Badhaai Do, Harshvardhan said, they wanted to do more. He shared that other films expected “tolerance from the audience because it is about the queer community.” With Badhaai Do, he said, “We went one step beyond and we said, we are going to be allies. We are not going to be just accepting, tolerant, empathetic, and all of that. We are actually going to be allies.” This idea of being an ally was woven into the script as Harshvardhan explained that none of the family members of the characters know about their sexual orientation but the audience is privy to that information right from the start. “The audience knows and are a part of their journey. They are going through it all, which need not necessarily be serious all the time,” he said.
But humour, as we know, is subjective. The queer community is still miles away from getting wholly accepted in mainstream cinema but the audience today is quite vocal about calling out insensitive jokes or tearing apart politically incorrect statements. Despite the filmmakers being careful, there have been gaffes in the past. Does this lead to a lot of second-guessing? He shared that to take care of something like this, it is necessary for them to be “not be so adamant” about their decisions and create an inclusive workspace, which includes hiring consultants from the community. “We had a script consultant who is from the queer community and so there was enough give and take. I love to work like that,” he said. Harshvardhan added that not just one person, they shared the script “with a group of people.” He added, “So many things were told to us. Certain things we felt were ‘yaar, it’s okay, we are ready to take that flak’. Because it is never going to be 100 per cent politically correct. Your politics could be very different from mine but there is still a larger view, which one should be sticking to. We have taken utmost care in doing that and not just second-guessing.”
While the film’s two primary protagonists are from the queer community, Harshvardhan shared that there is more to their characters. He shared, “There is a line in the film where Bhumi’s character is explaining to someone that ‘our sexuality is not the only thing about us’.” He spoke about the many other facets of her life – her parents, her job as a PT teacher, her friends and “so many other idiosyncrasies that have nothing to do with her sexual orientation. I am interested in exploring those facets as well.”
The two-and-a-half-minute trailer of Badhaai Do introduces the audience to the setup of the film, lavender marriage, and Harshvardhan shared with us that the film does not celebrate lavender marriage but they definitely wanted to explore the reason for its existence. He shared, “The queer community was scared of the discrimination from the family and the society because, for the society and the family, homosexuality was wrong. That’s why people were in the closet.” He explained it in the context of Badhaai Do, “These characters decide that this is a good way to live, like roommates. Like just get married and not have the pressure from our parents. You will realise that nobody is going to be celebrating this, this is just the set up.”
Harshvardhan added that a film just can’t be about liberated people, and it is necessary for the audience to understand the root of the problem. “For people to understand, they need to understand it from the grassroot level. It will probably get a wider reach and I feel that that might convert people into becoming allies in the future,” he concluded on a hopeful note.