Friday, July 11, 2008

Vivah, or, Prem-and-Proper Go 'Round the Fire

Hey, see Amrita's eyelids in that picture? Get used to them, cuz that's all you're getting for the next couple of hours.

Okay, I don't know if I'm too Western to appreciate this movie or what. Or maybe I'm just too much of a white girl. However, in my defense, I went into Vivah fully expecting to enjoy it. After all, I loved Shahid's performance in Jab We Met and thought Amrita did a great job in Main Hoon Na. And at the time, I hadn't seen Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon (ahh, the days of my carefree youth), so I had no prejudices against Sooraj R. Barjatya. In any case, this 2006 movie, which stars Shahid Kapoor, Amrita Rao, Anupam Kher and Alok Nath, had no appeal for me.

Here's the set-up: Prem Chandra (Shahid) is a young man working in his richer-than-God father's (Anupam) company. He's the younger brother--his bhaiyya is already married with a son. Poonam (Amrita) is a gorgeous orphan, living with her loving uncle, resentful aunt, and adorable cousin. A mutual friend brings photos of Poonam to Chandra-ji's house and Baba talks Prem into at least glancing at the photo. One look at the Glamour-Shots-worthy pic and Prem's ready to get this show on the road.


The rest of the movie consists of Prem and Poonam slooooooowwwwwwwllllllllyyyyyyyyyyy getting to know each other (by interval I felt like the movie was happening in real time), with a standard Barjatya "twist" that anybody could've seen coming from a mile away in the last 25 minutes.

To me, this movie felt like a throwback to yesteryear Bollywood, although considering my limited acquaintance with it I could definitely be wrong. I'm not talking about the plot when I say throwback, either. I don't have a problem with arranged marriages if both parties are in favor of it; some of my favorite books have arranged marriages in them and if it works for the bridal couple then it's fine with me. What I mean by throwback is the cartoon sound-effects, the overly earnest acting (and just plain overacting), the heavy-handed moralizing (I swear, if I heard one more reference to "going to temple" I was going to pull my hair out), and the archetype characters.


To tell you the truth, the two characters I most liked were chatty Rajni (Poonam's cousin, played by Amrita Prakash, which must've made for some interesting mix-ups on-set) and grumpy Chaachii (that means aunt and I don't care enough to go look up her character's name, although Seema Biswas did a great job portraying her). Why? Because they actually acted like human beings instead of puppets in a morality play.

Wait a second! Eyes!

By the time Prem tells Poonam about how their wedding night will basically make the stars amazed, but "we'll wait, as you consider it proper," I rolled my eyes so far back that I could practically see my brain. Growing up in a religiously conservative community means I know plenty of girls who share (or used to share, anyway) Poonam's reservations about sex before marriage, but that didn't mean their boyfriends and, later, fiances didn't try to push the limits of, um, "propriety." My first, totally-modern-American thought, was, "Is this guy gay?" Then my second thought was, "Am I supposed to care about these saints? Clearly they have an express pass to heaven."

I know, I know, they're supposed to be types of whatever Hindu god and goddess preside over domestic bliss, and I know, I know, this movie was a HUGE hit in India, mostly based on word-of-mouth, and I know, I know, I am such a huge cynic that clearly I am destined for warmer temperatures than Prem-and-Poonam.

There are some good things about the movie, namely Rajni and Prem's older brother. Prem's family only accept a token dowry for Poonam, a great message in a country where dowry killings aren't unheard-of. Shahid does an excellent job of playing the callow, lovelorn young man, and I guess Amrita does precisely what's required of the role, although I have to say that Sanjana in Main Hoon Na would've kicked Poonam's ass. And toward the end of the movie, there are some heart-rending moments as doctors reminisce on victims of bride-burning they've treated and the fathers pour out love upon the newlyweds, particularly Poonam. At this point I was awakened by the sound of my head hitting the keyboard with a "thud."

No, wait, they're gone again. Eyelids.

The soundtrack is boring, other than "Hamari Shaadi," which is totally adorable. This movie is a waste of one of Bollywood's best dancers, and "Hamari Shaadi" is the only song which shows Shahid even remotely busting a move. "Mujhe Haq Hai" has beautiful sentiments, but the voices of the singers don't compliment the characters or the actors at all. (Maybe another example of throwback status?)

So. Vivah is clearly a worthy movie, and the only way for it to be more worthy would be for it to get out a hammer labeled "Propriety" and hit me over the head with it repeatedly. Maybe I'm the only person who's seen it to think so, but I don't think it's worth much.


  1. >> My first, totally-modern-American thought, was, "Is this guy gay?"

    If it is the dialogue that bothers you, thank you for giving me fodder for comments on every Shah Rukh movie (besides Swades and maybe Chak De) ever made! :o)

    I liked Vivah, although I agree it could have moved faster (for the record, I doubt I'm any closer to the coolers in the Hereafter than you think you are :P).

    Really liked Amrita in it (here is a recent music video starring her). The film only catered to her strengths by showing her eyes (Subhaan-Allah!).

    And allow me to play devil's advocate for a second, but what's wrong with being a throwback to yesteryear Bollywood every once in a while?! ;)

  2. Yesteryear BW is sometimes superior to today's BW, if what I've seen about it on others' blogs gives any indication. What I meant was it captures the WORST of the old without the charm of the new as far as lack of subtlety, etc. I didn't mean that old BW was inferior or anything. Sorry if I gave that impression! :-)

    What bothered me most was the complete lack of human weakness in either Prem or Poonam. I mean, I would've liked to have seen Poonam snap, "Thank god I won't have to live with your sour lemon of a face in a few weeks," at her aunt, or see Prem overstep his bounds and have to do some fast apologizing to win back her trust, or *something* to indicate they weren't perfect. Y'know?

  3. Oh, my bad on the BW of yesteryear. And please, no apologies ever needed :)

    I'm with you on the issue of perfectness. Maybe it was so widely appreciated because it is often heartening to imagine what things might be in a utopia?! That's an interesting thought. Thanks for getting me started down that thinking path...

  4. Havent seen this one but it sounds exactly like most of Rajshri's normal fare. I can live with perfect characters (depends upon who's playing it, and Shahid is a good candidate!) but when they come with a perfect story that goes nowhere you wonder why Rajshri even bother to make a movie! Some of their most irritating fare was Hum Aapke Hain Kaun which at least had Madhuri (and some song-and-dance numbers) but Hum Saath Saath Hain was a total washout inspite of Tabu, Mohnish Behl and Saif!

    Was planning to watch this one as it was a big hit but looks like I can spare myself!

  5. ajnabi,
    Maybe you'd like an alternate ending, where Shahid sees Amrita's burned body/face, and says,"I'm outta here! NO way! I can't stand any form of ugliness" (ALA Sashi in Satyam Shivam Sundaram) and then she would suddenly sit up in her hospital bed, flash her eyelids open and hiss wide eyed at him, "Hold on, you're not going ANYWHERE!" That would have spiced things up. :)
    All the best,

  6. bollyviewer--it does sound like it's more of the same, so if it's not usually your cuppa tea then I'd say it's safe to skip.

    Sita-ji--naaaah, I don't want him to be *that* bad (but it does make for an interesting mental picture! LOL); I like my characters to be flawed but noble. ;-)

  7. I love the review, but i have never felt like throwing a plate at this tv than in this movie, it was soooo unbearably saccharine and out-dated that it was funny and ire-inducing. And like sita said, i would love it if Shahid screamed Nahhhiiii and throw her out of the house and a flood would wash away the family

  8. Rum, I'm with you, I almost went into diabetic shock. LOL I saw some interviews for them on Shubh
    Vivah on YouTube and Shahid said he played Prem as per the director's instructions so that people would be surprised when he stuck with her. I was like, "I was supposed to be surprised???" I mean, he was in love with her, I would've been surprised if he *had* dumped her, yk?

  9. I think Amrita/Poonam was under heavy medication for the duration of the movie. That must be the only reason why she cant open her eye :)

    I liked the characters who played Shahid's family, but not Shahid- this was the 1st movie I had seen of his, and his "good"ness almost put me against him. Thank goodness for Jab We Met :D

  10. Shweta, you've just explained the entire movie to me. Clearly she was on Valium so she could deal with living with her auntie. At last I can like Poonam! LOL

  11. Pretty much agree with you here. I could only watch 40 minutes of this, so I clearly missed out on a lot of Amrita being a coy good girl.

    You might want to avoid other Rajshri productions, apart from maybe Hum Aapke Hai Kaun because it's a classic, though totally plotless fluff. Hum Saath-Saath Hain was cringeworthy. Any others I've not bothered with.

  12. veracious, thanks for the warnings. Life is too short to waste on bad films! ;-)

  13. Dropping first time - ur blog is interesting.

    I totally agree with you about vivah being an absolute boring movie

    I wasted my money by seeing it on the big screen.

    Rajashri movies from the 70s were much better - try to see "chitchor", "Dulhan Wahi Jo Piya Man Bahaye", Akhiyon ke jhaorokon se, Sawan ko aaney do, Geet Gata Chal.

    Cud u pls pass these on to Memsaab also?


  14. Hi Anonymous--thanks for stopping by and commenting! Thank you for the recommendations too. When I've worked my way through the 30 Bollywood movies clogging up my Netflix queue at the moment I'll be sure to check them out. ;-) I'll do my best to give the recs to Memsaab too. :-D

  15. You are so full of win. Seriously. Your second paragraph COMPLETELY sums up my feelings and experiences, and I am soooo glad that I am not the only person who hated this movie!

    Even before the interval, I got up and walked around the house, cleaning up and going on the computer, hoping that maybe when I got back, something would have changed. Nope-- 20 minutes, then 30, then 1 hour later, the movie was EXACTLY the same. One of the extremely rare B-Wood movies that couldn't capture my attention enough.

    And valium? LMAO. YES, I can now like Poonam, too!

    But you know what really ticked me off? We didn't even get to see the burns at the end! They were like, teasing us! My sister and I kept saying "you made us go through 3 hours of torture, we better see some gosh-darned ugly effing burns!", but not once do we see anything! And I don't even LIKE gory stuff at all. XD


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