Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha

March 12, 2015 at 9:15 PMMar (Cinema, Musings, Soliloquy)

[Warning: This write up reveals the story line.]

When you see the Yash Raj banner appearing with a different background voice [Kumar Sanu] it is just an indicator of how this film is unlike all other Yash Raj banner films.

The film Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha is not just different because a over-weight heroine has replaced an hourglass shaped heroines or because the heroine does not know wearing a saree properly unlike the other YRF banner heroines who flaunt their chiffon sari.

The film is different for its gaze and also for its perspective.

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Dum-Laga-Ke-Haisha-Movie

Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha is about Prem who is forcibly married to Sandhya who he thinks is disgusting because of her size. Sandhya who loves Prem is insulted by Prem in the presence of his friends and as a result of this Sandhya decides to call it quits with Prem and leaves the house of Prem and sends a divorce petition. The court gives the two a time of six months to live together and see if things can be resolved between the two. During this period both, under circumstances, have to take part in the dum lagaa ke haisha competition where the husband has to run a race carrying his wife. In the process of this race, also because of the individual journey that leads up to the race, Prem and Sandhya get along well and decide to hang on to each other.

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The first thing that strikes to the viewers of this film is the gaze of the film which doesn’t belittle or mock the weight of Sandhya. But what is, equally if not more, commendable is the way Sandhya is not made to prove herself to become acceptable. In films like say Taare Zameen Par which are also about people who are discriminated the different and discriminated have to prove themselves to become accepted and approved. Even in films like Rab Ney Bana Di Jodi, which bears some similarity to this film, the person who is different in a larger way has to change himself to become accepted and to gain some approval. But in DLKH the heroine is discriminated against and she need not prove herself to be good THOUGH she is over-weight or she need not go a character transformation to be become accepted. It is the one who discriminates her humiliates her who has to undergo a character transformation and become accepted. It’s the perpetrator who has to BECOME and PROVE more human and not the victim or the one who is othered. The one who is different and othered has the steering in her hand and has to finally approve and accept the one who has been mean to her.

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IndiaTv6b9b8f_DumLagaKeThe hero of the film Prem has to BECOME accepted. Though he is loved even from the beginning he has to BECOME lovable. This growth of the character can be traced with two instances of confession and submission. The first time where we see Prem playing a slightly submissive role is when he has to bring the fallen footwear of Sandhya and the second time when he has to get the forgotten file of Sandhya to her. The first time he brings the fallen footwear quite reluctantly and the second time he brings the forgotten file quite willingly. While the first time Sandhya has to hint to him about the fallen footwear the second time there is nobody to remind him or hint him about forgotten file. The difference between these two acts is not just an indicator of Prem becoming more receptive and responsible but also of his involvement in the relationship.

Just before the fall of the footwear Prem has stopped the scooter for a bite. While taking a bite he and Sandhya have a conversation where Prem confesses to Sandhya about his smoking habit and also about him eating onions which his family members don’t. Later when Sandhya returns home following the instruction of the court Sandhya cooks for the family which the family members appreciate and while appreciating also try convincing her about taking part in the race along with Prem. In the next moment we see Prem confessing to Sandhya about why his family is welcoming her back to the family.

The first confession is followed by an order sorts asking Sandhya to not inform his father about the cigarette. The second confession is preceded by him exposing the hypocrisy of his father and family. The first confession is loaded with ego and the second one is devoid of ego. The first confession is concerned about himself and in the second confession the concern is about her and not him. The first instance is about frankness and openness the second instance if of honesty.

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For this transformation to happen for this growth to happen Prem has to outgrow. It is in showing the outgrowing that Prem has to make, the film’s sensitive gaze makes even Prem who is harsh on Sandhya also appear not just human but also victim.

20920The pressure of masculinity and patriarchy on men is a very under explored issue in Bombay cinema. To begin with, Prem is an unlikely hero who in his wanting to become a hero kind material and also because of the pressure on him to become a hero like material almost loses the battle. He succeeds only when he sheds of that manufactured desire to become a hero material and outgrows the imposed demands of masculinity and patriarchy on him.

Prem is forced into the wedding by his family, especially by his father. The shadow of the father casts majorly on the son. When going to “see” Sandhya for the first time the father occupies the front seat in the car. Later when going to the court Prem stops his father from occupying the front seat in the car and occupies that seat. As mentioned earlier when confessing to Sandhya about cigarette and onions he asks her not to tell it to her father but later exposes the hypocrisy of the father. He has to outgrow from the shadow of his father.

The kind of pressure created by disciplinarian organizations in the name of patriotism [hinted at RSS?] also expects men to become more manly and have control over their natural urges. The growth of Prem happens only when he, though unwillingly and forcibly, moves out of the organization which is high on sperm.

Prem is also crippled by his academic underperformance. This is not a matter of shame or complex for him till he feels so in the presence of Sandhya who is more qualified than him. His male ego doesn’t let him be any lesser than his wife. So at an unusual age he decides to give his 10th board exams. The bond with Sandhya starts becoming possible only when he lets go off his ego, by accepting his failure in a moving monologue on the answer sheet, and telling her that she can leave home whenever she would want to and asking her to take up the job in a far off place.

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Acceptance of failure is a key factor in the film which becomes the pathway to making relationships successful. One of the key turning points is when Prem accepts his failure not just in the exam but also as a son and a husband. That is when the transformation within him shifts gear. It is only by coming to a point of zero that he can reinvent himself.

The other key turning point comes when the aunt accepts her failure as a wife and her failed marital life. Its only then she is able to convince Prem and Sandhya to take part in the race which makes way for things to be resolved between the young couple.

What is close to this acceptance of failure is accepting oneself as one is.

dum-laga-ke-haisha-movie-poster-12There is no need for Prem to crack the board exams or to prove his manliness to the shaakha or prove his worth to his father. All it requires is for him to not burden himself with pressure to meet the expectations of others and accept himself as he is with his limitations and failures. Its only when he becomes comfortable under his skin that he is able to achieve comfort ability with Sandhya.

The reason Sandhya is able to feel for Prem even while knowing his family is lying to her family and that Prem is socially awkward, because she is comfortable with herself and has accepted herself as she is.

She is aware of her size and weight. But that doesn’t stop her from dancing. She is also open to jokes around her size and weight- the aunt comments on her size twice once while discussing yoga and once while discussing food habits. The brother also makes fun of her size. She is fine with it and take jokes around that. But she cannot take insult on her being by pinning her to her size alone.

She finally accepts Prem not because he accepts her with her size but because Prem is now a changed person and his gaze has changed and also has become at ease with himself and his limitations and failure.

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Through cassettes, table lamp, bajaj chetak scooter which demands to be pushed to start, references to PCO, group photographs, Sandhya’s mother asking her relatives to give one ring- two rings once reaching home to signal they have reached the film creates a sense of nostalgia. It is created also majorly because of the voice of Kumar Sanu which like air is invisibly present in the 90s.

Along with this, I guess, the premise of the story itself has something rooted in the 90s decade. Size of the women started becoming a matter to be ‘addressed’ and not acceptable, I guess, majorly in the 90s with the bombardment of images in still and in advertisements, of slim girls that equated slimness with beauty and also more with sex appeal. The idea of sex appeal also becomes important to win the man and hence Sandhya tries the lingerie. The idea of beauty and sexiness underwent a change in the 90s decade making the image of beauty and sexiness standardized. This damaged not just the girls who did not fall under the same category but also damaged human relationships. Sandhya realizes the futility of the sex appeal through costumes very early. But it takes time for Prem to realize that standardized image of the body itself doesn’t make sex appeal.

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Dum Laga Ke Haisha TRAILER

To extend the argument of ‘accepting failure’ and ‘accepting self’ further, the film possibly works to the mass because in the last decade or so the nation has witnessed innumerable failed relationships and deep down, probably, there is some fear about the same and there is also search for solution. So when a film as this says things can be made to work out it kind of gives comfort and assurance to the anxious unspoken anxiety of people.

But in making the relationship work the film doesn’t make the institution of marriage a matter of sanctity and asks women to conform to traditional roles. It demands men to accept the more superior, not just equal, role which women have taken in the past two decades or so in terms of earthly practicality. In the past two decades or so, Indian women have actually overtaken men in all worldly ways. The men seem unable to accept this. It is only by accepting this truth about the changed women and letting off the male-ego men can make a relationship work. Like the cassette shop owner has to make a shift to the new digital system the men also have to reinvent themselves. This is a liberating experience for men too and a process of becoming more humane.

This is what the film seems to be saying, knowingly or unknowing, intentionally or unintentionally.

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