Frames per second: Bollywood villain’s wedding


As Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt’s wedding news and photos made headlines and went viral on social media last week, a unique wedding has taken place in Kolkata. The Bollywood couple’s fans held a Bengali-style wedding for the actors, where life-size dolls of Kapoor and Bhatt were married in traditional rituals. The organizers were the Ballygunge 21 Pally Cultural Club and several entrepreneurs as well as some personalities from the Bengali film industry, reported The Indian Express. Some of the fans also played the roles of Karishma Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor, cousins ​​of Ranbir Kapoor, at the wedding. While it’s easy to dismiss such incidents as fan indulgences, they reveal some fundamentals about Bollywood and Indian society itself.

Marriages – and weddings – are at the heart of Indian society. Journalist Rukmini S drew on a trove of data to show that about 93% of Indians entered into an arranged marriage even in 2018. Another data set from 2014 showed that 90% of marriages were within the same caste and 95% within the same religion. (With 11 states currently introducing or planning laws to prevent the allegedly forced conversion – often mistakenly called Love Jihad – of grooms and brides, interfaith marriages are likely to fall even further.) Another survey from 2020 showed that young people are losing interest in marriage. Nevertheless, weddings continued to be a big industry in India – according to Statista, turnover for wedding tourism in India increased from Rs 234 billion in 2017 to Rs 458 billion in 2020.



Of course, anyone who has attended a wedding in recent years or been married, including this columnist, knows that Bollywood plays a very important role in the ceremony, be it the music, the fashion or even the rituals. For example, rituals such as Mehndi and sangeet were almost unheard of in Bengali weddings even 10-15 years ago, but are now an integral part of many, displaying a Bollywoodisation of culture. Discussing Bollywood’s influence on Indian marriages, cultural studies scholar Andrew Howe in his writing “Here Comes the (Bollywood) Bride” writes, “Bridal rituals in Indian society revolve around bringing families together and preserving cultural and patriarchal norms… Since 2000, cinematic depictions of marital unions have changed somewhat. , despite maintaining some of these patriarchal ideas. — toward the ascendancy of middle-class values ​​and the negotiation of global Indian identity.

But why is Bollywood so influential in Indian and indeed South Asian weddings? To understand this, we must first understand what Bollywood is. Film scholars such as Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Ravu Vasudevan attempted to understand how the Bombay (Mumbai) based Hindi film industry transformed into Bollywood in the 1990s and early 2000s. In his 2003 essay, “The Bollywoodization of Indian Cinema”, Rajadhyaksha argued that cinema has strong political significance due to its mass cultural influence. Vasudevan, in his essay “The Meanings of Bollywood” (2011) provides a useful list of films that presented traditional family identity through a set of adornments and performances –Hum Aapke Hain Kaun…! (Sooraj Barjatya 1994), Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (Aditya Chopra 1995), By (Subhash Ghai 1997), Kal Ho Na Ho (Nikhil Advani 2004), and even that of Mira Nair monsoon wedding (2001) and Gurinder Chadha Marriage and prejudice (2004). It was a kind of commodification of Indian culture by an export-oriented film industry. Of course, all of these movies revolve around weddings or feature weddings in a meaningful way.

These films have developed a genre of their own, with weddings becoming ritual sites for resolving the crises that beset Indian society in the post-liberalization era. These challenges could be the nuclearization of larger families (Hum Saath Saath Hain1999), the inevitable foreign influences in an open market (DDLJ, Pardes), and even death (Kal Ho Na Ho). The family was the safe space in which these anxieties could be addressed. As Vasudevan notes, even the term Bollywood only came into circulation in the late 1990s, after the Mumbai-based film industry was officially recognized as an industry by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1998. .

Over time, Bollywood and Indian weddings have found themselves inextricably linked, with a frenzied voyeuristic interest in celebrity weddings like Aishwarya Rai-Abhishek Bachchan (2007), Anushka Sharma-Virat Kohli (2017), Deepika Padukone-Ranveer Singh (2018) and Katrina. Kaif-Vicky Kaushal (2021). These weddings themselves have become spectacles, and Bollywood superstars like Shah Rukh Khan perform in big-budget weddings (Baaja Baaraat Group, 2010, refers to it) embellished the rituals. As we have already seen, wedding budgets and movie budgets have increased in parallel. This is no coincidence – both are markers of certain economic and political developments in post-liberalization India.

Perhaps the only Bollywood product to question how movies, marriages and the economy were inextricably linked was the 2019 drama series Made in Heaven. The nine-part series follows New Delhi-based wedding planners Tara (Sobhita Dhulipal) and Karan (Arjun Mathur in an Emmy-nominated role). In each episode, they try to arrange a big-budget wedding for New Delhi’s rich and famous – industrialists, former royals, political leaders. Each wedding is, of course, a performance in itself – a display of wealth, tradition, ambition. But they also shed light on the underlying fissures – the persistence of patriarchy, stark class differences and a brutal world of dog-eating dogs that is urban India. In this world, the glitz and glamor that money can buy is perhaps more real than love and companionship.



Uttaran Das Gupta’s novel Ritual was published in 2020. He teaches Journalism at OP Jindal Global University in Sonipat, Haryana.

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