Meet the latest recruits of the ‘Ayushmann Khurrana Club of Appropriation’ in Badhaai Do, a sequel to the Amit Ravindernath Sharma-directed Badhaai Ho (2018): Rajkumar Rao, Bhumi Pednekar, and Chum Darang.
Yesterday, Junglee Pictures released its trailer. Just over three-minutes long, it made me feel nauseated. Sold as a story of ‘marriage of convenience’ between two closeted queers, this movie is a ‘comedy drama’, directed by Harshavardhan Kulkarni.
You can see Rao, playing policeman Shardul Thakur, dutifully noting down the details of the character Pednekar (Suman Singh) is playing: Naam? Title? Gender? To the last query, Singh replies: “Aapko kya lagta hai?” Quickly learning from the reproachful response, he understands it’s “female”.
First, you’ve to really pay attention to see that the board outside the police station reads “Mahila Police Thana”, which makes you wonder why Thakur is noting these details down and not a policewoman. Second, the trailer gets worse right after this point, as you see Thakur stalking Singh, which eventually results in a confrontation.
Singh’s mother laments that her daughter is a PT teacher. And is particularly worried that she is 31 now. That’s when the charm of Thakur works out, who’s touching 32. When he says “humein pata hai” (I know), you know what he’s hinting at, which he eventually utters. That she’s a lesbian, in love with Chennaki (played by Darang) and he’s … Yes, the dramatic pause, which is elicited to invite laughs, right before he says that he’s interested in men, while Singh is not.
By the looks of it, you can easily judge that the characters are miserably failing to portray their queerness for the silver screen. Even if you set aside the motivation to have a cis-het cast in place, assuming that the team involved in making the movie must have failed to find anyone who could essay the role of Thakur, Singh, and Chennaki, you can’t help but notice how it glamorises stalking and reeks of racism. Also, as if getting married conveniently they thought all will be well.
Now that they’re policed and consistently pestered to have a child, you wonder if they’re proud of their decision. Not sure what sort of conflict will drive their Thakur and Singh’s equation in this marriage of convenience, but whatever it maybe I can foresee what a disaster of movie this will be: a yet another queer-appropriating story, trying to mainstream the idea of #LoveIsLove in a post-377 India without even understanding it one bit. No badhaai from my end at least!