Parents Disapprove

I am an NRI, translated into: no real Indian. I follow Indian cinema in my quest to find only one million original films before humanity as we know it disappears. I will use the term Indian cinema sparingly because I only have access to Hindi films, not Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati and other languages.

Parents’ disapproval of a marriage is a popular theme in cinema. The reason could be class, religion or race. I always find myself in the middle of the rope, taking sides with either the kids or parents. There are some cases where parents have a point and others where children are right to marry for love.

I think parents were right in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, directed Sanjay Leela Bhansali when they forced Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) to marry Vanraj (Ajay Devgan) and not Sameer the Italian artist played by Salman Khan. I only came to that conclusion at the end of the film, when I realised how much Vanraj loved her. Bhansali therefore disappointed me with his ending of balloons and fireworks, when Nandini went back to her Vanraj.

Disapproval ends in tragedy
Bhansali is not here so I cannot ask him about the parents. It would have been nice to involve an ending that took them into consideration. For example, Vanraj could have called his sister and told her they were coming home. She would have got the good news because everyone was expecting Vanraj to come back alone, after leaving Nandini with Sameer. It’s easy for me to say because I’m not in the director’s shoes.

Parents’ disapproval result in tragedy in Mohabbatein, directed by Aditya Chopra. The story is set in Gurukul, a college of excellence run by Narayan Shankar, (Amitabh Bachchan). His daughter Megha (Aishwarya Rai) commits suicide when he expels a student Raj Malhotra (Shah Rukh Khan), after she tells him that they love each other. I think Shankar expelled Raj because of his pride. He is the almighty Shankar who has a worldwide reputation as a scholar and a disciplinarian, but Raj broke Gurukul’s rules under his nose and worse still, with his daughter.

I sided with the kids in Saathiya directed by Shaad Ali. Suhani (Rani Mukherjee) is a medical student from a poor family. She is in love with Adi (Vivek Oberoi) whose parents are very rich. Adi sends his father to Suhani’s house to present the proposal. His father’s condescending attitude angers her father who gives them marching orders.

Suhani and Adi get married secretly. When their parents find out, they kick them out, but her father dies and her mother blames her for his death. Suhani and Adi tried to follow tradition and asked parents to talk to each other, but they failed because of class differences. I feel that the secret marriage was justified.

Parents and class
Parents’ disapproval is usually based on their honour, something Kamal Kumar’s father articulated very well in Main Chup Rahungi directed by A. Bhim Singh, an old black and white film. Kamal (Sunil Dutt) falls in love with Gayatri (Meena Kumari) on a train and get married secretly. The problem is that Narayan, her father regards his father as God because he saved him from jail and gave him a job on his estate. When Kumar senior finds out about their secret marriage, he confronts Gayatri.

“The norms of society are as sharp as a sword,” he tells her at a temple. “Society does not forgive anyone who tries to defy its norms.” Nandini’s mother in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, makes reference to Sameer’s heritage because his mother is Indian and the father Italian, and therefore not good enough for her daughter.

Salaam-e-Ishq directed by Nikhil Advani, is a bouquet of stories that overlap at some point. Tehzeeb (Vidya Balan) and Ashu’s (John Abraham) forbidden marriage is one of them. His father hates Tehzeeb because she is Muslim. She loses her memory after a train crash and cannot remember Ashu. He does everything to help her regain it and even takes her home to his father. “Maybe your hate will help her remember dad. Please hate her,” Ashu begs his father.

What would be interesting is reading research done on internet marriage services like shaadi.com. Does social status matter when parents are arranging marriages via the internet? There is a scene about that in Bride and Prejudice, Gurinder Chadha’s film based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Mrs. Bakshi, the mother of four girls is at the computer frantically searching husbands for her four daughters. How can you tell someone’s social status on-line, especially if they work in Australia, U.S. or Canada?

Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness The Novel.
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