First of all it's interesting to note that neither of these movies actually deals with the arranged marriage per se, but rather with the arranging part and then the love at first sight between the girl and the boy getting married. So the issue of love after marriage never comes up, except in conversation, and it's replaced by love just before (or during) the wedding ceremony. Ironically enough, a movie like Arya 2 makes a stronger case for love coming after "marriage" through a couple of well placed blink-and-you'll-miss-it dialogues between Arya and the bride's grandmother. But I digress...
Exhibit Number 1 for love at first sight, during their first meeting:
And Exhibit Number 2, during the wedding ceremony (the whole song is worth a watch, but what interests us starts around the 7:00 mark):
The second fascinating observation for me is that Varudu was the first official flop in Arjun's career, while Vivah was the first big hit (and a much needed one) in Shahid's career after his debut. And as per usual, I fail to understand the audiences that made this happen because I loved Varudu and hated Vivah. Despite being a huge fan of both lead actors. In fact I have to apologize in advance as I confess: I have not watched Vivah in a while, so there may be slight inaccuracies in my review, my memory is not what it used to be...
So... the plot. Since it's very similar, I'll go over it quickly for both movies, as I'm more interested in getting to the part where I figure out why one rocked my world and the other one bored me to tears. Young and eligible cool city dude is asked by the parents (or the one parent in Vivah) to think about marriage. In Vivah the bride has already been found, in Varudu cool city dude asks to be found one as he is incapable of finding one himself (even with women throwing themselves at him like rice at a married couple from the very first scene).
Dolce: That's a bit harsh, don't you think?
Namak: I know, but remember we know a couple of people in real life who have reached the same conclusion and have turned to their parents to find someone for them, so maybe not so far fetched after all.
Right, back to the plot. In the middle of the wedding joy/ right after the wedding, something happens with the bride. And I won't reveal what, suffice to say it is a life altering experience that puts everything in balance, and that will be the true test of the groom's short lived but hopefully strong enough love.
So with a premise so similar, what makes these two movies so different? What makes one a flop and the other a success? Charming leads, nice chemistry, wonderful costumes, what gives?
Dolce: Well, for starters, there's no dancing in Vivah.
Namak: Sure, that's true, but there's no dancing in many Hindi movies these days and I still like some of them. Granted the songs in Varudu are pretty spectacular so it automatically gets points just for that. But what else?
Dolce: Um... the leading lady is boring and has no personality.
Namak: Well, she is boring, I agree, but we don't see much of the stronger lady in Varudu either, so that can't be it.
Dolce: Oh, oh, I know, I know! Vivah didn't have Arya!
Namak: Aha, you may be on to something there!
One of the greatest things about Varudu is that it has a wonderfully over the top villain. In fact so great that he could easily be on the list of Top 5 Villains of 2010.
Take a look and tell me: can a villain be more badass than this?
Really, can the jealous auntie from Vivah even compete with this on the entertainment level?
But it's not just the villain. It's also the way the story is paced. Vivah has people sitting around the table and talking for a good 70% of the time. Another 40% is the soon to be bride and groom batting eyelashes at each other. The 10% that is the difference is time when both the talking and the gazing are happening.
In the same amount of time time, Varudu has 5 and a half fights and 4 songs while still managing to get the people around the proverbial tables to do their talking. Granted, it gets stingy on the coy glances, but makes up for it with an oddly placed but still very enjoyable kissing scene. Efficiency, I tell you, efficiency!
Actually, one of the few coy glances is well worth the wait.
Namak: Now before you get all mushy on me, don't forget the CGI!
Dolce: Ah yes, the crazy fake CGI. Loved it! But, to be fair, I also enjoyed the sets in Vivah quite a bit.
Namak: It's ok, Vivah made up for the realism of the sets by having a ridiculously implausible plot twist.
Indeed, there's that too! A movie like Varudu can pull off a series of crazy plot twists (or plot holes, if you prefer) because it goes with the rest of the wacky mood of a film that makes it clear it doesn't take itself too seriously. Vivah on the other hand spends the first hour or so building this realistic scenario, to then ridicule it by inserting an intelligence insulting plot twist. And that just doesn't fly.
Namak: Ok, stop just for a second here. I think we're making it sound like Varudu is a great movie and Vivah is not even worth the roll that it was recorded on.
Dolce: Yup. And?...
Namak: Well, that's not exactly true. Varudu has plenty of issues too, and Vivah has its share of nice moments.
Dolce: Whatever. One is fun the other is not, that's all that matters.
Right... I suppose that is what it comes down to: Varudu is a fun ride, if not always smooth or logical. Vivah for all the oodles of charm of Shahid and Amrita holding hands, misses on the fun front. Big time.
Do they both also make some interesting social commentaries and some excellent points about the institution of marriage? Yes, they do. But if I can't keep my eyes open long enough to get to them while watching Vivah, then that's a waste of a movie in my book.
Vivah and Varudu are like Havarti cheese. The regular no-name kind is about as boring as chewing on a mouthful of air. The spicy version on the other hand, infused with with some yummy herbs and hot peppers has the much needed oomph to make it into my shopping bag every once in a while.