Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Varudu & Vivah - To Arrange or... To Arrange

The topic of arranged marriages... much debated and much hated in Indian movies of the past decade. And yet here are two movies, one from Bollywood (Vivah starring Shahid Kapoor and Amrita Rao), and one from Tollywood (Varudu starring Allu Arjun, Arya and Bhanu Mehra) that try to show us all the reasons why arranged marriages are not to be dismissed as traditional crap. Or do they?

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.


Anonymous said...

There is another movie which explores what happens after an arranged marriage(which the bride was forced into reluctantly) - Mani Rathnam's Mouna Raagam. It was Mani's first major hit movie.

Dolce and Namak said...

Ooooh! Thank you, Anonymous, a Mani Ratnam movie recommendation is always welcome! :) I looked it up, had never heard of it, but it sounds interesting. I'll try to get it. If it's anything like Pinjar, I will probably even like it. :D

MinaiMinai said...

Hey girl! Laughing at your havarti cheese rating- I just tried that kind of cheese for the first time lately and I was sorely disappointed at the lack of taste. Might as well not eat cheese! haha

Anywho, loving that first animation of Arya and his makeup-fabulousness.

Dolce and Namak said...

Minai!! You're back!! :D Yay!
LOLS Glad we agree on the lack of taste of the Havarti, it wasn't easy trying to find the most blah cheese in the world to compare Vivah with :D
Hope you liked Varudu better, I found it to be the yummier version! ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi dear Tesoro!!!

So nice to see you back on the blog and with WHAT ELEGANCE!!!
SUPERB REVIEW about Dhobi Ghat!!
Will write more on the blog!
Big Hug and Bisous from the crazY FrenchY!


Anonymous said...

Hey Tesoro!!

What a beautiful blog!!!:-)
and... and... I missed you to_O... :-)


Dolce and Namak said...

Hey Jamila, in case you enabled email replies, this is where your first comment went :) Anyways, thank you muchly for the visit and the comment. Can't move it, but I know where it was meant to go :)

Rahul said...

I agree with that Anonymous guys recommendation, Mouna Ragam is a fantastic movie. Mani Ratnam + Illayaraja (Music) at its absolute best.

Dolce and Namak said...

Hey Rahul, I bought it because of that recommendation, but it doesn't have subtitles *sniffle sniffle*. I'll probably watch it anyway, but I am really hoping to be able to find a copy with subs, I know Mani Ratnam doesn't shy away from dialogues, so I have a feeling I`d miss out on too much... :(

Gauri Radha गौरी राधा said...

I liked Vivaah when I saw it, I think. I recall I just found the characters appealing and the situation relatable because my parents had an arranged marriage and it was all very conservative and conventional.

If you're born into this tradition, it can sometimes make these types of films easier to understand [not saying I'd want to go the same route as the characters but all the generations past in my Punjabi family went that route, so I can understand arranged marriage and feel close to it as a concept rather easily.]

Dolce and Namak said...

I don't mind the concept at all. And I see enough of it around me with desi friends to know that it's even now quite common. I respect it as I would another religion: I don't have to understand it, I merely have to accept it.
But Vivah was just unbearably boring :D

Gauri Radha गौरी राधा said...

Fair enough my friend, different stokes for different folks :D

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