So what is Veere Di Wedding all about?

Is it a film that holds up a flag to women’s liberation?

Not really if you remove the layers of all that rich vocabulary spilling over with cuss words, profanity of the highest order, invective and the famous four-letter word that is now part of the lingua franca of every boy and girl in middle school.

But the director, a Bengali who knows little about Punjabi culture and marriage and the producers (Anil Kapoor, Rhea Kapoor, Shobha Kapoor and Ekta Kapoor) probably do not know this, drowned as they seem to be, in their own small world of Punjabi crorepatis being Punjabi crorepatis themselves!

The film offers a short-term course in this rich vocabulary to all the women in the audience who bend over and split their sides laughing away at the way Sakshi (Swara Bhaskar) makes a big show of smoking her cigarette tilted at one corner of her mouth, wearing short dresses and mouthing dirty words right, left and centre.

But if you can keep your eyes away from her cleavage and her shapely thighs and her off-the-shoulder dresses, including the cleavage of her three other friends to look beyond the skin and the dialogue, you discover a rich little lonely girl who is not at all happy to be alone and not at all happy with the realisation that she will soon push up the statistics of divorcees in India, NRIs included.

Take Kalindi (Kareena Kapoor Khan) for example. She has a live-in relationship with her boyfriend in Australia and does not want marriage to spoil everything. But the boyfriend wants to marry her. She keeps scratching her neck when she is nervous and unsure of what it is she wants but is sort of manipulated into agreeing to come down to Delhi and tie the knot.

“Tie the knot”? You must be joking!!! From this point on, Veere Di Wedding becomes a true-to-life Punjabi wedding film with Shaadi or Vivaaha or its equivalent in the title that gives director Shashanka Ghosh the chance of a lifetime to use his film as a showcase for all the finery in jewels and wardrobes for the wedding season. This includes all the middle-aged mummies and aunties and would-be mothers-in-law who are dressed to their teeth at every function and take their gossip along in their morning walks in designer trousers and tops. But “Wedding” has a global twang to it so it is Veere Di Wedding. Sounds very box-office friendly, doesn’t it?

There is a catch. Before the women in the audience begin to identify with the four ‘liberated’ ladies who honestly, are gung-ho about marriage but try to cover it up with their ability to translate “orgasm” in Hindi, they ought to remember that we are dealing with multi-millionnaire Punjabi families in Delhi that do not blink once to announce that they have spent one-and-a-half crore on the ring ceremony alone, so what if the groom’s father is arrested for having cheated in his business till his son bails him out. So what if Kalindi who tries to renew her broken relationship with her horny father has to wait it out while the horny father has a quickie with his funny second wife on the sofa in the living room?

The chubby and interesting Meera (Shikha Talsania) is happily married to her Australian husband she can easily turn around on the little finger of her left hand though she is a bit sad that there has been no sex for one year. They have a toddler and they share the baby sitting between them and everything is hunky dory.

But “no sex for one year” gets her goat though there is no sign of her trying to break the rule and have an adulterous affair. Why, for God’s sake? Is her “progressive” thinking limited to learning the Hindi equivalent of “orgasm”? She has named her little one Kabir after the Tau she is estranged from who has cut her off his life because he did not approve of her marriage to the Australian. But when this old Sardar talks to the toddler and hears his name, he bends down on all fours and everything for Meera ends happily ever after.

Avni (Sonam Kapoor), a divorce lawyer with a mother anxious to see her married off, wants an arranged marriage because she is bitter about the broken affair with her former boss Arjun, a married man with a kid. She is “demurely” dressed in black jackets and white shirts and black skirts when compared with her childhood friends but with cleavage on show. At the (infamous) ring ceremony of Kalindi, she sleeps with that atrocious young man who she knows only as Bhandari and whose only mission in life is to sleep with Avni. When Avni tells him she is not interested in marrying him, his prompt response is, “main bhi kahan ring liye ghoom rahan hoon?”

Sakshi’s parents are forever seated across each other on a dining table moping over the three crores they spent on an arranged marriage that ended in six months. Wanting to break the ice, Sakshi tells them that the marriage broke finally when her husband found her using a vibrator on their giant bed! There is deathly silence around the table till the father breaks out into peals of laughter joined by the mother and then Sakshi herself and her story also is a happily-ever-after one, divorce included. Why did the father laugh? You tell me!

The gay side is presented too, to cover all corners with Kalindi’s uncle and his live-in boyfriend so the only sexuality left unexplored in the film is the transgender one! Quite a progressive film if “progress” narrows down to the liberal use of cuss words by women – so what’s new – Bengali cinema has been using this titillating strategy so often than the titillating impact has vanished completely. Also, getting completely sozzled not to realise who you have slept with and why and how, or, Sakshi making a complete fool of herself at the ring ceremony, or, the mystery of how the ring at the ring ceremony became bigger than the one Kalindi’s boyfriend had originally gifted to her remain unsolved because they are supposed to be pointers to underscore “progress” as the makers see it.

There is a property dispute too between Kalindi’s father and uncle which gets solved before you can say abracadabra. Kalindi finds her mother’s wedding dress in an old trunk in the family’s ancestral house which she keeps aside for her own wedding which finally happens!

Veere Di Wedding is all about shaadi and barbaadi and jhagda and sex or not having sex, and the Hindi equivalent of “orgasm.” The men in the audience get a glimpse into an inviting peep show of cleavages and thighs and women mouthing bad words that can sound very sexy so long as the one mouthing them is not your wife or girlfriend or fiancé or even your ex-wife. What saves the film from your wanting to walk out of the theatre – and I am NOT an old-fashioned prude for God’s sake – are the sterling performances by all the actors, topped by the four young girls who again, are topped by Kareena.

Sumeet Vyas as Kareena’s ideal fiancé is incredible and fantastic. Vivek Mushran as her gay uncle is understated and subtle barring some moments of family melodrama. The supporting cast too, is a scream and spell out entertainment that gets that just wee bit repetitive and boring after a point. But never mind.

Women’s liberation and feminism are together and individually, quite dicey words subject to generous misuse, abuse and distortion in different ways in real life in general and when applied to Bollywood films in particular. Veere Di Wedding is a classic example of limiting women’s liberation to a prolific vocabulary of cuss words, invective, profanity and the four-letter word that begins with “F.”

These four ‘liberated” ladies – Kalindi, Meera, Sakshi and Avni belong to multi millionnaire families who do not have to worry about demonetization or inflation or even getting into an adulterous relationship and all that show of modernity is restricted to their dress and their dialogue because their main objective is one and the same – to get married and live happily ever after, “happily” subject to individual definitions of course. Sex and the City is not for Indian middle-class girls and women but of course, who can deny them vicarious satisfaction from screen sizzlers like Kareena, Swara and Sonam?

I found Veere Di Wedding a very regressive film clothed in chutzpah, colour, glamour and the works with a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.