Mumbai: When the trailer and songs of Veere Di Wedding dropped on social media, the Twitterverse seemed divided. Some loved the sassiness, some felt it was a respite we have long needed, some called it a “chick flick” despite the makers adhering to “Imnotachicflick” hashtag, some questioned the objectification of men and some got confused over the actual agenda of the film. But no matter what their initial reactions were, the Twitter users couldn’t ignore the flood of Veere Di Wedding promotional posts even if they tried to. Because it was everywhere – on every social media platform, on every television channel and on every FM station.
But while Shashanka Ghosh’s directorial features four actors in pivotal roles – Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania – only two names have been prominent in most of the press conferences and interactions so far. Kareena’s unparalleled stardom and Sonam’s affable prowess both make it a little tough for either Swara’s opinions or Shikha’s honest quotes to shine or make headlines for that matter. Both Swara and Shikha are able performers and their past performances stand testimony to their craft but going by the trailer of the film, it seems most of the important chunk will feature Kareena and/or Sonam. But what we fear the most is what if the film ends up wasting or not utilising Swara and Shikha’s talent and just keeping them as sides in the film and what if there isn’t enough meat in their characters for them to bite upon or worse, the star power ends up overshadowing the sheer craft of acting.
Swara is a couple of film old in the industry but has mostly been a part of content-driven cinema- acing roles that weren’t conventional and weren’t everyone’s choice in the first place. She hasn’t exactly played the lead in most of her past works but with her convincing performances, she has always managed to hold her own and also shine throughout the film. Tanu Weds Manu, Raanjhanaa, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Nil Battey Sannata and Anaarkali of Aarah are some of the works that have etched her strong presence in the film industry. This will perhaps be the first time that Swara comes to screen dressed to the most stylish of outfits and portray a full-fledged modern day married urban woman. In Veere Di Wedding, she plays Sakshi Soni, who doesn’t bat an eyelid before abusing and putting someone back in their place, or so it seems from the trailer. She self admittedly plays the most glamorous of the four characters and has often said that she will not compromise on the content or the character detailing when it comes to opting for out-and-out commercial roles.
Shikha, on the other hand, has featured only in a handful of films including Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji, My Friend Pinto and Midnight’s Children among others. She made her debut with Ayan Mukherji’s Wake Up Sid in 2009 wherein she played Laxmi, Ranbir’s fat-conscious and accomplished friend. In the upcoming film, Shikha plays Meera, a modish woman who elopes, marries and has to now mother a newborn. The actor recently told PTI that she was herself making calls and finding out about the auditions and had previously rejected a few unidimensional roles resting on the age-old fat-and-funny logic. “I was hungry for work and nobody knew me. I want the entire world to know about me. I was making calls and finding out about the auditions. Auditions are nothing but part of acting. But, a lot of work that came my way was very unidimensional, like the character who is fat or despite being fat she is funny. I was not comfortable with that. There has been a lot of work to which I have said no. I hope the struggle ends.”
At the center of this friendship tale is Kareena’s commitment-phobic character Kalindi, who is supposedly the Veera whose wedding is what this is all about. And Sonam plays Avni who apparently looks the most sorted and innocent of them. The film basically revolves around the reunion of these four childhood friends after ten years wherein each of them is grappling with either family acceptance or societal perceptions or other aspects of life- Kalindi with the Indian society’s idea of wedding, Meera with raising a kid alone, Sakshi with how a society perceives women and Avni with the expectations that accompany in an arranged marriage setup.
While a single film can’t change the ecosystem of Bollywood, but if the makers continue to helm women-rich films and they begin to fare well at the box office (Raazi, for example), it might set up a wave of women, for women and by women in the Indian cinema. And for such waves to persist in the long run, it’s imperative for Bollywood to acknowledge each of its female actors with equal power, grace, and responsibility. So as the film advocates for one to set free from labels, we hope the film frees its actors from the ‘star’ label and advocates equal screen space and time for all its actors.