The tone remains stubbornly exuberant, but not at the cost of blow-drying complex emotions for easy consumption. The extensive cast is fully conversant with the tricks of the trek. The 180-minute journey is not smooth. But the lead actors, the highly exceptional Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar, not to mention a supporting cast of extremely intuitive players, imbue the main conflict with a chamber of conviction.
One of the film’s many charms is the supporting cast of partially unexposed faces who pose as the intrusive family: why doesn’t Shardul (Rao) get married, when he does get married, why Sumi (Pednekar) doesn’t he get pregnant, and who does this northeast girl live with Shardul and Sumi? Chum Darang as Jhilmil, Sumi’s girlfriend is one of many fresh faces that lend vitality and liveliness to this sweet drama of a tragic compromise marriage.
Rajkummar Rao’s coming out streak will be remembered for years as a turning point in Bollywood’s troubled relationship with the gay community. Yes, Hindi cinema with sexual themes seems to be hitting puberty at last.
Badhai Do reminded me of three other films from three parts of the world that dignify the gay community without congratulations. Heidi Ewing’s I Carry You With Me in Spanish is a much-loved Mexican film about two men who have been hiding their love for each other for decades. It’s an epic love story.
Mothoon by Geetu Mohandas in Malayalam is a much better look at repressed same-sex love. In her second film, director Geetu Mohandas (whose first film Liars Dice is an undiscovered gem) has actually brought two films together into one work of jaw-dropping impact.