Badhaai Ho Legitimises Sex Lives Of Middle-Aged Couples
Not every day do you come across a film where the story revolves around the sex life of a fifty-something couple and its repercussions when, well a “mishap” happens. Which is why we need to talk more about Badhaai Ho. This Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao and Ayushmann Khurrana starrer is creating a buzz for its quirky story-line. The film tells us the story of a middle-aged couple who end up expecting a baby, well past their prime, and how their twenty-something son struggles to deal with this “good news”.
Badhaai Ho has opened to rave reviews and strong box office response. But beyond that, it offers some great acting, and it addresses an unconventional subject and calls out our hesitance to address pregnancies and sex lives of middle-aged couples.
Sex-talk is always a no-no, in every context in our culture. Be it in the form of sex education for teens or discussion on family planning for newly married couples. All this prudishness lingers on our conscience despite the fact that sex is a big part of our lives. All you have to do to understand that is to take a look at our census. When it comes to couples with adult children though, an active sex life is unexpected. This does nothing but makes a conversation on pregnancies among fifty-something women embarrassing.
Badhaai Ho raises this very question. Why is it hard for us as a society to perceive middle-aged couples, married nonetheless, as sexually active?
Shame of facing social and familial ridicule
Perhaps this reservation stems from our association of sex with youth, passion and romance. Our idea of love and sex is very aesthetic and rosy. It is far removed from our own everyday bedroom reality. In our heads, sex always happens among well-toned men and well-endowed women. It happens exclusively among youngsters, even if it is in films. The encounter is secluded and there is no fear of interruption in the form of a knock on the door, nor is there a coughing grandma or blaring televisions in the vicinity.
- More than its great acting, people cannot stop talking about Badhaai Ho‘s unconventional subject.
- The film mocks how we expect Indian middle-aged couples to switch off their desires and centre their life around their parents, jobs and children.
- The idea of a middle-aged couple getting pregnant is hilarious because we find it awkward. And that says more about our mindset than anything else.
We all know that reality in most Indian households is just the opposite. Hence, it is difficult for us to imagine a couple leading an active sex life amidst raising kids, looking after old parents, all this in the tights quarters of modern-day housing. Throw in a sagging skin and growing waistline to this picture and most of us would begin feeling nauseous.
We as a society believe sex is for young couples, with the obvious obligation of producing progenies. Never are we taught to look at sex as a need. Or heavens forbid, as pleasure. Never are we taught that an active and consensual sexual life strengthens the bond between the partners.
Once a couple enters the “family life” they are expected to nurture their children and take care of ageing parents. Earn money, buy a house, establish a social standing, send kids to a reputed school, plan for their future and then eventually settle them. This is what defines a middle-aged couple in India – a husband and wife burdened with the obligation to look after others selflessly. Where does sex fit in this equation? Nowhere, because sex is pleasure or self-indulgence. It is the antithesis of selflessness. Desire is not something we as a society associate with a certain age group.
We expect Indian middle-aged couples to switch off their desires and centre their life around their parents, jobs and children. Badhaai Ho, mocks these assumptions.
The idea of a middle-aged couple getting pregnant is hilarious because we find it awkward. And that says more about our mindset than anything else. Despite all our modernity, we find the idea of elders having sex, especially parents or relatives, yucky.
Which is why we must all watch Badhaai Ho. Not just because it is a well-crafted film, but because it asks us to re-inspect our notions about sex and intimacy in a marriage. Of how social dictates make us feel ashamed of our desire for physical intimacy. Should a couple simply stop having sex because society finds it to be an inappropriate act at their age?
Perhaps after watching this film, we will look at the subject of sex and pregnancy among middle-aged couples with a new and accepting gaze. It will stop being awkward and a subject of below the belt jokes. We are far from accepting, but Badhaai Ho at least gives us a jump-start.
Picture Credit : Junglee Pictures/YouTube
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.