When we think of films on divorce, what comes to mind are works that treat the subject sensitively, exploring how it impacts people’s lives and the reason why could have put a couple on separate paths in life. The 2020 film Thappad took the discussion one step further, raising the issue of domestic violence and how even a slap is a justified ground for a woman to ask for a divorce. But then, we also need to talk about films that approach divorce in an unhackneyed way, normalising second chances and encouraging the thought that the end of a marriage can also be a new beginning, especially for the Indian woman.
I can’t think of a film that revolves around normalising second chances for divorced women but in a sunny and sprightly manner. Films like Arth, Astitva and Aakhir Kyon? painted a very empowering picture of women who undergo divorce, but the narrative, overall, remains sombre. Surprisingly it has been filmed with relatively lighter narratives that have used divorce as a subplot but in a way that normalises the subject and advocates giving love a second chance, especially for women.
Recently, I watched Jaadugar, starring national “Bhaiyaa” Jeetendra Kumar, Arushi Sharma, Javed Jaffrey and Manoj Joshi. It turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant watch, despite all the bad reviews I read on the Internet. What stuck out was the fact that despite having just key female characters, the film managed to talk about themes like the empowerment of women in sports and new beginnings after separation.
To establish the context, this is what Jaadugar is about: Set in the town of Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh, the film revolves around small-time magician Meenu (Kumar) who falls in love with an ophthalmologist named Disha, who turns out to be the daughter of his guru. To gain his guru’s blessings for the alliance, Meenu must help his uncle’s rag-tag football team reach the finals of the local Dhabolkar Cup Tournament. Disha’s father is upset with her because she married against his wishes, leading to tragic consequences for the family.
Suggested Reading: Stuck In A Bad Marriage? There Is No Wrong Time To Seek Divorce
Now, you might not appreciate Meenu’s self-centred approach to love- which is rightly called by women in his life- both in past and present. But you have to hand it to him for not making a big deal out of Disha’s marital status.
While the shadow of divorce looms large on Disha’s life and her equation with her father, it doesn’t bother Meenu at all. If you have seen Ayushmann Khurrana and Yami Gautam starrer Vicky Donor, you’ll realise that the film had a similar narrative, where the male lead made no fuss about the female lead’s divorced status and it came across as refreshing. Similarly, in Dil Dhadakne Do, we root for a much-married Ayesha’s romance with Sunny, because we know that she is trapped in a toxic relationship. Eventually, Ayesha decides to leave her husband and move on in life and this arc was received positively by viewers.
Why films challenging the stigma around divorce are important?
Divorce remains a taboo subject in our society even today. It is an outcome women are warned against before they get married. Especially in love marriages, women are duly reminded by parents, relatives and society that they are on their own if things go south. In the case of arranged marriages, women are advised to adjust and endure for the sake of the greater good. Think about the parents and their social standing. Think about the kids. What prospects will you have after your existence is stamped with the word “divorcee”? The imagery of a divorcee’s life, painted by our society, is discouraging, bleak and dissociative in equal measures.
However, no woman should feel guilty for walking out of a bad marriage. What’s more, irrespective of gender, every person deserves a second chance at love. We need grooms and their families to stop seeing divorced women as “damaged goods”, but simply as a person who had a bad experience. What they need is not judgement or shaming, but empathy and support. Divorce doesn’t define a woman’s character, her lifestyle or her choices. In fact, in many cases, it speaks about her strength and determination to walk away from trauma and hurt.
One wishes that in future, we see more films that normalise second chances for divorced women.
The views expressed are the author’s own.