Akshay Kumar could soon be back to rescuing women after a hiatus of playing a super spy (Bell Bottom), an anti-hero (Bachchan Pandey), a feminist ruler (Samrat Prithviraj) and whatnot. This time around, if the trailer is to be believed, Kumar will be fighting against the world, and his circumstances to get his four sisters married in Raksha Bandhan. The film has been directed by Anand L Rai and also features Bhumi Pednekar.
The trailer opens with an *ahem unknown quote, “Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.” We are introduced to Pednekar’s character who has been waiting since childhood to get married to Kumar’s character because women clearly have nothing better to do with their lives. She demands to know when will they tie the knot, to which Kumar’s character assures her that he will do so as soon as he can get his sisters wedded.
Raksha Bandhan story: A progressive tale or recycled stereotypical drama?
The rest of the trailer is about a harrowed brother, who runs a chaat stall for a living, trying to accumulate enough money to get all his four sisters married. Oh and fat-shaming is slyly sprinkled in the trailer, when a plus-sized sister of the character is shown munching on biscuits, with another character pointing out, “Kutte ke hain beta.” Our small-town hero gets an ultimatum from his girlfriend’s dad to either find a way to tie the knot in six months or accept his decision to get her married elsewhere.
The trailer also features dialogues about how every Indian house has a daughter “jiska dahej kam pad raha hai,” and her brother or father are having their bones melted so that they can marry her off in pride. The line doesn’t come across as regressive frankly, because it is true. Dowry remains a common practice in India. However, the ordeal doesn’t always end with brothers and fathers breaking their backs to meet the groom and his family’s demands. In India, almost 20 women die every day due to dowry-related harassment, either pushed to end their lives or tortured, abused and murdered by their marital family. Check out our article on dowry deaths in India here.
The most worrying aspect of the film is the way it plays into stereotyping certain women as hard to marry. Out of Kumar’s four sisters, one is conventionally beautiful and what is commonly pitched to us as the ideal marriage material. The other three seem to be unmarriable, thus posing a challenge – one is overweight, one is a tomboy and the third one is dusky. We also are not told anything about Pednekar’s character apart from the fact that the sole purpose of her life is to marry the behen ki shaadi ka burden-bearing brother.
But here’s why we are hoping the film will be not a rehash of a bad 80s family drama.
The film has been directed by Anand L Rai, whose last venture was Atrangi Re and with its trailer, the makers managed to not give away any of its plot twists. Despite its problematic take on mental illness, the film dared to broach a subject and weave a narrative that was never seen before in any Hindi film.
Also, in the casting call that is featured in Raksha Bandhan‘s trailer, the names of Sadia Khateeb, Sahejmeen Kaur, Deepika Khanna and Smrithi Srikanth, who play the four sisters, appear before those of Kumar and Pednekar. Does this mean that the film could actually be about the sisters and how they carve their own niche, rather than their brother? We will have to wait and see how writers Himanshu Sharma and Kanika Dhillon do justice to a sensitive topic that runs a risk of being manhandled.
The views expressed are the author’s own.