x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Weddings, Bollywood style

You know it's wedding season when the cinema reflects this in the films screened

One can always tell what the Indian market is buying into by simply checking the listings at a local cinema, even in Abu Dhabi.

And you know it's wedding season when the theatres are filled with films that explore one of the biggest events of an Indian's life. It is also when parents (regardless of income) spend so lavishly that families sometimes go into debt. Of course, Bollywood offers escapism. This year, the plots of the line-up of films, along with their exciting soundtracks that promise to be played at the weddings, only reinforce the power of an industry that has grown into an actual business of shaadi (wedding).

I was hooked when watching the top 10 songs of the week on Channel [V] India. The tunes were infectious and if the trailers were any indication, these films promised to fill the theatres as well. So I did something that I have done only twice in my time in Abu Dhabi. I bought tickets to see a Bollywood film on the eve of its release at a theatre in the crowded city centre. The last time, the adventure turned sour when children cried and the young crowd whistled throughout much of the film.

This time, I was determined. Between the music and the trailer, I shelled out Dh25 to watch Tanu Weds Manu on the big screen (with English and Arabic subtitles). The story ran thus: a successful non-resident Indian doctor travels to a small city to meet a girl picked by his parents. She is pretty, but pretty bad, too. On the surface, she is what every Indian girl must be. Underneath it all, it's a different story altogether. That's when the fun was supposed to ensue, but the plot line got lost somewhere after "intermission". The second hour and a half was a disappointment. Regardless, I played the catchy tunes in the car on my drive back.

Unconvinced that the whole season of wedding films could be such a dud, I stumbled upon Band Baaja Baraat (Wedding Music Band) - a hilarious film about a pair of young, ambitious wedding planners trying to start a business. It was inspiring. It also provided satirical insight into the wedding industry that has grown exponentially and now includes decor that tries to depart from the garish only to end up in kitsch.

Whether a flop or a hit at the box office, one thing is certain. It will have an Indian audience to go with the realities of the Indian market that are being reflected on screen. And with it all, you can see glimpses of the subtle yet changing patterns of how Indians are choosing to wed these days.