Hindi Film 101: Marriage and Movie Stars

On Friday I did a “TGIF” of happy couples, and then I realized that I was kind of skipping to the end, posting the couples without defining “happy” before.  And I also find it legitimately fascinating how tricky the public versus private requirements of Hindi film industry marriages are.

Disclaimer: I have no special knowledge of anything.  This is primarily my own thinking on the situation, combined with some minimal rumors and facts that are common knowledge.

 

Let’s start by defining “marriage”.  To my mind, marriage is a covenant between two people which is recognized by society.  That’s all.  The details of that covenant are personal to the individual couple, and can vary greatly couple to couple.  But so long as their own individual covenant is made and kept sacred, and society recognizes the existence of a covenant (without knowing the details), that is a marriage.

(For instance, this is a marriage.  No crowd, no priest, but the two of them know what they are promising each other and the rest of society recognizes it)

What gets tricky is when part of the covenant between those two people is based on societal expectations.  NOT that society is defining their covenant, but that at least one of the people involved has chosen to care about what society general considers to be a “marriage” and based part of their particular promise on it.

Here is a common example of what I mean: the big wedding versus the elopement.  Society expects a big wedding.  That does not directly effect the couple, it can’t brainwash them into being different people than they already are and force them to want a big wedding.  But what can happen is that you have a couple who both would prefer an elopement.  But while one of them is willing to elope no matter what anyone else things, the other one would be uncomfortable insulting friends and family and having to explain the decision (although it is also what they would prefer to do).  And so the couple compromises.  They have a small ceremony and a big reception.  Or elope, and then get married again for their family.  Or simple have the smallest wedding possible.  The couple, between the two of them, know what they want and need, but they choose what they will reveal to others of what they want, and take into account social expectations as part of that reveal.

This is how social/cultural expectations work on a marriage.  They don’t actually change the intimate fabric of a marriage between two people.  But they do cause a change to how that intimate fabric is presented to the outside world in order to protect the fragile trust between those two people.

Where Indian culture is a little, I don’t want to say “unique”, but at least not the same as some other places, is that the social/cultural expectations for marriage are so incredibly specific.  It’s not just general things like “a husband works and a wife cooks”, but detailed day by day and hour by hour rules and practices.  That is, if you are marrying with in your same religion/ethnic group/caste.  This is how the arranged marriage practice has survived and even flourished.  Two strangers marry, but they don’t have to worry about working things out between each other, at least not most things, they can just follow the rules prescribed for them.

(Like, packing lunch in the tiffin box after serving breakfast every single day)

A “love marriage” doesn’t just mean that a couple met by accident instead of being introduced by their families.  It means that you are marrying outside of that very very specific shared culture.  A “love” couple has no rules to follow, has to make things up as they go along, and it is expected that they are staying together in some sort of fantasy of an ideal marriage.  The accepted rules of “love” are the only ones they must follow, but they must follow them rigidly.

The problem is, again, a marriage is a covenant between two people and that covenant doesn’t necessarily follow any rules that are shared by anyone else.  Arranged marriage, or love marriage.  Life is not that predictable, and people are not that limited.

Dilip Kumar’s autobiography gave a really good example of these two marriages.  His parents had an old-fashioned arranged marriage.  His mother came from a similar family, and knew that her job once she was in her marital household was to run the kitchen and take care of her in-laws and be always obedient and sweet.  His father knew that his job was to help support the general household and have children.  The couple was not supposed to have any intimate relationship outside of the greater family.  And yet, they did.  Observant young Dilip noticed that his father would buy his mother presents and give them to her secretly, would hide his affection in their private quarters.  And most likely moved his business to Bombay partially to save his wife from the overwork she was suffering from the rest of his family.  That’s not supposed to happen in an arranged marriage.  To show this kind of special bond, this preference for each other, was unacceptable within their family.  And so they had to hide it, pretend that they were only fulfilling their duties as “husband” and “wife” rather than loving each other.

But then there was Dilip himself.  Publicly, he and Saira Banu had a “love” marriage.  All of India fell in love with this romance of the handsome older man and bright young actress, passionately in love with each other, endlessly happy, a huge joyous wedding, an ideal honeymoon, and so on and so forth.  But, again, marriages are not that simple.  Saira was unable to easily fit within Dilip’s household, and occasionally moved across the road to stay at her own home.  After years of marriage, Dilip was briefly married to another woman and then divorced her.  The Indian public/media was confused by this.  If it had been an arranged marriage, a couple who fulfilled their public duties as husband and wife but privately were not that close would not have been such an issue.  But Dilip and Saira were supposed to be a love marriage, they must be always together and happy and perfect with no problems.

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Nowadays, Saira and Dilip might be considered the “love cum arranged” or “arranged cum love” kind of marriage.  Dilip was close to her family for years, they were very similar backgrounds and so forth, Dilip was suddenly struck by Saira’s beauty at a party, and 2 weeks later he asked her to marry him and then promptly asked permission of her family as well, which they were delighted to give him.  There was no dating, there was no planning their lives together, there were no fights and accommodations and getting to know each other.  It was a couple of meetings, and then straight to marriage.  A marriage that was happily sanctioned by both families.  They still had the expectation of following the certain rules and positions that were involved in marriage, that’s why Saira struggled with her in-laws, fitting in with people who resented her presence but still expected her to follow the rules of a good wife, but on top of that they had the expectations of love, that they had to be romantic and perfect with each other, to live up to this love story.

Another example might be Kajol and Ajay.  Reading between the lines, it is fairly clear that they had an “arranged cum love” marriage.  That is, their families arranged for them to meet with an expectation of marriage.  But, they met and became engaged years before the actual marriage occurred.  They had years of fights and discussion and getting to know each other before they took on the roles of “husband” and “wife”.  And, even more interesting, the only things they had in common in terms of background were the film industry.  Kajol’s family was Maharashtrian and Bengali.  Ajay’s was Punjabi.  Kajol’s family were artistic and upperclass, Ajay’s family was dirt poor as recently as his childhood.  But they were both second generation film people.  They knew film parties, they knew film work, they knew the world of filmi couples, most of them love marriages, most of them cross-cultural.  And so Ajay and Kajol made a match, because they shared this strange new caste of “film”.

Image result for kajol ajay wedding

The problem is, while within these marriages and even within the new caste of “film”, certain rules may be expected and accepted, those same rules are definitely not expected and accepted by the Indian public at large.  And so a couple is left with the difficult choice of either carefully creating a smokescreen over who they really are for the general public, or directly confronting public expectations and revealing what their marriage is.

In the “olden days”, the most common answer was to keep marriage entirely private.  Dilip and Saira were a special case (part of the reason the public was so in love with them).  But Raj Kapoor and Krishna Kapoor were unlikely to give joint interviews, or discuss their relationship in anyway.  Dharmendra’s first wife was barely photographed.  Even Aamir and his first wife kept their private life strictly private.  It crossed gender lines as well, Vyjantimala and her husband, Waheeda Rahman and her husband, they never spoke in public or made their marriage part of their publicity.

Shahrukh was one of the first to break this rule.  He not only talked about his girlfriend and later wife, he talked and talked and talked about her!  And once they were married, they were photographed everywhere together, she became part of his public mystique.  And the public fell in love with the idea of this love marriage.  A marriage across religions, a couple living outside all the standard rules (no family around them, a working wife).  And the “rules” for love marriage became more and more firm.  It must be always romantic and perfect and wonderful.  Poetry at breakfast, can’t keep hands off each other at public events, like that.  And, of course, NO infidelity.

This was a break from the expectations of arranged marriages.  When I first got into Indian culture/Indian film, I was shocked at how accepted infidelity was.  Not “shocked and horrified”, I’m not saying it is better or worse than other systems, just shocked.  The rules for what a husband and wife were supposed to be were so firm and accepted that, so long as they were followed, infidelity might be overlooked.  If a man married, had two children, took care of his parents and the rest of his family, properly performed all the marriage rituals that were part of his religion/caste background, him being in love with someone other than his wife wouldn’t really matter that much.  Whether that was a man or a woman, whether it was a consummated love or not, so long as he kept up all the duties that were specific to a married man, he could still be considered a proper good husband. Of course, a married woman had a different set of rules.  She had to properly respect and care for her husband above all others.  No one else could be set before him.  But she didn’t have to “love” him, at least not in the laughing flirting happy kind of love.  More the “wash his dirty underwear and bear his children” kind of love.

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(Paro, in the novel and the non-Bhansali films, was considered a “good” wife, or at least not a bad one.  She continued to love Devdas, but she also took care of her household and her stepchildren and gave to charity and did all the things that a “wife” is supposed to do)

But now, with the love marriages, the husband and wife were expected to be constantly passionately in love with each other.  And that kind of slowly building boring background kind of love, the responsible and day to day kind, was discounted, or not supposed to be there.

What’s disturbing is when the two meet.  It’s confusing to have Shahrukh say in an interview that after so many years, he and his wife really only talk about the kids.  And it’s confusing to have Shahid and his arranged marriage wife (same background, same religious group, married within weeks of meeting) be so flirtatious that they can’t stop touching each other in public.  How can a love marriage turn so dull?  And how can an arranged marriage turn so exciting?

Image result for shahid mira koffee with karan

And this is why the public face of these marriages in the Hindi industry has become so rigid.  As the media has grown and grown and become more intimate and constant, and as the Hindi industry is entering it’s second and third generation of these love marriages between film families, the “love” marriage story is becoming more and more common.  And there is a certain pattern and expectation that the media and public has for these marriages.

If a couple marries for love, after dating publicly, they are supposed to never have problems again.  They must always be smiling and happy together.  They must go on wonderful family vacations, have perfect beautiful children, talk about how they are happy-happy-happy all the time.  Most of all, the man is not supposed to be unfaithful.  And so it is awfully exciting when he is.

This is not the case with the old-school arranged marriages.  The ones where we (the public) barely saw the wife, there was no public and oft repeated story of how they met, everything was assumed to follow the standard boring practices of a marriage based on duty and proscribed societal roles.  Raj and Nargis barely bothered to hide their affair.  Not everyone approved of it, but it was hardly huge shocking news.  Dharmendra and Hema Malini, the story wasn’t that Dharmendra was cheating on his wife, but that Hema was romancing an older married man.  Dharmendra stepping out on his arranged bride was no news at all.

But now, every time there is even a hint of a possibility that someone with one of those public love marriages might be having a romance outside of marriage, it is repeated and repeated and causes shock and horror and so on.  I say “someone”, but it’s almost always the man.  Even in a love marriage, the expectation is that a wife is long suffering and dutiful while the man is the one stepping out on the marriage.

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(one of the rare exceptions were the rumors that Suzanne Khan was having an affair with Arjun Rampal.  Which is confusing since Suzanne was also and remained close friends with his wife.  So either the rumors are completely false, or the rules of their marriage meant his wife didn’t care)

The problem is, again, all marriages are a mixture of that perfect poetic love and the hard daily work.  And also, all marriages are private and between two people.  So everyone says the same things about how magical and perfect things are, but at least some of them are lying.  And all of them are only telling part of the truth.  Because you can’t possibly tell the whole truth, not about something as complicated as a marriage.

In my post on Friday, I picked out Twinkle and Akshay as my current favorite couple.  That is partly based on their Koffee With Karan interview in which they made an effort NOT to sell the fairy tale romance.  They got together in a location shoot hookup with no expectations of anything more than a few week distraction.  They lived together for a year before getting married in order to try out the relationship.  They went into things with their eyes open and no thought that love would fix everything.  And they were brave enough to say that in public instead of selling the ideal romance.  Saif and Kareena have given a few similarly blunt interviews about living together before marriage, making sure to go on vacations to stay in touch with each other while they are both working, and so on.

But what no one is brave enough or foolish enough to say is that those location shoot hookups may not end with marriage.  And that may not be a problem for their marriages.  Even if it is a happy love marriage, a man may still “cheat” and a wife may not mind.  We can’t know.

(It might be an arrangement like this)

Let me go back to my example at the beginning of the couple who both want to elope, but compromise by doing a variation of the accepted society thing so they don’t hurt the feelings of others, or feel embarrassed.  That is magnified by a million when you are a global superstar and your every move makes headlines.  Maybe some of these people have completely open marriages.  Maybe some of them have a limited agreement of infidelity in certain circumstances (say, if you ask permission in advance from your wife and keep it limited to during a location shoot).  Maybe some of them had real true patches of cheating, followed by tears and reconciliation and a lot of work to build the marriage back up again.  But none of them, across the board, would want this private business publicized.  I mean, who would?  When it is this personal, and this certain that the greater society will not approve?

And so when I look at stories of infidelity in the film industry, I use my own judgement to decide if it is “true” infidelity, that is, something that breaks the covenant of the marriage between those two people, or simply a matter of someone having sex with someone to whom they are not married.  And if it is an issue that the husband and wife have worked through together, outside of the public eye, and emerged stronger, or not.  Because the Indian media is going to treat everything as a horrible betrayal of the perfect love marriage, and the stars are going to treat everything equally by not talking about it.

What this means is, for me, the only person I will always place blame on is the one talking about the affair.  Because they are talking about it. The one thing we can be sure of about the marriage of these celebrities is that part of their promise is to not discuss an affair publicly.  Because they don’t.  And it is not our business to get involved in their marriage and break that covenant.

And most often, the one talking is the other woman.  It is the breaking of the expected responsibilities of a marriage that gets the blame and embarrassment from society, not being the single other woman.  Being a married woman having an affair with a married man, that would NOT be okay.  But the media/public seems more able to forgive a young woman for being overcome and falling in love with a married man than the married man for cheating.  Which is why it seems as though, Rekha to Kangana, it is the other woman who starts spreading these stories in the media.  Her career benefits in a heightened profile and, while she may find it harder to get a husband, the public as a whole will understand her as being within the tradition of the tragic romantic who gave it all up for love, just like Anarkali or Chandramukhi or Mastani.  The only “punishment” she risks receiving is internal.  Within the “film” caste, it is part of the rules that you never ever talk about these things, you don’t harm two people personally and professionally in that way, and so if someone breaks that rule, they will be cut out from the greater film community as much as possible.

Image result for rekha filmfare cover

(Rekha gets a FilmFare cover, Jaya gets publicly humiliated)

Of course, I do have exceptions to this.  If a man threatens or abuses a woman in some way related to their romantic relationship, for instance forces her to sleep with him for a role, then she absolutely should/could go to the media and reveal what he did.  But the mere fact of a married man having a relationship outside of marriage I do not find to necessarily be our business.  And I find it needlessly cruel towards the wife, the uninvolved party, to be publicly embarrassed as the personal details of her marriage are dragged into the public eye.

You can feel free to disagree with this perspective, but I wanted to give you the background of arranged versus love, how the public face of marriage has changed, and how it effects the way we see marriages of Hindi film celebrities reported now.

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31 thoughts on “Hindi Film 101: Marriage and Movie Stars

  1. I always wondered about Shahrukh and Kajol. It seems the essence of their chemistry is real emotional attachment and unsatisfied lust. I never quite got the Ajay thing; they don’t seem very affectionate and Kajol has said on occasion that Ajay isn’t necessarily nice to her, while Shahrukh makes no secret of how he feels and does nothing but talk about how magical she is. I don’t think they’ve ever slept together but the emotional attachment is raw as hell. Mostly on Shahrukh’s part I think, because I think Kajol loves him just as much but has to be a lot less demonstrative about it. I wonder if she and Ajay are happy? If they have something worked out? What do you think of them?

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    • Well, we really have no way of knowing what marriage is like behind closed doors even for our closest friends in real life, there is no hope of knowing what it is for movie stars we have never meet.

      I don’t know if I would say “unsatisfied lust” between them. As an actor, it seems like “lust” is one of the strongest tools in Shahrukh’s kit, he can make you believe he is passionately obsessively desirous of any woman, and he can turn it off just as easily. Kareena, for instance, they’ve had smoking hot moments in Don and Asoka, but then he also played her protective older brother with nothing romantic at all in K3G. So I can see and feel that between them when they are acting, but it is (or at least could be) just acting.

      What always strikes me more when I see interviews with them interacting as real people is the great degree of comfort between them. I’ve certainly had that, people who I meet and immediately feel like I’ve known my whole life. Or who I have gone through something with so that I always feel like the know the “real” me. It sounds like the 7 films they were on together were that kind of experience. Not Baazigar and Karan-Arjun so much, but DDLJ was a quick fun shoot that kind of solidified the connections that were already there, and then the other 4 were long and difficult and involved a lot of intimate close work between Shahrukh, Kajol, and the director. And the end result is that Shahrukh is more likely to drop into Hindi and start talking very fast and easy when he is with Kajol, and she is more likely to do a snorting laugh and forget to be “proper”.

      To me, I think that is what makes the magic onscreen. They are both people who are normally uncomfortable in love scenes, but since they have that enormous trust and comfort between each other, they can let go a little bit more as actors.

      Oh, and in terms of Kajol and Ajay, everything I’ve seen says that he is a supportive generous husband. He is loyal and supportive to her family, turns up for events to support her, is a co-parent constantly seen with one of their children, and I have also read interviews where he has described her in glowing terms. Of course, we can’t know everything about any marriage, but I’ve seen enough to believe they could be happy together.

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      • I don’t think in the slightest that SRK has any real, heartfelt chemistry with anyone except Kajol. He can certainly go through the motions and create movie chemistry with other actresses but it’s with Kajol that his eyes really express his feelings, and it makes it look different with her than any other actress. Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte is a great example of this. He’s a good actor and clearly an emotional being, but there is something about the comfort he has with Kajol that makes his acting so much different. No other woman could have played Mandira, for example, because I don’t think he would have felt free enough to give his performance without her.

        I’m glad Ajay is not the bastard I’ve imagined in my head, lol. He seems fairly low-key.

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      • SRK is definitely comfortable with Kajol but he has that same type of comfort with Juhi too. I think it comes from knowing them before becoming such a big star. They treat him like a normal person which most other people no longer do because of his name and fame and stature. For that reason, he can be himself with them and doesn’t have to carry that burden of stardom.
        Kajol mentioned during Dilwale promotion time that they’ve seen the worst of each other but are still okay and like each other. She has seen him shouting and angry and depressed and vice versa. With all the newer, younger costars, it just wouldn’t be possible to have that comfort level.
        As far as Ajay goes, Kajol said herself that she was reluctant to do Dilwale because it was too much time away on foreign shoots but it was Ajay that convinced her to do it since she liked the movie. He apparently changed his schedule and took care of the kids so she could be away peacefully. Despite all the ‘SRK/Ajay hate each other narratives’ in the media, Ajay himself talked about how when Kajol’s dad died, he personally called SRK to please come and sit with Kajol since she was distressed.
        Liking a romantic couple on screen shouldn’t necessarily be extended into the actors’ real lives.

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  2. “Prescribed roles” not “proscribed.” This is one time the typo makes an enormous difference, with what actually shows up in the post meaning the exact opposite of what you meant to say. 🙂

    However, you are completely wrong on your take of arranged marriages. Where on earth did you get the idea that the husband and wife are not supposed to develop an intimate and loving relationships just for themselves? It is very much expected and desired, and the idea is that the “arranged” part (based on similarities of family, background, values, etc.) would all help to form such a bond. And it is definitely NOT okay for the man to be unfaithful! Good heavens! Again I can’t understand where you might get such an idea. It was tolerated, yes, in times gone by, because of the overall patriarchal structure of the general society, but it was definitely condemned. There was never an Indian parallel to the “playboy” as an aspirational or admired role for a man. Now it is true that polygamy was accepted (and legal until the 1950’s for Hindu men, and still is for Muslim men), but note that even then, the man is supposed to marry the “other woman”, not just keep her on the side or in hiding. That is, she was also protected by being given a socially acceptable position and role. For at least several decades now, it is not even tolerated. I think what you are really reacting to (and possibly misinterpreting) was the lack of options for a married woman whose husband cheated on her. Some women, with enough financial and moral support from their birth families, did leave their husbands because of infidelity, even if they never had a divorce. But for most women the stigma of leaving the marriage was greater than the pain of continuing in a betrayed relationship. Fortunately, things have evolved so that that is no longer the case (nor has been for several decades). (Incidentally, the stigma for a divorced man was no less). If anything, the Shaid – Mira marriage and subsequent lovey dovey behavior is exactly what is expected to come out of an arranged marriage.

    On Kajol and Ajay — you might have added that Ajay has weathered the public close friendship of his wife and SRK, and the fantasies of a romance between them by a huge fandom, with great equanimity. He has stated on many occasions that Kajol has her friends and he has his, and they don’t have to be the same people. Similarly Kajol has said on many occasions that her husband is the sexiest man on earth to her, he is the best husband, etc. I see a recent trend online to cast Ajay as a serial philanderer, and Kajol as a compliant doormat, but I see no evidence of either stand.

    I think you have the take on “love marriages” correctly. But this idealized expectation is mainly due to the way that such “love” is portrayed, in fiction, on screen, or by the couple themselves.

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    • Thanks for the typo catching! Fixed now. Like you said, one time when being just one letter off actually makes a difference.

      I think I need to clarify what I mean by infidelity. As you point out, polygamy was legal and part of the general history of the culture. And divorce was the most unacceptable option. Which means that the primary value was on the social institution of marriage, not on the idea of a sole loving bond between two people. Marriage between two people who no longer love each other, or marriage between a man and multiple women, is more acceptable than actually ending a marriage. Infidelity is not the end of a marriage, is not supposed to be the end of the marriage. And as for where I got the idea that infidelity was more accepted, well there are things like Kabhi Kabhi in which Amitabh is more or less uninterested in his wife and still obsessing over his ex-girlfriend, and yet his wife is still faithful and devoted and no one seems to think of him as a “bad” husband necessarily. Or Iru Kodugal which I just watched, in which a man was in love (to some degree) with two women, and they both wanted him to perform his duty as their husband, meaning blessing them and various other duties, not meaning that they love only one person. That kind of infidelity, in which a man is still in love with another woman, or flirts with another woman, and that is separate from all the things he does as a husband in the home, was surprising to me. There are also plenty of personal stories, especially of queer men, who were told to do whatever they wanted so long as they were still “good husbands”.

      As for arranged marriages turning into love, I’ve certainly seen it in movies as a good thing, and everyone I know in real life has told that story. But I have also seen that PDA between husbands and wives has a much lower level of acceptance in Indian society, and I have heard those same stories that Dilip tells of love between husband and wife as something to be kept secret and private, that was the whole point of *Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol, the radical suggestion that a husband and wife might be in love with each other.* This article/post is aimed not at people like yourself who grew up immersed in this culture, but at people who may be coming at it from the outside and trying to understand it through Western eyes.

      One thing that I think makes “love” marriages slightly different is that they are still aspirational for much of Indian society. While in America, everyone who is married has what in India would be considered a “love” marriage, so there is an awareness that not all of them are perfect and relationships can change and require work and so on and so forth.

      On Sun, Feb 18, 2018 at 4:50 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Sorry, I meant to get back to this earlier, but didn’t have time. Meenakshy has given a very good response below, so I don’t want to get back into the discussion per se, as I am still pressed for time. But I did want to correct your statement that I grew up “immersed in the culture.” Ha ha. My family emigrated to North America when I was quite a young child, so the only culture I’ve been “immersed in” is mostly the American one. I had to figure all these things out as I observed it very much from a “western culture” point of view, and tried to make sense of it all. While you rely on films for increasing your understanding, my resources were mainly books, primarily fiction. Later on, I could also observe the children of immigrants, both ones with some experience of India, and those born outside, and their approaches to marriage. Some opted for arranged marriages (a choice I had a hard time understanding), some not. More and more now, most opt for choosing their own partner, with many living together before marriage, and their parents are OK with it. There has been an evolution in the thinking of this particular population as well. But the ones in India still go the arranged marriage route, albeit embellished now with some of the trappings of “romance” (mostly very superficial ones).

        I actually don’t think the people in India understand the concept of “love” at all, as it’s understood in the west.

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    • Have to agree about Ajay weathering SRK and Kajol’s public friendship quite well. Credit to Gauri as well for dealing with it gracefully. Unlike the shippers, I do not believe there is any unfulfilled lust or love or anything similar between SRK and Kajol. She is very demonstrative about how sexy she thinks her husband is and SRK has even referred to her as a little sister.

      They are good enough actors to sell their love on screen. It doesn’t have to be more than that.

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      • From a PR perspective, I am very impressed by how they have all handled it. No official disclaimers, no effort to make Kajol and Shahrukh appear together less or spend less time together. There is nothing to hide and so they all act like there is nothing to hide. Kajol and Shahrukh are old friends from work, they know but don’t socialize with or have much in common with each other’s spouses. And that is okay. If they were to insist on Kajol and Shahrukh not appearing together, or make it into a “thing” in response to the rumors, that would just serve to increase the rumors.

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        • I love the way this satire video has Kajol on the phone with her husband as Shahrukh and others roll their eyes. It sort of captures what you were saying about K&S being very close yet not off-screen romantic.

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    • I’m not usually one for much gossip but I think the poly relationship was Hrithik, Suzanne and Barbara. The 3 of them even got matching tattoos done. I thought it was really bizarre.

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      • Yeah, I can believe that. I remember the press being kind of confused because there was a lot that looked like a Hrithik-Barbara affair, but then Suzanne was also super friendly to her.

        This is the kind of thing I was wondering about when Hrithik took soooooooooooooo long to speak out about Kangana. It felt like he wanted to keep something private that he wasn’t necessarily ashamed of, but which he also didn’t want to risk being shared with the world. I could believe that during a rough patch of their marriage, Suzanne and Hrithik tried welcoming in another partner. And then ended it after a while with no hard feelings on anyone’s part. And that Kangana and possibly others knew about it because they weren’t ashamed, just wanted to keep it private. But it would definitely be something you don’t want talked about to the press or the vast majority of the Indian public.

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    • That’s one thing I have been told by someone whose friend’s cousin (or something) worked at a luxury hotel where there were a lot of industry parties and getaways. I give you the source so you know how reliable/not reliable it is. It’s not something you would read in the paper, but it might be something you puff up a bit to make a good story at a party. Anyway, he said that they all swing (essentially), that whole crowd. I could believe it, and I could also believe that some people do and some people don’t but everyone accepts and understands it. Like I don’t see Gauri Khan storming out of a party in horror if Arjun and Suzanne are hooking up with their spouse’s permission, I see her being more “well, you do you” about it. And I could also believe that the standard of physical intimacy that is common between male-female friends is such that an outsider might assume they are swinging when they aren’t. Like, Arjun sitting at a party with Suzanne leaning on one shoulder and his wife on the other.

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      • Yeah, I’ve always thought people mistake the physical proximity BW actors seem to have with each other. I think they’re so used to doing those types of scenes all day long on screen and for promotions that they just get used to it and it ceases to have any meaningful impact anymore. I think they genuinely don’t see it as any big deal.

        I don’t follow other actors too much but I’ve seen it with SRK where the actresses are unusually close to him. Almost all of them put their hands on his thighs and ruffle his hair and such. Initially when I started following BW, it struck me as very weird since I didn’t see this type of thing amongst HW actors. They might do explicit sex scenes on screen but off screen, there would still be a physical distance. But then I think the industries are so different that different patterns form. Like BW actors are always having to perform on stage and play out romantic scenes for live audiences and such, it just becomes second nature without it having much meaning at all.

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        • Agree with all this. One thing that makes a big difference, I think, is the dancing. You see that in those celebrity ballroom dance competition shows all the time, how very close very quickly the partners become. It’s as intimate as a sex scene, figuring out whose hand goes wear and seeing each other’s bodies as just a tool and an extension of your own.

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  3. Such an interesting conversation. 2 experiences have shaped my views on how marriages work from the inside, and how ultimately unknowable they are except to the married couple.

    As a masters anthropology student I was privileged to do some field work in Rajasthan with young economists from a venerable institute in Delhi. There were 6 Americans and 4 young economists. Then there were 2 older economists who were also our chaperones.

    Some of us were married, some not, it was a mix of men and women, and we all grew close in that “we’re experiencing an intense time together” type of way. On the last day a young man from Delhi asked me and another American woman, “Can I ask you something really personal?” and we said, “Sure, if we can ask you something really personal in return.” The older male economist was in the car too. A lovely man. So the young economist asked if it is true that most Americans have sex before marriage. We said, yep, but the experience varies widely, and it doesn’t mean that most Americans are promiscuous before marriage, though some are–before and after!

    Then, I asked the older gentleman how many arranged marriages are happy marriages. He said, “Arranged marriages are like this–the first 20 years are happy, the second 20 years are unhappy, and the third 20 years are happy again.” I cheekily asked him if his marriage was arranged and if it followed that pattern. He chuckled and said, “Absolutely! I’m glad we’re into the third phase now.”

    The second experience is that my mom and aunt sometimes have felt that my uncle’s wife doesn’t treat him very well, based on things we see at family gatherings. Uncle is the baby in the family so they’re protective. On the rare occasion they have mentioned this to him, he unfailingly says, “You only see a little bit of our relationship. She is more demonstrative than me, but you don’t know what she also has to deal with.” Not meaning anything ominous–but just that, hey, their marriage is between them.

    Now–of course this second point only holds if one partner is not emotionally or physically abusive. If someone outside the marriage learns that is going on, then any expectations of privacy are off as far as I’m concerned.

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    • How has it never come up before that you did field work in Rajasthan???? You are much more modest than I would be.

      Really interesting story. That 20-20-20 pattern seems logical to me, not just for arranged marriages, but for all marriages that tend to fall into a pattern. That is, if the first 20 years are raising children and all the day to day slog of that busy time of life (working full time, rushing around, building a house, standard young couple stuff), then the next 20 years would be awkwardly getting to know each other and figuring out how to be together without children and without rushing to build a life because it has already been built, and then the last 20 would be after that awkward phase is over. The exception to this being the couples who marry later in life, or who don’t have kids, or for whatever other reason don’t fit that pattern.

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      • Haha–my field work in Rajasthan is not that relevant to my relationship to Hindi films. Sadly, I got zero exposure to Hindi film music or movies during that trip. We were all very earnest young researchers. It did inform my understanding of caste and gender to some extent–but only in very conservative, rural Rajasthan. 🙂

        I agree that many marriages fit into that pattern–whether love marriages or arranged. It has given me such comfort in the occasional rough spots in my own marriage to know that change is a constant in all human life, including marriages. Thanks, Danu-ji!

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        • Somewhere (probably in a sappy movie) I heard a character describe a long term marriage and falling in love with each other all over again every few years. As in, you are both constantly evolving into new people, and the challenge is to keep falling in love with the new person you get to know every several years.

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          • Yep, sounds right to me. With the priviso that “happy marriage” can mean a whole range of things, including a couple that isn’t passionately in love with each other but is still happy with their status of “married”. And that’s all fine, but if being married is making you miserable every day, that’s something else.

            On Mon, Feb 19, 2018 at 11:38 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

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  4. Boy, was that a long post in defense of a fun TGIF post.
    I would think that the readers of this blog are naive to not know that even the seemingly perfect celebrity marriages can have their fair share of ups & downs with some infidelity thrown in-no matter the amount the photo ops & PR & KwK appearances.I would not have assumed this ,had this been another fan page where the fans wants to know & judge even the way the stars pee.I think the readers chose one couple over another in the TGIF post,driven by their personal ideal of a happy marriage & our own observations of the filmy couples.Wit & funny answers do not score over fidelity to me-so I don’t think Akshay & Twinkle have a perfect marriage-but that’s just me.

    That this blog is mainly aimed at people from outside and not for those who grew up in the culture is why I do not want them to have an incorrect idea about the marriages in India. Yes, as a culture, arranged marriage is still the most common type of marriage & ‘love’ marriage is something most people aspire to. Mainly because of the perception that an arranged marriage has more family/community involvement unlike the love marriage where the two people marrying are the key decision makers.Irrespective of the kind of marriage, how the couple achieves happiness together & sustain it is left for them to figure out- without disturbing the extended family/social circle. You saying that an arranged married couple does not have to figure out things & just have a set of rules to follow is absolutely incorrect.

    PDA-married or not-is disapproved in general. Like how drinking is looked upon as a vice. Kiss of Love was a protest organised in Kerala last year to claim the right to kiss publicly. Fancy that!

    The practice you had described from the Tamil film is called ‘Chinnaveedu(junior family). It is mostly seen in Tamil Nadu where a man can have two wives or two families. As long as he takes care of both, it’s all good. But there’s also another Tamil movie Agni Natchatram where a man having two families becomes a reason for conflict between the two sons because the junior son is illegitimate(legally & socially). So not only is the dual family practice specific to TN but even within the region, it’s specific to the families involved. It cannot be spoken in general terms & cannot drive the conclusion that infidelity is very common& widely accepted. It is not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, thank you, I used your question for today’s Monday Morning Question post!

      Second, what you say at the end about a specific practice in Tamil Nadu related to plural marriage is what I meant by having a set of rules to follow. The idea of a marriage practice specific to a particular region and (I assume?) a particular community within that region is unusual to me. Details of a marriage like who cooks dinner, how you celebrate the holidays, which holidays you celebrate, what you call the grandparents, what temple you go to, what religious faith you practice, all of that in an arranged marriage would be purposefully the same. So that the couple has as few dissimilarities as possible and can focus on those few without worrying about the other details of life.

      And as you say, the bottom line for the plural marriage is that the husband has to take care of both families. Meaning, I assume, support them financially and perform various other duties of the “husband” role. Which in this case would not necessarily include being passionately in love with only one woman.

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  5. Pingback: Hindi Film 101 Index | dontcallitbollywood

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