Well, I’ve now moved out of the “genre recommendations” arena and into straight “what are fun tropes to list off”. But hey, I have to do something to kill time while all these patriotic movies I refuse to watch are releasing. Oh, and this post is littered with illegal youtube videos, so watch them FAST FAST FAST before they get pulled.
I actually had a hard time coming up with 10 of these! Mostly because of that mental block problem when you try to sit down and list them (please help in comments with the ones I forgot!), but also because they seem to have come out of fashion lately.
I swear, they used to be way more common! I am just blanking on examples right now. But it’s a useful plot device in a lot of the older films. Either the hero and heroine get “married” in a very romantic way and then the rest of the film is people trying to pull them apart. Or in an action movie, the whole romance is taken care of very tidily with the hero acquiring a wife in a dramatic fashion that does not require him to stop running from the police or working as a gangster or whatever other action-y thing he is doing.
But now either films are so regressive that the idea of an unofficial impulse marriage would never occur to the hero and heroine (like, why couldn’t Sara and Sushant just have gotten “married” at any point in Kedarnath and ended the whole conflict with her father and family?), or the films are so Westernized that it is all about the hero and heroine dealing with fear of commitment and so on, and an agreement to marry is the resolution of the conflict not the beginning of a new one (like, Sushant and Kriti could have just gotten “married” in Raabta instead of this whole back and forth to even agree to an engagement). And the action hero’s just have casual sex instead of getting married.
Anyway, the “marriages” I mean here are the private romantic impulsive ones between hero and heroine, that are not socially or legally sanctioned. So, not Saathiya/AlaiPayuthay or Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham because they actually planned that, and got it legally registered. And not Nameste London because, although that one wasn’t legal, it was socially approved and organized by the families. I want the impulsive ones that just happen randomly at a temple, or in a bedroom, and are a matter of going through the motions of the ceremony and calling it “married” without any other formality needed. Oh, and not childhood marriages either! Those are in a different category, they aren’t romantic and they are usually socially sanctioned.
This is probably the ultimate example from Hindi film. It’s certainly my favorite! And shows a lot of outside of the box thinking on the part of the scriptwriter and characters. Aamir and Madhuri are college kids in love, their parents object and have separated them, blah blah. Rather than try to win over their parents, or come up with an elaborate escape plan, Aamir simply breaks in to Madhuri’s house and very quickly marries her while her father tries to stop him. As soon as the ceremony is over, everyone recognizes it as valid despite it having no legal power, Madhuri is sent out of her home with her “husband” instead of being locked up, and Aamir is thrown out of his home with his “wife”. Oh, and the marriage ceremony he chooses to do is simply breaking a table and setting it on fire, then walking around it with her 7 times, putting a mangalsutra on her, and then cutting his thumb for blood to use as sindoor. Which is frankly one of the more elaborate ceremonies on this list. And yet, they all consider themselves “married”!
The classic. Based on a classic novel, with the title “married woman”. In the essentials, it is about a love story complete with a simplified marriage ceremony not blessed by a priest, and the groom and his family refuses to acknowledge the marriage although the bride insists she is truly a “married woman”. The most recent version gets rid of the specifics of religious reform and so on that were included in the original novel (and also some mild pedophilia, part of the reason the groom wasn’t sure if it was a “real” marriage was because the bride wasn’t 18 yet). All versions go with a marriage ceremony through an exchange of garlands in private and nothing else, no priest and no hymns and not even a fire. What makes it really interesting is that the film and (I think) the novel both argue that they have been semi “married” all along, merely through treating each other as husband and wife, the heroine blindly following the hero’s wishes and orders as though he is her husband and him expecting such obedience. This ceremony is simply acknowledging something they already felt.
Now, this one is interesting because it is a ceremony that one of them considers a marriage and the other doesn’t! For Deepika, once Shahrukh puts the Sindoor on her forehead, they are married. But for Shahrukh, it’s meaningless. He hurries through the sindoor ceremony, and jokes about it. It’s a great plot device that I wish was exploited more, later Deepika pushes Shahrukh about, if he were to take her home to his grandmother, what would he introduce her as? I would be happy watching a whole movie dealing with this kind of conflict, a man and woman who are in love without admitting it and the woman considering them “married” but aware he does not see it the same way. I know I’ve seen that plot before, but it’s usually with child marriages, not semi-elopements.
Gadar: Ek Prem Katha
Ah, Gadar! The very very best of the action sequence marriages. Our heroine is running from a mob trying to kill her for being Muslim. Our hero stands in front of her and then dramatically smears blood in her part and declares she is now “Sikh” (because she is now his wife). What makes this “marriage” so wonderful, is that it was a true marriage in that moment, but they are both shy to admit how much it meant to them, waiting for the other to go first. And so we have the moments of him dramatically protecting her, her shyly offering to wrap his turban and asking what he wants in a wife, all leading up to the moment when she dramatically declares that all she wants is to be his wife, for real.
Bunty Aur Babli
So cute! Our hero and heroine are traveling together, sharing hotel rooms, have no family or anyone else around them. And yet after deciding they are in love, they of course have to get “married”. Because they are nice young people and that’s what happens when you fall in love, you get married. Even if the marriage is making up your own vows while circling a fire by the Taj. And this same marriage is recognized for the rest of the film, by them and everyone around them from the police to their families. Pre-marriage, crime partners on the run. Post-marriage, husband-wife on the run.
I still haven’t seen this straight through, but I’ve seen a lot of clips, and one of them is the “marriage” scene. Anil and Madhuri have been traveling together, and her villagers accuse her of having been shameless. In a high anger at the implied insult to Anil (that he would take advantage of a woman he was traveling with), Madhuri storms off to a temple and takes a blessed bowl of sindoor, then storms back to him and offers it up for him to bless her. Poof! Marriage! In this particular movie, the impulse “marriage” isn’t just romantic, it is vital for the plot. Anil’s evil stepmother would never agree to his marriage, and he is too good to think of disobeying her. But since he and Madhuri were maneuvered into this situation where an impulse “marriage” is the only answer, he gets married after all, not needing to alert his stepmother in advance as he would if it were a formal priestly kind of wedding.
One 2 Ka 4
Okay, now we are getting into the fuzzier territory. This all happens during a song and is never directly acknowledged again. But it is also definitely a diegetic song (it’s not at a fantasy location or anything), and they definitely go through the whole ritual. The audience is clearly shown SRK and Juhi walking around a Tulsi/Basil plant (a sacred object equivalent to a fire), and him miming putting on a mangalsutra and the sindoor, while she reacts with tears in her eyes, showing that she feels the ritual to be real. And then it never comes up again. I guess we put this in the “action movie” category, where they felt like the romance should have some kind of culmination but didn’t want to waste a lot of time on it.
Oh Bajirao! I hate you so so so very very very much. And yet I have to acknowledge this “marriage”, because it is one of the biggest recent examples. Ranveer and Dips stand outside in a storm and declare their love with thunder and lightening and witnesses. And then they are “married”. To the point that it causes issues in Ranveer’s kingdom, because he “married” a half-Muslim woman. Very confusing logic in this case, because there was no public ceremony of any kind and yet everyone seems to somehow know it happened and accept that it happened but be angry about it.
This comes closest to being a “real” ceremony, but I am still including it because it is so stripped down and also, I am pretty sure, never resulted in any marriage license being filed or anything. Kamal Hassan brings takes a young prostitute he has befriended out for the day and brings her to a temple. Once there, while she is distracted, he pulls out a mangalsutra (showing he planned this) and asks his friend to bring over the priest. The ceremony is simply having the priest bless them and the mangalsutra, and then Kamal tying it around his girlfriend’s neck, before she can fully process what is happening. It is direct and efficient and has not regard for what society, or even the bride, might think about what is happening. And no one ever questions this, even the bride, as soon as the thread is tied, they are married.
Oh Vivah! The ridiculousness of this plot twist! Our heroine Amrita Rao needs approval for her medical treatment from a close family member. Her weak old uncle is too shaken to sign the papers or understand what is happening. So her fiance Shahid Kapoor goes into the treatment room and puts sindoor on her forehead. And POOF! He now has the moral medical authority, respected by the hospital, to sign her treatment papers! And in the usual Rajshri way, it is both rebellious and romantic (this hurried marriage in a hospital), and with full family approval (they are alone in the room and it is Shahid’s idea, but the rest of the family is in the waiting room approving).