Do you trust my judgement? Do you like rom-coms? Then watch this! The hero is dreamy, the heroine is independent, and the plot is shockingly progressive. And romantic!
Just SO GOOD!!!! You know how usually you are watching a rom-com thinking “why don’t these people just talk to each other? Why are they being so cowardly and stupid? Why is this plot so predictable?” Yeah, NONE of that happens here! Instead there is a lot of fistpumping moments of “Ha! I can’t believe they just did that! My heart grew three sizes watching it!”
Plus, for once, the most important relationship in the film, the two people who are constantly talking and working together and interacting, are the central couple! Not the hero and his best friend who are stalking the girl, or the girl and her sister who are trying to plan her elopement or any of those other relationships that for some reason writers prefer to write instead of the relationship that the film is actually supposed to be about. Amit Sadh and Taapsee Pannu are the beginning middle and end of the film.
And that kind of leads into the whole point of the film in a meta-way. It’s not just the central couple that really really knows each other and likes spending time together and builds their own relationship just between the two of them, it’s every single couple and person we see. The title comes from the website/business that Amit and his best friend Arsh Bajwa set up a website called “Running Shaadi” and invite couples to apply for their help in organizing run away marriages. The trailer kind of set this up as a humorous joke machine type thing. But as it is presented in the film, it is almost an instruction manual for love marriages! They go into detail about the Indian laws surrounding them, the process of getting a registered marriage, how to easily get away from parental supervision, and all the other parts of marrying for love. This isn’t just a movie that treats love marriages as a funny plot point, it treats them as the wave of the future, the way everyone should be married, a basic human right.
Over and over again through out the course of the film (as I will be discussing in my SPOILERS review) the idea of people doing what they want to do with their own bodies and their own futures because that is a basic human right is repeated. With a balance, there are certain things our hero and heroine and all the other characters just will not do because it would hurt others. And the harder things they do, the big decisions, are taken with a proper weight and consideration. These are young people trying to find their way in the world, and it is hard, but they are doing their best.
While all of that feels new, almost revolutionary, the basic structure of the narrative is all old school and familiar. Our hero is an orphan, our heroine is the rich daughter of the family that takes him in. Obviously, there are run away marriages and elopements and all that in the plot, also a very traditional part of Indian films. And our central love story is of the “forever and ever since childhood you were the only one” variety. Not of the stupid “ha-ha, kids these days have sex and flirt with no attachment!” kind of way. It’s a perfect combination of all the unique wonderful parts of traditional Hindi film with a modern anything goes kind of attitude.
I guess here is the biggest compliment I can give this film: the censor board HAAAAAATED IT! It has the ODDEST bleeps. For one thing, “dot com” is removed from the soundtrack every time it appears. WHY????? And there are so many other completely random words that are pulled here and there for truly no reason! I’m guessing because they couldn’t justify censoring out the stuff they really really hated (all those moments when a woman had a right to make her own decisions about her life/body/future), so they took out their anger by chopping up the dialogue in what ever way struck their fancy.
Really, if you want a rom-com with big wedding scenes and strong female characters and a couple you are really pulling for to get their happy ending, go out and watch it right now!
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
Such a great movie! I’m just gonna give a real quick overview of the plot, not so you can read the overview and skip the movie (SEE IT!), but so I can discuss all the details later without worrying about missing a point.
Amit Sadh is an orphan from Bihar working in Amritsar for a Sikh who owns a sari store. He leaves near their house and spends time with his boss’s teenage daughter Taapsee. She goes to him for help when she is in high school and gets pregnant (!!!!). He helps her come up with an excuse to be away from home, is with her at the clinic, and after that they become close. Hold hands, meet in the morning for chai, he takes her to school everyday. But after she starts college, she falls in with a cool kid crowd and drifts away from him. The decide to be just friends and he agrees to marry a girl from Bihar that his uncle found for him. He also blows up at her father for being cheap and making him do all the work at the store and quits. Desperate for a new business, he and his friend hit on the idea of opening a website to help couples have runaway marriages. They investigate the legalities of it, how to win over the parents, etc. Taapsee makes fun of them, but also helps with their business. And then Taapsee herself needs their services, her father finds out about the abortion and rushes her into an arranged marriage and she wants to marry her college sweetheart instead. Amit is heartbroken, but agrees because he just wants her to be happy. And then, TWIST!!! After it is too late to back out, and they are already miles from home, Taapsee reveals that she never had a boyfriend, she was just trying to make Amit jealous, and she set up this whole fake elopement because she really wanted to elope with Amit. Amit is furious, and not really ready to elope since he still has his own wedding to deal with. But after Taapsee is injured while they are on the run, Amit softens and they become close again. They end up running from Taapsee’s family to Bihar to stay with Amit’s family. And discover that Amit’s fiancee is in love with someone else too. In the end, the arrange his fiancee’s elopement during their wedding, and then return to Amritsar to talk to Taapsee’s family about their own relationship (still unmarried, although they have had sex).
Okay, SO MANY THINGS TO LOVE!!! I arrived slightly late and missed maybe the first two minutes of the film. So I walked in right when Taapsee, in a school uniform, was confessing to Amit that she might be pregnant. Very confusing opening, wasn’t sure I was in the right theater until the credits started popping up onscreen in the middle of their conversation. Isn’t this amazing though? BAM! Opens with abortion! And if you don’t like it, you can leave.
I love the way this whole thing is handled too. Taapsee’s sexual experience was exactly what it was. Not love, some boy said he loved her on Valentine’s Day so she went out with him and they had sex. Not rape either, she doesn’t have survivor issues or PTSD. But it wasn’t a meaningful experience. Much more meaningful than a few minutes of fumbling is her telling this to Amit. Him taking her to the clinic, being there when she wakes up, supporting her with the doctor, etc. And after all of that, after he takes her back to school the next day, she kisses his cheek. And that, the cheek kiss, that is the magical sparking moment of physical connection that is so much more important than any meaningless confusing sexual mistake she made two months earlier with some boy she never saw again.
I also love that the importance of the abortion isn’t brushed past. This is a scary emotional thing Taapsee is doing. She really needs Amit there with her for it. But this is also the right decision for her. She wasn’t ready to be a mother, or a wife, or even get serious with the “impregnator”. She is ready to finish high school with top scores, and hold hands with Amit in the back of a rickshaw, and keep growing up. The abortion was a hard thing, but it was the right thing, and it was her right to make that decision.
And then they start to drift apart. For no particular reason. She joins a cool crowd at college. Amit isn’t comfortable with them. She starts being distracted and looking at her phone while they are talking. She suggests maybe they should just be friends, and Amit says “when were we ever anything more?”
Now, if you remember the TWIST from the beginning, turns out Taapsee has been in love with him all along. Which is one of those TWISTs which ends up making more sense than the previous appearance. She trusted him enough to ask for his help with an abortion, it’s going to take more than just new college friends to pull them apart. Yes, Taapsee got caught up in that crowd. But when Amit started blowing her off, and announced he was getting married to a Bihari girl, it broke her heart. She didn’t think they were really over, she never wanted anyone else. It was just a few months of getting excited about new friends.
The movie is supposed to be about two guys opening a website, but as I said in my no SPOILER review, the Taapsee and Amit relationship is the strongest one in the film by far. We start watching them fall in love and drift apart. And the whole website business is really only a distraction from Taapsee for Amit. And an excuse for her to spend time with him for Taapsee. After the TWIST, she points out that there was no reason for her to help with website design and distributing flyers and everything else unless she wanted to be part of his life. How could he not see it?
And the bit we see of their work helping with runaway relationships, the relationships we see (including a cameo from Biswa Kalyan Rath, one of the Pretentious Movie Review guys!), it all serves to strengthen the narrative that Amit and Taapsee are made for each other. And the main theme of the film, that young people are capable of figuring out their own lives, and in fact that is the natural and right way to do things. Every couple has their own story, their own reasons to fall in love. From a couple who met and fell in love online and eloped in their first meeting, to another that met in college where she fell in love with his mind, to another inter religious couple where the boy is the one about to be married off and they need police protection. And we see over and over again how, in the end, everything works out fine. Amit’s focus is on making this end peacefully and happily for all involved. The couple has a plan worked out in advance and runs off well before the wedding is planned (thus saving face for the families). They get married legally, stay away for a few days, then come home once things have calmed down and the family is ready to accept the relationship. And the one time it actually gets violent between the families, they simply call the police, who have a requirement to protect intercast/region/religion couples by the Special Marriage Acts, and have the police barter peace between families. Everything works out after a few days of excitement, and the couple gets a lifetime of happiness instead of a lifetime of misery and loneliness. Love marriages, and runaway marriages, are not a sickness or threat to society, but a natural thing and a healthy thing and really just not that big of a deal.
After all of this, Taapsee comes to them and says that the abortion doctor came into her father’s store, recognized her, and told her father everything. And now she is being married off and needs his help with her own running marriage. Who to? “You”. Amit laughs and immediately starts arguing about how she should just talk to her father, moving right past the idea that she might want to run away with him. So instead Taapsee says that she wants to marry her boyfriend “Shunty”, the one she has been talking about. Amit might be willing to help, but only if he meets Shunty. So Taapsee arranges a meeting, and it’s not the cool hair dude we saw before as part of her college crowd. It’s some tall Sikh guy with a turban who actually seems like kind of a nice dude. And he has a good job all lined up in Delhi, they just need to get married in Ambala, then go to Delhi and tell her family later. And then need Amit’s help getting away for the wedding. And Amit agrees, although it is breaking his heart, because he can’t say no to Taapsee.
The elopement goes off after a small hitch, Taapsee has a hard time getting away from her brother. But in the end, she and Amit are in his car, driving to Ambala all night where they are supposed to meet Shunty. Amit is sad, can’t stop looking at her, clearly still in love. But when they arrive at the temple, Taapsee calmly tells him that there is no Shunty, she started making up a boyfriend after he got engaged to the Bihari girl, and the guy he met was just a senior in her college. She arranged this whole thing because he was mad and thought she was joking when she suggested eloping. But now they are here, so they can get married. Right?
I love not only the initial twist that Taapsee was of course always only in love with Amit, she wasn’t just some shallow rich girl who stopped loving her long time sweetheart who was so kind to her, but also that Amit refuses to marry her. At first it seemed kind of odd, because why not? But the point of the film is that marriage is only meaningful if it is entered into whole-heartedly by both parties. Children shouldn’t be forced into marriage by their parents, and in the same way, Amit shouldn’t be forced to marry Taapsee, even if he loves her, just because it is the easiest way out of the situation.
And so they go off to hide at her aunt’s house, where they are immediately tracked down by Taapsee’s family, and run off again in their car. And along the way, Taapsee is injured. They think she has been shot, Amit freaks out, discovers later it was just broken glass. But the shock was enough to make him back in love and no longer angry.
And yet, they still don’t get married. Because they don’t want to get married, even if they are in love. It’s not the right time for them. And that’s okay too. Instead, they go off to Dalhousie (with Amit’s best friend along with them too as chaperon). Taapsee recovers from her injury with the loving care of Amit. And, when she is healthy, she picks up a condom at a stall, and then goes into the room with Amit and closes the door, and they slowly touch each others faces and look into each other’s eyes. But before it can go further, their friend pops in and interrupts them.
Again, so different and so great! They are in love, she bought protection, why not have sex? And it’s not “just sex”. It’s something scary and powerful and magical, we see that in how they are looking at each other and shaking a little and how the camera is super close and the lighting gets brighter. We know she isn’t a “virgin”, that she had some forgettable experience earlier with a boy she didn’t really care about. But that doesn’t matter, because this is the “real” first time, the first time that matters, when sex is a confirmation of their love.
Extrapolating from this, it’s another little anti-arranged marriage moment. Sex is supposed to be one of the things that helps bond a new couple together even if they didn’t know each other before the ceremony. And sex is a magical powerful bond. But only if it comes with love, if it is a culmination of a bond that already exists. If it is “just sex”, then it is meaningless.
Oh right, the friend is interrupting them because he saw someone in the marketplace and they’ve been tracked down again. The only safe place left to hide is if they go to Bihar, Amit’s home turf. Which also means bringing his girlfriend with whom he has eloped into the wedding planning with his arranged bride.
Remember how I mentioned in my no SPOILERs review that the young people have a right to live their own lives, but only if it doesn’t harm others? This is where that comes into play. Amit wants to be with Taapsee. And he is aware that she is sort of stuck if he doesn’t come through for her. But on the other hand, he knows that his marriage is about to happen, that it was arranged with great difficulty, that his uncle’s business and his aunt’s savings are all tied up in it. He can’t just bail without thinking about it just because it’s what he wants.
But, luckily, it works out. Because in his first meeting with his fiancee, he immediately susses out that she is just as unhappy with the marriage as he is. Their first meeting is a really well-done scene. I have gotten so used to these scenes, the Vivah-type framing where it all seems magical and natural. There is romantic music playing, their eyes meet, everyone is happy. But this version, this is messy and real and makes the “first meeting” idea appear just as strange and awkward as it probably is most of the time. The girl is trotted out like some kind of animal on display, the older family members keep talking over each other, the young people are both more focused on pleasing their relatives than on each other, it’s all just so unnatural.
By the way, on my Chopra Hindi Film 101 post, datablue posted an interview with Pamela Chopra about her first meeting with Yashji. And it was like this, they were both stiff and unhappy and hated each other and immediately told their families “no”. But then they got together again the next day, without the pressure of all this “first meeting” stuff, and really hit it off because they could be their real selves and they weren’t terrified of each other. I suspect that’s how it usually is. Couples have so much pressure, and are so primed by their families with a million instructions in their minds, that they can’t really relate. And all of a sudden, they are engaged! It also explains why Shahid and Mira’s first meeting might have been how it was. I thought it was weird that Mira was invited with no idea what was happening and blindsided by seeing her parents and Shahid’s parents there. But on the other hand, it probably helped with the whole “so stiff and scared I can’t be my real self” problem.
Anywhoo, they follow Amit’s fiancee around and find out she is secretly meeting her boyfriend to say good-bye. The boyfriend explains that her family found out about him and rushed her engagement to Amit with the wedding set for as soon as she turned 18 (this is what I meant by the little PSA touches of the film, thanks to this film we all know that as soon as you turn 18 you have the legal right to marry whoever you want and your family can’t legally stop you). And so the new plan is to help them elope, and for once make the elopement directly from the wedding, so that Amit’s uncle can still keep his business deal in place.
Very stressful wedding scene, as you would expect everything goes wrong. The bride is moved to an upstairs room, her boyfriend doesn’t show up because the police pulled over their scooter, and Amit is hustled all the way to the nuptial fire. One thing I really liked about this part is showing how the groom, the person who is supposed to have all the power in the marriage, is actually powerless on the day. Amit is stuck on top of a horse, blinded with a flower veil in his face, moved in and out of photos, he has to keep calling over Taapsee for help. And Taapsee comes through. As does Biswa Kalyan Rath! Who randomly bumps into Amit in the bathroom at the very last minute and helps him turn off the power and then hide the bride in Biswa’s hotel room.
Dealing with Biswa first, I liked the kind of Karma thing of Amit’s good work helping this couple coming back around to help him. And that there is a whole community of people willing to help with elopements just because it is so obviously a good thing and a right thing to do.
But with Taapsee, I love that she is so involved here, and throughout. Her asking for Amit’s help way at the beginning was the first time he really used his ability to plan out these kinds of elaborate schemes. She helped with his whole setting up of the business. She went straight to him for help with her elopement. And she has been right there all along with their adventures since that point, in every single scene with him. This is not a useless woman on a pedestal, this is his partner and the person closest to him in the world.
Oh, and then after the successful elopement, Amit confirms that his uncle’s business deals will remain in place. Then goes to a hotel room to celebrate with Biswa and his wife and the bride and her boyfriend who has finally arrived. And finally, he and Taapsee go to their own room and have sex. And again, it is slow and softly lit and intense and joyful and magical, not just “ooo, sexy times!” And, once again, they are still not married.
They aren’t married at the end of it all, they are going back to her parents’ house to talk to them instead of rushing into anything. I kind of would have liked it if we ended with her back in college and him back to picking her up, because sometimes you can be in love and have sex and still not be ready for marriage. But it’s kind of funny how they ended it, opening the door into her house to see her entire family, including her father cleaning his gun, looking at them in anger. And then the two of them immediately turning around and running into a freeze frame. The end is slightly abrupt, but on the whole, really so good!