Star Cast: Kirti Kulhari, Nivedita Bhattacharya, Medha Shankar, Rajan Modi
Director: Raj Singh Chaudhary
In one of the scenes of Shaadisthan, the female protagonist almost goes on a rant and chastises a traditional woman for choosing an oppressive life of serving her husband and daughter. It seems that the woman is being further victimized and discouraged for opting for a life over which she didn't have any control. While the message of this scene is compelling, it does not come across as convincing and rather looks like conditioned preaching.
What's Yay: The Rajasthani touch in the music and Nivedita Bhattacharya's performance
What's Nay: The shoddy writing and lacklustre handling of an otherwise riveting subject
The plot of Shaadisthan revolves around a family and a musical band headed by Sasha (Kirti Kulhari) travelling to Ajmer to attend the same wedding. The youngest member of the family, Arshi (Medha Shankar) aboard the bus is being forced to get engaged and married off by her conservative father after she turns 18. What follows is Sasha helping Arshi and her mother, Kamala (Nivedita Bhattacharya) to embrace their freedom and desires, against the shackles of society.
The plot attempts to highlight the subtle shades of patriarchy and the oppressed state of many women in society. However, one does not find the women tackling the same and being their own heroes towards their journey of empowerment. Rather, they are constantly being jibed at and are further patronized to wallow in their pitiful state. Except for Nivedita Bhattacharya's character, there is no depth or clarity in the other protagonists that will make the audience empathize or connect with them. The writing and screenplay look half-baked and does not act as a catalyst in putting forth the message of the story. Except for the ones wherein Nivedita Bhattacharya's character acknowledges her suppressed yet fulfilling life, other dialogues come across as stereotypical.
Kirti Kulhari as Sasha tries to do justice to her character of that of a free-spirited musician who wishes to live her life on her own terms, but one has seen better performances delivered by the actress in her earlier works. She tries to put her best foot forward but the fact that her role comes across as overly condescending and preachy at times, does not help. Medha Shankar as Arshi delivers the emotionally high moments of her character well, but she still has more room to perform.
Rajan Modi as Arshi's conservative father looks convincing but it is Nivedita Bhattacharya as Kamala who emerges as the star. She brings out the vulnerability and angst of a woman who has suppressed her desires for her family in the perfect manner. Be it admitting that she wishes for a 2-day vacation away from her family or accepting unabashedly to be conditioned to fit in with the norms of the society, Nivedita's character has an emotional depth that lacks in all the other characters. Not to forget, there is a surprise cameo by Kay Kay Menon as Tiger that is delightful to witness, but was not quite required for the plot. The other actors playing the band members do their part well.
The cinematography by Sushil Rajpal captures the road trip perfectly. The picturesque locales of Udaipur and Ajmer add to the setting of Shaadisthan.
The background score coupled with the music is one of the highlights of the movie. The songs 'Yeh Sach' by Munsheel Gujral and 'Leheriya' that is an amalgamation of Rajasthani folk music and contemporary beats are worth rememebring. The composers Nakul Sharma and Sahil Bhatia have definitely hit a high note with this one.
Shaadisthan if dealt with more intricacy, could've come across as a more powerful tale of empowerment and feminism. Despite the message falling flat, watch this one for the honest performances and the refreshing music. We give Shaadisthan 2 and a half stars.