ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Provincial Self in the Town of Love

The film Shuddh Desi Romance departs from other Bollywood films in its attempt to reconfigure gender relations, its anti-marriage stance and its advocacy of relationships of love outside the realm of conventions and customs. It not only espouses values that go against normative constructs of Indianness but also questions cinematic conventions. The film is important in the way it splices the individual confusions of the romantic couple with the confusions that prevail in the country's social fabric which is punctured by hierarchies and orthodoxies of caste and patriarchy.

Gayatri smokes, admits to having a number of affairs and asks the new boy in her life to kiss her the moment she considers a relationship with him. Raghu runs away from his wedding, an arranged marriage with a beautiful bride, because he realises that an arranged marriage is not for him and also because he has just met a girl he is attracted to. Shuddh Desi Romance (SDR) is the love story of this unlikely couple, played by Parineeti Chopra and Sushant Singh Rajput.1 As the name suggests, it is a story of lovers inhabiting this land, this reality. As such the claim of the film is large but also tongue-in-cheek – that of presenting the reality of love in India.

The word shuddh to mean “pure” used in shuddh ghee (home-made clarified butter), shuddh sona (gold) is associated with certain typically Indian traditional obsessions as well as an obsession with tradition and thus with a certain construction of Indianness. By suggesting that this is a pure Indian romance, the film-makers claim that there is in fact an indigenous romance – a desi romance that is now being brought to the screen. For Hindi cinema that is a mischievous claim, not the least because it manages to upset and reconfigure the discourse of purity, Indianness and the provincial self.

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