Finally, a film that doesn’t feel like it has been dumped on a streaming platform but actually belongs there.
Worlds collide and crumble in Shaadisthan, the assured directorial debut of Gulaal actor Raj Singh Chaudhary. The Hindi movie, which is being streamed on Disney+ Hotstar, combines the conventions of the road movie with the culture-clash drama.
A conservative Rajasthani family and their adolescent daughter are forced to hitch a ride with the rock band that has been hired to perform at a family wedding. Welcome abroad, says the band’s keyboardist Freddie (Apurva Dogra), and he is only half-joking.
The journey from Mumbai to Ajmer is marked by consternation over the alien ways of the freewheeling band members – apart from Freddie, there is lead singer Sasha (Kirti Kulhari), Jigme (Shenpenn Khymsar) and Imaad (Ajay Jayanthi). It’s not just the smoking and drinking and swearing that alarm Sanjay (Rajan Modi) and Kamla (Nivedita Bhattacharya). Their daughter Arshi (Medha Shankar) is going to be engaged as soon as she turns 18, and she isn’t one bit happy about it.
The miserable teenager’s problems soon spill out into the open, prompting Sasha to get involved. The debates that emerge between the singer and Kamla border on the idealistic and simplistic, but nevertheless lead to an emotional release for the repressed housewife.
The screenplay, by the director, Kartik Chaudhary and Nishank Verma, is firmly on the side of the free spirits over the starched shirts. Yet, Chaudhary takes care not to demonise Arshi’s parents. Kamla, in particular, is treated with empathy. Shackled by tradition but is also sensitive to her daughter’s plight, Kamla struggles with her conscience. While the movie gives every one of its well-chosen actors equal treatment and a scene or two of their own, Nivedita Bhattacharya stands out as the oppressed wife who tries to be a caring mother.
The 94-minute movie takes a detour to include a portion set in Udaipur. The sequence revolves around Kay Kay Menon, who is delightful as a bon vivant hotelier, so it’s worth it.
The peppy music, by Nakul Sharma and Sahil Bhatia, weave in and out of the narrative’s upbeat notes. Kirti Kulhari embodies the movie’s gently conveyed themes of rebellion and freedom. With her modulated voice and subtle ways, Kulhari’s Sasha reveals a new world to Kamla and Arshi, one that is impossibly feelgood but also feels about right.