I’ve been hesitant to write about Bollywood movies here. First off, I’m not an expert. I’ve watched a bunch, but not even close to a big amount, and while I enjoy them, there are a lot of things I Just Don’t Get because I’ve had almost no exposure to Indian culture (besides Bollywood cinema and some research). But it’s kinda cool to see movies that are absolutely nothing like the stuff we get to see here.
I decided to give it a shot with Dil Bole Hadippa! because it’s literally described as Bollywood’s attempt at She’s the Man. Excellent! It’s based on an American movie that’s based on a Shakespearean play! And it’s a straight up romcom (a lot of Bollywood movies I’ve watched have been more dramedy), so it belongs here.
So here we go. I’d love to hear from anyone more familiar with India and/or Bollywood about these movies in general.
What’s It All About?
Veera works for a theater company, but she is really really good at cricket. She’s so good that she can play in sandals. Also she’s ambidextrous, which I guess is not called a switch hitter in cricket, but it should be because there would be so many switch hitter jokes they could make. None of which they do, because it’s India and they won’t go there. Also because it’s not called a switch hitter.
Apparently every year for the last twenty years or so an Indian national team and a Pakistani national team have played each other in some kind of friendly cricket match called the Aman Cup. India has lost for the last eight years, so the coach calls his son Rohan back from his superstar cricket career in London to help his old man out.
Meanwhile, Veera wants to try out for the team because she’s super awesome at it. Sadly, ladies are not even allowed on the field, so she does what any female athlete would do: she dresses in drag. They don’t call it drag, because pretty much none of these movies ever do, but she’s rocking a full on beard and mustache. She does not, however, bind her breasts, which bugged me for most of the movie. Maybe it’s because I know trans dudes and have seen drag kings – and other movies in which females masquerade as males – but Veera-as-Veer was really obvious to me.
Anyway, Veer(a) makes the team, is kind of a conceited ass, gets put in her place by Vicky, and then they fall in love. Well, Rohan falls in love with Veera-as-Veera, whom he keeps bumping into around town. She shows him the “real India”, because he’s all cosmopolitan and jaded and thinks they’re all a bunch of hicks.
During the Big Final Match, Rohan finds out that Veer is actually Veera, and gets all upset. Like one does. But then they win and she makes an actually pretty cool speech about what women can do, and everyone lives happily ever after.
Be sure to stay for the music video over the credits.
Oh, I don’t know. I like Bollywood music and dancing, so it’s nice that those are there. But that’s not anything unique to this movie, so I don’t know if that should count.
The woman who played Veera/Veer, Rani Mukerji, was really quite good. I think there are certain limits on the queerness that Bollywood movies can convey in films (though there always seems to be a “fey” dude wandering around) so it was interesting to see her play within the limits of that. Regardless of what version of the story it is, you’re always queering up gender and sexuality when you use this plot.
Shahid Kapoor as Rohan was also good. It’s fun to see him loosen up and fall in love with India as he falls in love with Veera.
As a Western viewer, it was interesting to watch a movie that had a lot of mentions of God (mainly Muslim, but also Hindu), which is something we don’t see very often. It was also interesting to see India/Pakistan relations through the lens of something besides Western media.
The first Bollywood movie that I ever saw was Lagaan, another movie about cricket and Indian nationalism, and I think that’s a winning combo for me. Having a character show another character the beauty of their homeland (often with singing and dancing) is something I like in almost any movie, but it stands out nicely in Dil Bole Hadippa!, and you can’t help but be charmed by Veera, the same way Rohan is.
Not So Much…
This is a long movie. Most Bollywood movies are long, by Western standards, but this one had a lot of random add-ins that seemed sort of pointless, like the mean prima diva of the dance company and the supermodel who’s trying to get with Rohan. You think something is going to happen with those two, but it never really does.
My main quibble, which I think is from the fact that I’m used to Western movies that have some more leeway in this regard, is that there wasn’t much comedy in the disguise. In She’s the Man, Viola-as-Sebastian (and, actually, Viola-as-Sebastian in Twelfth Night, too) has to deal not only with Dudes in the Locker Room, but also having girls interested in her and the fallout from that. Even those movies don’t go as far as they could – completely ignoring the emotional fallout that must exist for a girl who finds out she’s attracted to a girl in drag – but Dil Bole Hadippa! doesn’t get past the locker room joke. There is one moment with the Supermodel looks at Veer thoughtfully, but it never goes anywhere. She disappears from the movie after that scene.
I think there are better Bollywood movies out there that you can try, if you’ve never seen any before. Dil Bole Hadippa! isn’t terrible, and its made better by the performance of Mukerji, but it’s also not spectacular. It doesn’t do anything very new with the story… in fact, it doesn’t even do some of the old stuff.