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‘Shubh Mangal Saavdhan’: Bollywood’s First Attempt At Questioning The Stigma Of Masculinity

Posted by Naman Singh in Culture-Vulture
September 9, 2017

R.S Prasanna’s “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan” is a story of two lovebirds who cannot make “it” happen. Actually, ‘he’ cannot make it happen. Mudit and Sugandha fall in love and see dreams of a marital union that lasts long. This streak of dreams also includes sexual satisfaction but they soon realise that the man cannot make it to bed and this becomes the highlight of the film. The above concern also acts as the so-called catalyst that drives the family of the bridegroom-to-be into a space of utter bewilderment of something ‘unheard of’, yet hinting at the lopsided social constructs in sheer entertainment.

First, the fact that Sugandha compels Mudit to initiate sexual intercourse by saying, “It’s the rule”, comes from a subtly embedded patriarchal mindset. That is to say that the man is deemed as the sole executor and that if the woman seems to want it more than him, she would perceive herself conventionally depraved. Demonstrating the same aspiration, the sexual portrayal of Sugandha is crafted with the elements of demureness and coyness. Such caricatures are built initially to place the meek lady and her chivalrous prince shining in his phallic glory in binary. While imagining this, the next thing one knows is that that glory is hollow in this case, as projected by the half-crumbled cookie.

Obviously, this stands as a tide in the mushy waters of their association as both personal and social concerns capture the forefront. Now, what is simply a sudden “gents’ problem” for Mudit is Sugandha’s dissatisfied biological need. On the flip side, the families are ready for the wedding fervour for two pre-determinedly “productive” beings. This exposes the reality of a conformist attitude that mostly treads the territory of presumptions, negating the ‘grey areas’ and thereby suppressing voices. But more importantly, the constant denial of Mudit’s family of his being temporarily infertile and Sugandha’s parents threatening to call off the wedding, throws emphasis on the skewed face of patriarchy, in general.

Mudit is burdened with what people expect him to be and do and what he thinks he should be capable of and hence, shows disinterest in the celebration upon facing the loopholes in the existing “norms” for a man. The film stresses on how masculinity is viewed under the arbitrary rubric of physicality, just to fulfil the ‘needs’ of a woman and that a marital alliance is rendered ‘incomplete’ in the absence of a sexually potent individual. On the other hand, Sugandha eventually comes to terms with the entire situation and experiences platonic affection for Mudit which is not observed by her parents. She bursts the image of a woman ‘lacking’ something due to her physical virginity and liberates womanhood by standing by Mudit while coming out of her own shackles of despair, which is merely a by-product of her mental conditioning.

Moreover, while Mudit is adamant at breaking his relationship with Sugandha for he cannot make her ‘happy’, she hopes for a blissful life with him and injects confidence into him. Mudit replicates her steadfastness by explaining to the families that she is making him a ‘man’ and that their bond rests on true care and friendship. In this way, Sugandha blurs the lines of gender orientation by establishing herself as, so to say, the customary “male” unit between the both of them. Therefore at this point, the self-pervasive concept of masculinity boils down to simply standing firm in the face of adversity and being truthful to oneself. As both are struck with these multiple revelations, Mudit and Sugandha finally tie the knot without needless ostentation, keeping up to the honesty of their strong affinity. Lastly, the fact that they are unable to attract everyone’s consent as opposed to a standard comical climax accentuates social realism and a varied degree of acceptance.

Taking it a step further, the movie is set in a modest socio-economic backdrop with characters exemplifying the common masses. Further, the very minimal dramatic effect creates enough scope for reinstating the gender roles. As Sugandha becomes the saviour to Mudit and not the opposite, it disturbs the defined lines of irrational idealism. Moreover, the music too buttresses the urge to rethink the social norms as now, kanha does not need a gopi to banter with but to understand him emotionally. Lastly, this opens to how a male-dominated standpoint is an onus to not only women but to men as well. Therefore, this film is a good watch for those who want to think outside the box.