“Mummy pregnant hai meri,” an embarrassed Nakul tells his girlfriend.
A 25-year-old man, well settled at his job, with a teenaged brother ten years younger, Nakul can be any one of us. His family, the Kaushiks, are as typical as can be.
The mother-in-law finds fault in everything that her bahu does but her precious son could not be better. The brothers barely talk to each other–they only taunt, provoke and show off.
But Badhaai Ho features another beautiful relationship–the love between parents that hides behind societal approval and the “norms” for a middle-aged couple IRL. This couple, cute as a button, would have been “goals” if they were any younger.
But how can they be, if all their love is displayed only in secret?
The focus of the film is that a 50-something mother of two gets pregnant. Badhaai Ho takes this highly “uncomfortable” subject of middle-aged people having sex and makes it light, fun even.
It opens us to the fact that sex is not a thing for the youth alone. The story has two couples, and both pairs are equally in love and sexually active.
The older couple, played by Neena Gupta and Gajraj Rao decide that they don’t want to abort the child, even when they have a slight window of opportunity. A short 5-7 minute conversation between them seals their decision. The husband says, “It’s your body and your pain. If you wish to keep the baby, it’s your choice.”
It’s as simple as that.
But it’s everyone else who makes the pregnancy their own business–even when they speak about it in hushed tones, behind the couple’s backs or as an instruction to how they “should have thought about the relatives” before engaging in such a blasphemous act.
I booked the tickets for the movie because the trailer was promising. But what I saw left me wondering if we ever look at our parents as anything more than our birth-givers and guardians?
They are, after all, someone’s partners but the very thought can be discomforting for us. Add to that the idea that they have sex?
Unbelievable, unthinkable and a taboo!
Even as we speak about the liberation of sex from its stigmatised misconception, aren’t we largely making it out to be an activity for the youth?
I remember when I was in class 4 and saw my mother crying in her room, all alone. When I asked her what happened, she could not stop herself and said that she needed to get operated “on her stomach”. I was a child, oblivious of sex and how babies are conceived. All I knew was that they “come from a mother’s belly”. So I casually asked her if that’s what it was.
She answered in the affirmative and told me “don’t speak about it to anyone.”
Only years later, when I finally understood sex that I connected the dots. That my father had returned home for a short vacation and that weeks later, my mother needed to get an abortion. I shut my ears and eyes and forced myself to think about something, anything, other than the knowledge that my parents had had sex.
Was it so horrible though?
If you watch Badhaai Ho, you’ll understand that it wasn’t. Not really.
My colleague Rinchen Norbu Wangchuk recalls the call he received at the boarding school from his parents. He was 13 and was told that parents were expecting a child. Albeit a teenager, this news did not sound embarrassing or awkward to him. He was just happy that he’ll finally get a sibling to play with!
The film is basically a lesson to go from how I reacted to how Norbu did.
Why must sex–in one’s youth, among middle-aged people, among unmarried couples be a taboo at all?
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Everyone does it, whether in hotel rooms, tiny bedrooms or mansions. Then why must we live in the bubble that it is only us who are entitled to be free to have intercourse, to express our love?
This acceptance will have a ripple effect on conversations on sex.
If we, as a family, accept this as a natural expression between two loved ones, maybe parents will be able to communicate with their kids about sex much more easily.
Maybe then, subjects like contraceptives, safe sex, the consequences, wouldn’t be giggling topics that a straight-faced teacher recites to her students in a sex education class. Maybe then it will also be a normal discussion within a family.
And think about how empowering it will be for society as a whole. Teenagers wouldn’t have to hide their romantic interests from their parents, couples will be able to rent flats with ease, and kids will be able to help out their parents just as parents help their children.
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A great example of this is Sanhita Agarwal, who at the age of 25, found love for her widowed mother and got them married. A heartwarming story that goes beyond finding love for a lonely lady; the more you read through it, the more inspiring it becomes.
Maybe Badhaai Ho will be that conversation starter (or at least eye-opener) that we as a societal unit need right now. I saw a mixed crowd of teenagers, young pregnant couples and old couples watch the movie with me. This is already a good sign.
Now all I hope is that they thought about this topic just like I did and allow it to come out of the closed, locked and sealed doors.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
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