Father of the (Other) Bride
The plot of Wedding Album, not surprisingly, revolves around a wedding. Nitin Deo plays Dr. Nadkarni, the father of Vidula, whose upcoming wedding is the centerpiece of the play. I play Gopal Sirur, who arrives to visit the Nadkarnis, thinking that Rohit, Vidula’s older brother, has agreed to marry his daughter Tapasya.
The matchmakers have been greatly optimistic. Gopal believes that the marriage is as good as fixed. So he is devastated when he learns that Rohit is not ready to marry at all. His agony is quite evident, even in what is quite a funny scene. His pain is the pain of every father who can’t stand the thought of his daughter suffering.
Daughters and Dads have a special relationship. Across cultures, giving away your daughter's hand in marriage, is one of the defining moments for Dads.
It’s not just that you are in some sense losing your daughter. Even if she already lived away from you, say in a different city, you are going to see less of her. She won't be coming home for most of her vacations. She now has a family of her own.
It’s not just that it’s a sign that your little girl has finally grown up. Yes, she has other hills to climb. But there is something atavistic about the connection between getting married and adulthood. Everywhere.
It’s also this deep anxiety about who you are giving her away to. This stranger who, you hope, will love and cherish your “Phool si bachhi” (flower-like daughter). But what if he doesn’t? What if he is cruel to her?
Arranged marriages are still the norm in most of India. For every Indian who thinks it is silly to get married to a stranger, you will find many more who think that the parents’ judgement about what makes for a good life partner is a lot better than a twenty-something-year old’s.
The wedding in Wedding Album is an arranged marriage. Modern day arranged marriages are changing and adapting. With so many eligible men and women working outside India (many of them in the United States), the traditional match-making process which involved marriage brokers is giving way to internet services like shaadi.com and introductions over Skype.
Like many of the plays that we do, Wedding Album too is a light, comedic look at the assault of modernity on traditional ways of life.
- Basab Pradhan