Movie Review: DAAWAT-E-ISHQ (2014) – A Poor Attempt At Social Commentary
‘Daawat E Ishq‘ is a socially poignant film about the victimization of Indian men during the culturally propagated but now illegal practice of Dowry. For those unawares, ‘Dowry’ is the amount of money the bride’s family pays to the groom’s family in gratitude for them accepting their, presumably, adult acne suffering daughter. While not seeming too relevant, the girl’s appearance and education may be used to haggle down the price. Despite being made illegal by the Indian government, ‘Daawat E Ishq’ paints a bleak and unprogressive picture, especially for the men who have to suffer through this humiliation. Those poor poor Indian men.
Parineeti Chopra plays Gul, a smart educated girl looking for the perfect man who can string together a coherent line of English sans accent as her perfect husband to be, which is funny given her own accent, but not intentionally so. This portrayal is probably indicative of the hangover of British oppression left behind from India’s independence, causing Indian girls who get wobbly in the knees hearing English spoken goodly. What other logical reason could there be for it? After trying her hand at both arranged and love marriage, both times the groom’s side’s insistence on Dowry, or as some called it ‘help in bearing ALL of the expenses of their son’s post secondary higher foreign education’, leaves Gul frustrated and humiliated.
Naturally the only option left to her in this societally accepted humiliation is to become a criminal pursuing an elaborate con job. She is able to convince her meek and honest government employed father, after a convenient plot device apparently changes his entire ideology of life within minutes, to go along with this outlandish scheme. At this point ‘Daawat E Ishq‘ turns into a bad con movie and strays from its social point of how bad the men have it in these scenarios. The father-daughter duo decide to go to a different city, change appearances, and interview candidates for an arranged marriage, get them on tape asking for dowry (it’s illegal remember?) and then blackmail them under threat of formal charges into paying them off. Then they’ll sail off into the sunset to design clothes in New York or something.
It’s a bad portrayal altogether, because through out it all, Gul never comes off as someone doing this out of desperation, but more as a calculated means of reaching her ends. There can be no sympathy for such a character which is what the movie tries to establish in a 30 second scene followed immediately by her decision to become a criminal. This depiction of the lead character is further diminished when you enter the super charming and nicer than nice victim of Gul’s con, Tariq played wonderfully by Aditya Roy Kapur. Tariq is the impossibly loyal groom-to-be who condemns his parents need for Dowry, while still understanding the older generations’ need to hold onto such an archaic traditions; basically the moderately progressive Indian man that exists nowadays, which has no place in the drama filled universe of Bollywood movies! The story falls apart when ridiculous upon ridiculous plot points are thrown in, characters make complete 180’s in their portrayals and other characters just go along with it despite common sense pointing to the contrary.
An example is how smart and cunning Tariq is set up to be from the first scene, shrewdly catering to the foreign customers in his restaurant first, knowing the good word of mouth he’ll get in the international community. Yet he is completely unable to see through the obvious 3 pounds of ham that Gul serves up when showing interest in him once she realizes how rich he is. ‘Daawat E Ishq‘ fails as a love story because while Gul’s eventual love for Tariq is based on what an amazing guy he is shown to be, Tariq falling in love with Gul’s version of a spoiled socialite speaks more to his shallowness. So the message seems to be that while Indian women want modern men who can speak English, Indian men simply want gorgeous women regardless of how fake and conceited they may be.
‘Daawat E Ishq‘ makes use of a social stigma that’s been plaguing South Asian culture for generations, and attempts to use it as a plot device to tell a story that, while failing at making any sort of social commentary on the issue, also fails at being funny or romantic. The attempts of appealing to food lovers is also a misdirected attempt at expanding the demographic of the audience in its marketing. While the film had some genuine laughs from Anupam Kher and some endearing moments from Aditya Roy Kapur’s charm, it’s a superfluous attempt at a romantic comedy where the poor execution of a faulty premise just leaves a bad taste.