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VIVAH: WHO IS THE WINNER, COLORISM OR THE PATRIARCHY?

Vivah is a 2006 release of Hindi cinema. At the time of its release, was a huge commercial success. Almost three decades later, it is a cult classic starring Shahid Kapoor and Amrita Rao in lead roles, with the supporting cast including Anupam Kher and Alok Nath. The film appears at first sight as a traditional early 2000s Bollywood rom-com- an attractive couple, Shaadi and all its celebration, and at the center of it all: love. However, the themes surrounding the movie are immense, to say the least; colorism is the subcontinent, and the patriarchal nature of marriage is apparent.

Colorism is shown by the younger sister of Poonam (Amrita Rao), Choti, being called Kali or dark-skinned and unmarriageable by people around her and her mother enforcing the subcontinental beauty standards of fair skin on her at a young age by putting whitening products on her. Choti is shown to be careless and crass but also joyful and young, somehow free from the constraints of society that are placed on Poonam to be proper and ladylike. Poonam is the ideal woman, demure, modest, and beautiful - the standard of beauty in the Indian subcontinent. Poonam is riddled with these responsibilities precisely because she is beautiful; she offers men around her something, her adoptive father and in-laws' status through marriage, and herself a better life and social advancement through her looks.



Choti embodies none of that; she offers men around her nothing much except herself as a person. The movie's ending tries to subvert the idea that the male lead likes her only because of her looks by staying with her and loving her after her burn incident, but in reality, she is offered all the attention through her looks, if not only because of her looks. The truth is also that if Choti did decide to act in the proper ladylike manner of her beautiful older sister, she would be ridiculed and even shamed for trying to pretend to be someone she is not because people do not expect a girl with those looks to act desirably. Poonam's advantage and downfall lie in being kind and selfless, but Choti employs all those qualities and is not seen in the same way as Poonam. She is and cannot be beautiful, which is the main point because she is dark-skinned and therefore undesirable, so society and men give her freedom because she is not providing them with anything; this is apparent as she is not even considered good at household duties. The whole movie also stands on the feet of patriarchy and its role for women as wives and daughters first rather than their independent entities. Poonam's whole character first revolves around her father figure, uncle, and later her fiance, Prem. Though these men are not malicious or unkind, they are certainly not for female independence despite being portrayed as moderately liberal.

Vivah is a product of both its time and society, where beauty is integral to the patriarchal practice of marriage and the tying down of women. Women will compete for beauty only to be tied with a brighter thread but a thread nonetheless.


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