Aanand L Rai's birthday: Exploring recurrent thematic use of small-towns
Aanand L Rai is known for his own brand of cinema that directly stems out of the Indian heartland. His oeuvre reveals that his characters tug at our heartstrings because they appear to be one of us—devoid of a thick wall of rock-solid glitter. On his 51st birthday, we look at how he employed the leitmotif of small towns in four of his films.
What Atrangi Re got right was the fate of a small-town woman trapped in a household that clipped her wings. Religious tensions also seeped in when we saw a lover being reduced to ashes because he belonged to a different religion than his significant other. Of course, this is a pan-India issue but certainly far more prevalent in small towns than metro cities.
The memorable franchise explored the nitty-gritty of what an average Indian arranged marriage affair looks like. Tanu, a small-town girl, is frowned upon because she boasts of panache and confidence that is not usually "expected" or "approved" in our society. It is also as much a non-conventional story as it is an "ordinary" girl's desire to scrub that title off her identity.
Raanjhanaa marked Dhanush's Hindi debut, which is now considered a modern-day classic. Rai made an interesting choice by casting glam diva Sonam Kapoor as a girl hailing from the holy city of Varanasi—something she pulled off well. A true-blue romance, it offered another dive into Rai's gravitation toward small towns—something that allowed him to make his characters a bit more real, raw, and vulnerable.
Though unreleased, this is another story that fits the bill. While it isn't the first or the last film to critique dowry, it will be interesting to see how Rai soaks it in his signature directorial style. It will also focus on how women crossing a "respectable" marriage age are met with disdain—a problem that's unfortunately never in short supply in multiple Indian families.