By Tashi Wangchuk
The Line often blurs between reality and fiction when it comes to an interesting story and subject such as ‘When Hari Got Married‘- a beautiful documentary by acclaimed filmmakers- Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin who earlier made such notable films as ‘Dreaming Lhasa’ and ‘The Sun Behind the Clouds’ among others.
‘WHGM’ explores India’s century old tradition of arranged marriage against the backdrop of the spiritual town- Dharamshala. It is a story about Hari, a high-spirited Indian youth who earns livelihood by driving a cab in the region. Much against his wishes, he is engaged to a girl who, he had never met in his life. Although he had a glimpse of her in the recent past, he didn’t like her much. However, it was due to his deep respect for his father- who single handedly raised Hari and his two brothers that eventually led him to make his decision.
Tradition required that the couple-to-be were not supposed to meet each other before the actual ceremony, but our Hari is smart enough to secure his future-wife’s phone number from one of her relatives and soon we see Hari making call after call to his sweetheart to the point that one of the local policemen admonish Hari for using a handset while driving. Excitement gradually builds up in the heart and mind of young Hari.
‘One falls in love even to a rock if he keeps talking like I do.’ Declares Hari when is asked if he loves his future wife. While telling the story of a taxi driver, the filmmaker duo didn’t miss to highlight Dharamsala also being an important habitat of people from all over the world in the region. In fact Dharamsala itself becomes a character in the film. The local Gaddis, Tibetan refugees, Western tourists, and international spiritual seekers are all intertwined in such a way that they are now impossible to survive without one another.
Apart from numerous humorous incidents and fun filled scenes, we also get to see some of the emotionally loaded moments that will surely bring tears to your eyes. The bride’s heart wrenching cry when she is being taken away on shoulder-held doli, the poor father’s blank gaze while paying marriage bills, and above all Harry’s passionate hugging to his newly born baby and wife at the end of the film will surely melt your heart.
Tenzing’s steady cinematography and smooth editing enhance the overall pace of the story. However, I felt that sound could have been better, but this is subjective territory, and perhaps the filmmakers may have wanted it that way. After all, documentary filmmaking is more about capturing reality than fictionalization.
No doubt, WHGM is one of the most sensible films that has come out of the world’s most prolific film generating country lately. Congratulations Tenzin la and Ritu Ji for making such a beautiful film. A kadak chai toast to both of you!
About the writer: Tashi Wangchuk is a Washington DC based independent filmmaker and TV producer whose earlier works include a feature length film: Richard Gere is My Hero & India’s Doordarshan commissioned film: Democracy in Exile among others