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Daawat-e-Ishq: Bollywood’s Unconventional Take on Dowry

*There are spoilers in this article.

Daawat-e-Ishq is a Bollywood movie starring the beautiful Parineeti Chopra and charming Aditya Roy Kapur. The name itself translates into “Feast of Love” which ties in the motifs of romance and Indian food together. The movie is unconventional to say the least— with a plot surrounding legislation about dowry, a kebab restaurant owner love interest, and an intricate scam. These unique characteristics are what sets it apart from other Bollywood movies since it excels in discussing a key issue in Indian society.

The movie revolves around a working women named Gullu who supports her father through her job at a retail store. She falls in love with Amjad, son of stereotypical, rich, pretentious Mumbai parents. To her dismay, his parents ask for an 80 Lakh dowry (about 200K in US dollars) which just happened to be illegal. Frustrated and heartbroken, she along with her father set out on a vindictive con plan to lure another greedy man so as to sue him later for breaking the law.

The dowry system “refers to the durable goods, cash, and real or movable property that the bride’s family gives to the bridegroom, his parents, or his relatives as a condition of the marriage”. The practice has been common and widespread in South Asia for centuries, and though decreasing in popularity, it still remains a huge issue. It often takes a financial toll on the families of the daughters and contributes to the belief that daughters are a “burden” in South Asian families.

Despite legislation being passed against dowry and its inherent moral wrongs, many families of grooms expect it as a tradition in getting married.

Though drastic and applied in a comedic way, Daawat-e-Ishq takes a stand against this practice. Gullu’s elaborate scheme, which was centered around her gaining money, is morally ambiguous in some aspects. But as the movie develops, the audience understands why she partook in it and just how unjust dowry is. It also shows the other side of the story, the grooms. Often times, money hungry parents push for dowry, even when the son is against it. In hopes for pleasing their parents, many grooms follow through with the practice even if they personally find it wrong. The pressure from the older generation is displayed in this movie and cites it as a major factor to the continuance of the practice.
Besides the constant images of mouth-watering food and hilarious one-liners, Daawat-e-Ishq possess a very insightful message. I encourage everyone one of you to watch this movie, especially those of South Asian descent or those who have experience with the practice of dowry.

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