When Harry Tries To Marry

Harry .jpgI seriously loathe American romantic comedies. I realize that sounds a bit hypocritical coming from a Bollywood-phile like myself. But while you, dear reader, may remain skeptical, I argue that Bollywood romcoms remain in a sphere separate from your typical romcom. Sure they both have the goofy meet cute deal where you have the ravishing heroine collide with a studly hero. (Boom! Bam! Voila! Sparks!) And both contain the usual mix of mishaps, misadventures, misinformed relatives and the like. But I watch Bollywood to practice my Hindi, catch up on the latest fashions and of course – to find new music.

The average modern American romcom, on the other hand, has little to redeem itself. Exceptions exist. Woody Allen can do fun things with romcoms. I’ll watch anything with Jimmy Stewart and Carey Grant. And of course, there’s Love Actually. Wait, that’s British. But overall, I find American romcoms vapid enough to induce nausea at the slightest exposure. Nowadays, when my friends drag me to the theater to see the latest Drew Barrymore romcom, I try not visibly gag and treat it as a sociological experiment or sorts. Why the human insistence on retreating to the fantasy of finding one true love when realistically, very few of us will? (And speaking of love, Pew Research Center showed that four in 10 Americans believe the institution of marriage is becoming obsolete.) But enough of this talk of love and doom. Let’s talk romcoms.

April 22nd marked the release of Nayan Padrai’s When Harry Tries to Marry (cue groan), a romcom about Harry (Rahul Rai), a 22-year old Indian-American determined to have an arranged marriage. Why does a young, hawt thang want to skip dating, sex and the like to follow the traditions of his forefathers? Because apparently his parents’ love marriage didn’t turn out right and he hopes to avoid their mistake. (*Facepalm.) So Harry goes on to India, accompanied by his college BFF, a gorgeous red-head who may or may not be in love with him. (I’ll tell you the answer, the lady doth crush on the young fellow.) Hijinks ensue.

Disclaimer, I have not seen the film nor do I intend to do so. But reviews so far are not so flattering. The New York Times writes: “Calling your romantic comedy “When Harry Tries to Marry” is a no-win proposition. Producing smarm at the high level of “When Harry Met Sally” requires special talent, and when you fall short all you’re left with is garden-variety smarm.” Although to be fair, the commenters under that post repeatedly described the film as “cute,” so I’m assuming it’s not very much worse than your average romcom. Then again, even the New York Post calls the film “silly.”

Anyway, if you do happen to watch it, lemme know what you think in the comments below.

Photo Credit: New York Times

35 thoughts on “When Harry Tries To Marry

  1. 22-year old American-Indian

    Do you mean Indian-American? I usually use “American-Indian” when I’m talking about Native Americans.

  2. now, an american indian going to india because his parents’ live match didn’t work, that would be funny!

  3. Dear god, the acting in this trailer is as bad as the acting in earlier Indian american films. When you got a entire thursday lineup of shows on NBC with Indian american characters, what the hell are we doing with this kind of crap. Even ignoring the stupid premise, one cant get past the terribly stiff lead actor. And why do so many of our fellow Indian Americans speak with that emasculated voice?

    Anyway, I too hate romcoms, especially the crap put out by Nancy Meyers or Nora Ephron.

    Speaking of romcoms, I saw a portion of this movie Marigold on Showtime. How that wretched movie even found distirbution on American cable is beyond comprehension. Really awful crap about Ali Larter going to India and falling in love with Salman Khan who plays the entire movie with a silly grin.

  4. 22 yr old; who gets married at that age anymore?

    I think they could have made the premise more realistic i.e he actually does have the Western girlfriend and has to choose between the two because that does actually happen and so many desi guys from yonder before (in the 70s) used to have gora girlfriends but then went back and married the desi girl (incidentally the marriages didn’t work out).

  5. A chick flick without Mathew McConnauheeheehee aka chick-flick-specialist can’t be all that bad!

  6. “Although to be fair, the commenters under that post repeatedly described the film as “cute,” so I’m assuming it’s not very much worse than your average romcom.”

    I am a little suspicious of those user reviews. They are almost all too positive. Even on rottentomatoes, all the critic reviews are very negative and all the user comments are uniformly positive. Possibly a campaign by the publicity department. Time will tell.

  7. “Although to be fair, the commenters under that post repeatedly described the film as “cute,” so I’m assuming it’s not very much worse than your average romcom.” I am a little suspicious of those user reviews.

    Possibly the types of people who would go to see such a cheesy lookin’ rom com after watching that commercial are the types that find this stuff “cute” and amusing to begin with? Although also could be a campaign by the publicity department…meaning that this film is truly god awful….

  8. I will NEVER understand how ANYONE could ever have an arranged marriage. I look at my parents and question it everyday. My parents have been married for 30 years and I know my father has feelings for a certain “Aunty” (American) that he’s known since childhood. My mother is conditioned to this life and I know she’s not being true to herself. I guess I’m just too “Western” to ever understand it. I just know that it’s not a part of my future.

    • “I will NEVER understand how ANYONE could ever have an arranged marriage. I look at my parents and question it everyday. My parents have been married for 30 years and I know my father has feelings for a certain “Aunty” (American) that he’s known since childhood. “

      You seem to labor under the delusion that these things don’t happen in “love” marriages. Ive watched enough Law & Order to know otherwise. :-)

    • A few days ago I was chatting with a recently married (like, 5 days ago) White American couple at a bar. Both of them were pretty progressive environmentalist types. It turns out that they had only known each other for a few weeks before they got engaged. The wife was telling me that she used to date around a lot and sleep with lots of guys.

      What convinced her to get married to a guy so soon you may ask? She watched Jodhaa Ackbar, had a long conversation with her Indian neighbor (who had a traditional Indian marriage) about arranged/traditional marriages, and decided that the key to a lasting marriage is loyalty, mutual respect, and dedication rather than the lovey-dovey romantic stuff. Soon enough she started dating guys based on those qualifications rather than whatever else she was looking for before and met a guy she was willing to get hitched to. They seem happy together.

      Long-story-short. There is always going to be someone else out there. Whether you get a marriage arranged or whether you date a lot before finding someone, most people will always have a “one that got away” or whatever. What keeps them from straying is not wanting to hurt the one they’re with and made a vow to be loyal to. That, in my mind, is a much more sincere and noble expression of love than the cheesy, saccharine romance crap that gets funneled down our throats by Bollywood.

      • That, in my mind, is a much more sincere and noble expression of love than the cheesy, saccharine romance crap that gets funneled down our throats by Bollywood.

        That was supposed to say “funneled by Hollywood.” Freudian slip of some kind.

    • “My parents have been married for 30 years and I know my father has feelings for a certain “Aunty” (American) that he’s known since childhood. My mother is conditioned to this life and I know she’s not being true to herself. I guess I’m just too “Western” to ever understand it. “

      But why do you think it is western to not understand? I don’t understand it either. I’ve never understood the mail-order brides who came to the US to join their engineer/doctor husbands/masters. The thing is, I never understood it while I lived in India. I’ve learnt a little bit more about arranged marriages from among other things, reading this blog and recently watching bollywood. (Btw, I’m addicted to Bollywood and all things are forgiven. I watch it for the same reasons Phillygirl outlined. The clothes and music are fantasy stuff. And I can watch (gape at is more the word) Dharmendra for hours.) Obviously just thinking about bolly gets me off-track. Anyway, saying that arranged marriage is an Indian thing is like saying child marriage is an Indian thing. Perhaps modern instead of western would be a better word (if we can easily define what modern is). And there are modern people in India and in the west –though the mix and how and to what it is appied to varies. Anyway, I’ve never been married, never wanted to either. Granted I’m quite unusual. Living in the west made it much easier to live the way I do but if I lived in India i’d pretty much be the same (it’d just be the angry and irritated edition of me).

      My latest take on marriage is to, well, outsource it. It is difficult to find someone who can satisy you on all the important points. So the thing to do is to have many important relationships–business collaborations as it were. And hire help for things like care giving, senior care etc.

  9. While I am not comfortable with arranged marriages, I am probably more understanding of it since I actually moved to India as a kid and I kind of was able to see the process happen many times. I still find it weird for me to do. But you gotta understand that in a lot of cases for the last couple of decades, arranged marriages are nothing but blind dates without the sex and a definite intention of getting married if everything clicks. Not all of them are just one meeting and bam – marriage or parents meet and wham bam- marriage. I have had white friends go on eharmony and similar sites and I find that a little uncomfortable too.

    Worst recipe for a romcom -Starring Kate Hudson/Katherine Heigl and Matthew McConnaughey/Gerard Butler directed by Nancy Meyers, written by Nora Ephron.

    I dont even like Bollywood songs though on a recent trip to India , I heard this song at some wedding and it is damn catchy – Sheila Ki Jawani – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjZBuMlZj54 .

  10. 1) i think people should be less judgmental about “love” vs. “arranged.” i don’t get “arranged” myself, but i’ve had to deal with DBD stereotypes of “western” dating & marrying my whole life. why should we return the favor? i think there are really substantive things to be objectively concerned about, but some cultural differences are more of a matter of preference/aesthetics.

    2) the dichotomy between “love” and “arranged” is too extreme. lots of people operate in the middle.

  11. One of the arguments against “arranged marriage” and for “love marriage” is that two people can get to know each other, fall in love and then tie the knot. Which begs the question as to why the divorce rate is so high in the US (assuming that most of those marriages were not arranged), and higher than that in India, even taking into account the fact that some percentage of marriages in India do not end in divorce (but should have) due to financial or other social reasons.

    As Razib “the atheist” Khan said, “the dichotomy between “love” and “arranged” is too extreme. lots of people operate in the middle.”

  12. Oh and so many of my American acquaintances as well as a few friends, whose parents are divorced, act in ways that are cuckoo and delusional. It’s rare to find someone whose parents are divorced and s/he is also well-adjusted. It’s too much of a coincidence to be just random or not have some correlation.

  13. i think people should be less judgmental about “love” vs. “arranged.” i don’t get “arranged” myself, but i’ve had to deal with DBD stereotypes of “western” dating & marrying my whole life. why should we return the favor? i think there are really substantive things to be objectively concerned about, but some cultural differences are more of a matter of preference/aesthetics.

    Completely agree. On one side, some Desi’s seem to be under the impression that Western women drop their panties for random men as they please, on the other extreme you have Westerners who think Indians sell their daughters to suitors in exchange for a goat or some stupid shit. Upon finding out I’m a Paki, one kid in Middle School literally asked if I was going to get an arranged marriage after High School and would my parents really use chickens as a dowry? Good grief. I also hate the term “love marriage” because it’s not like arranged couples can’t love each other; it should just be “arranged” and”non-arranged”.

    Oh and so many of my American acquaintances as well as a few friends, whose parents are divorced, act in ways that are cuckoo and delusional. It’s rare to find someone whose parents are divorced and s/he is also well-adjusted. It’s too much of a coincidence to be just random or not have some correlation.

    I’m of the younger generation, so about half my friend’s parents are divorced, and they’re no more cuckoo than anyone else; most are well adjusted. Perhaps you just attract delusional folks? :P OTOH, I know a lot of Desi’s who are staunchly anti-arranged marriage from growing up in families where both parents were frankly miserable but refused to split because it’s frowned upon in our culture.

    The idea of comparing divorce rates is laughably ridiculous because the concept of divorce is so different across cultures. In America, not only is divorce very socially acceptable, but more women can financially support themselves so they feel comfortable being divorced (this is a modern phenomenon; compare 2011 stats to the ’50′s!) In countries like my Grandma’s native Afghanistan, the divorce rate is remarkably low, but that’s cause women have been stripped of rights, can’t support themselves, and divorce there is about socially acceptable there as bestiality in America…. There are so many things which are normal in one culture that from the point of view of another culture seem outright bizarre.

  14. I wasn’t comparing divorce rates in USA with those in Afghanistan. And it’d be hard for you to argue that the social situation in Afghanistan is the same as that in India when it comes to women’s rights – Indian laws allow for alimony and other rights to divorced women (except for Muslim women – we have Rajiv “Hame banana hai” Gandhi and Shah Bano case to thank for that regressive piece of law). Besides, my point stands even without comparing the divorce rates. If “love marriage” gives one an opportunity to know another person (so the argument goes) before tying the knot, then it should be less likely to end in a divorce, not more likely.

    My point about my acquaintances with divorced parents wasn’t a thesis – it was just that, an anecdotal survey including small numbers. BTW, no need to get snarky+defensive there – I didn’t make any statement that was personally against you or your friends – it was just an observation. Take it for what it’s worth or leave it.

  15. “Western women drop their panties for random men as they please..” _

    Well, not for random men, only those men they find handsome/hot – either before or after a few drinks. ;)

  16. I wasn’t comparing divorce rates in USA with those in Afghanistan

    Obviously. My point was that there is a dramatic difference in how divorce is perceived across cultures; I used Afghanistan/USA as examples because those are 2 cultures I’m familiar with. So your point about how love marriages should automatically result in fewer divorces doesn’t make sense, since you are forgetting to include social implication of marriage as a factor in why people get divorced. For example, I have an uncle (2nd gen American) who frankly hates his wife (the feeling is mutual) and the two will never split, I can promise you; it’s seen as very unacceptable in Muslim culture, as you alluded to.

    I’m not trying to be snarky, nor am I trying to deny your personal experiences, just sharing my own. Maybe your friends with divorced parents are as you said, cuckoo and delusional, but I don’t think that anecdote reveals any type of correlation like you said, because most people with divorced parents don’t seem to be crazy.

  17. Awww, Yoga-Fire, I knew that snarky comments aside, you were always a softie at heart ;)

    She watched Jodhaa Ackbar, had a long conversation with her Indian neighbor (who had a traditional Indian marriage) about arranged/traditional marriages, and decided that the key to a lasting marriage is loyalty, mutual respect, and dedication rather than the lovey-dovey romantic stuff. Soon enough she started dating guys based on those qualifications rather than whatever else she was looking for before and met a guy she was willing to get hitched to. They seem happy together.

    Whoa, just like that she met a guy with those qualifications?! It would take most young women years! Or maybe I’m biased cause most guys my age are essentially horny apes, desi or not.

  18. Awww, Yoga-Fire, I knew that snarky comments aside, you were always a softie at heart ;)

    Chivalry is a terrible habit, but a tough one to kick. I’m on a 12 step program.

    It would take most young women years

    She’s not so young anymore. Besides, chance favors the prepared mind and all that.

  19. “My point was that there is a dramatic difference in how divorce is perceived across cultures; I used Afghanistan/USA as examples because those are 2 cultures I’m familiar with.” __

    When you use terms like South Asian, errors like yours are bound to happen. ;) :p __

    “So your point about how love marriages should automatically result in fewer divorces doesn’t make sense, since you are forgetting to include social implication of marriage as a factor in why people get divorced.” __

    It makes perfect sense – please re-read my comment as I provided the reason.

  20. Divorce is no longer taboo in the big Indian cities. It has reached 30% in Bangalore as opposed to about 40% in the west.

  21. When you use terms like South Asian, errors like yours are bound to happen. ;) :p

    not really sure what you mean here…? I didn’t use the term South Asian.

    It has reached 30% in Bangalore as opposed to about 40% in the west.

    I’m very surprised to hear that. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if the divorce rate in India went up dramatically in the next 50 years or so (except maybe for some Indian Moslems for religious reasons – I don’t know what the Hindu views toward divorce are)

  22. also….even if this movie sucks ass (and based on the trailer, I wouldn’t be surprised if it did) at least we finally have a cute young desi actor playing a lead role in a movie (no I don’t find Kal Penn particularly attractive, though he was adorkable on House)

    • The trailer is funny and the film lives up to it for sure. The lead is easy on the eyes, and when was the last time you saw a charming leading man who is also ethnically diverse. Being American but also being from a different culture I can appreciate the nuances at play in the film.

  23. “There is always going to be someone else out there. Whether you get a marriage arranged or whether you date a lot before finding someone, most people will always have a “one that got away” or whatever. What keeps them from straying is not wanting to hurt the one they’re with and made a vow to be loyal to.”

    Yogafire, are you tellin that people keep themselves from straying because they do not want to hurt the one they are with and they just made a vow to be loyal to in front of

    the public? do you call it a noble expression of love? It is humanity not to hurt someone not a sincere form of love. sincere love is still towards that “one that got away”.

  24. oh boy, this debate again. Well, I am against marriage altogether, but we should not forget that its not a coincidence that arranged marriage is practiced in cultures where domestic/sexual violence is normalized and viewed as something a woman can avoid by behaving ”properly”

  25. Harry needs to work on his push-pull and comfort routines. Then, he can avoid so much LMR from the red-head. She will make a nice start on his harem.

  26. I saw this film with my family in Kew Gardens. I loved it. We’re Orthodox Jewish and we could relate to the cross-cultural elements of arranged marriages. My husband and I were a bit of an arranged marriage – we met 3 times, and poof it was decided. We’re happy and this film was a nice look at the Indian culture, which is similar. I came across this review and many others after trying to find out more about where they filmed the India portions (as we are planning a trip to India for the holidays). I’m a bit surprised but perhaps I shouldn’t be at the “hater” type posts from people who haven’t seen the film. It is cute, funny and endearing. The premise that a young Indian man would want an arranged marriage isn’t as alien as some of the critics or posts that I see here. In our neighborhood, there are quite a few Indian families and this story is quite relevant to what’s happening in their homes. (The NYT isn’t known to like movies – they prefer films – just my observation having read it everyday of my adulthood… so take their reviews with a grain of salt folks.)

  27. technically the lead actor isn’t “ethnically diverse” unless he’s not the pukka indian he looks to be. that term just really bugs me. doesn’t something that is diverse have to have more than one component?