Wedded to theatrics

Wedded to theatrics

Pre (and post) wedding shoots are today bigger than the wedding itself. As the season of love dawns upon us, we explore why pre-wedding razzmatazz is all the rage today

The infamous mud-love shoot. (Pic courtesy: Binuseens Cherian)

In Njan Prakashan (I am Prakashan), a 2018 Malayalam film starring the immensely talented Fahadh Fazil, the viewer gets to see the hero at a typical Malayalee wedding. It is the muhurtham (auspicious time), the strains of the nadaswaram fill the air, the groom ties the thali around the bride’s neck... but the hero is distracted — his eyes are on the doors to the sadhya (meal) hall. Soon, he is jostling for space with a sizeable crowd. We see him energetically wolf down the delectable dishes that make up a typical Malayalee sadhya. When the videographer comes by, the hero is all dignity, ruminatively nibbling on the delicacies. As soon as the cameraman moves on, he is back to slurping everything down, as fast as he can.

Later, the hero disses the meal he just devoured — the sambar had no vegetables, the payasam was not sweet enough, so on and so forth. ‘See you at the wedding next week,’ he tells a bemused acquaintance and walks off.

Like that scene suggests, a Malayalee Hindu wedding tends to be a quick 10-minute affair. Once the thali-tying is done, the bridal couple resignedly watch their guests vanish — in the direction of the sadhya hall.

Mehendi, muhurtham and more

That innate briskness used to be the most distinguishing aspect of a Malayalee wedding. Not any more. Today, from Palakkad to Plachimada or Payyoli (also known as Olympian P T Usha’s hometown) the mehendi is now as important as the muhurtham. The new-age Malayalee bride can still be found draped in gold from head to toe, but you can also see her in a ghagra-choli. Besides, the wedding itself is bolder, brassier and all about the band-baaja-baaraat and also, the dance-offs involving bridesmaids, groomsmen, and yes, the couples.

The phenomenon though is not restricted to Malayalee weddings alone. This seamless blending of ‘North’ and ‘South’ is happening in weddings across India. In fact, from Kochi to Kanpur by way of Kapurthala, weddings today are less about the actual ceremony and more about the build up to the event. By build-up, we mean the ‘pre-(or -post) wedding shoots’. These are shoots designed to celebrate love through ‘candid’ poses and videos. This is such a huge craze today that a random search will turn up about a gazillion pages or ‘results’ on your smartphone.

And it’s a trend that shows no sign of abating. “It is a long-standing phenomenon,” observes Parthip Thyagarajan, CEO and Founder of WeddingSutra.com — a two decade-old wedding planning portal. “Across income levels, couples have always gone in for such shoots. Earlier, shoots would happen at parks, then they moved to malls. Now, these shoots can be at historical monuments, resorts and exotic locations. Today, couples even plan shoots during a particular season — for example, a couple can do a shoot in Japan during the cherry blossom season. A wedding is all about memories and experiences,” explains Parthip.

Shoots to ‘wedding stories’

Naturally, top-notch wedding photographers command mind boggling fees. “A big name can charge Rs 20 lakh for the wedding and throw in a pre-(or-post) shoot for free,” says Parthip nonchalantly. But there are rates for every wallet. A quick look online reveals that photographers can charge anything from Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 a day as well, for such shoots.

And when it comes to ideas and themes, interesting trends emerge. Some couples tend to go in for lavish and lush ‘cinematic videos’ — in locales ranging from Jaipur, Ladakh, Kerala or Goa to Bali, Dubai, Cyprus, Greece, Venice and beyond. The Indian film industry is a continuing source of inspiration. In fact, there is even an ebook titled ‘47 Must Have Pre Wedding Poses Inspired By Bollywood Movies’ (Rs 29 on Kindle)! So it is not surprising that most pre-and post-wedding videos/shoots are set to film songs. One particular video titled ‘Tere Sang Yaara’ has had over 8.4 million views so far!

Down South, ‘save-the-date’ shoots and ‘wedding stories’ are very popular. While some shoots are tasteful or laugh-out-loud funny (featuring fake rain and hours of preparation), others go the steamy route. A recent shoot that went viral in Kerala had a young couple getting muddily romantic — reminiscent of Akshay Kumar and Rekha canoodling in the 1996 film Khiladiyon ka Khiladi.

However, the real-life ‘Mud Love’ couple, Anisha and Jose are now back in the UK. The photographer behind the shoot, Binuseens Cherian, who runs Binu Seens Photography, says the shoot was completely spontaneous. “We saw this paddy field in Tenkasi (a town in Tamil Nadu, close to the Kerala border).” Naturally, he too ended up in the mud, to get the best shots of the couple! According to him, shoots always happen with the consent of the couple concerned. “’The couples I work with have a say in everything — from the poses and the location to the costumes and the theme. In my business, over 90 per cent of the bookings are done by the couples themselves,” he adds.

However, the ‘Mud Love’ shoot received a lot of trolling. “It is only in Kerala that such shoots receive abuse. I have only got positive feedback from other places,” observes Binu. Anisha, the muddy bride, works as a nurse. She admits she never anticipated the photos going viral but concurs with Binu. “The negative feedback has only been from fellow Keralites,” she adds. Perhaps that is an uniquely Malayalee tendency. After all, in Njan Prakashan too, the hero has only rude things to say about the meal he avidly relished just moments previously!

A different route

But back in real life, not all brides and grooms-to-be want to do ‘viral’ shoots. In the first week of February, Arun H K, a Bangalorean, is marrying Laboni, a Bengali. “In my opinion, most ‘viral’ shoots are too staged and overdone,” he stresses. The software engineer feels couples should only do what they truly enjoy. That is why he and Laboni released a pre-wedding song in January to celebrate their impending marriage. “I am part of a 13-member group called Footloose Feathers -- we enact old songs in Kannada and other languages. We screen our songs at a 150-seat theatre in Banshankari. The funds we raise through ticket sales, go to social causes,” he explains.

And that is why, Arun and Laboni enacted the song Yaale Yaale from the 1999 Kannada movie Habba, with his group. Whether that video goes viral or not is really not important to this couple. “The shoot was great fun and we think it is a wonderful way to celebrate with our friends,” adds Arun.

Quite possibly, our filmy hero Prakashan, too will be all praise for this couple.

Money spinners 

Indian weddings are big business. According to Inc42, a media platform that covers startups and entrepreneurs, the Indian wedding industry is estimated to be a 50 billion dollar business. A December 2019 article on the platform notes: “...The Indian wedding industry is the second largest in the world...more than 10 million weddings take place in India each year, amounting to a staggering 30K weddings a day!” Meaning, as many as 30,000 weddings take place in India, every day! Go, figure. 

 

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