A Suitable Girl debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22nd 2017.
A Suitable Girl
Directors: Sarita Khurana and Smriti Mundhra
At the beginning of A Suitable Girl we come to the juxtaposition between two very stark moments in time.
As an audience, we are given a montage of images: an evolution of little Indian girls growing under the watchful eye of their families.
But the narration offers us what is to be their future. It is a blunt, sweeping attempt to angle us all in the proper direction: marriage.
There will eventually come a time where she will marry and leave her family behind.
First, we meet Dipti who is on the hunt for a husband. Her parents and her scan the classifieds for potential suitors on a daily basis.
This action seems so mechanical. I mean, I thought Tinder was an odd place to seek a significant other.
Second, we meet Ritu who works in finance. She seems to be more interested in work than looking to get married. But because she is getting older the pressure to get married is beginning to mount.
Third, we are introduced to Amrita. She is already engaged to be married. But by marrying she is essentially “giving up her career”.
The process one goes through to find a potential partner is documented in great detail throughout the film.
It was very awkward to watch the “auction” of single men where the announcer reads off the “stat sheet” (if they’re divorced etc).` It is amazing anyone would want to subject themselves to being objectified like that.
But it goes both ways since both male and female have very specific characteristics and physical traits they are seeking in their potential spouses.
The filmmakers provide a nice bookend for this moment, by jumping to the “end result”, Amrita’s wedding.
It is in these finals moments of the scene that the music melts away and we are left inside the raw, void of the bride’s sadness. It is incredibly sobering and possibly the best moment of the film.
As the sound leaves and the camera holds on Amrita, it is clear how isolated and alone she is in this moment.
The film also pulls off the male perspective in a very interesting way.
In an interview with Ritu’s future husband, he basically says he would have rather been born as a European, married later in life to either Ritu or someone else. The admission is shocking. I personally felt really bad for Ritu who is sitting right next to him as he says this. One can only hope someone smacks him on the back of the head and tells him to better appreciate his woman.
Ritu hasn’t seemed very interested in anything regards to marriage, so this moment really sticks out in our narrative of her.
What the film’s directors do very well is to allow space and breathing room between each of the girls’ segments. We gain an in-depth perspective on each of their personalities. As the film progresses we truly see how each represents a different stage in the process that so many young women have and will go through at some point in their lives.
If the movie’s goal is to “shock” western audiences, the film succeeds. The notion that women are expected to fall into a standing pattern of finding a man, marry a man, give up your life goals, isn’t something a modern-day woman in the Western world would sign up for. We like to have choices, we like it even better that we have the option not to choose anything at all.
The film does a very job in gently suffocating the audience with the reality that marriage is the only path available for people (men and women) living in this particular world.
In the end, A Suitable Girl comes full circle from the beginning montage. In the movie’s reality all girls, these girls, are suitable. But unfortunately, the life map they are given at birth doesn’t leave room for them to be much else.