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Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani: Let’s Talk About That Infidelity Storyline

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani is the latest Bollywood blockbuster rom-com from the master of the genre, Karan Johar himself. The film sees a long-awaited return after years to the grandiose family entertainment that Bollywood has been sorely missing. And, while the movie definitely shows the growth of Johar as a filmmaker, there’s an element of the movie that feels problematic. And it’s the Rocky Aur Rani infidelity storyline that the movie features prominently, that we’ll be discussing today.

Please note that the following will feature a lot of spoilers for Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani.

Rocky Aur Rani’s Love Story

Rocky Aur Rani infidelity Love story .

Image via Dharma Productions.

On the surface, Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani is your typical rom-com with a specific gimmick. An unlikely couple test out the differences in their culture and family, by basically doing a house swap. Each goes to live with the other’s family for a while to see if their passion can melt hearts and make love bloom in the other’s household. And while it seems like I’m dismissing the movie, I actually loved almost everything about it. Almost, everything.

What put me off slightly, is the Rocky Aur Rani infidelity story. And how it is actually the basis for their meet-cute. Rocky’s (Ranveer Singh) grandfather Kanwal (Dharmendra) is suffering from, what seems like Alzheimer’s or Dementia, but it’s never properly described. His only moments of lucidity come when he calls out the name of a specific woman, Jamini. After a super quick Google search, (somehow) Rocky discovers that Jamini is the grandmother of Rani (Alia Bhatt) a TV talk show host. So the two meet to get their grandparents together in the hopes of Rocky’s grandfather’s health possibly improving.

The Rocky Aur Rani Infidelity Story Begins

Rocky Aur Rani infidelity Azmi.

Image via Dharma Productions.

The audience finds out from Jamini (Shabana Azmi) that she and Kanwal actually had an affair, decades ago during a poetry seminar, when they were both married. It didn’t last long, but was the only time they’d felt true love, given their emotionally and physically abusive spouses. However, they both decided to end things, for the sake of their family and children.

This is where things get weird. When Jamini and Kanwal finally meet decades later, things escalate. Quick! Seeing Jamini triggers the lost lovelorn feelings within Kanwal, causing him to jump out of his wheelchair and serenade her. Even Jamini gets caught up in the moment as she croons back, the whole scene ending in a tender kiss. The weirder part here is that Kanwal is fully married to Rocky’s grandmother, Dhanlakshmi (Jaya Bachchan), who witnesses the whole thing!

Representation Of Infidelity Doesn’t Need To Be Problematic

Dharmendra

Image via Dharma Productions.

So let’s unpack this. A married man is blatantly cheating on his wife, acting on his feelings for another woman in front of his whole family. It’s played for laughs in the movie. It’s meant to be hilarious that two elderly grandparents are part of a love-story montage. And it is undeniably cute. But what’s a little troubling also, is that it is clearly cheating.

Regardless of how it’s framed in the movie, the nostalgic songs that play, and the brilliant performances that both Dharmendra and Azmi put in, it’s still an extra-marital affair. That everyone seems completely fine with. While the protagonists never discuss any moral grey areas of the situation, the antagonists’ reactions to this almost make it seem like they’re in the wrong. For example, when Dhanlakshmi finally catches her husband in the act, the scene comes off as an ominous moment where the villain looms over the heroes. Which is fine given her role, but the story could address the moral ambiguity of the situation and still hit all those same beats. Ignoring it feels like, at best, like it’s sending mixed signals and at worst, that the story is condoning extra-marital affairs.

A Villanuous Wife Should Not Justify Cheating

Rocky Aur Rani infidelity Jaya.

Image via Dharma Productions.

And speaking of Dhanlakshmi, Bachchan does a great job playing what is essentially the villain of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. Dhanlakshmi is manipulative and powerful, asserting her control and will over her family. Her cruelty and neglect over her ailing husband are just one of the many reasons why the audience loves to hate her. And rightfully so. Dhanlakshmi is clearly the villain of the story. But that shouldn’t justify cheating. No matter how horrible a person’s partner is, it doesn’t condone their wrongdoing in return. Which is seemingly the first reaction audiences are having at this subplot. ‘But she’s so horrible, though!’

And then there’s the matter of Kanwal’s state of mind. There has been an argument made about the Rocky Aur Rani infidelity storyline, that Kanwal doesn’t remember his wife, and isn’t in his right frame of mind, so he cannot be held accountable for cheating. Sure, while that is absolutely a valid argument, it doesn’t apply to the other clear-thinking adults in the situation, who are not only enabling but are more responsible for this situation than Kanwal himself.

Clearly, Kanwal’s mental capacity is so diminished that he can’t remember his wife. Nor can he remember that decades ago, he himself decided to end this relationship with Jamini, choosing his own family. So taking advantage of his mental situation to re-ignite that relationship, is betraying what he himself chose, and what he would have wanted now. And Rocky, Rani and Jamini would all be complicit in that betrayal.

Karan Johar Thus Far Has Handled Infidelity With Great Maturity

Ae Dil Hai

Image via Dharma Productions.

And this isn’t the first time Karan Johar has depicted infidelity in a very casual and matter-of-fact manner. In another one of this films, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, the meet-cute between the two leads happens at a crowded party where they both end up making out with one another, minutes after they meet. Afterwards, they both casually mention to each other that they’re in relationships. No big deal. Later in the movie, they both even hang out with each other’s significant others. At least, until they both cheat on the leads, with each other. Which, I guess makes them cheating first okay?

This is then never brought up for the rest of the movie. It almost feels like the message is that the morality of infidelity is flexible based on the situation. Or that monogamy in modern relationships is a fluid concept? Even more confusing is the fact that Johar has directed, what I consider, one of the most realistic movies about love and marriage In Bollywood.

The Rocky Aur Rani Infidelity Story Is NOT The Same As Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna

Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna

Image via Dharma Productions.

One of Karan Johar’s best, if not his best film ever was Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. At least, in my opinion. The film starred Bollywood icons, in a story that was directly contrary to the established images of these stars at the time. The legendary romantic hero, Shahrukh Khan, played an embittered failed athlete in an empty marriage. The bubbly and self-assured Rani Mukherji played a woman withering away in a loveless marriage with the seemingly perfect man. At least on paper. The story sees these two find each other and fall in love through their shared loneliness and unhappiness.

Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna is a harsh look at the struggles of a marriage. Of how expectations can become burdens. Throughout the film, the infidelity angle is shown as a tragic and bittersweet consequence of love between the characters; something beautiful bred out of something so wrong. But the film never depicted cheating as a cutesy thing, acceptable with classic Bollywood music in the background. As the Rocky Aur Rani infidelity story seems to depict.

It’s A Complicated Topic That Needs More Nuance

Rocky Aur Rani infidelity Family.

Image via Dharma Productions.

Adultery is a concept that is nuanced and difficult to navigate. Movies don’t have to condemn morally ambiguous actions or preach about righteousness. It’s very possible to show these acts and even show your protagonists engaging in these situations if it serves the story. The Rocky Aur Rani infidelity story, however, feels added as a catalyst for the lead pair’s developing love story, without ever addressing or commenting on it. Especially given that apparently Jamini and Kanwal ended their affair, for the sake of family. But decades later, Jamini has no problems restarting the same affair, in full view of Kanwal’s family. It just didn’t ring true from any perceivable angle.

But having said that, this is all entirely my opinion, and how I’ve engaged with this particular plot point within Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. And it’s also not something that took away from my overall enjoyment of the movie itself. And it’s definitely not glorifying or condoning adultery as many on the internet will be quick to point out. Especially considering that the Bollywood audience that cries foul over the Rocky Aur Rani infidelity story is the same Bollywood audience responsible for making blockbusters out of movies that depicted men cheating on their wives as comedy. 

Rocky Aur Rani is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

What did you think of the Rocky Aur Rani infidelity storyline? Share your thoughts with me below, or follow me on X (Twitter) at @theshahshahid for more Bollywood conversations.

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