There has been plenty of debate on the subject of arranged marriages in India, usually framed around the conflict between tradition and an ever-modernising society.
It is a serious issue but Amit Roy’s latest film, Running Shaadi, addresses it by taking a light-hearted approach.
It tells the story of Ram Bharose (Amit Sadh) and his friend Sarabjeet Sidhaana aka Cyberjeet (Arsh Bajwa), who set up a website to help lovestruck couples in the city of Amritsar defy their families’ marriage orders and elope together.
Sadh – who also starred in Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar 3, which was filmed in Dubai recently – says he loved the script, and that part of the appeal was how little he has in common with his character.
“It was very challenging to build the character,” he says. “There’s nothing in common between me and this character and that was a challenge.
“He lacks education, confidence and resources, but there’s so much to him inside. I enjoyed creating a character that, despite all these limitations, was so strong within – there’s real soul and honesty there.
“I enjoyed that, though on the whole I don’t mind what sort of character I play, as long as I’m in front of the camera. If I can just keep doing that then I’m happy.”
Taapsee Pannu, who plays Nimmi, the female lead, says the reason the role appealed to her was quite the opposite of Sadh’s.
“I think for Amit Roy, he wanted me to play the role because the character is almost me on screen,” she says. “The character is so like me, it was almost like I wasn’t even acting.”
Pannu has mostly appeared in South Indian cinema, with an appearance alongside Akshay Kumar in Baby (2015) – her only previous major role in a Hindi film. She says that although she didn’t have to step too far outside her comfort zone to play Nimmi, she learnt a lot from the experience.
“It was a revelation for me to do a film speaking in my mother tongue,” she says. “It made me realise more about my own potential as an actor, having that closer link to the language, to the slang terms and so on. It really makes you realise what you can do.
“The characters in the film are very real. That’s where the humour comes from – not from funny lines, but from these very real characters that everyone can identify with.”
Although the movie is a light-hearted romantic comedy, Pannu concedes that the issues it addresses are a serious matter for many people.
“Arranged marriage is an issue that affects a lot of people in this country,” she says. “It sometimes seems like couples have to think about everything except their own feelings when they get married. They have to think about their religion, their caste, their family, society – and the last question seems to be ‘do you actually want to marry this person?’”
Pannu says she is surprised that a website like the one in the film has not already appeared in India.
“It’s funny that no one has come up with the idea of exploiting that market before now,” she says. “We have loads of marriage websites, but ones like this, that are really for people who are in love, we don’t seem to have had yet.
“It was great to come up with this concept in the film and build a beautiful love story around it.”
On the other hand, while Sadh – who says he hopes to be in Dubai for the Sarkar 3 premiere in April – concedes that the issues in the film are real and important, he does not think audiences should dwell on them in the context of this film.
“I don’t think you should think about it too much,” he says. “Just buy your tickets, get some popcorn and enjoy yourself for a couple of hours. It’s a comedy, and a love story. You don’t need to take it all too seriously.”
• Running Shaadi will be in cinemas from Thursday