Navigation | TRADITION, TRADITION! – Similar conflicts, different conclusions: A comparison between “DDLJ” and “Fiddler on the Roof” – AB Troen

TRADITION, TRADITION! – Similar conflicts, different conclusions: A comparison between “DDLJ” and “Fiddler on the Roof” – AB Troen

<a href=" 2od2013/files/2013/03/TRADITION-1.png”>TRADITION 1An initial viewing of DDLJ can make the film seem like a modern day tale of ‘star crossed lovers’. However, a deeper reading of the film’s plot and structure reveals a probing of deep socials questions and a re-examination of the role of love in respect to modernization and tradition.


There are two main conflicts driving the story forward.
The first is Babuji’s conflict, which is revealed to us in his voice-over inner monologue in the first scene of the film. Babuji, an Indian who has lived in London for two decades, still feels alien in his diasporic environment and tries aggressively to hold on to his Indian identity. In this way, the conflict includes Babuji’s need to belong to London as well as his feeling alien, and longing for India.
The second conflict is Simrin, Babuji’s daughter, and Raj’s. Simrin is sent to India to be wedded to a man she does not know, in a marriage arranged by her father. However, Simrin is in love with Raj, a charismatic British-Indian, and it is Raj she wishes to marry. The couple can either elope and run away from Babuji, or Raj must convince him to break the initial engagement, even though this would mean breaking with tradition.
Although both of these conflicts seem unrelated, there is a correlation between them. We ask ourselves which value will prevail? Romantic love, which in this context represents modernity and the diasporic community, or traditional Indian values? The film resolves the problem (relatively) neatly when Babuji finally decides to grant Simrin permission to marry Raj. This can only occur, paradoxically, when Raj, out of respect for tradition is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and give up Simrin.
In a speech he makes to Simrin, in front of Babuji and her whole family he explains why he did not elope:

“You can only run away from strangers,
from the ones we call our own – where could we run away to?”

Raj is speaking about family, but his words have another layer of meaning. He is making a strong comment about tradition and identity: his question “Where could we run away to?” resonates with Babuji’s conflict, and desire to return to India. Raj is conveying to Simrin, Babuji (and the viewers) that it is impossible to escape one’s national identity: their Indian tradition is a defining characteristic even when living in a place far away as England.
In this sense, the film provides a strong message for viewers –tradition is inescapable. Love can be celebrated, only as long as it exists within the confines of tradition.

I’d like to make a comparison between DDLJ and another film, which comes from my own background (though removed by a few generations), which also tells a story in which love and tradition are conflicted – “Fiddler on the Roof.” Like DDLJ, “Fiddler on the Roof” tells a story of conflicted lovers who seek a father’s approval in a patriarchal society. Set in a small village in rural Russia, the film begins, as does DDLJ, with the father’s monologue about identity and the importance of tradition (“Tradition” being the iconic song which opens “Fiddler on the Roof”). Throughout the film, 3 of Tevya’s daughters wish to marry men they love, a break from the tradition of arranged marriage. The first daughter chooses to marry a young scholar, the second a communist and the third – to Tevya’s horror – a gentile.

Each daughter presents Tevya with a problem. Should he allow them to marry the men of their choice or should he stick to the traditional ways?
The following link is Tevya’s decision-making process as he decides whether or not to approve his second daughter’s wedding to a communist:

As we see in this scene, Tevya chooses love over tradition. Although he stresses that ‘he has given them his approval’ (even though they do not ask for it) he has an appreciation for this new notion ‘Love’.
In DDLJ the father agrees to ‘give Simrin away’ to the man she desires, however, the process of his decision-making is very different than Tevya’s. In Babuji’s mind (and in Raj’s mind for that matter) there is never a question whether or not tradition will prevail. In order for love to come into being it will have to fall into place – WITH tradition – not against it.
This contrast between DDLJ and “Fiddler on the Roof” is emphasized in the final scenes of the films.

Take a look at the following link – in this final scene from “Fiddler on the Roof”, Tevya says a final goodbye to his third daughter, who has married a gentile against his will. Although at first he ignores her, finally, he gives her his blessing.

(From 1 to 3:30 in the link)

In the final scene in DDLJ, Babuji allows his daughter to marry Raj. (From 5th minute till the end in the following link)

In these scenes, both Tevya and Babuji convey strong conflicted emotions: pain, love and conviction. In both cases they give their daughters what they want, and acknowledge their daughters’ love. So, in a sense the ‘lovers win’ at the end of both films. However, the consequences of this victory are different. While both films are set in a period of great change and modernization, where love is being re-examined and redefined – “Fiddler on the Rood” is a tale of loss of tradition, whereas “DDLJ” is a story which upholds tradition. In DDLJ, Babuji has a choice – and chooses to ‘give’ Simrin to Raj. In “Fiddler on the Roof” the choice has been taken from Tevya – his daughter has already married against his will.

Fiddler on the roof was filmed as a memory for American audiences, telling a story of a battle which tradition ultimately lost to modernization. The viewer in “Fiddler on the Roof” is well aware that whatever conflicts of identity remain, love and modernity ultimately triumphed. A return to life in the shtetl is not an option. For audiences of DDLJ, however, the film and the conflict it represents become a piece of current discourse, and will be viewed as contemporary social commentary. It acknowledges the conflict between modernity and tradition but affirms that tradition will prevail.

Filed by abtroen at March 30th, 2013 under Uncategorized

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