When Real Life Met Dhadak: A Tale of An Inter Caste Marriage
Sudipa and Tridip Mandal in college. 
Sudipa and Tridip Mandal in college. (Photo: Tridip Mandal)

When Real Life Met Dhadak: A Tale of An Inter Caste Marriage

I can’t really say when or how I fell in love with Sudipa. We grew up together in the same locality in the sleepy and perennially wet hill station of Shillong in north-east India.

It was mid ’90s; Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge had just released. Even the dress Kajol wore in the film became a huge hit! There was so much love in the air, but I was nursing a broken heart, as I had broken up with my girlfriend of two years around the same time.

Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan in <i>DDLJ</i>. (Photo courtesy: Yashraj Films)
Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan in DDLJ. (Photo courtesy: Yashraj Films)

I clearly remember the day I saw Sudipa in that DDLJ-dress, realising just how attractive my neighbour was.

It was one of those cold dark December evenings in Shillong when I told Sudipa that I really liked her. She must have been 15 then. She didn’t react at all to my proposal. Was it a yes... or a no... I didn’t know.

But over the next few months we met every evening, and just like that we were in a relationship. Even though we went to different colleges, Sudipa spent so much time where I studied that people thought she was studying there.

Sudipa and Tridip Mandal. (Photo: Tridip Mandal)
Sudipa and Tridip Mandal. (Photo: Tridip Mandal)

Shillong had no multiplexes back then. We were the single screen generation; Kuch Kuch Hota Hota Hai, Satya, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam & unmentionable Mithun Chakravarty films, together we saw it all. We were the matinee couple.

This filmy keeda was going to play a very important role in our love story very soon. Since we were from the same locality, our families knew each other.

We were very sure they would have no problem with our relationship but har love story mein villain... matlab problem hota hai. And our problem came in the form of caste.

Sudipa belonged to a Brahmin family and I belong to a Scheduled Caste. Her family was completely against this relationship, no one in their family had ever married outside the caste. She was barred from meeting me... they were very clear, it had to end. There were no cellphones back then, so once a day we somehow spoke over the landline, mainly in whispers. And during one of those whispering sessions, we decided to get married in a civil court. Sometime in mid 2000 we secretly got married and went back to our own homes, feeling secure that now no one could separate us. And this was before Mani Rathnam’s Saathiya released where Vivek Oberoi and Rani Mukherjee did something similar. We treaded that walkway first.

In 2002 I got a job in a big TV network in Hyderabad and left Shillong with the hope that in a few years I’ll come back to take Sudipa along – after all we were legally man and wife. But har kahani mein twist hota hai, and in our case it came pretty soon. Few months later, on a hot summer afternoon, Sudipa called me at work and said that if I don’t come to Shillong immediately she’ll be married off by her parents.

So I rushed back, and had my folks go over and talk to her parents. They strongly opposed the match.

The filmi keeda took over once again, and we decided to follow the footsteps of our matinee idols. We eloped.

And so it began – ‘Mission Ghar Se Bhaagna’.

Every evening as I stood in the narrow lane behind Sudipa’s house, she would throw her clothes and certificates out, and even hurl multiple pairs of shoes at me! Till date I haven’t figured out whether she thought we were eloping or heading to a fashion show. I mean, who cares about matching shoes at a time like that!

Anyway, over a period of one week Sudipa practically emptied her whole wardrobe and we left Shillong. It’s been more than a decade since we eloped from Shillong, and this is how the ending of our filmi love story looks like.

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