Friday, October 8, 2010

The Salander complex

"Women are strange little beasts,' he said to Dr. Coutras. 'You can treat them like dogs, you can beat them till your arm aches, and still they love you.' He shrugged his shoulders. 'Of course, it is one of the most absurd illusions of Christianity that they have souls."
— W. Somerset Maugham (The Moon and Sixpence)

Having finished two of the books in the millenium series by Steig Larsson, I am left quite impressed by his sketch of the protagonist - Salander. She is a girl-woman who has had an extremely disturbed childhood and resorts to silence as her defence against the world. She is wrongly perceived as mentally unstable and ends up a victim of some powerful people. Only, she has too much self-respect to accept her victim status. The book's grip comes from an analysis of her rebellious character. She trusts no one but herself and consequently, becomes so capable of handling her life that she becomes in fact, the protectress of the few people who do care for her. It is the people who perceive her as an easy prey that the reader ends up smirking at. How cool.
But then I got thinking about her personality and contrasted this term I coined to describe her attitude - "the Salander complex"- with the well-known Cinderella complex that so many women suffer from. That of the victim-in-waiting for her Prince Charming. Even today, women have a ready acceptance of their victim status and seem happy with the sympathy they garner, never attempting to gain real respect. I also doubt this is true only in places like India where women are traditionally taught to be submissive. The Cinderella complex is a term coined in fact to refer to women in developed countries who, despite their education and potential, refuse to take charge of their lives. They are perenially waiting for someone to take care of them and smooth things out. It has something to do with the differences in the way men and women are raised to see their place in the world. But as a well-educated adult, can't one decide for oneself? It is common sense to see that giving up responsibilities for your own happiness only "seems" easy and that it exacts a huge ransom. No one can watch out for your happiness the way you can surely. It is unfair even to demand that another person ensure you be happy because you have duly submitted to that person's will. I see nothing wrong in the fact that women prioritise relationships over most aspects in their lives. In fact, I think they have got it right. But to accept indignity, to be unable to shed bad relationships that hurt one's own self, that is pathetic and contemptible. I wish more women developed a Slander complex instead, it would probably bring about World Peace!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Take a bow Salman

For once, I completely agree with Nikhat Kazmi –the movie critic of the Times of India. This film is seriously good, definitely not meant for fans of serious cinema and totally satisfying for those who enjoy the “silly” factor of bollywood. I was lucky to have watched Om Shanti Om in a single screen theatre in Jaipur. The audience reaction upped the experience considerably. But I enjoyed Dabangg despite watching it on a multiplex screen that was not even half full of the urban crowd who at best, are subdued in their reactions.

The movie is a well-budgeted, smartly helmed, typically bollywood, B film. It felt like a cross between Omkara and Om Shanti Om and is apparently aimed at the group that was till recently called the “front benchers”. Actually at the end of the film I wondered if the film will be a hit with the masses since I genuinely enjoyed it. I hope it is. Salman is the single biggest reason why this film works and probably the reason why the film got made. And no, am no fan of Sallu Bhai. But only he could have carried off so audaciously the character of Chulbul Pandey, the lovable corrupt cop (the promos are absolutely correct) who pauses to deliver macho dialogues in the midst of fights and breaks into gyrations too when the guy who is getting smashed by him suddenly gets a call. He quite likes the caller tune you see. “Wacky” describes the film. But where Tashan failed so miserably in being a celebration of mindless panache, this film succeeds brilliantly.
Abhinav Kashyap the director of this film, brings out the hinterland in a self-assured, knowledgeable manner, that neither glorifies it, nor makes any morbid statement about poverty. The family drama is really in the tradition of bollywood – brotherhood, revenge and the omnipotent presence of Ma. But it never bores you – the sense of déjà vu comes later. Sonakshi Sinha as the “heroine” is unusual by today’s standards. Unconventionally good looking, rather tall, and so not skinny. I found her interesting. The music is already a huge hit. And there are lots more songs than I was aware of in the film. That was one of the very few things I didn’t like. But Malaika Arora’s number would make for fantastic viewing with the “right” crowd.

Salman, his glares reflecting a neon heart shape has a whale of a time going about his role. He is in his element after quite a long time I think. And as the “shirtless wonder”, will amuse you in the climax. If you like bollywood for its uniqueness (though not quite in the tradition of films where chiffon-clad women are getting all weepy) you are more than likely to enjoy the film. For me, this is a cult film in the league of Om Shanti Om, Dev D, and even Kaminey.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It is all about sacrificing ji.

This is why I love the johar chopra itsallaboutlovingyourfamily brigade. Their ability to completely distort relations till you have no clue what being real means. Honestly, watching a skilled contortionist wouldn’t be half as thrilling. For those of you who have seen stepmom and cried, you can watch this and guffaw. Kajol as the ever suffering divorced mom of three kids is someone I couldn’t summon a shred of sympathy for. What a bizarre character! Stepmom was about dispelling the myth of a wicked stepmom and replacing her with a genuine person. But it never attempted to suggest that the ex-wife and girlfriend should now dance atop tables and find bonhomie! But then I guess from Bollywood’s POV, isme drama kidhar hai? Nobody is SACRIFICING anything!! A mother dying and leaving her three kids whom she has spent her life caring for is scarcely something that will arouse paroxysms of weepiness in the saas-bahu watching auntyjis. Still, Bollywood wanted to make this out-of-cultural-context movie by “tweaking” it to Indian tastes. Instead they just mauled it completely.

So the Husband, on hearing of his wife’s terminal disease, promptly dumps his girlfriend whom he is said to be in love with, to come and live with his wife. Offering support by being there is so bland you see. The girlfriend is one step ahead in this sacrifice ka imtihaan, and she smugly tells him – “Agar main tumhari jagah hoti toh main bhi aise hi karti”. Checkmate. The wife, not to be outdone, suggests that while she has her children’s past, her children’s future now lies with the girlfriend. When the girlfriend says that she is not the “mom-type”, the all-knowing motherindia pooh-poohs her dismissively saying every woman just is. Na ri Na ri …………….but who cares. This is pop-corn fun at its best.

The extraordinary situation is a first for Hindi cinema surely. Now that is what a situational comedy really means. If the audience did not seem so stunned (I think a lot of them were weeping and only very few were chuckling naughtily at the wrong places), I would have clapped and ceetee maaroed and thrown coins at the screen when all those tears were rolling down all those stereotype character’s faces. You have all the johar chopra accessories – pretty houses (pogen pohl kitchen FYI), very pretty clothes, scenic surroundings. Aur kya chahiye? There is comedy, there is rona dhona, there is a fashion show. Total family entertainment.

And really, you must pay special attention to the Jailhouse rock version that kajol sings. Hello ji let’s dance. Welcome to panjuland!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Rajneeti is a film that marshalls many "strengths" - multiple stars, grandness of scale, ample funding, and most importantly a genuinely respected director at its helm. Unfortunately all this adds up to nought. The film starts, if not promisingly, at least credibly enough, in true Bollwood fashion - a flashback. A number of characters are rapidly introduced and the fact that it is based on the Mahabharata is quickly made apparent. The story is about a political family and the fight for power between the cousins. Shashi Tharror first married Indian Politics to the epic story and he did an astoundingly brilliant job of it in his book The Great Indian Novel. Shyam Benegal did a corporate take on the same story with his film Kalyug, in the '70s. That too was a brilliant adaptation. Given the nature of the Mhahabharata as an epic - its everlasting relevance and the range of characters and situations, it should not have been a difficult task for Prakash Jha to do the same. But he chooses instead to second guess the commercial viability of his film and imbue it with bollywoodesque scenes and dialogues intended to generate ceetees. The result is scenes of rhetorical dialoguebaazi, sex and violence. And the typical mango people reacted with ceetees yes but also cackles of amusement at the dialogues and sex scenes which were silly and contrived. Ranbir and Katrina both struggle in roles that expect too much from their limited capabilities. Nana Patekar and Ajay Devgan cakewalk it but without much of an impact and the rest of the cast except for Manoj Bajpai, who is brilliant, are adequate. I liked Arjun Rampal's performance too. But ultimately the weak script leaves one with an uninvolved attitude. Ajay Devgan doesn't leave you anguished at the unfairness of life, Nana Patekar as Bheeshma/Krishna arouses no awe and Ranbir as Arjuna the noble warrior stands for nothing like nobility. Its a vaccuous film that I was hoping would redeem itself atleast towards the very end, by stressing the sheer meaninglessness of existence by a nihilistic finale. But no such luck. The ending is vapid, pointless. After Kites, yet another film that proves the unreliability of Big Names.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Started reading this book called The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks yesterday. I have never really been a fan of the bestselling romantic fiction but the premise in this one seemed interesting - that of a 50 plus man seeking to make his wife fall in love with him again. It began well enough - but the whole goody-goody ness of the book reached its peak when the author devoted two full pages explaining how christianity saved him from being a dull and miserable atheist (after stating that he would not dwell on this aspect of his life). His wife is good and kind and a firm believer who, he proudly states, would not have married him, had she not felt that he would one day turn to Jesus as his saviour.

While the tribal instincts of proselytising religions (may our tribe increase) is inherently irritating, I am always left feeling stunned by the illogical sense of superiority of their proponents. In the middle of a romantic novel you come against this? I can imagine that the "average" reader of this type of fiction belongs to a certain demographic and that has led the writer to pander to his taste. But surely an educated person, claiming a certain level of emotional maturity will understand that there are others who do not share the same beliefs? Apparently not.

This attitude could be forgiven in someone belonging to a century ago - education was more catechism then. But today, no matter what your beliefs, exposure to various cultures should have fostered a sense of respect for differences in beliefs. After all each religion exists merely on the faith of its disciples. There is no external proof of its truth. It is simply stupid then to keep insisting that all those not in your tribe are pathetic. Plus, there are platforms for these rants - take them there.

A girl once gave me a book about a Hindu brahmin who converted to Christianity after the "Holy Cow" chased him down a field with its horns lowered after he offered to feed it. It was a giggle fest for me.
The literal-minded can also be amusing beyond belief. Of course when I offered her a book on the goddess Kali as a return favour, she was offended. :)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hinterland Dirama

Fun on the run - the rather non-specific promotional tag for the film actually is a pretty good description of the film Ishqiya. It's desi Chase - guns, self-deprecatory characters who often find themselves at the wrong end of these guns, a deceptive ingenue'/moll who uses them but who they fall for,and a gripping plot - very basic ingredients of a Hadley Chase novel.

The desi part however is what really has you impressed. After Omkara, whose colourful language had us piqued, Ishquiya has us rolling in the aisles. Humour is definitely the biggest thing on offer here. The side-splitting dialogues are enhanced by the utterly original characters and comic situations.This is one of those movies where I came out recounting the "scenes" and laughing over them. The pock-marked tycoon with his beauty-parlour mistress dressed like Helen and using a chabuk/used-parlour-brush on him while he lies all tied up and blind-folded had me laughing till I cried. And am not exaggerating.

The Indian hinterland with it's unfamiliar terrain, lingo and lifestyle forms a fascinating character by itself. Mira Nair is so right in saying that Bharadwaj is that rare Indian filmmaker who could appeal to an international audience because his films reveal a unique, native understanding of his roots.

The characters are, like all Bharadwaj (story writer, composer) characters, entirely original. From the tamancha wielding, paanch-kum-bees lad to the toothless old woman who wisecracks with the lafangas, the cast is sheer delight. Naseer is in form is what you can say about him. But Arshad Warsi and Vidya Balan are the revelations. Baby-faced, sexy, scheming, coy and vulnerable - Vidya plays her character with the ease of a veteran. All the number 1 and number 2 size zeros can go take a hike. This woman can act.

Arshad Warsi with all the kajal in UP in his eyes, plays the goofy macho man with elan. He has put in some serious hard work into his character and the best part is that he makes it look like he was born to play the role. Abhishek Chaubey in his directorial debut, looks like he has taken more than a leaf from Bharadwaj in terms of style. Old hindi film songs provide the background score in the most apt places and heighten the atmospherics of the tale, characters and dialogues drive the plot, and the music only adds to everything. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Aaal well indeed.

Aamir Khan’s annual Christmas present has opened to a fantastic response. I was expecting a lot from this film for 2 reasons – first because it stars Aamir Khan  and second because it is directed by Raju Hirani. From the two earlier films of Hirani it is clear that he literally thinks out of the box and is secure enough in his rather ethical outlook on life, to try and convert the cynical viewer. To get the audience to agree with Gandhi in India is astonishing. And yet he managed it triumphantly in his last film. In 3 idiots he has a much easier task. That of telling us that our education system stinks. We know that already, and agree wholeheartedly.

Aamir does his role of a genius-with-not-the-slightest-interest-in-marks as brilliantly as one could expect from him. Am more than a little sick of the ageing 40+ stars playing students, one of the reasons I was not sure about this film – but that just doesn’t come up as a glitch, as Aamir looks seriously young. Madhavan and Sharman Joshi who make up the other 2 idiots, are reliably good too. Kareena Kapoor plays the simple girl well enough, but really, there is not much for her to do. ( Manish Malhotra dresses her in pretty but fuss-free clothes for a change and she looks super). Boman Irani shuffles around in his typical professor attire looking like grim the reaper and inducing you to chuckles.

The story uses Chetan Bhagat’s 5 point-someone as a base but makes some significant changes, the most important one being the mystery behind Rancho (Aamir). Hirani’s refusal to be in awe of the wealthy or the titled or the certified, makes up much of the altered vision in this story. The black-and-white take on the poverty-stricken parents of Sharman whose filmily sad lives still manages to evoke good-natured-humour must be a first for hindi cinema. The movie packs in every dramatic situation – from the runaway bride to natural birth by engineers-turned-nervous-obstetricians. It’s all there - masala entertainment that still tells you the hero could be from some godforsaken part of unmainstream India. I believe the critics are holding back their stars after gushing about something as insipid as New York. Fikar not – you are going to love this one.