It came to my attention yesterday over coffee, that living 10 minutes away from the only Inox in all of Goa, has ensured that I watch an average of a movie a week. Being a bit of a movie junkie, the anything-will-do sort, also means that I end up watching a good variety of stuff. Everything from memorable, contemplative films that stay with you, to all the Bollywood-style tripe that comes along, the odd artsy film and if you are anything like the husband, then every single animated film too. Watching so many movies also means that the good really stands out and the bad really rankles. Like it did on Saturday, when I made the cardinal error of watching Raanjhanaa.
I guess the downside of being so willing to watch everything that comes along is also that even trailers don’t act as a sufficient warning sign. Or maybe I was overly optimistic, when I saw this most annoying trailer, that glorified classic chhora-chhori stalking, and thought that maybe the film would be a statement against the sort of behaviour.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The trailer caused a huge hue and cry for the opening dialogues that boldly stated that in UP, it was some sort of tradition to “woo” a girl in only two ways. Either you pester her till she gets tired and gives in. Or you move to plan B, which is to frighten the crap out of her and basically harass her into saying yes. And By “woo” of course I mean stalk. While I wasn’t as offended by the trailer as most other people were, and I was willing to give the story some credit, in the hope that there might be an intelligent spin to it somewhere, the movie proved to be everything but what I had hoped. It was a long, painful, pointless, meandering story that basically made a hero out of a stalker, portrayed the average woman to be silly and anchorless, with her only pursuit in life being to find a “suitable boy”. The first criterion for which is to stick firmly within the boundaries of your religion.
As if all of that was not bad enough, my irritation was further fuelled by the fact that despite Dhanush’s character being the obvious twisted almost-villainous one in the film (you know, with all the stalking, harassment, stupidity and unjustified violence), somehow by the end of it he was made the hero, and Sonam Kapoor’s character, despite ticking off all the boxes that make a Good Indian Girl (you know, listens to her parents when she gets sent away to a different city for falling in love with a Hindu boy, and what not!) is the bad guy!
So you get the gist. It was like watching something form the 80s. Except it was so much worse because it is in fact 2013. And while we’re busy taking to the streets asking for justice for lives lost to violence against women, and demanding safety and security for women, spreading awareness about most of this has to do with bringing up our boys right, somewhere people loaded with enough money to make extravagant and visually rich movies get away with dishing out tripe like this.
Okay, maybe the film-maker is a misogynist, and thought the story was a great one worthy of being told but what’s wrong with Abhay Deol? Sonam Kapoor? Dhanush? Exactly where did they drop their brains and think it was perfectly okay to be a part of a film that glorifies chauvenism, portrays a twisted idea of love, and drags us as a country right back to that spot that we should be moving away from. The spot where women are but objects to be acquired, and it can’t be done unless you slash your wrists at least three times, aggressively harass, intimidate and overpower the love of your life.
The Husband is always quick to tell me that movies like this portray the truth. That to more than half of India, this is normal, every day life. That the average Johnnie isn’t going to take offense at such a film. That I am in the privileged minority of girls. And I don’t refute that. He’s right. Girls like Zoya (Sonam Kapoor) and Bindiya (Dhanush’s stepney love interest) are textbook Indian girls. They exist. In large numbers. But my issue is with the romantic portrayal of their actions, their lives and realities. Isn’t it time we realised that those circumstances are far from ideal, and we must stop portraying them in such a glorious manner?
I’m all for cinematic license and creative authority to tell all kinds of stories, but I do think a bit of a reality check is in order. If film makers do not see that they are influencers, that the cinema they so lightheartedly portray actually does have an impact on thousands of Indians, then there really is no hope.
I all of this, I almost forgot to mention AR Rahman has lent an utterly forgettable soundtrack to the film. I am tempted to believe the soundtrack was limp and insipid to begin with, and given the incredibly annoying quality of the film and story, there wasn’t much the music could do to salvage the sitaution.
This should ideally be a post about how you shouldn’t bother watching Raanjhanaa, and how you should do everything in your power to stop everybody you know from watching it too, but I should probably also tell you about some of the other films I’ve watched in recent times.
Man of Steel: I’m not much of a superhero fan, except for Ironman (for obvious reasons), and even amongst the few superhero films I have watched, Superman was probably the least memorable. I had no idea about the legends and stories associated with Superman, so I had no reason to really want to watch this movie. But I did because I was expecting a Nolan-esque spin to the story. And those, I love. Given that I knew not much of the back-story to begin with, and I think Nolan is a bit of a story-telling genius, I enjoyed Man of Steel. Sure, the sequence of events was a bit mixed up, a little too fast, sometimes cheesy in parts, but it is a superhero film, and one is expected to suspend logic and belief. So given that framework, I loved it. It helped that Henry Cavill is rather dishy in a posterboy sort of way, and the music was truly overwhelming in a way that added a build up that the film was lacking a bit.
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: What does it mean that you’re willing to watching a film you didn’t care much for, a second time, only to get to see Ranbir Kapoor’s moves again? It means I am hopelessly crushing on him. And not without reason. He did it for me in Rockstar, in Barfii, in Raajneeti and again in YJHD. Shitty films story-wise, but pulled right through simply because RK was born to be in front of the camera. I’m willing to overlook Deepika Padukone’s sassy turnaround, and her no-holds-barred enactment of the reversal of role, the fact that she is made to look more ravishing that she actually might be with deliberately incomplete looking, situation-inappropriate costumes (I’m talking short, tight denim dresses while trekking in the snow), the large absence of a coherent storyline and everything else that was wrong with the film, just to watch RK dance and play his role, which he does complete justice to.
Fukrey: This was a complete roll-on-the-floor-with-laughter kind of silly movie. Meaningless, but funny. Nonsensical, but in good humor, this is a story about 4 aimless wastrels who find themselves embroiled in a bizarre case of embezzlement. Richa Chaddha has attitude, and the 4 boys are rather hilarious, with names like Hunni, Lali and Choocha, and each of them having a distinct character. Most times I am okay with this kind of leave-your-brain-behind-and-enjoy-the-movie kind of cinema, if I feel the story is imaginative and the characters creatively etched out.
Thankfully, the good has mostly overshadowed the bad in the last few weeks and I have been sufficiently entertained at the movies. What I really wish for is a good, solid, memorable Hindi movie (I have my eyes on Bhaag Milkha Bhaag) and a mindless, English rom-com to come along.