At the movies

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.

29 thoughts on “At the movies

  1. Pingback: 3 movies in 3 days | hAAthi

  2. Awesome review. You, just like you, I used to watch an avergae of a movie a week. So many forgetful films I would have watched. Back home, we had that kind of luxury to escape real world for a while and enter the reel world and lose yourselves for a couple of hours. Not anymore. I had high expectations from Ranjhaana, but I am glad I read the reviews first. 20 dollars per person (close to 900 bucks) is too much to spend on shit like this. Your husband is correct. A lot of people identify with such stories, in smaller towns especially.
    I hate the idea of stalking a girl, harrassing her, and making her say yes in exasperation. Really, at least this bit should change. It really galmourizes such behaviour and encourages lots of dicks to adopt such a behaviour.
    I always thought that Sonam Kapoor would make some thoughful decisons, given her constant ranting about being well-read, progressive, a voracious reader, nerdy bookworm, idealistic and …


    1. She says all those things about herself? For some reason films like Delhi 6 and Aisha (even though the film was horrid, I thought she player her character very well) had given me a rather positive impression of Sonam Kapoor. An impression that she has successfully shattered with her more recent choices.. I guess people do what works for them, and dont really think about it beyond that.


      1. exactly, I mean if you get 2-3 crores per movie, you would hardly care what impact it has on society, right? At least if you are still new and trying to establish yourself in an industry. You can always pass it off saying, that’s just a character, that’s not me. I believe in the director and his creative freedom. stuff like that. She can dust her plams and move on, it’s after all directors vision, she is just an actor.


  3. Sorry will have to disagree with you re: Man of Steel. It gave me a headache eventually. Me thinks director Snyder went a little overboard with special effects and the fighting scenes, like a kid in a candy store. The special effects seemed fake as if I was on a video game or something. My 6 year old who was next to me got so fed up, she commented, “enough already with the fighting, get over it, we all know the end will be happy”…couldn’t agree with her more. But have to give it to Henry Cavill- he is HOT. I spent a good part of the movie checking out his chiseled, perfect features instead of following the story line.


    1. The second half was a bit much, wasnt it? I have to agree there. We deliberately stayed away form the 3D show for this one, anticipating much special effect mumbo jumbo which invariably gives me a headache when viewed thru those glasses..


  4. Thanks for your review R, we just watched the trailer and I was annoyed! Why are people watching this movie and glorifying all that sadak chhap stalking?? Disgusting. Especially with the recent incidents and people campaigning for a better deal for women.


  5. So when I first heard about all the stalking and slitting wrists, I decided not to watch this movie. Also, Sonam Kapoor. But so many people on Facebook have been raving about it so I began to wonder if all that stalking and suicide is meant as warnings. But reading your post, I feel this is like so many Telugu/Tamil movies where love is equal to psycho stalking behaviour. And I find this very problematic. Because people ARE influenced by this; they take cues from cinema. And I think it’s very disturbing when this kind of threatening and stalking obsessive is painted as some great love. It’s even more disturbing when people accept it without seeing all the ways in which this is just wrong.


    1. Okay thank you. For a bit there i was wondering if maybe i was just being oversensitive. But yes i am also appalled when people are unable to just see right from wrong. I find that kind of fence sitting worse than being indifferent actually.

      Also, i am still trying to see what exactly people are raving about. What is it specifically that people have enjoyed about the film?! Either i am really stupid because i have missed it entirely or the movie has just gone way over my head.


  6. Ammu

    FB and youtube are over flowing with praises for this movie and I am sooo glad to see that FINALLY I met someone who shares my sentiments about Raanjhanaa. Like you said there are many things wrong about this movie- stalking, slapping, slashing wrists etc etc. Kundan and Bindiya are abused to the core and the director thought it was ok to glorify them? The second half was completely out of control and I just couldn’t wait for the movie to end. Bakhwas!


  7. R

    *deep breath* I’ve already ranted to you about how much Raanjhana ticked me off. This comment might be long. You’re warned.

    1. A.R.Rahman – I am not the most musically inclined person, but I do think there was nothing brilliant about his music. Especially given how much people are raving about it. Even Tum tak sounded like a mish- mash of the Sufi-type songs that he tends to have in most of his Hindi outings. And I am someone who otherwise loves Rahman.

    2. Swara Bhaskar – I didn’t find her acting as brilliant as most people make it out to be (just like how I never got what the big deal about Chitrangada is – acting chops? hers? where?). Hers was a role that was weighty, but either the director didn’t flesh it out enough or she didn’t do a good job of it. It could have been way better (especially when contrasted against the guy who played Murari. THAT was brilliant acting)

    3. Dhanush – he has only ever played the psycho- stalker role (or it’s many, many variants) in Tamil movies and given that I’ve intensely disliked everyone of them (that I have watched. Which are not enough movies), I should have stayed away

    As for the story line itself, there was so much wrong with it. And yet, we have people celebrating Dhanush and calling the Zoya character a manipulative princess bitch (absolutely no offence meant, Mincat). I will not debate her being called names, but then why not the Kundan role? How was the stalker behavior justified? If such behavior comes garbed in a way that makes you laugh, does it then become justified?

    Here was a man who was obsessed (I hate to even call what Kundan felt for Zoya, love). And what started when he was 5 or 6, never went away. That is scary. Not adorable. Slashing wrists, riding a vehicle into the river in anger (endangering someone else), cold- heartedly breaking off a wedding that is minutes away from happening and forgetting his own wedding day? Not to mention the physical abuse that he constantly subjected Bindiya to.That is behavior that calls for medical help. Not love. What atonement was the man seeking? Heck, the idiot went to the political rally despite knowing that he was going to die. In what parallel universe does that constitute love, pray? And yet, we have people rooting for this idiot!

    As for the statements about these movies not being made for the likes of us, while I get where they are coming from, I am done with listening to that one. In my circle there will always exists a friend/ a colleague/ a cousin/ the maid that works for me perhaps, to whom this is daily reality and then what? I still can’t have an opinion about it? I agree with VC. We are priviliged. But that, if anything should be all the more reasons why we object to this tripe that is served to us in the name of cinema. I have people on my FB page calling this movie wonderful. These are some of the same people who raised such a hue and cry not 6 months ago over the rape that shook the country. Somewhere here, is a deep, deep disconnect and If someone tells me that these two roads don’t meet somewhere, I will call him delusional.


    1. You know i actually liked swara bhaskar’s character as much as i did the murari one. I think i was just so miffed with the rest, that i was unable to articulate everything else that you have done so well here. For the first half i was convinced bindiya was only there to be whacked. And them be his puppet wife.

      Honestly everyone i watched it with hated it. I havent been on fb much so hvent seen if people are raving or ranting about it. But if theyre raving about it then THIS is just what is wrong with us as people. We forget so easily.


      1. R

        I liked her character, da. But I think she could have played it better. I read so many of her interviews in the recent past where she got touted as this brilliant heroine that I think I was looking for something spectacular in her acting.


    2. And as for the statements about these films not being made for the likes of us i say enough of making movies that speak to women differently. If we dont level the gaps in art and culture i dont know where we can begin. Our governments, judicial systems and law and order dont seem like theyre capable.


  8. Ranjanna was misogynistic. I guess after watching the trailer now, even I am not keen on checking it out now. Everybody on FB seems to be raving about it and I though I could check it out. But then again, many hit Indian movies seem misogynistic to me.


    1. Hee i saw this. I have to admit though im getting a little bored of Vigil Idiots formula. And he doesnt seem to be doing enough justice to the amount of stuff worth mocking in these movies! Either way you didnt miss anything. The movie was horrendous.


  9. oooo FASCINATING! i LOVED LOVED LOVED raanjahana and hated hated hated man of steel.
    man of steel could have been shot in 48 minutes, which would have made sense since it was essentially the pilot episode of a TV series.

    and raanjhana i loved because the spoilt self absorbed manipulative princess bitch got shafted at the end. and there was no oh this is a true love story and he gets the girl. it’s a real thing. people fuck up. he does a horrible thing and he atones and atones and maybe never can atone fully, and can never have her. not that she deserved either of them. it is the reality of the india that people behave badly with women. so why pretend otherwise? an in keeping with that reality, people get their desserts. the very fact that sonam refuses to acknowledge her own role in the abhay’s death even right at the end means she never grew or changed. dhanush’s ability to see his wrong and accept it and try and change, that’s psychological growth.

    hee sorry for rant


    1. I wasnt even expecting a “true love story” (what is a true love story, anyway??). I just think it was alluding to a lot more than a plain and simple people-fuck-up-and-sometimes-never-atone-their-actions plot line. And there it IS the reality in a large part of out country, and one doesnt need to pretend it doesnt exist, but the least one can do is not glorify it like it is the best way to go about relationships. Just because things have been a certain way for a long time, for a majority of our people doesnt mean it needs to be ruther reinforced. I have a huge problem with this its-true-so-why-not-dwell-on-it attitude. Every filmmaker, artist, author, musician doesn’t have to take a stand about an issue and make only “meaningful” stuff, but when you’re very obviously dealing with a subject that is open to interpretation, I think the role of a film-maker must be taken with some responsibility. The movie was as offensive as a K serial to me. I am not the target audience, and my reality is far removed form those that watch and engage with K serials on a daily basis, but that still doesnt make it right.

      I watch all kinds of movies. Silly ones, stupid ones, bad ones, good ones. Heck I watched YJHD and want to watch it again. But I have a problem with insensitive tripe that gets passed off in the name of entertainment.

      Also I had a serious problem with the number of times wrists were slashed in the movie. Ahem.


      1. haha yeah that just made me want to slash my wrists ;)
        i don’t know, the reason i think it was okay was because the wrist slashing did not lead to a resolution. where a K serial happens is where she is all heartbroken and turns to dhanush and they live happily ever after. that would have killed it for me.


        1. The husband says this to me a lot, that I am not the target audience and thats why I find most normal things offensive. I hated, and still loath DDLJ. I only got around to watching it last year, and for the mount everyone gushes and oohs and aahs about it, I was rather surprised because all I felt was rage. So maybe I really am not the right audience for most of these movies..

          But then I live 10 mins away from Inox, so I watch. And then I am annoyed.


  10. about rahman’s music, I think this blog entry might interest you:

    I have my reservations about raanjhanaa… The tactics of stalking and pestering and brow beating the idea of the girl into loving you either out of pity or out of fear doesn’t appeal to me. Not at all. I confess that it seemed romantic when I was young teen because it brought up about ideas of fighting for your love and not giving up, but as I got more sense it all seemed criminal.

    I have followed superman throughout his cartoons since the early 90s when I was a kid, and some from the comics I could get my hands on in school. As much as I love Nolan, I must point out that most of the story spins have been by Goyer who wrote the script and Snyder who directed. Infact, Nolan was didn’t want the fight with Zod and its end to be how it is but the two of them had to convince him for it. Goyer also had to show that how this would creep its effects into Man of Steel 2 and Justice League for which he is writing the script as well.

    I have watched YJHD, but since some scenes touch me in my personal life I am a bit partial to it.. So I guess my opinion would differ from general.


    1. I figured that Nolan’s role was only in part, only after I watched the movie and credits, actually :P But I also did realise how the end had to be manipulated to allow a crossover into the next part. But then like I said, knowing nothing about the real story, it suited me just fine. It was like watching a fresh movie with no prior understanding/knowledge of the plot.


Pour your thoughts over mine

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.