Stop enforcing feminism on Bollywood

It’s disappointing when Shah Rukh Khan shirks away from topic of a slightly better shelf-life, or even equal pay for Bollywood actresses. Not because of his many roles as a stalker, emotional blackmailer, misogynist have paved the way for his enlightened view on ageism. But because he is considered one of the more intelligent actors around. According to him, women work ‘5 times harder and gets paid ten times less,’ and the market forces determine the value of an actor.

And he’s not wrong.

This is the reason why Dangal wouldn’t have done well if Aamir Khan hadn’t played the tough patriarch. It’s the reason why Mary Kom, which is also about a successful female boxer didn’t do well. It’s also the reason why Sultan did do well. Then again, bhai ka picture always does well.

We do have the occasional Mardani, Queen, or Jai Gangajal. But they will never come close to the sycophantic 100-crore club, which remains dominated by the likes of Khan. Of the top 10 most commercially successful Hindi films, only one is without a Khan (Bajirao Mastani). And of the highest grossing 15 Indian films, only Bahubali and Rajnikant’s Kabali are Khan-less.

In a sense, SRK is right. Commercial cinema is entrenched in financial super-success. Seemingly, the people in the best position to change that are the Khans.

Aamir, with Dangal being his last release, is the one creating the most positive change. A film about two young girls who are sportwomen, and not romantic accessories, is something none of the Khans have done before. He may have played an authoritarian with little regard for his daughters’ wishes, but any father-daughter story from Haryana that doesn’t involve infanticide, forced marriage or honour killing is commendable.

SRK may publicly accept the sexism and ageism, but that’s all he’s willing to do. He may even go the extra mile to patronise feminists by saying women are better than men. But his films rarely demonstrate a basic respect for women. He might have done a Chak De! India, but that does not dissolve him of his criminal offences like Chennai Express and Happy New Year.

Speaking of criminals, Salman may have films with fiesty-looking women, until they fall in love with him and forget all previous personality traits. They dissolve into the quintessential Bollywood wife: attractive impregnable slaves. Salman, on the other hand, has risen even more ever since he stopped trying to put an effort into his roles.

As the actresses cast against them get younger and younger, they are in such a cemented position that they will never get rejected by the heroine. That responsibility falls solely upon Ranbir Kapoor. Age is not the only deterrant to women starring against the Khan. They will have no qualms starring against ‘pure’ newcomers. On the other hand, the industry will subtly (and overtly) slut-shame Sunny Leone. She can be an item number, but never the love interest of any of Bollywood’s most expensive men.

Bollywood’s leading women have predominantly shied away, or gone back and forth on being feminists. And it’s completely fair that they don’t call themselves the f-word. It’s because they aren’t feminists.

The only women who have openly addressed the wage-gap are Kareena Kapoor Khan and Kangna Ranaut. Yet, one is known for her whimsical behaviour, or her apparently horrifying choice of name for her own son. The other one is known for her terrible taste in men.

There have been moments of some female empowerment. Cleavage gapers have been shamed, a cricketer boyfriend of an actress spoke up against calling her a ‘distraction’, and there are some women without the ideal Bollywood-heroine body type defending their right to exist whilst not looking like a Barbie doll.

However, none of the actresses are ready to be openly feminist. They dance in heels while men wear flats. They wear skimpy clothes and dance in freezing temperatures with a fully clothed man. They are constantly nitpicked on for their natural facial features and bodies. And if they dare change something, they will be shamed for that. They work as much as the men do. Their financial success is short-lived: many of them will be out of work by the time they’ve reached their industry shelf-life – for everyone loves a movie about a man and a youngthinbeautifulperfect woman. In spite of this, if they still don’t firmly believe that they deserve equal pay, then they’re really not feminists.

So we should really stop asking every famous vagina-owner about feminism. Especially when they come from an industry created to satisfy the patriarchy through elaborate song-and-dance rituals. If we want an unbridled feminist moment from Bollywood, all we can do is wait for the occasional Queen. Or even a Sunny Leone interview.

Everything you’ve heard about Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is wrong

Movie critics are infuriating, and, for the most part, pointless. Sometimes they coddle the Bollywood industry that produces mediocre recycled films. And sometimes they criticize the same industry for not having enough variety, in spite of knowing that this system has a 95% reservation for privileged Punjabi school dropouts with famous parents.

But recently the most infuriating critiques have been of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.  For Karan Johar to make a film where the hero and heroine do not end up together is great personal growth, even though he decided to make the woman terminally ill for refusing to sleep with Ranbir Kapoor.

A common complain that critics had with this film was that the major characters do not, in the course of the film have any jobs or any sort of commitment. But surely you cannot expect a horny toddler such as Ranbir to work for a living? And his nanny, Anushka had to quit her job after she married Fawad Khan. Aishwarya Rai Bacchan had to nanny Ranbir after she left, which didn’t work out. You know how children are when you suddenly change their favourite nanny. Just because people don’t have clearly stated professions such as DJ, poet and artist, doesn’t mean they don’t work for a living.

Another very severe criticism of this film was how Ranbir constantly keeps getting rejected by Anushka, and somehow understands at the end that she only wants to be friends, even though she had been saying so the whole time. It’s funny, I don’t remember anyone having a problem with the same end in alternate realities while watching Inception.  (Yes, this is the Indian remake of Inception). At least Ranbir and Anushka don’t die at the end of every reality (well, almost).

It enraged some that Fawad Khan was part of this film. This protest, disguised as a nationalist agenda, was actually a secret attempt by Fawad Khan to unentangle himself from the giant Johar-hug that he had gotten into.

Not enough credit is being given to Ranbir Kapoor, the new SRK. He cried, behaved like a child, was the ideal spoilt hormonal MBA student. He went one step ahead and applied mehendi. He judged his girlfriend for cheating on him in the exact way he had tried to cheat on her a few nights ago and victimised himself. He even attempted to be sexist to his lover by commodifying her in front of her ex-husband. Albeit he was overshadowed by Mr. Khan himself, who did a much better job of glorifying perversion by speaking about obsessive behaviour in Urdu and making it sound like unrequited love. Ranbir even got physically abusive and wrecked the kitchen of a cancer patient in the end. Yet, he doesn’t have the command of Shah Rukh Khan. Star kids really are held up to an unrealistic standard.

This film is a milestone in Hindi cinema, which never got the respect it deserves. But if you haven’t watched Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, don’t worry; you have. Imagine you have made a variety of over-spiced but tasty dishes for dinner. Then imagine waking up the next morning, putting all those foods in a mixer.

‘The vomit that you produce after drinking that swill,

Is Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’

Game of Thrones celebrates the dumbing down of fantasy fiction

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When I began watching the Game of Thrones series, I found it mildly interesting, with great potential. I watched the first three seasons, and while the world waited for the fourth season, I began reading A Song of Ice and Fire.

 

Since I knew all the major plot twists and events, there was no initial shock quotient for me. I knew Ned Stark’s head will be chopped off. I knew Danaerys is going to choke Khal Drogo to his merciful death. And of course, I knew about the Red Wedding.

 

When Robb and Catelyn Stark died in Game of Thrones, it was sad, sure. But when Catelyn Stark, just before being killed at the Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords, thinks “not my hair, Ned loved my hair” to herself, it was purely agonizing. Mr. Martin truly shines through Cat’s last thoughts. The books were a complex web of relationships and power struggles with deep histories. And Game of Thrones was a mere entry into the story of Westeros. 

 

That’s another thing that bothers me. Calling the entire book series “Game of Thrones”. I can’t believe the readers let this happen. A Song of Ice and Fire, for all its cruelty and gruesome murders, seems to have the most demure readership. I cannot imagine Harry Potter fans letting the world call the book series ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’. Or Lord of the Rings readers allowing the unabashed use of ‘The Fellowship of the Rings’ as a blanket term for all the books.

 

But I digress.

 

Another grave injustice by the show was the dismissal of Sansa Stark as a whiny, pansy little girl. She’s a pretty 11-year-old girl who has been the perfect lady all her life. Arya Stark is a brilliant character, but her non-feminine looks grant her the freedom to pretend to be a boy and at times, be invisible. Someone who’s strikingly pretty as Sansa cannot rough it with men in the jungle; and if you had read the book (or observed how the world treats pretty girls), you would have understood that.

 

For reasons that evade me, the showmakers thought it would be a good idea to not give enough footage to Ser Davos, the Onion Knight, much importance. They thought that Jorah Mormont should be a distinguished-looking man, rather than the ageing paedophile that he was.

 

George R. R. Martin is not a writer who is known for subtlety, metaphors or beautiful words. He’s a writer who creates intense, layered characters, all of whom change according to their life experiences but never quite lose their essence. He never for a moment forgets one to play up another.

 

But now, Game of Thrones prefers to play up the characters that people already know, and make them meet in ridiculous scenarios. Such as Sansa and Ramsay Bolton. Or introduce completely pointless characters such as the child who apparently kills Jon Snow.

 

What’s even more discouraging is that Martin has crossed over from the side of letting words titillate your mind to the evil side of sitting and watching. He refuses to sit his massive butt down and finish The Winds of Winter. Instead, he insists on providing garbage alternative plots to the show.

 

As if all the mystery of asoiaf hadn’t been destroyed by these oversimplified episodes, the media now celebrates the fact that readers can’t give spoilers to the TV watchers. The fact that I enjoy giving spoilers has nothing to do with my aversion to this monstrous pomposity. It is this gradual descent into catering to the masses, popular choices and the unbearable dumbing down of pop culture into the purely visual, mainly sexual and violent content that seems to please us these days.

 

Don’t get me wrong: I fully support visual graphic medieval torture and love-making. All I ask for is Mr. Martin to be a little more considerate towards the thing that started it all, his epic masterpiece book series. I suppose he’s just not a Northman. Or he would have remembered.

Why an SRK-Kajol fan decided not to watch Dilwale

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Beyond all the heavy-breathing, suicidal, self-sacrificial and psychotic behaviours that Bollywood tries to pass off as romance, we had SRK and Kajol: lovers who actually looked like they have fun together (after the heavy-breathing-passion phase). She, with her unibrow and terrible fashion choices, and he, with a rather large nose, rag doll hair and worse fashion choices, created magic on screen in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. And again in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and My Name Is Khan. Kajol then went on to fulfill her gender’s destiny of getting married and having children; and Shah Rukh went on to do what his gender is aspires to do: younger women.

 

Their pairing was truly revered, which is why it was appalling that we, as a society, let their reunion be directed by Rohit Shetty. Especially considering the fact that his idea of humour is midgets in forests and South India in general. It’s like finding your lost dog and then letting Cruella De Vil babysit him.

 

Every piece of news about Dilwale became a topic of national concern. Like the song Gerua, which looks like Suraj Hua Maddham high on editing tools. Or the trailer, where you can find Rohit Shetty’s CV, Rohit Shetty’s car fetish, every shade of every colour on the spectrum being present in every scene at the same time, and Varun Dhawan dancing in front of European Union flags. Oh, and the presence of Kriti Sanon, because I’m sorry but you can’t just make movies without a hot woman under 30 and survive in mainstream Bollywood. Or the news about how Dilwale is up against Bajirao Mastani, a period drama exemplifying our fascination with our past, as long as it revolves around our historical figures’ sex lives.

 

The most striking comment was, perhaps, Varun Dhawan saying that Dilwale was like Inception. If by that he meant it would make viewers wonder whether there is actually an end to this film, he may have been right.

 

Even the reviews drew upon everyone’s love for entertainment and the lead actors as a reason to watch the film. These are the words that critics tend to use when they need to include one obligatory pseudo-positive comment about every Salman Khan film that comes out. Even Taran Adarsh seemed like he had been hit by a tranquiliser in his review, and Anupama Chopra’s critique was actually interesting to read.

 

Rohit Shetty took SRK and Kajol and treated them like any other random Bollywood couple. Instead of trying to use the magic they create on screen, he tried to put them into recycled scenes from Mission Impossible 2, How I Met Your Mother, Love Actually and DDLJ. Just because you like ice cream, Biryani, jalebi and pasta, it doesn’t mean you have to mix all of them together and force feed it to victims of mass hysteria.

 

All I wanted was to watch Shah Rukh and Kajol through the eyes of Karan Johar. Which is why, I decided against watching the film that would probably destroy the image of the couple who started the trend of road trips in Bollywood. And even though they were propagating Bharatiya sanskaar all the while, they still managed to look cool doing that.

 

P.S. On the other hand, maybe I should watch Dilwale. I still haven’t gotten over Kuljeet Singh and his homies beating up Raj at the station. Watching this movie might just help me feel better about it.

 

 

Tanu Weds Manu Returns – The worst rebound relationship ever

The last time Kangna was on screen, she inspired many girls to be dumped by their fiances and take off on an adventure.

In Tanu Weds Manu Returns, she’s in a double role where both her characters are strong women  (which merely means they were attributed characteristics other than bubbliness, vivaciousness and a dramatic switch to ‘decent’ clothes after falling in love with the hero).

But the movie drags on in a bizarre series of events, leaving you wondering when the original disastrous couple are finally getting back together. At least, you hope that he’ll end up with Tanu because Kusum is way out of his league. However, it’s not a complete waste of a film. You do get to see a sardar in shiny garba attire playing dandiya.

 

Kangna has been praised for her performance, and also for being the first female lead to carry a movie into the sycophantic hundred-crore film club. Not that she doesn’t deserve the laurels, but what I really want to talk about is R. Madhavan’s character, Manu. Being a doctor, a quintessential ‘good guy’, a resident of London, a doctor, a resident of London, a quiet well-behaved person and a doctor, he is accorded the kind of self-worth that was previously only reserved for beautiful virgin princesses.

In the dramatic series of events that follow, Manu goes on to demonstrate one of the worst rebound relationships in the history of mankind. He stalks a young college girl who looks like his wife, makes her stand up to fight with her conservative Haryanvi family so that she could marry him and then refuses to have any semblance of courage to speak up and tell her the marriage isn’t going to work when he feels it isn’t right. His wife, Tanu, though neurotic, shows the stubbornness and grit to get back her husband. On the other hand, the only thing Manu is stubborn about is his refusal to think before making the decision to marry.  And to be a nuisance to Raja Awasthi whenever he attempts to get married.

Tanu was a player and doing absolutely nothing in London instead of enjoying all the attention and freedom that she previously did in Kanpur. That’s not a sign of a very mature personality, and Manu would have realised that if he had bothered considering that before, but he was too busy being the creep who kisses an unconscious girl, and then wants to marry her (that seems to be his reaction to everything).

As I write this, I have realised that Manu Sharma is in fact, the quintessential Bollywood heroine. He has no personality, waits around to be rescued  and has no particular interests other than wanting to be married. Tanu and Kusum would do well to take a cue from Rani and go away on a trip far away from him—they would forget all about Sharma.

Happy New Year does seem to have it all

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Happy New Year is a quintessential Bollywood movie, but it is much more than that. It draws you towards itself like a moth to a flame, and leaves you wondering why you would watch it. More importantly, it leaves you entertained, which makes you severely judge yourself. This is a ground-breaking movie, a pioneer. By that I mean it is perhaps the first movie to issue a warning that alcohol is injurious to health, to an audience that has previously only been warned about smoking.
But I digress. Moving on, this movie has everything an entertainer should have.

Historical significance: A very strong representation of Indians, their obsession with former glory and blue diamonds. Also reminiscent of Shah Rukh Khan’s wonderful performances (strictly historical).
Guardian Angels: Excerpts from movies like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Chak De India, etc.
The Martyr: Dubai. Chosen over other exotic locales, only to be used for its harshness and brutality to punish Jackie Shroff and then discarded. Plus, their police had to be extra accommodating, Bollywood police style, to let SRK trash talk with Jackie Shroff towards the end.
The Parental Figure: Jackie Shroff. He may be harsh, but he really is an over involved parent at heart. Which other businessman takes personal interest in the dance competitions he sponsors? Which other filthy rich guy takes a personal interest in the surveillance of his vault, not to mention give a guided tour of said vault to his employees?

The villain: Dance. I believe the ‘art’ has died a slow death. To be fair, the dance teacher (Deepika) was stiff as a cardboard so it wasn’t right to expect much from the rest. But I suppose her lack of talent is excusable, because she’s hot.

Token regional representation: Here, we have Abhishek Bacchan and Deepika vying for worst Marathi accent, giving Kareena from Singham some tough competition.

Patriotism: The emotion of patriotism has been exhibited by a devotional/dance song ‘Indiawale’. Also represented is the sad state of affairs in the country, through the peoples’ obsession with an obscure and shady dance competition.

Adventurous activities: Drenching Shahrukh in mud and water, and trying to convince the audience that his body is sexier than his eyes.
Places of tourist interest: Sonu Sood’s abs and Deepika’s navel.
Comeback Moment: A gentle reminder of Dino Morea’s acting career.
Pop Culture References: This is a movie that combines Don, all the Dhooms and Step Ups
Distinguishing feature: Farah Khan’s skill. Skill to get SRK to tattoo (albeit a temporary one) ‘For you Farah’ on his back. And to get Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Dadlani to dance as drag queens.

Finding Fanny is like Chicken Curry

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This is the story of how five people from a fictional village called Pocolim in Goa set off to find the love of Ferdie’s (Naseeruddin Shah) life. Apart from Ferdie, there are the two widows Angie (Deepika Padukone) and Rosie (Dimple Kapadia), Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapur) and Savio De Gama (Arjun Kapoor). Since there must be a reason for the other four people to be present on this road trip, Homi Adjania manages to bring out whim/airheadedness (Angie), driving skills (Savio), unsuccessful prevention of intercourse (Rosie) and car ownership/ass-lust/artistic inspiration (Don Pedro). This search party sets off to find Stephanie Fernandes (Fanny). This is a unique name, especially in Goa and therefore they have no problems finding her original as well as relocated address.

As if the beauty of Goa wasn’t reminder enough, there’s an alcoholic Russian to remind you where exactly this is happening. There’s humour in the film too—after every joke, there are a few seconds given for the audience to register the joke and laugh. Although it did seem like these were brief moments of silence at the tragedy of this film calling itself a satire.

Don Pedro’s obsession with Rosie strips naked in front of you because otherwise you might not notice. In a completely shocking twist, we realise that the artist was only interested in his muse till he created his piece of art. This leads said muse to have feelings for Ferdie, the only other single person of her age in the village. To give depth to the characters and justify why they’re going to pair up together, there are glimpses of their past lives.

Since Don Pedro’s utility is quickly diminishing, he’s conveniently shot in the forehead and discarded into the ocean without anyone even realising that. Now, I do not have a problem with such conveniences for scriptwriters. But usually, filmmakers are decent enough to provide an explanation for it, by mentioning Sajid Khan’s name in the credits.

When the remaining four finally find Fanny, Ferdie assumes that she would look the same as she did forty six years ago. This is one of the many clues that Pocolim is in fact, not a regular village, but a special one for slow humans. He then realises that Fanny has died, but quickly gets over her when he sees how fat and promiscuous she had been. He then turns his attention to the next best thing: his friend’s widowed (estranged) wife, Rosie, who was had been living a short walk away from him.

After everyone is convenienty hooked up, Angie decides to ignore the voice of reason and enforces the conclusion upon us that true love is worth finding. The actual conclusion is that people don’t look the same after forty six years. Also, if you want to hook up with people from your neighbourhood, just go for it instead of devicing elaborate road trips.

This is not to say that there are no redeeming qualities in the film. Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia and Pankaj Kapur gave brilliant performances. Deepika and Arjun gave mediocre ones but looked great doing those. What was missing was a story to hold it all together. That is why, in many ways, Finding Fanny is like a chicken curry with an ideal combination of flavours. Only, the chicken is undercooked.