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’

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Who are we to be horrified 

It scares me that we are worried about attacks on minorities in the U.S.A, when we overlook, or quickly forget attacks on our own dalits and Muslims. Because the life of one Rohith Vemulla is nothing compared to the lives of hundreds of soldiers isn’t it?
That we are worried about the loss of press freedom in that country, when we allow our politicians to choose their own sycophantic journalists as interviewers, or when we allow them not to speak about issues that are uncomfortable to them.
That we are worried about women’s rights in the U.S.A when we pick and choose the female victims to feel pity for, based on their caste, their dress, their profession.

 

And that we are so outraged about an authoritarian anti-establishment Islamophobe, when we let the same happen to us more than two years ago. That we are so horrified whom Americans chose to vote for, when many of us didn’t even bother voting. Because politicians are all the same, aren’t they?

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.

You should have taken up science, Kanhaiya Kumar

It’s been more than a month since the JNU debate. And the left/right, black/white, hot/cold, new/old, rational/national debate has no end in sight.

What was essentially a student rally was seen as a dangerous attack on the nation’s safety (because that’s what extremists do: hold rallies and express their opinions). Kanhaiya Kumar was presented as Satan himself as he was arrested, and Arnab Goswami shrieked awake every nationalistic conscience with back-up vocals by banshee Nupur Sharma.

This event was a revelation in many ways. It showed that the nation will not tolerate any comments on its intolerance; the nation does not want to know what the dissidents think.

 

But most importantly, the nation revealed that it is not going to forgive a humanities student for not taking up science.

 

A 28-year-old PhD student in African studies who happens to be male is incomprehensible to the mainstream middle class sentiment. And if he’s studying in an institute which solely produces MNC executives (or the occasional terrible writer), our precious tax rupees are not worth it. Yes, all three of the Indian citizens who pay taxes felt this way. Twenty-eight is not an odd age for a PhD student. In fact, there’s no odd age for a PhD student. But then if it’s not the kind of doctor whose financial prowess is inevitable, and whom you can pester about that strange growth on your side, it means nothing.

 

Several people were infuriated that a 28-year-old man is still studying when his family earns Rs.3000 a month. Yes, if a boy coming from such austere conditions and a moral obligation to become financially successful doesn’t fall into the rat race to a comfortable lifestyle that supports capitalism, it surely must be infuriating.

 

Kanhaiya was even compared to Sundar Pichai in a post, which systematically proved how a privileged NRI who works for the biggest big brother finds it easier to love India than a financially dependent free-thinker.

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Even so, the highlight of this discussion was when Modi awkwardly touched it, as if it were a world leader. Well-meaning patriots wanted to know why a PM who never takes holidays from travelling, and who has constantly worked to make our 70% agrarian nation an industrialist paradise could be criticized. It’s almost as if his bizarre pop culture references in the U.S.A, brushing aside Zuckerberg for a photo-op, and back-hugging Hollande were in vain. A 15-year-old girl challenged Kanhaiya to an open debate. This confused bhakts, who did not understand the concept of arguing without death threats.

 

The nationalism argument extended to the army as well. Under normal conditions, admission to the Indian Army is tough. But due to numerous requests by the public whose last contact with the army was the movie ‘Border’, they’re now considering letting Kanhaiya Kumar in. As requested, he’s going to “go to border n fyt, den tok”.

 

He was arrested, detained and attacked. But, like a true politician, he used it to advance his persona and make a powerful (albeit logical) speech. This made his opponents start a wonderful social media trend hashtag: #MeAt28, where they celebrated their privilege and conformity.

 

Some say that people like Kanhaiya Kumar shouldn’t be given the freedom to say that there’s no space for dissent. I truly believe that he should have taken up science. He would never have had the chance to develop an eloquent stream of thought if he was crumbling under college, coaching classes, job-chasing and other virtues of our education system. So if you have an opinion that bursts the happy privileged bubble of the taxpayers, be prepared to be told by the nation how you are a terrorist who is also a liability (much like babies). Because you didn’t pay for your place in the world. Your opinion has already been paid for.

Women’s safety under the female leader

At the annual Women in the World Summit in New York in 2015, acclaimed journalist Barkha Dutt, speaking about Hillary Clinton’s bid for presidency, said that the debate about having a woman leader is not a conversation that we have in India anymore. “We had a woman leader decades ago”, she said (referring to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi). She quoted Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and claiming that statistically the incidence of rape is much higher in the U.S. and UK.

While having a woman leader during the 1960s may be considered progressive for those times, the Indian parliament is yet to pass the Women’s Reservation bill, which reserves 33% of the seats for female Members of Parliament. The bill has been a matter of debate for 18 long years. Currently, women MPs occupy a mere 66 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, or the lower house. The national average for legislative assemblies of all the states is a dismal 9%. India currently has four states with women chief ministers, but does their leadership necessarily amount to safer conditions for women?

 

Anandiben Patel

Even though the reported incidents of rape almost doubled in Gujarat from 2013 to 2014, Gujarat is considered one of the safest states for women according to a survey conducted by Tata Strategic Management Group.

A rape victim from Botad district who got pregnant asked for permission for an abortion from the Gujarat High Court, which was denied to her. She even met Anandiben in person, but ended up with a baby boy whom the High Court had urged her to “bravely give birth to”, and her rapist, who is still a free citizen. This court also denied permission to a 14-year-old girl raped by her doctor, who had to move the Supreme Court to abort the baby.

Patel has spoken about wanting to make women’s empowerment a priority for her state. Yet when it comes to such incidents she, much like her predecessor Modi, prefers keeping an undignified silence over the matter.

 

Vasundhara Raje

Rajasthan has the second highest number of women MLAs (14%). This state also records the second highest number of rape incidents. While the state has a history of greater incidence of violence against women, their first woman CM seems to have done little for betterment of this situation. Rapes of minors and women in Rajasthan have been as consistent as Raje’s silence over these cases.

 

Mamata Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee has several infamous statements about rape to her credit, the most peculiar one being that rapes are caused because of girls and boys interacting freely with each other. When a 70-year-old nun was gang raped in March 2015, Mamata handed the case over to the CBI, asking for quick action. However, approach to this crime seems ageist as it was she who, in 2013, dismissed that Late Suzzette Jordan (sometimes referred to as the Park Street rape victim), as a story that was “cooked up to malign the government”.

Jayalalitha

Tamil Nadu was the first state to have a female-staffed police station, first all-female police commando unit, and now the first women’s special-forces police battalion. Jayalalitha has personally vouched for the state as being safe for women. Dowry deaths and sexual assault on women have seen a steady decline during her regime, especially since 2010.

Jayalalitha was the first Tamil actress to appear in a skirt on screen in her former years as an actress. Even so, the state has had an ongoing problem of moral policing. Several colleges in the state have been known to enforce outdated dress codes and moralistic rules especially on female students in Chennai’s engineering college.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women leaders are as conducive, or as detrimental to female citizens as their male counterparts. Mamata Banerjee is inconsistent in response to sexual assault in her state, and Vasundhara Raje seems to have done little for the state which already had abysmal conditions for women’s rights. Even though Anandiben Patel and Jayalalitha have made certain strides in empowering women, they seem to suffer from the fatal flaw that most of our leaders seem to have: moral policing.

 

 

 

 

 

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.