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.

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.