“Mumbai Diaries pierced through my gut & took a bit of me in every beat” confesses Sunayana Prabhu

Posted: January 26, 2011 by moifightclub in cinema, life, movie reviews, Thoughts
Tags: , , , ,

Not sure when was the last time it happened – so many extreme reactions to a film. From pretentious, fuck boring to one of the best debuts, even best thing that happened to Indian Cinema in recent years.  They said it all. And the critics’ ratings varied from 2.5 to 4 stars. Click here for all the ratings.

Sunayna Prabhu loved every bit of it. When she did cinema journalism in Bombay, she bothered least about films. And when she had nothing much to do after moving to USA, she got so interested in films that she surprised us all. And when she decided to go for screenwriting course at UCLA, it was hard to believe that she was the same ‘dihadi‘ colleague we knew. Now she just loves her everyday struggle with words. She saw Mumbai Diaries ( Note – its not Dhobi Ghat there) recently and blames Kiran Rao for making her so nostalgic about the city. Read on…scattered thoughts from her diary….

Any one with an aversion to evocative text can stop right here. This post is as much an intellectual masturbation as the movie that sent me out groaning to my husband “I’m leaving you for Pratiek Babber”. ‘Mumbai Diaries’ released in Hollywood this Friday and I ran to see it merely for nostalgia but it pierced through my gut and took a bit of me in every beat.

The movie seduced me despite the desolation it portrays. I yearn to return to my city against the threat that I might never have a real friend on speed dial and chances are I’ll empty my heart to a rickshaw driver. I even had a heated argument with a roommate who called it dark, depressing and disjointed! The moment I learnt her favorite movie is ‘Yaadein’, I pushed her out and slammed the door. “Movie whore” she yelled at me.

Character is You

Once I had locked myself in my studio apartment for two months. No cellphones, no radio, no TV, just writing a story that wrapped my whole existence. When I wrote like a reclusive creep, I literally became that woman in my story. I wore reds, smudged more kohl in my eyes and spoke in a husky voice that wasn’t mine. I lived her! When Aamir’s character Arun, wears Yasmin’s silver chain and ring, I get it! When he goes to the beach and writes on the sand, I get it. When she dies, a part of her that he’s been living, dies. He becomes his own muse and that’s why the storm in his stomach! He bursts out the door to seek someone, but cringes and mourns like a baby in front of a neighbor who won’t even blink.

Mumbai is not Madhubala

So many times I’ve walked the streets of Mumbai after a fight with a bare face to the world “No one cares.” Yet, there’s always the flower girl at the traffic light who’ll stare into your eyes like she knows, the Eunuchs who’ll bless you without a penny, and the rickshaw driver will play Burman in the rain. The city has it’s own morphine. Just like the movie, scattered with images of people that make it livable. Whoever says the filmmaker should have shown a bit of Mumbai’s beauty, go take a flying fuck because Mumbai is not Madhubala. Mumbai is that dirty, raunchy, intoxicating temptress who’ll whip you to tears of ecstasy.

“Mumbai my love, my whore!” Don’t all artists ejaculate their inspiration and breathe like they’ve had an orgasm? I do!

Aah Aamir, Ooh Prateik

Also loved Kiran’s choices, except Aamir Khan. Why does he arch those eyebrows and bulge pupils into the camera to prove he’s intense? Leech. He sucked the flesh and blood of his own character. Oh the long drags, perfect rings of smoke, the pompous Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein’s and that cocky grey hair. A twit- stuck-in-Ghajini murdered a delicious, fragile, sensitive character! Aah Aamir – You give men blue-balls and the reason why women never hit the big O! Exhale honey, will you?

Few, very few, snippets of Yasmin Noor’s dialogue through her ‘Mumbai darshan’ videos were corny, but they were true to her character. Yasmin, an immigrant like me, tries to introduce the beauty of a foreign land eagerly to her family that probably has taken her absence for granted. She’s that “outsider” within many of us. I often get philosophical while saying the most trivial things about America. I’ve recorded the streets of Hollywood and Miami while ‘Des mera rangeela babu’ played the background score in my car. Yasmin’s background score is her ‘voice’ “Yeh samunder sab kuch apne aap  mein samet leta hai’ although cringe-worthy, it’s real! Perhaps the director nailed it! My heart flipped out when she talks about the taste of mangoes in the city versus her hometown. Agreed it’s not poetry, but I get it. When I walk into the aisles of American grocery stores and find hormone-injected produce everywhere, I lose my appetite. “yahan ke aam mein wahan jaise taste kahan” That voice is real.

Munna! I don’t care who he bangs – rats, clothes or hideous women. Pratiek is my “bitter-chocolate boy.” Irresistible. Unstoppable. A guy I’d love to remake ‘9 ½ weeks’ with. He’s not just going to eat up those blue-blooded run-of-the-mill kapoors and stone-faced Imran’s, he’ll hopefully force great writers and talented filmmakers to surface. Hope he won’t drink n drive and kill people on the sidewalks, rest assured, in all my dreams I’ll have his babies.

Shai is an Indian-American like me. She doesn’t rely on subtext; she just knows her shit too well. She’s just being a true friend to Munna hoping not to polarize him like her maid Agnes who brings tea in a separate cup for him. Shai connects with Arun but doesn’t ever impose herself into his life. I saw a typical liberal woman, confident of her sexuality. That’s not as rare in Mumbai these days, or is it ?

Loving Strangers

Loved the neighbor. Such a strong metaphor for the people who live next door. None, I mean it, none of my neighbors in Mumbai ever spoke to me. I saw them only in the mornings putting garbage bins out the door. I didn’t care. There are nosey neighbors, but who is committed to your daily life? No one! The mute neighbor runs like an understated theme throughout the timeline of the movie. Gorgeous.

‘Mumbai Diaries’ is a rare mood piece to indulge in. Like the gooey, viscous chocolate lava that makes your hands dirty and leaves a flavor in your mouth that keeps you drooling for days!! Here’s last few words for those who hate this movie like my roommate who called me a movie whore–aahhh aaahhh aaaahhhh yes yes yessss…OMG that was so good! Suck it bitches.

(PS – Just plugged in the “Lovely Strangers” song once more)

Comments
  1. Fatema says:

    WOW! I mean wow! I loved your write-up more than the film!!! Can I leave my husband for you? 🙂

  2. kartik says:

    Pretty nice read. There is something very casually matter of fact about the ‘moments’ in the film. EG: Munna goes to the rail tracks for a bath (it would have been a dump if it were Danny Boyle) and we see a drunk passed out man sleeping comfortably numb ON THE EFFING TRACKS !!! Without a care that the first morning local can arrive any minute and tear him to pieces. A moment which could have been turned into melo dramatic ‘concern for a stranger’ – the quality which is rare yet prevalent in the city. Yet the director potrays it in almost a thrown away moment, a ‘passing’. Munna casually shifts the guy to a ‘safer’ turf and goes on with his daily ablutions, mundane as ever.

    The film is filled with tons of moments like that – and for all that talk about ‘the point’ of the film and the ‘moral of the story’ – I would possibly be more than content with all these moments.

    Wanna watch it again. Despite Munna not being a ‘dhobi boy’ enough, despite the irritating NRI character (whom I resigned to and even got accustomed to by the mid point), the ‘filmy’ aamir khan overshadowing the sensitive Arun at times, (Yasmin is almost impeccable IMHO) – I still like the film a lot.

  3. RD says:

    Wish I could write like that…..too good !

  4. varsha says:

    Beautifullllllllllllllllllllly writtennnnnnnnnn….:) Now despite all what I’ve heard about the film so far…I wanna watch it..and I might just:)

  5. Awesome piece Su, you made me want to watch the movie . I loved the way you wrote it, completely amoral and sinful – just the way girls should be 🙂

  6. Kartik says:

    Well written.. The film also inspired me to write… Here’s what I came up with..

    Waqt ki syahi se,
    Zindagi ke kaagaz par,
    Rango mein raaz chupaye kabhi
    ret mein kahani likhi kabhi.

    Muskurahat ka naqaab odhkar,
    ghum ko undekha kiya kabhi,
    Apni kahani bayaan karke,
    khud bhi kuch sun liya kabhi.

    Chotisi Chatt ke neeche,
    Armaan ek Bada Sanjoya.
    Taaro ke neeche khud sokar,
    Us Sapne ko sone na diya.

    Khudko Khokar Khudko Paane mein,
    Kabhi tanhaayi to kabhi ummeed se takraye,
    kya pyaar tha, kya izhaar,
    bas yehi samajh na paaye.

    Aahat, ummeed, Sach, Zameer –
    Ye Lehren sab chu jaaye, sab dho jaaye.
    Paani ke rang mein khokar jaise kabhi
    koi sab paa jaye, koi sab kho jaaye.

    K J Kartik

    • sunayana Prabhu says:

      your poem is my caffeine, it’ll keep me awake. Beautiful, like rolling on the lawn in sunshine. write on!

  7. Kartik says:

    Thanks a ton, sunayana.. Glad you liked it.. After reading your post, I’ve been wanting to write more 🙂

    I agreed with most of your post.. Except the “Loving Stranger” part. To me the interpretation was different. Quite. But then again, it is all interpretation – and no one is wrong.

  8. Kuldip says:

    Terrific Kartik. Really.

  9. sania says:

    Hey….sunnu….ur write up is amazing…..I must admit though…I “WAS’ one of those who ” called it dark, depressing and disjointed” .Not enough to it, I even commented to a friend of mine that I feel incomplete after watching tht movie & I rather see a Yash Chopra movie now to lighten myself up…….however reading ur article, my perspective to the whole film has changed. I am seeing it through ur eyes….& now can relate the moments in the film & connect to your literature/ life.
    Now,I can relate “U” & ‘Shie’ when…… I watched her elite socialite circle ….yet her association with “Dhobi’s” & ‘Rat-killers’ to cover her unconventional imagination in her fotos …..
    I can see ‘U’ & ‘Yasmin’…….A girl away from her hometown & loved ones…trying to balance the nuances of hollywood to bollywood & vice versa between americans & indians.

    . ..I know how you would have felt to see Mumbai again & feel nostalgic about it.

    Your article has only led me to believe in ‘real’ cinema…..NOW, for me it is not Kiran Rao’s “Mumbai diaries” it is more of Sunayana Prabhu’s “Mumbai Diaries”…!!

    keep posting such reviews
    & it will be encouraging to watch a few more movies through ur eyes sweetheart…… 🙂 🙂

  10. kartik says:

    too many kartiks in the world – me here is kartik krishnan – not the poetry guy
    @kartik – awesome 🙂

  11. george antoney says:

    Shit Kartik (@ krishnan)
    After reading that poem … i got worried! Thot you were sick or something!

  12. Mahima says:

    I bet, this is probably what the screenplay sounded like…
    Awesome Sunayana!

  13. Mahima says:

    I loved Shai. She is so much like us, living in a far away land and trying to look back at all the elements that makes it all so fascinating

  14. lazy bum says:

    Absolutely nice read!
    Well I’m yet to watch DG but have read quite a few reviews(professional and amateur both). And the common thing about them was they all nicely bashed the movie and gave it 3/5 or 6/10 in the end. I read then every week and had it been any other movie(non-aamir) the ratings would have been certainly lower than 3 or 6. 😦 Am I the only one who thinks like that ?

  15. rahul singh says:

    i hv sm point to made about DHOBI GHAT, coz m not too good in english so i hv expressed it in hindi.so if u hv sm time plz go through it. it’s must read article. i am just providing u a link.
    http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fbhashasetu.blogspot.com%2F2011%2F02%2Fblog-post_15.html&h=1d9fe

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