Bollywood has only one Bhai-jaan. Then there are the Bhai-fans, Bhai-trolls, Bhai’s Being Human fans and now there are Bhai-films too. Films which are critics-proof, meant only for Eid release & weekend business, and any kind of criticism of the film means You-Don’t-Mess-With-Desi-Zohan warning from Bhai-trolls. Bhai is our Bay (Michael). He is our Transformers, our summer tentpole movies, our 3(bodydguar)D and our Pirate Of the Arabian, all rolled in one. His films represents everything that’s big, bad and means only box office these days. Fatema Kagalwala tries hard to dissect his latest one – Bodyguard. Read on….
“Strength doesn’t come from the ordeals that are thrown at you, but from crossing them. And surviving to tell the tale”
Not some gyaan-guru, it’s the higher self that kicked in with this gem to help overcome the devastating sheerkhurma that Bodyguard made out of her Eid.
But then, I wonder if something is a medium of spiritual insight as powerful as this, can it be bad?
(I see one Mr Siddique and one Mr Shirt-utaro Khan desperately saying no, but my higher self is sushsh-ing them vehemently right now. Not that they will listen I’m sure. Our collective higher selves haven’t stopped Anees Bazmee and Sajid Khan either, have they?)
As I step back and mull with an objective mind, my intuition tells me that Bodyguard is really not what it seems. You know there is a real crisis at the heart of the story, which we, the self-important, ivory tower vultures of meaningful cinema are overlooking. The hint lies in the name itself.
Bodyguard is about identity. Why else spend two+ hours going round and round in circles but begin at a Sallu-Bodyguard and end at Sallu-successful-something? Why else go ALL the way to Pune and Lonavla and climb the tallest hill stations of Maharashtra to make the point? Why get Kareena Kapoor, an almost style icon (Sorry dear word ‘style’) and pin her into the tackiest Linking Road outfits? Why would Salman Khan do a seemingly meaningless film ? Because, didn’t you know, Salman Khan can do no wrong?
So the identity crisis, yes. It begins with Divya who becomes Chhaya. She wants to throw this newly-dumped-on-her bodyguard and does so by impersonating as a swoonie in love with Shirtlessji. How that was supposed to help is left unexplored (or maybe it is one of those deep mysteries of the Universe we as humans are meant to solve? Paulo Coelho would’ve loved this riddle.) So Divya-turned-Chhaya actually falls in love with Hulk Hogan. And Chhaya becomes Divya when Divya is actually Divya. But Divya cannot be Chhaya as long as she is Divya because Mr Muscles (chhee, not the toilet cleaner, I meant Sallu) won’t accept Chhaya if she is Divya. Get the identity crisis bit now?
It is all about becoming. This would be the tag-line if Osho had made this film.
But it is not over yet. Chhaya is yet to become fully. So Dancing Muscles keeps joking around with a terrible fat man who is so-not-funny-it’s-not-a-joke. (There you have a sub-text for another identity crisis. A non-funny funny man trying to be funny so hard that he is anything but funny. Poor guy but brilliantly thoughtful writing) But neither do the muscles run out of proteins nor is Mr Siddique’s Eid biryani getting cold, so everyone takes their own time finding themselves and each other.
While they are at it, we shall look at other peripheral (but important!) characters weaving this very meaningful theme together. There is Raj Babbar, the Maalik and karta-dharta and the most terrible actor we have seen in a century barring his son of course. His identity crisis is subtle, metaphysical even, wherein he is struggling ever-so hard to prove to himself (not us, mind you) that after all these years he hasn’t lost his touch in the art of hamming and he can outdo even a stammering King at the job! His efforts at desperately trying to regain his forgotten identity are touching. And kudos to the director for giving him a chance. What compassion to his fellow human beings he has… Mother Teresa would have been so moved.
Back to the Chhaya search. The metaphor in the name itself is enlightening. Chhaya is an image, not the reality. And then she becomes Maya, an illusion. An explosively intuitive use of language and semantics makes Bodyguard Cannes material. And it is That Girl in Yellow Boots that gets to do festival rounds. Pathetic and shameful is the state of Bollywood.
But then Maya soon gets some debilitating disease (which I am assuming should be the ever-dependable cancer or TB, the good old 60’s-70’s devil since the film is so pre-historic too) and becomes an illusion herself. Her identity now remains only in the pages of a diary she has written for her little son a-la Tina and Anjali in Karan Johar’s “Its all about loving your friends.” (Double-meaning beast! And he claims he makes family entertainers) Maya also runs on the station platform to catch the train that toilet cleaner oops Muscle-man is on. Like the millions of youth who got an identity crisis after watching Soooo Romantic Khan (gag) pulling his girl onto the train, Six Sigma Servant gives out his hand too and invites this cute little chashmish illusion into his already confused life. It is inter-texuality and cinematic references such as these that make Bodyguard a deep, meaningful film. I guess I interpreted my intuition right after all.
So Maya becomes Chhaya just like Bairan became Bhairon but their lives don’t remain narrow. They multiply. But Siddique is a Gandhian (dunno if he follows Anna Hazare though, do you? That’s another identity crisis there but for another day). He believes in change being the only permanent thing, so Maya’s illusions end with her death but our troubles don’t. The new and improved Bodyguard goes back to HAMare maalik for his blessings before he flies to Australia. (Why not US? Oh it’s not a KJo film, silly). Son finds Divya and since Maya said she is Chhaya he wants to dump himself on her. Divya is torn, oh poor girl, but the ISO-certified naukar ‘accepts’ her and agrees to marry her. Was there anyone so dedicated? Why don’t our customer service centres learn something from him?
The end is a beautiful tryst of irony and fate in meaningful cinema wherein it is the ‘hero’ who finds himself and ‘becomes’. He learns of Divya’s identity as Chhaya and is moved (as much as Sallu’s face muscles can move that is) beyond words. So Divya does become Chhaya and Body lets his guard down to accept Divya as Chhaya and Chhaya as Divya and everyone forgets Maya. Sab khaya, piya, pachaya. (Burp!)
(Oh, there is also a villain who used to be a hero but continues to think he is still a hero, he even claims it onscreen. This bloomingly creative touch strengthens the very well-defined theme of identity crisis and finding oneself. I am too moved by the very deep spiritual journey of these characters that has been revealed to me and I need to do some soul-searching to connect with my real self ‘within’. So long! Until my higher self kicks in again, that is.)