Archive for December, 2016

Aamir Khan film. Trailer looked great. Inspiring story of Phogats. These were the top 3 reasons why we booked FDFS tickets of Nitesh Tiwary’s Dangal. When we say we, it means 4 of us. But as we came out of the theatre, we found ourselves on different sides of the fence. As we are quite down in the bollywood food chain (say ADs/Assistant Directors and such), we asked mFC if our discussion can be posted anonymously. Nobody wants to hear the bad words. So why burn our blood and careers so early.

Read it only after you have seen the film, and let us know where do you stand.

dangal

SPOILER ALERT

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Yes, the film is good and it really excels in performance and direction. I was riveted throughout except the cringe worthy climax. And I did feel it was really long.

Anyway, I have been thinking about it and there’s something that has been bothering me in the way women are presented in the film. I am aware that my reading is a little too ultra feminist but I did feel strongly about certain things. Here goes:

Though the film harps about being pro-feminist, it does so by still putting the men in control of the women. Sakshi Tanwar’s character completely shadows Mahavir. I would have loved to see some sign of revolt or at least a conscience. She is devoid of one and only allowed to play her strength through looks. The only time she is shown to have genuine anger and a rebel is when Mahavir is cooking chicken in the house. To a certain extent, I buy this because women from this world don’t have a say. But there could be a take, there could be a way to show some indictment. One example: She could have gone to Commonwealth Games to watch her daughter play. It’s in Delhi, not very far. Even the chicken seller shows up with his daughters with prasad to see Geeta wrestle. That bit of fiction would have been redeeming for the consistent lack of importance given to Sakshi’s character. But no, because nothing can come in the way of Mahavir’s glory.

One thing was smart that they used humour to hide the torture that Mahavir inflicts on the girls. You cringe when the boys make lewd comments at Geeta playing in a local match but find it utterly cute when Haanikaarak plays. Imagine watching the Haanikaarak video without the actual song and those cute lyrics. Watch the video imagining it with a empathetic violin piece. Add the cutting of the hair and the cousin being slapped at the wedding to the song montage. Aamir would have then sounded like the way his character actually is – a tyrant imposing his dreams. But then he has to be the hero. So yeah, smartly played.

The girls are constantly instructed what to do and how to play. Their personal transition of being forced to play to actually wanting to play seriously is given just a mere exposition scene. It feels so untrue. Aamir’s motives and choices are neatly etched out but the girls only hear their friend talk about freedom and have a change of heart. Their change is not so organic. And you can’t suddenly show your docile girls to be tomboys beating up neighbourhood kids. Least of parents see it. If they had shown Mahavir observing his daughters showing a streak of becoming wrestlers over the years, it would have been nice. Here in one scene they become nose breaking tomboys.

I felt so nice that Geeta revolts and questions Mahavir’s technique. The father daughter wrestling is the best scene in the film. It would have been so nice to see that Mahavir could go wrong. Like show a culmination of old ways realising there is some good in the new ways. But Aamir is right all the time. The film talks about less support from the state. But the institution such as the National Sports Academy is rendered completely useless and evil. Showing a caricature of a villain only heightens Mahavir’s heroism. It feels so deliberate/clever and not organic for a coach to behave like that. I would have loved it if Mahavir is shown agreeing to there being some merit in Geeta’s new techniques. It would have really emphasized the need of formal institutionalised training that this country so badly needs.

And then the final match: the coach and Mahavir are constantly playing on their egos to steer her match. Shut up! Stop confusing the girl. If she has willfully become a champion, she would have developed craft by herself. She may have her own technique. She is shown completely as a robot playing on the ego of these two men. The film realises it should have a conscience and gives one scene where Geeta plays on her own technique/volition. But even this is shown by a flashback where a drowning Geeta is told by Mahavir to become independent and her father is not going to be there all the time (by the way when you are under water you can’t hear from the outside). She remembers this and fights back. Even that show of individual drive is Mahavir’s glory. Imagine a scene where she would have remembered being bullied by some boys and she fights them all by herself. If she remembers this and had fought back in the match, it could have been her volition and not Mahavir’s conscience dictating her.

Even her win felt more Mahavir’s victory than the girls’. Yes the film is played through Mahavir’s point of view but I was constantly being bothered about the women showing no conscience. Yes, it is a true story and that’s how this part of the world is but as the makers you got to show some take. Even a sense of an indictment. The only flaw the film revels in showing is that Mahavir is stubborn and ego headed maniac but only to hammer down the point that Mahavir NEEDED to be that way to have won the medals. As if the film is saying that girls will have to listen to the men around them in order to become heroes, because if you are known as a weaker sex, you don’t have a conscience too.

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But read any inspiring sports story where one has achieved anything. PVSindhu (she wakes up at 4am, doing that since she was a kid) or Agassi, without tyrant parent (starts with parents, kids – how will they know what potential they have) or coach (mostly dad/male coach), nothing is possible. It’s life of a monk. There is really no other way.

Easy to see everything through feminist prism. But if it was a guy wrestler and his dad/coach was being tyrant, it wont be a big thing, right? Parents thrusting their choices remain.

But the point is in most individual sports, all athletes are like blind runners without their coach. Starting from 0 to 100, every step belongs to coach/dad/whoever. Again, there is no other way. At least i have never read any story.

Aamir becomes that gyaani baba in 3 Idiots, PK, TZP, but here i don’t agree.

And if that meat seller has come with his daughter to see the match, why is that character not worthy of feminist lens? The meat seller, daughter, both.

Also are you forgetting the entire first half – Aamir’s character fighting against entire system, society, men, office – just the idea that women can wrestle.
Do you realise how daring and daunting thought that is? That’s the most feminist thing one can do. The thought to empower the girls.

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I am not at all questioning the tyrannical way of coaching a sports person. We are saying it is smartly done in a commercial film. Nahin toh agar Whiplash jaisa karte toh you won’t sympathise with Aamir.

I am not so sure about coach being everything. Yes, off the match/game, surely. But once they are on the field, it is just them, right? Would you say that all boxers do exactly as told by their coach (just comparing for proximity with the player)? Initially, yes. But over the time, they will have developed instinct/technique, which is why they become what they eventually become. In that case we would have manufactured so many Usain Bolts and Muhammad Alis by now.

Meat seller – I will not argue about why he came to the match. Surely it is a nice touch but just that Geeta’s mother can’t make it but meat seller can make it to the match is what I felt odd about. This may be too much of nitpick, I agree.

And not denying at all that Mahavir didn’t fight the world but it was to satisfy his ego. To ensure his daughters gold on his behalf. I don’t think it came from a pro-feminist place. I am talking about other things in the film. Read Tanul Thakur’s piece. He has also spoken on similar lines. https://tanulthakur.wordpress.com/2016/12/22/review-dangal/

On casting, Girish Kulkarni was a total misfit for me. I just couldn’t buy him as the coach. He just didn’t have the personality. The character was anyway so stupid. Also the guy Aamir wrestles right at the start. I also think that the credit goes to their accent and wrestling training more than casting.

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I read his piece. You too talking the same. I don’t agree. Except that pre-climatic twist, I didn’t have much problem with anything.

Why is it ego? Why is it not aim or ambition or dream? Because ego has negative connotation. Why isn’t even Phogat celebrated as a feminist hero. Because he is not urban or smart or suave or articulate or he doesn’t know the F-word. The starting point might have been his dreams of gold but what that has done for girls there, I don’t think any govt policy could have.

Haryana has the worst sex ratio.

Haryana also has the biggest Olympic contingent of female athletes.

Compare the two numbers and read a bit.

It’s amazing what sports has done. That too in the worst patriarchy society.

It’s not fair to put white man’s feminism definition in the context of Phogat. It’s like demonetization idea. Look at his context. His education, society, culture, upbringing, gender sense. I am saying in that place even to think that his daughters could go out and wrestle, that thought is much stronger than bra burning feminism ideas.

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Oye! Don’t go out of the context of the film. We are only reading him as a character. You guys are clubbing him with the real life of Phogat.

Ego because you are making someone do something without their willingness. Replace sport with say, aeronautical engineering. Or let’s say my dad forced me into becoming IAS officer because he could never become one. That doesn’t remain ambition alone.

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But he is based on real character! If he was fictional, you could have asked the writer director. Here it’s him only. How can you separate the two.

Sports kids starting early? It’s grey area for sure. And it always happens in all sports. Don’t think this film is even aspiring to find the answers to those questions. So why burden it?

Are we going in loop?

We need to hear more voices.

Have you seen Dangal? What do you think? Do join our debate in the comments section.

As we have done in the past, this year too we are trying to source the scripts of some of the best bollywood films of the year. As most of you know, the scripts of Hollywood films are easily available online, even the unreleased ones. But we don’t have any such database of Hindi or Indian films. So that has been the primary reason for this initiative. And it has been possible only because some of the screenwriters and filmmakers have been very supportive about it. It’s only for educational purpose and much like the spirit of the blog, is a complete non-commercial exercise.

To read the scripts of best bollywood films of last few years, click here. We are starting this year’s series with Ram Madhvani’s Neerja.

neerja

Not many remember that Neerja isn’t Ram Madhvani’s debut film. He made his debut in 2002 with a small underrated film, Let’s Talk. It’s good to have him back after more than a decade.

The film broke an important bollywood myth – a Hindi film with a solo heroine in the lead that can work wonders at the box office and can get critical acclaim too. Yes, it’s possible. And there is lot to learn from the film’s writing and direction. Ram’s direction and Saiwyn’s story/screenplay showed us how to build a 2-hour film revolving around a single incident. Everyone knew the story, the act of bravery, and even the climax. But still how do you hold audience’s attention? This one did the magic from the opening scene. Sanyuktha’s dialogues in just one monologue (by Shabana) showed us the power of the words that made us reach for the tissues. So here it is, the script of Neerja.

Happy reading!

Film : Neerja

Director : Ram Madhvani

Story & Screenplay : Saiwyn Quadras

Dialogues : Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh

We are bit late on this, but here it is – our recco post on Damien Chazelle’s new film, La La Land. It’s written by Percy H Bharucha.

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La La Land is a movie devoted to a single word – ache.

The ache of Nostalgia.
The ache of a city like L.A.
The ache of dreams unfulfilled.
The ache of lost musicals and movies.
The ache of love lost.
The ache of what could have been.
And the ache of time spent apart.

As a child I used to watch musicals with my grandfather. My introduction to Hollywood was An American In Paris, Singing In The Rain, Easter Parade, Hello Dolly. Those were my first movies and I loved them dearly. As I grew up, so did Hollywood. Things got complicated for all of us and I yearned for a movie so simple, so removed from reality, that it wouldn’t want me to return from it.

La La Land brings back that ache for all of us. It brings with it a refusal to detach from its world. It is astonishing to watch a movie where the failures of the characters seem yours. The viewer takes that emotional burden upon himself just as I did. I rooted for them to fail, yes I did. Just to embrace the feeling it would bring. To feel through them.

There have been movies of recent that have relied on catering to a sense of wonder whether through visual aesthetics or intellectual curiosity, but La La Land is different. It holds itself to a different pedestal, though shot beautifully, it holds itself to the standards of emotion. Few movies have had such an impact on me. It has brought my pen out of hibernation This article is driven by personal catharsis, as much as it is, about this movie being an influence. I write this, as words tear themselves eager to be set on paper.

La La Land reflects a choice every one of us has had to make at least once in life. The choice between love, between relationships we share with ourselves and our dreams. I am glad, for once, there is a movie that prioritises dreams over love, the self over the other. Too many movies are tied to the illusion of the characters walking away with it all. La La Land is fierce enough to show its wounds, our wounds, the costs we pay to be at peace with ourselves.

Which brings me to the last part of the movie, the ache of what could have been, that’s reflected in the alternate flashback between the couple when she walks into his bar. It brings with it the realisation, of the characters being fully aware of their own losses, the pain they’ve endured and so is the viewer too, aware of what he has given up. No one is spared the pain of knowing the ideal, the best case scenario and yet the brilliance of this movie lies in how willingly I, the viewer, could embrace that pain, the burden and the ache the characters bring with them, as my own.

Like a wounded bird we nurse that emotion only because it’s been a long time since any of us felt this strongly about anything at all and even the emotion of absolute loss is better than feeling nothing at all.

La La Land offers an escape from the dark abyss of emotional numbness, it makes us ache in places we didn’t know were capable of expressing emotion. And the final proof of its own success is that a film that reminds us of these aches, becomes an ache by itself. La La Land makes us ache, and departure from the movie is no less painful than the character’s departure from each other.

I wish there was more heartbreak to be felt.

Percy Bharucha

(The author is a Young India Fellow, and has been writing since he discovered he couldn’t draw. He has a full time job in advertising and hopes to keep it that way. He has been previously published in eFiction and eFiction India, Asia Lit, Reading Hour, Gratis and The Madras Mag. He infrequently tweets @Sab_Bakwaas_Hai)

amdavad-ma-famous

For some reason or other, we have been missing all the screenings of Hardik Mehta’s doc, Amdavad Ma Famous (Famous in Ahmedabad). The film has been doing the fest rounds and we have been reading a lot about it. And if you are in the same boat like us, here’s the good news – the film is out on Netflix now. Watch it.

Here’s a new trailer of the documentary

With Netflix’s acquisition for streaming this doc, hopefully it’s a start that will open more doors for good content without bothering about the length (short/full length) or format (non-fiction/doc). And that’s important because currently we don’t have any platforms where we can watch such films/docs.

Here’s Hardik Mehta looking back at the film’s inception and its journey so far –

Amdavad Ma Famous happened when I was in between assignments and quite restless with the AD life. I had assisted on Road Movie, Mausam, Lootera and Queen, and was desperate to explore my filmmaking skills. I’d directed a fiction short, Skin Deep. But what next? I didn’t want to sit around waiting for some inspiration or opportunity to strike; I just had to shoot.

So in January 2014, I thought of going to Ahmedabad to capture the old city pols (lanes) in stills, it wasn’t a commissioned assignment but a personal one, to rekindle the lost love of photographing a city.

Once there, I witnessed the euphoria that engulfs the whole city during the festival of Uttrayan. From six-year old kids to 60 year old seniors, everyone walking around with their eyes glued to the sky buzzing with hundreds of colorful kites. It was a surreal experience. It brought people from across age, class and community, on the same playing field, the terraces of old pol! That’s where I spotted Zaid. He was this skinny short boy in his gang, but his transformation into the leader of the pack when it came to chasing, catching and flying kites was fascinating. I asked him if it was okay if I shoot him. ‘Just don’t get in my way and stop me from chasing after kites!’ he quipped!

I had to catch up. I roped in ace cinematographer and dear friend Piyush Puty and we decided to follow him – see what it is like to be Zaid, running on the streets, scaling terraces, risking life and limb with single minded focus on his beloved kites!

We managed some great footage and cut a teaser, still looking for our story and funding. But with a little push from our friends, Puty’s enthusiasm and Producer Akanksha Tewari, we went back to Ahmedabad in 2015 with a bigger crew, a second unit cinematographer Harshbir Singh, location sound Pranav Kothi and Line Producer Nachiket Desai went back to Ahmedabad in 2015 with a bigger crew, a second unit cinematographer, and location sound. So for the 30-minute short, we shot for two years (2014-2015), following Zaid for three days each year during the festival of Uttarayan, and came home with some incredible footage.

But the edit was a bigger challenge in the film. It was during the five month process that I experienced how editing a documentary is like writing a screenplay for a fiction film. We had lot of visually appealing footage, but deciding what to keep out and the ‘right’ length of the film, was where I learnt (and grew) the most as a filmmaker.

I wanted to re-look at things I’ve grown up with, as if it was a story and I was trying to explore this fluidity of format when a real-life setting is presented as a narrative. I was lucky to have great advice from Nishant Radhakrishnan (Editor, Dhobi Ghat) and Vikramaditya Motwane (Director – Udaan, Lootera).

An insight that particularly worked for me was to edit the film like Zaid himself is telling his story to the world – his world through his eyes, using the craft, music and narrative true to his world.

Speaking of the learnings from Amdavad Ma Famous’ journey.

Firstly, the importance of good post-production – right from music to sound design to even a poster and film stills used for promotion, all of it matters and more so for a short! Because even a good short film can fall into the trap of amateur work if the post-production is not right.

For our film, we were sure to treat it as important as one would treat a fiction feature. I had an incredibly talented team – Alokananda Dasgupta’s music, Manoj Goswami’s Sound Design, and Arya A Menon coming on board as Producer, every bit contributed.

But my biggest learning has been the boldness to just go out there, get your hands dirty, shoot and make your film – The Werner Herzog rule. Duration, formats don’t matter, only the heart of the content does. And there are more ways than one to make your film reach out to its audience. There are global platforms willing to look at all kinds of content.

It was the same boldness that made us take our film to a global giant like Netflix, when no one was sure if they would even consider or take up a short doc like ours. Netflix showing faith in our content and picking it up has reinstated our belief in independent filmmaking. Thrilled to share that Amdavad Ma Famous is now streaming on Netflix, globally and continues its international film festival run.

I’m as much of an outsider as anyone wanting to make a film in our industry. I’ve seen talented ADs who keep waiting for producers and hovering around actors for the big break, but there is no point in wasting your life’s precious young years in Mumbai cafes. The big break will come, but when digital cameras have given us so much confidence and independence that it is an insult to this democratization of technology if you are not utilizing it in the meantime. There’s no point waiting your time, when your time is really now.

The Film Festival Journey:

We had limited exposure to the documentary festival circuit, and not many avenues to learn more from either. We started submitting the film and decided that wherever we get the first call from, we will take it up.

We started with Budapest International Documentary Festival, a fairly medium sized festival being put together by an incredible group of Filmmakers and film lovers. They loved the film and invited us to attend. That was the world premiere for us, and also our first win – we won the Best Documentary Jury Award at 2015 BIDF.

2015 Al-Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival, Doha, Qatar, was next and we won Best Documentary Jury Award there too. Followed by an amazing reception at 2016 MIFF, Mumbai where we won the Best Documentary and Best Editing Award. The double win at MIFF gave us a lot of confidence.

Of course, there were rejections from some prominent North American and European documentary festivals, but we kept at it. What really charged us up was the selection at HotDocs, Toronto and winning the National Award – Swarn Kamal as Best Non Feature Film for 2015.

As of now, Amdavad Ma Famous has travelled to film festivals spread across six continents over fifty cities and been lucky enough to pick up twelve awards on the journey too.

Hardik Mehta

The Humma Song vs Humma Humma of 90s

Posted: December 20, 2016 by moifightclub in music
Tags: , , ,

humma

Humma Humma, Bombay (1994) – Constrained spaces, two lovers unsure of what they have got into and where they have landed. A Muslim girl who has come to a strange place with a Hindu boy. She does not see the familiar green fields in this big city that does not allow one inch of privacy. Here they cannot hug and perhaps steal a kiss without a bunch of eyes looking at them.

Cut to – night. Hormonally charged souls moving around and somehow the constrained space becomes a propeller rather than a deterrent. And then they hear a celebration where a viking and a beautiful lass indulge in a musical foreplay and mind you, the girl is not singing. Her moves are not fake; they don’t need her to wear shorts.  She can make you pant just by exchanging a look with you. The man has to woo her, so the man tries. There is not a hint of ‘hotness’ in the voice of Remo Fernandes. What you hear is pure energy that isn’t auto-tuned or sanitized to sound just perfect in the earphones. This song is for big bad music systems, where the sound will hit your heart in a way you will feel you are getting a heart attack and you thank God when the song ends, because you will rewind and wait for the ‘dhichak dhichak dhik dhik aah‘ that launches you into space and you feel like you haven’t felt before, perhaps like when you felt someone you love for the first time, breathing out on your neck.

The Humma Song, Ok Jaanu (2016) – Cut to an India where a young couple cruising around on a bike, where the guy is not applying brakes ‘strategically’ so that he could feel his pillion’s body against him. The pillion is already ‘one’ with the rider. They do the snake-moves driving instead. Why? ‘We float-on-the-road-babeh’ that’s why! Meeting and finding a place for meeting isn’t a cause of worry.

We aren’t in a dim lit room, our rooms have mood lighting. The song isn’t humma humma, it is The Humma Song. The sense of occasion and anticipation is moaning from the title of the song. It is 2017, the man needs to be wooed too, so the woman sings as well. She has to. It is not a bad thing, Shashaa Tirupati is brilliant. The song starts too self-aware; there is an excellently written rap portion which perhaps captures the mood of the original song to the T. The only time the shehnai sounds like lovers climaxing is when the rap ends and leads you right to it. There is greater bass; this one is for the headphones of smart-phones. This one is for the silent clubs in London. No-one has run away from their village, no one is dying to ‘do it’, they want to do it right. Of course they love each other; their filter-rich Instagram will have you believe that. They might not have the sexual energy of Manisha-Arvind which was more driven because the couple reached a place of certainty from an uncertain past, but what Shraddha-Aditya have is a surety about how their love will be expressed in that place where they don’t have to ‘steal’ a kiss or a hug.

It is easy to chug the new one away saying the earlier one was a classic and frankly if that would have been a way of life, we would have never heard Indian classical music’s gift to us that is called a Thumri. We re-create, we laugh at purists, for they don’t know the delicious taste of fusion. Is all this wrong? No, it is just the spirit of times where we now exist. If we oldies are unable to search chemistry in them, may be we should stop looking at the The Humma Song and look at Humma Humma again, because while the latter had liberation written all over it and the former has self-aware celebration tattooed on its neck. Both are fine. Let us leave it at that.

The Humma Song is targeted at the generation that has grown up listening to and watching Humma Humma on Boogie Woogie and other dance shows. This was all much before they were hit by the highs of wifi, 1080p videos. Post-wifi the world spiraled down to booze parties with songs and gentle gyration to the tunes of Humma Humma and other such songs. The way you hear Jubin hum The Humma Song is a perfect example of that. Booze parties or not, we need just the right amount of thrust to float and while we are at it, a new video with fresh colors and high resolution won’t harm either. The old one, till the last I checked looks pixelated on all YouTube channels it is available.

Finally (and this is where my music reviewing is coming in the way), let us look at the composer of the song. He had a promising future at the time when the song came out. He had to prove himself with every beat that made way from his studio to the music stores that the promise bestowed on him was right. He is comfortable now. What did you expect? Same energy? Na! This is a self-assured way of showcasing to ‘YOLO’ folks – “Look, I can be hip too!”

Personally, I would take raw, unfiltered energy any day, to carefully constructed noise. Passion is best expressed uninhibited, where you break a glass or two while you are at it, forget the mess it will create. Let me rewind (not ‘repeat’) Humma Humma, but I won’t judge you if you like The Humma Song, in fact I would try and hum the song like Jubin, as I sit and reminisce about how The Humma Song would look like with the visuals of Humma humma, isn’t that lovely?

Rohwit

(P.S. – I still haven’t seen the video, I would like to see it when the film comes out to find out if it fits the narrative like those baggie pants of 1990s or does it look super chic like ‘tights’ we see today. Both are fine, been there did that)

ae-dil-hai-mushkil-lyrics-title-song

SPOILER ALERT

First let me make it clear, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) is about love not unrequited love. But I don’t want to talk about ADHM the film, as much as I want to talk about love. Not relationships, just love.

Just like Karan Johar (and many of us), defining love has been a pet preoccupation most of my life too. Having seen around me disastrous outcomes of the passionate / possessive kind of love and its long-term damage, I grew up wanting to avoid those kind of experiences. Passionate romantic relationships would leave you wrecked and changed for life – was the message etched in my head. Until I turned 21 and dutifully took charge, to define love once and for all.

Just like our man Karan Johar, I quipped in an epiphany, ‘Love is friendship!’

You see, I had just met the love of my life, the man I wanted to have children with and grow old with but neither our bond nor relationship fitted into the YRF model (any other model was either too outdated or too modern) and it was important to me that I define. Imtiaz Ali had not debuted then, otherwise he may have helped. Left to my own wits, I decided that the best and most enduring expression of love is friendship. And that is the best form for your romantic relationship to take, keeps the politics of love from infecting its beauty. Because the butterflies-in-the-stomach, sleepless nights, restless ardour and passionate sex kind of romance is mere gender role-play, political, skin-deep and temporary while long-lasting relationships are made of soul connect, on the basis of an equal companionship. My understanding of the emotional complexity of relationships and love then was limited to these polarities. The many faces of love were mere ‘types’ for me.

There was a gap of a good 15 years between me naming my chapter of love and watching Ae Dil Hain Mushkil. My Mughl-e-Azam level romance was behind me for good and whereas it did leave me wrecked and changed for life while I was at it, it wasn’t the passion or possession of love that did it. Rather, as I came to see, to some extent, it was a lack of it. Love as friendship was the culprit. That left me flummoxed. But not surprised.

There was something very familiar in the story I was not telling myself. The story behind the story of why I had forced love into the mould of friendship when I wanted more and different. I had faced it but with Alizeh I faced it again. I was Alizeh, without the experience, but with the knowledge of how deeply love can scar, hence friendship was the safest and best form of love. I was Alizeh who has fully filmy dreams but didn’t really believe they would ever come true while she really wanted them to. I was Alizeh who has felt so vulnerable in love that putting on a don’t-care-a-damn attitude is the best defense, the best way to protect herself from it again. I was Alizeh who believes only friendship lasts because she has seen love crumble in front of her eyes. Her helplessness at the altar of love, at once scared and wise was mine. So in fear, I scrambled to firmly place love in the safe universe of friendship. The only difference was, she did it after her first heartbreak, I did it before, to avoid one. She found her home and I was lost. But the fear of pain that spawned it was the same.

And it this very fear of pain Alizeh overcomes when she lets her last dream be fulfilled. She allows love back into her life but with the wisdom of experience. ‘I friend you’ she says to Ayan’s helpless ‘I love you’, telling him she accepts his love and wants to love him back just that her favourite form of expression is different. And Ayan accepts, not because she is dying and he is desperate, but out of a largesse that naturally comes out of deep passion. Suddenly, love becomes formless even though both remain adamant on its form. Because it is within Alizeh’s choice to return and Ayan’s acceptance of her as is, that lies the real expression of love, formless and boundless. It no longer matters what they say, their actions have spoken.

That is why, even though she is dying in the film, for me, she wins. And so does Ayan, even though he doesn’t seem to get what he wanted. Because love wins. They may not have had their love fulfilled in the way they wanted but they had their love returned. To be requited, love just needs love, itself, not form. It’s when we get lost in the form we miss seeing the love that is happy being outside. To me, the film’s end signified a fresh start to Ayan and Alizeh’s quest for exploring a different form of love, this time together and with more wisdom. Time would tell if they would find a meeting ground or conclusions, but in their acceptance of each other’s love was the acknowledgment of its formlessness. To my mind, her “I friend you’ didn’t seem like a stubborn quibble but simply a reiteration of not having to define love at all. Let’s keep it as undefined as a friendship is, and let it blossom. And take it from there, she seems to be saying.

But what had turned Alizeh off in the first place? It was the neediness of love, the soul-scorching neediness of love and not its heady passion that she had experienced. She had seen its destructive face, not its procreative desire. Maybe she mistook both but love wasn’t a happy place for her to be in anymore. And so for Saba. But for Ayan, this very attachment is the Holy Grail he was seeking. His heart has passed the flower pot test. And so has Tahir Khan’s. But Ayan is still struggling under the weight while Tahir wears it with pride, not as a badge of honour, but as something life-affirming because it keeps him connected to the one he loves even without her presence in his life. I have my love, if not her…he says, and we are back to the formlessness of love, one that doesn’t seek possession, one that doesn’t need validation by the others’, it is valid in itself by its own presence.

Among the four, we are left feeling that it is only Saba who remains unfulfilled. Is it because that she unknowingly craved again for the same form of love she had left behind? The small interaction with her ex-husband shows she has not forgiven or forgotten yet. That is why she is steering clear of love, it can only be no strings attached especially emotional ones coz the earlier form did not quite work. Just like Alizeh, she too is still yearning and it is this that draws her to Ayan but she doesn’t know that until later. And when she does, she sees she has been seduced by love in the same form again. She wants to give in but cannot see the same light in his eyes. Letting Ayan go seems the rightest thing to do to her. If Ayan has already given away his love to someone else does she have a right to ask for it? She moves away with dignity. Despite clinging to a particular form of love she unfetters her love from its demands without knowing. No longer possessive, her love protects them both as much as it hurts. She goes back to her home, poetry. A more sublime form of the expression of love? Does she really remain unfulfilled? Is love letting go?

I wish Saba’s character had been given more attention and screen-time for very selfish reasons. If the girl in me related to the awkward young girl in Alizeh, the woman in me empathised with the poised middle-aged woman in Saba. I was Saba, too fearful to give love a chance again. I was Saba, fooling herself she is strong when it was just a façade. I was Saba, with wounds still raw, inviting more wounds pretending she is trying to heal them, almost as a punishment. I was Saba whose pain had a certain stillness about it, it did not roar and burn. I was Saba who has now found letting go is as easy as getting attached used to be.

Her meeting with Alizeh in Ayan’s presence was one of the sequences in the film that seemed to be dealt with quite an intuitive hand, in writing, performance, and direction. There is a hierarchy, ever-so-subtle, where age and looks play a significant part but no politics. The girl in Saba (which Ayan’s attentions has stirred, him being younger) recognises the girl in Alizeh and the older and wiser woman inside her responds, she is not only graceful she is gracious too. Alizeh’s awe and awkwardness in front of Saba’s self-assured poise is not only a reflection of her own discomfort with her femininity (and hence love too, to an extent) but also the girl yet to acquire the wisdom of womanhood, looking at what she would like to grow up to be after a couple of years. Or something so unattainable she never hoped to attain it anyways. The scene lays bare everyone’s insecurities and strengths without needing to politicise them.

If the girl inside Saba hurts to see Ayan loving someone else the way she wants him to love her, the woman in her knows letting go is the wisest thing to do. Love will find a way, KJo said in one of his earlier (and lesser) films.

As is inherent in the human condition, there is a constant tussle between the possessive and transcendental aspects of love, aspects most films aspire to portray but fail at evoking. ADHM does not pretend to, caught as it is, despite its best efforts, in the limitations of its emotional language and landscape. But it does pit these aspects against each other fairly well. If love as passion (junoon) is transcendental for Tahir, for Saba it is possessive. If love as friendship is transcendental for Alizeh, for Ayan it is immaterial. He craves transcendence through possession.

Yet, in the end, it is Ayan who takes the biggest leap of faith in the film, out of sheer love; he simply cannot help it. In doing so, he opens a window within to a love that does not seek to possess, love that liberates. It is not difficult to imagine him, few years down the line, wearing it with pride, this new-found joy in the junoon of love, like Tahir does. It’s like he amalgamates everyone’s journeys, even though it is they who spur him on to his. His emotional journey is Alizeh, Saba and Tahir’s catharsis, bringing together four people happy to fly solo in love. I loved him for being helplessly passionate showing me its ok to believe in the junoon of love, that’s a form of expression too. But I loved him more for being the very vulnerable boy he was, almost saying is there any other way to love really?

What seems so brave in the film is the atypicality of the portrayal of love. It does not pretend to be grandiose, or lofty (like KANK) it’s rather earnest, the unabashed love for Bollywood adding an almost unconscious subtext of Bollywood romantic models to the film. It’s like we know what these kids have grown up on, setting the context of their influences, behaviour and beliefs, in a certain sense too. And in a wider sense encompassing all those film lovers and filmy lovers who brought up on Bollywood too, make films and love what it is – friendship, passion, commitment, relationship or plain confusion.

And probably that is why, inspite of myself, I was Alizeh, Saba, Ayan and Tahir, separately and all at once. I didn’t understand them, I just recognised them in me, struggling between having love and being it. And like all of them beginning to realise love is not a goal to be met, it is a state of mind and if Rumi were asked, ‘state of the soul’. And isn’t there something about non-separation there?

Love is coming home, whichever route you choose to take.

Fatema Kagalwala