Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category

I will not reveal the end of the breakout Telugu film, Arjun Reddy, coveted for a Bollywood remake with Ranveer Singh expressing keen interest. But it suffices to say that somewhere in the first half when the narrative glamourizes a bad boy, I knew that the end would make or break the movie for me. Touted as the modern-day Devdas, Arjun Reddy is the story of how a surgeon grappling with anger issues starts sinking into a black hole of alcoholism and drug abuse after his college sweetheart, Preethi gets married to another man.

At the risk of stoking the AR funs the wrong way, I will clarify that I love seeing despicable characters on screen with their flaws, front and center. I am interested in the people they emerge as, at the end of their grueling journey (what is technically speaking, the character arc). And yes, my criticism comes from context and not just a sense of righteousness. Arjun Reddy, (hereinafter AR) with his great looks and cringe-inducing attitude can keep you hooked, thanks to the immersive storytelling and Vijay Devarakonda’s fiery performance. Of course, there is the heroine who is willing to endure silently to transform this hotheaded guy with a heart of gold into a worthy man, setting the stage for a toxic love story. One would argue that these ideas ought to be presupposed and accepted in the framework of the films of the region. But with some of the refreshing departures that the film makes with a new cinematic language, I was led to expect more. The sparks of brilliance hold more possibilities, that the film fails to explore with its climax.

Arjun’s character is a bundle of contradictions. He stakes a claim over his junior in college, Preethi by threatening other junior students to stay away from her and turn their gaze on other girls. He almost bullies the timid Preethi into spending time with him. When AR interrupts her in the middle of an antakshari game to plant a kiss on her cheek, it is evident that he has thrown consent out of the window. But we shortly see that Preethi is the one who makes the first move when it comes to making love. Well, scriptwriting is the art of manipulation, after all! Her quiet adulation of a senior with a clout in medical college, who adamantly looks out for her, then does not seem so misplaced.  In one of the scenes, Arjun even asks Preethi to speak to her parents as a ‘woman’ and not a ‘teenager’. You have to credit the smart writing for the mixed feelings it provokes.

A raging alcoholic but also an impeccable surgeon, he brooks no dissent. He also lambasts a man for objectification of women and in the following scene we see him chasing after his maid out of fury but the clever placement of scenes depicts AR as someone who has anger issues but is not necessarily a male chauvinist. The chronology suggests that an evolution may be in order but we don’t witness a character growth in that direction. Despite many contemporary touches, the film refuses to address his aggression as an ailment. It is revered as machismo, instead. So much for ‘heralding’ a new chapter in Telugu cinema.

Unlike most Indian films plagued with the curse of the second half, the film comes into its own in the second half when the protagonist nosedives into devastation. The focus is entirely on his gradual descent into a whirlpool of ruin.  The film pulses with an unpredictable fervor. You are left wondering what will make AR hit rock bottom. Enduring his eccentricity almost becomes a visceral test. The filmmaking is slick with its exquisite long takes and rousing background score. I expected it to stomp over tropes and give us a raw character study of an antihero. I even stopped watching it as a love story. In a telling instance, AR’s grandmother speaks of how suffering is personal and that he needs to hurt. There is much to suggest that his tale would not meet the Devdas fate but would conclude with an imaginatively bleak streak. Alas! It is in the sudden and unconvincing subduing of the ferocious AR that the film completely lost me.

The impossibilities of AR’s character are wisely cushioned with the character of Shiva (Rahul Ramakrishna), AR’s steadfast friend who holds a mirror up to him. In one of the best scenes in the film, Shiva confides in his father about the frustration of dealing with his doggedly dismal friend. He lends the much needed sardonic humour to the film. It is rare to see a supporting character being drawn to the fore from the periphery. A scene which would have otherwise been considered as exposition does the job of offering the lens of empathy to viewers. In the same vein, another character in the film calls him a ‘free spirited individual in a democratic world.’

It’s a rare joy to see an anti-hero meet his grotesque fate and rise above it or get crushed under its weight. What Boss Getty says in Citizen Kane comes to mind, “He’s going to need more than one lesson. And he’s going to get more than one lesson.”  But this anti-hero turns into a hero. All his self-defeating means stand vindicated. And a passionate character study becomes a conventional love story. Perhaps the audience is not ready for this bitter pill but we can still revel in the unconventional narrative style of the film and the acting smarts of Vijay Deverakonda.

– Dipti Kharude

(Dipti has quit her corporate job and is having fun dipping her toes in a ton of stuff like binge watching TV and web series, doing movie marathons, gallivanting, and writing about her escapades. She tweets @kuhukuro)

 

You have seen the film. You have read the reviews. You already know which side of debate you are on. We are late to the party. But we would still suggest that you read this Dunkirk post by Percy H Bharucha.

 

I wanted to just add a small note before I get into the movie itself. If we are to judge the skill of a moviemaker by what he adds to the medium, let us also be magnanimous enough to call it skill when he is able to subtract from the medium without compromising the quality of the visual experience.

First things first, let’s admit to the fact that Dunkirk is a movie unlike most other war movies. Which is where the comparisons to Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge should ideally end. Those movies had an independent inspirational story line; there was a plot, which by the way is set during a war. Add to it the usual emotional heart tugging of the “true story”, and the fade to black and white montage sequences of actual war heroes. I’m not saying that’s bad or wrong but this isn’t that kind of movie. In a way the courage portrayed in the movie is mirrored by the courage of the director in embarking on a movie with truly no protagonist, no linear structure, the absolute lack of the usual narrative elements, and a rather odd penchant for sweater vests and turtlenecks. This is an experiment and like all things new should be encouraged. To quote Anton Ego, “…the new needs friends…”

This is movie making with blinders on, and it that respect Nolan perhaps does more justice to the actual event than any other historical movie so far. The evacuation is the story, the evacuation is the plot, the evacuation is the enemy, the friend, the love interest, the comic relief, the everything. There is nothing else to distract the viewer from the event.

 Allow me to list the clichés of a war movie, whose absence I thoroughly enjoyed.

There are no unnecessary amounts of blood, spurting from maimed limbs just to shock and awe the viewer with visceral depictions of bombing. There is no relentless barrage of gunfire, especially bursts of fire in the night for stylistic violence or whatever. No slow motion shots of people running around with stretchers, of shell cases flying. No unnecessary jerky first person POV camera movements to deliver “true immersion into the war front.” No unnecessary audio effects of showing shell shock or ear drums going mute after bombing. No black and white photos of sweethearts left home, no letters written but not posted to sons or mothers, no folding of the flags over coffins, no medic scene with man dying on stretcher. No Michael Bay-esque scenes of military swag with low angle shots of people walking in slow motion against the dying sun with their entourage carrying big heavy guns. No rousing speeches at the darkest moments of the film, no hope carrying banner, no heroic acts of courage glorified by technique or skill. Nobody to yell, “charge” or “fire” or any sort of witticism making fun of the enemy. There is no garish tugging of heartstrings, no vulgar exploitation of emotion, no trembling hands, no lone tear eking its way down a solitary cheek.

At this point you might say, “Percy, can we even call this a war movie?

Isn’t all of this required?”

The answer Nolan tells us quietly is a resounding NO!

That is the man’s skill; he still made it look effortless, he removes all the bells, the frills, and the whistles and still made you want more of the movie. This movie is about an event and in an era where movies pack love, fantasy, action, it is a welcome change to concentrate on one fucking thing.

Dunkirk is, possibly, in my opinion, the most authentic war movie there is. By that statement I do not imply historical accuracy, but perhaps the most realistic depiction of war there is. One of the opening scenes of the movie is a soldier looking for a place to take a dump. If that shit isn’t ‘real’, I don’t know what is. Nolan shows you that side of war that few movies touch on, the absolute chaos, the unsexy clumsiness and randomness of it. There is a fanatical detail to the idiosyncrasies of war, the fumbling with loading the gun in the initial scenes, the lifting of the hose pipe to drink water, the cracking of the fuel gauge, the accidental death of George before coming close to the battle, the soldiers blocking the stretchers as they are carried along the mole reluctant to let them pass, this is the day to day of war.

Most war movies are either; highlight reels made to glorify inspirational, individual acts of valor or the anti war, which focus on the senseless destruction it causes, and the uprooting of giant swathes of people unlucky enough to be caught in it. Nolan treads a fine line here. There is no cinematic glory or angst filter applied to his faithful retelling.

If there is one message he seems to be espousing is that wars are about survival. There is no winning or losing here, there is only survival. Surviving a relentless onslaught of chaotic destruction.

The beach turns into a black hole and we are dropped in the midst of it, through land, through sea and through air, all we see are attempts to escape it. The giving and taking of hope is a hallmark of Nolan’s films, but never before has it been employed so successfully. The moment of relief is short, so short it tears away at the viewer’s heart to have it snatched away so mercilessly. Nolan ensures that the primitiveness of his key emotion, survival is not to be muddied, diluted or tainted in any way through either treatment or narrative. The dialogue is sparse, functional, stripped down to the primitive, bare bone. There are no witty quips, no meme-worthy lines, no clever wordplay, no dying joke, no talk about brotherhood, Nolan moves the viewer through the frame and the silence of the spoken word.

But what Nolan does contrast this bleak landscape of destruction is with what I’d like to term the anonymity of courage. There are these little glimpses throughout the movie, of pure human endurance. But they are the blink-it-and-miss-it kinds. Understated, not trumpeted around there is no lengthy stay or pause for effect there is only the moment as it must have been. And yet it is this very anonymity of courage that adds so much to the movie. There are few names exchanged, there are no identifiers, there is only the anonymous soldier or civilian, blending in and out of the group as required. Perhaps a nod to the fact that war robs us all of identity, if that is intentional it is a masterstroke of filmmaking or maybe I read too much into it.

In the hands of a less skilled filmmaker or even perhaps a less courageous one, this would have been ruined. We would have seen the usual fare of a victorious score announce the arrival of civilian boats, scenes of soldiers hugging and crying with the civilians, exchanging mementos, shaking of hands, passing on of dead soldier letters, prayers being answered, etc. etc. But Nolan is unrelenting. Kenneth Branagh delivers two lines; one is waiting for the French and the other “What do you see? Home”, which are perhaps so historically inspiring from a humanistic point of view, and yet they are shot like any other lines in the movie. There is no close up, there is no heroic music, no posing, there is just the event. The wordless exchanges when the French soldier on multiple occasions saves Harry Styles. Mark Rylance delivers the line, “my son is one of you lot… died three months into the war” he is allowed no indulgence, there is no private moment of grief shared, no banal platitudes offered, just a matter of fact statement made with an implication of such sheer weight. The scene where the son hides the death of George from Cillian Murphy and the father approves wordlessly, such intense stuff yet delivered so functionally. Some tactless father son bonding ritual moment could have easily ruined this, but that is my point this movie is a case on restraint. And George, sigh, a moment of silence for George. The only official hero of the movie dies before he enters the war. If you think that the fact, that George goes blind before he dies is random, remember his lines, his talk about not doing anything worthwhile, how this war was his redemption. A part of me believes that Nolan would rather have him go blind than break his heart over the senseless chaos that war truly is. George died believing in his own myths about the glory and grandeur of the war they joined, a merciful death. But again I fear I might be reading too much into this. And I ask you how can you not be moved? Or perhaps we’ve confused delivery with dialogue. One can say the gravest things without a tear that should not take away from the gravity of their words. The acting is brilliant again by what is not done, what is not shown, the absence of that catch in the throat, the tremor in the tone.

There is little room for emotion when there is a gun pointed at your head, especially if it is an aircraft gun, let us not mistake the deliberate absence of over-the-top hysterics as the lack of emotion in the movie.

I will refrain from dealing with the technical aspects of the movie, the way it has been shot; better people than me have spoken of the incredible work done in those areas.

Lastly, this movie is about courage, the quiet kind, the kind that doesn’t require Wagner-esque scores accompanying it. And it takes courage to say ‘that’s all’ that needs to be there. Nolan has made a movie that will require of the emotionally bombarded palate, an effort to decipher, an effort to connect the storylines. Let us grant him that for the payoff is so worth it. I fear a lot of people have attributed their laziness and their need for over articulated storylines as a fault of the director.

Is the movie messy? Hell Yes, but then so is war!

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)

Most of us saw Lipstick Under My Burkha at last year’s Mumbai Film Festival (MFF). Since then, the film has been doing the fest rounds and winning accolades internationally. On home ground though, it has been the exactly opposite scene. Battle with CBFC went for long, and then the task to find a proper release and distribution partner. Ekta Kapoor came on-board and gave the much needed boost to make it look visible. The film is finally in theatres this friday.

Here’s our recco post on the film, written by Raj Kumari. It was written last year after the MFF screening.

No Male Rescuers

Lipstick Under My Burkha (LUMB) was one of the best films I saw at MAMI 2016 – a bold & honest take on female sexuality. All four protagonists are females (how often that happens in India?) so it can be easily said that it is about female sexuality but I felt at the deepest level it is not. And I am so happy about it being not so.

But still it shows the different perceptions about female sexuality in four different stages of a women’s life through four characters Rehana Saeed (a college girl), Leela (a young lady of so-called marriageable age), Shireen Aslam (a middle-aged married women) and Usha Bua ji (an elderly woman).

The film explores their desires, fantasies, and struggle to own their heartbreaks with such honesty and poignant sensitivity that it’s impossible not to see your own secrets in them.

And even after crossing so many slippery alleys of this topic of female sexuality and repression when it becomes very easy (and even cathartic) to take sides by providing a rescuer for these characters, this film allows itself not to take such a decisive stand and sticks to its POV of just being a witness. The film doesn’t rescue them, it just lets them be. The focus remains tight on the process of suppression only, and hence the core of sexuality comes out blazingly clear.

And what is it?

Sexuality is never about body. And more primarily about male or female body. It can not be. As it involves both male and female energies, whatever be the outer form of the body, male or female or any other gender. Sexuality is about being free, being open, being whole in your presence which generally manifests as being with your own body. And of course, this openness and freedom can come through wearing what you like, smoking, being explicitly exposing or demanding sex openly (some of the tropes repeatedly used/reinforced in our films to show a ‘liberated’ woman). But being sexually liberated is further about understanding that these are just few symbols of freedom against respective symbols of suppression. They ALONE are NOT freedom. Yes, they do serve till some deeper grounds of being open with the self is found. And the film attempts to take us to that depth too.

(SPOILERS AHEAD) 

It defines the core of freedom in the scene where Bua-ji owns her desires, and her ownership of them in front of all who used to respect her. She didn’t feel any shame, grudge or pity. She showed courage to assemble all of her torn, broken, humiliated self in her arms and took shelter in her bedroom calmly and with the same ownership. There were male oppressors but there was no male rescuer in the film, and this itself says how deeply mature the intent of the film is. I loved the film a little extra for this one golden aspect.

And in the last scene, how beautifully it showed that such a place of courage becomes a platform for all such courageous hearts to identify with their struggle. A platform to make mistakes, comparing your struggles with others, and finally seeing the commonality of self ownership as the final rescue.
Do watch it. And let us know what you thought about the film.

Amit Masurkar’s new film Newton had its world premiere at the ongoing Berlin International Film Festival. Here’s all the buzz about the film from the fest.

(click on any of the pic to start the slide show)

Finding humour in the tenuous nature of democracy might be a hard task on the global stage at present; however, in Newton’s darkly comic exploration of one official’s attempt to uphold the election process in India, it’s simpler than it sounds. The second film from writer/director Amit V Masurkar bows in Berlinale’s Forum section with a sense of chaos and absurdity, while remaining aware of the drama of reality. When the feature emphasises either extreme, it proves engaging viewing.

–  From Screen Daily’s review. Click here to read the full review.

– Rajeev Masand’s video-blog on the film –

 

Newton is a very important film, despite its satirical tones, laced with a lot of humour and irony. It is a film that should make viewers think about how important their right to cast a vote is.

– from Aseem Chhabra’s report on the film. Click here to read the full report

Newton is a brave attempt. Because it uses the feature film format to tell a story about on-going violence and exploitation and cynical political aggrandisement : anytime you hear the words Naxal, or Maoist in a film, it falls into the tried and tested formula. Newton breaks that mould, refreshes hardened tropes, and makes us smile and think. Really hard. Because what effects India Interior today will one day ripple over and claw its way into our complacent urban, mall-infested enclaves.

– from Indian Express. Click here to read the full report.

– Some tweets on the film:

(pics taken from Twitter)

Even if you ignore the hyperbole in the header, you shouldn’t miss the show. BBC’s Planet Earth II has come at the end of the year, and it straight goes to the top of my list. You probably have already seen this video of snakes chasing baby iguana, it went viral few weeks back. This is Mad Max on steroids! If this isn’t the best of the year, I am not sure what else can top this one.

And if you are addicted to gifs, you must have seen the funny gif of the bear scratching its back on the tree, too. That’s also from the same show.

I love reading year end lists. To see who has discovered what that i might have missed. And these days it’s more difficult to keep track as we are bombarded by content in different forms across various platforms. Strangely, i didn’t see too many people putting the show on their list. I quickly did a search on my twitter feed, too. Hardly any mention. And that’s why this post.

This show comes ten years after the original one was aired. A decade is a long time. Shooting technology has advanced, more natural habitats have been destroyed,  and David Attenborough is 90 now.  But what the show has achieved this time is unparalleled. Shot in 40 different countries, with crews making 117 filming trips, this is the result of four years of hard work.

The series is divided into six episodes – Islands, Mountains, Jungles, Deserts, Grasslands, Cities, and a compilation titled, A World Of Wonder. As you sit down to watch the first episode, you wonder two things simultaneously – what an ambitious show this is, and how the hell have they managed to shoot all that. Remember the docu, March Of The Penguins? This one is like a march in every sequence.

It’s breathtakingly immersive as the narrative glides from one sequence to other. Set to Hans Zimmer’s music, it’s the story of survival in extreme conditions. The story is the same in ever sequence – either struggling to find food to survive or a mating partner to produce babies. But shooting in the extreme conditions, and looking for elusive animals, interesting patterns, funny behaviour, rare breeds, and heart-stopping footage is what makes this show great. Add to that Attenborough’s voice-over. That’s not all, the shooting Diaries at the end of every episode tells you how they achieved those amazing shots.

The show has received some criticism for the way it has shot/put together some of the sequences by using archival footage in few places. But you will find genuine emotion when you watch it. I was on the edge of the seat cheering for the baby iguana to survive.  A sequence where baby tortoise struggle to survive or the one involving penguins on Zavodovski island is heartbreaking. It also makes you realise that as humans our life is such a luxury compared to these animals who struggle everyday just to survive. As predators turn prey in few seconds, it’s frightening to navigate through the wild.

Episode 4 and 5 seems bit weak compared to the first three. Maybe because of the terrain it explored. But the show gets its groove back in the last episode, Cities. Remember the picture of Leopard that was caught on cam in Mumbai, that sequence is in the last episode. Almost every episode has sequences from Indian terrain. As i try to rewind all the six episodes, too many astounding moments come flashing back – sloth looking for a mate in an island, bobcats diving into snow, wasp attacking eggs of glass frog, birds flying miles just to collect water for their babies, sequence of langurs, bowerbird with a red heart, and ibex climbing mountains, to name a few. Watch it. Because when nature is the showrunner, every drama is dazzling. This is the unscripted stranger things.

@notsosnob

(ps – watch it only in the best video quality. It’s out #ykw if you can’t find a legal streaming site)

(pps – it’s the only show that my cat watches, too. completely mesmerised.)

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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

by  मोहित कटारिया

(Mohit Kataria is an IT engineer by profession, writer & poet by passion, and a Gulzar fan by heart. He is based in Bangalore and can be reached at [kataria dot mohit at gmail dot com] or @hitm0 on twitter)