Posts Tagged ‘Fatema Kagalwala’

 

 

 

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It is brutal watch. Yeah, that’s the actual statutory warning, but we are all old enough for it, right? The reason I am writing about Reason is because there is every reason for all of us to be talking about the exact same things as the film.

First off, this is not a review – cute things like ‘reviews’ don’t matter to films like these. Anyways, it isn’t the film that needs a review, the country does – the truths it challenges are so stark. It lays bare in no uncertain terms the clear divide between (religious) rhyme and (democratic) reason, literally and figuratively.

If this film is shown in the beginning of every movie instead of the national anthem, people may not start feeling more patriotic about the country, but at least they will be sensibly patriotic. Since, it has 16 chapters of almost 15 min each and you may not have so much time so here is an abridged summary and highlights, with some personal commentary to keep the truth going. You tell someone else about it, and it will spread. Hopefully, we will come back from the brink of the abyss staring at us, in time. (Also, watch the entire thing first.)

Chapter 1 – Dabholkar & Chapter 2 – Pansare

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IX2ZeG3szQ4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osrfRS364yg

The film doesn’t waste time coming to the point, it starts from the centre, from the Dabholkar, Pansare & Kalburgi murders and the entire film is interspersed through with their thoughts. Who killed them is a moot point here (also coz everyone knows), more important is the question – Why were they killed? They were killed because they empowered the marginalised classes through reason and reason, as we all know, does not rhyme. Reason sings no one’s tunes.

Chapter 3 – Shivaji

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlSQe8XNT64

From the killing of rationalists, the film moves to investigating the killing of rationality. It throws spotlight on the fractured as well as manufactured history surrounding the Maratha King Shivaji, while taking pains to separate fact from fiction. It also throws a spotlight on the hard-core elements manufacturing this history for their own benefit, and widely poisoning the Hindu-Muslim and ‘nationalist’ narrative.

Chapter 4 – Virasat

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StYIx1rEL6o

After setting the stage, the film quickly comes back to talking of the legacy left behind by Dabholkar and Pansare; it takes us right inside the minds and hearts of people these men have touched, classes that are the bedrock of our society, traditional as well as modern. It instils hope. The film also touches upon how society is being influenced artificially and pressured directly by those who demand a Hindu rashtra.

Chapter 5 – Sanatan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgGcE3EYXQ4

Chapter five takes us directly into the womb of the problem, Sanatan Sanstha located in Goa. Founded by Jayant Balaji Athavle, the organisation diligently works towards achieving its dream of converting India into a Hindu rashtra, through planned terror activities. There is strong opposition to their activities and existence right in the village of Ramnath, where it is located, from the local Goan people. The local people want to live peacefully in their diversity without the Sanatan Sanstha.

(Caution: The parts with the kids in Sanatan Sanstha fooatge is very creepy. Watch at your own risk.)

Chapter 6 – Ganpati

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLccwS7WWBs

The film then goes to uncover the politics behind religious festivals and how they are used for spreading propaganda by political parties and religious groups. Dabholkar and Pansare both had questioned the environmental impact of the unchecked Ganpati celebrations in Maharashtra. The film keeps questioning their murders. Maybe, we must too.

(Watch out for – The part where the lawyer chap defending the accused in Malegaon blasts telling Patwardhan, on camera, ‘Why did the police allow Anand Patwardhan to protest? Why didn’t they break his bones? When that happens, one feels angry.’ Waah re, democracy.)

Chapter 7 – Shital

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9y3u_Xv-UbM

After zooming out, the film zooms into the microcosm of the Sanatan Sanstha, and its efforts to divide India not only along communal lines, but also casteist lines. Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi’s words keep stitching the narrative forward and the section ends with a beautiful tribute song to the three men.

(Must think about – The Haji Ali protests section where Hindu and Muslim suddenly become one against a single enemy, the woman. Think, think hard. Or laugh.)

Chapter 8 – Dadri

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7N-OCBEwzVY

This is the toughest to watch and that’s why the most necessary. The Dadri beef lynching episode is like a wound on the nation’s conscience we can neither heal from, nor move on from. But the quiet assurance in Akhlaq’s young, very old son is a balm. If he can still see a better India and work for it, so can we.

(Keep calm – At the end when the father of one of the lynchers justifies the lynching and when challenged that the Govt investigation found no beef ends with a ringing and profound, ‘How can we believe?’ Breathe. Think of how Dadri was and still wants to live in peace and brotherhood.)

Chapter 9 – Cow Dalit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGsdXSeDaW8

The spotlight travels to Una, where gau-rakshak terrorism reached new lows in July 2016. The section begins with the actual footage of dalits being flogged and it’s cruel (and if that doesn’t make you angry, just stop. And retire, from life). But the film captures very nicely the heartening spirit of the Una ‘uprising’. The marginalised must rise up and claim their space. Also Modiji has ensured Muslims join the Dalits in Gujarat, and there is hope. There is always hope.

(Check out New India – The last five minutes – the four injured dalits in the hospital saying none of them is scared anymore, it is a fight for justice. And Akhlaq’s son.)

Chapter 10 – RSS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oe2JPn354Qw

And now we come to the point of the whole matter, RSS. The organisation that killed Gandhi. The film takes us through its diligent training camps and takes head-on some of its rather brainwashed foot soldiers. It is a whether-to-laugh-or-cry moment. (But there is a one-liner gem there to deal with a bhakt, just ask him, ‘Who killed Gandhi?‘ and watch him disintegrate.)

(Must note – The Ram Mandir station maybe an imposition but there is still a Mahim a few stations down and a ‘Masjid’, on the other line. Let it come, in Bombay rush hour Hindutva won’t be able to survive beyond Andheri.)

Chapter 11 – Rohith

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgCwRchxaMc

Rohith Vemula is not the wound of the nation, he is the test of the nation. And we cannot afford to fail that test, period. Through Vemula’s story, the film lets the dalits tell their story and follows it wherever it goes. About time, our nation began to do that as well.

(Must do – The last bit is an oral rendition of Rohith’s last letter. If you haven’t read it please listen to it.)

Chapter 12 – JNU A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyKU86Yerz8

Enter Kanhaiyya Kumar and although I cannot fault his politics or intentions, must say, his emergence and rise has always seemed more manufactured than organic. But the truths about our society and especially politics that his emergence lays bare are naked. The fake narrative of nationalism is fooling no one, especially not the youth.

(Check out New India part II – The two ex ABVP leaders who left the organisation on grounds of its regressive stands and political ideologies. They were thinking for themselves.)

Chapter 13 – JNU B

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KV7NGzyMo9o

Extended interviews with Kanhaiyya Kumar follow with a deeper look into the Hindutva menace. And perhaps significantly, it ends with a conversion ceremony of dalits into Buddhism, rejecting Hinduism saying, ‘I believe, I am being reborn.’ If Hindusim will reject them, what are they supposed to do?

Chapter 14 – Mush A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-YjfBj32Eo

This is when the ocean comes to the doorstep. The question, ‘Who Killed Gandhi‘ has now become, ‘Who Killed Karkare?’ and it hurts even more. Or rather it should. The film exposes the loopholes in ATS chief Hemant Karkare’s death and links to the Malegaon blast investigations and asks questions that have never been more urgent. Let’s ask them before Sadhvi Pragya becomes our Prime Sadhvi of 100% Pure Brahmin Hindu Ram Rajya. (It sounds like the name of some ghee, doesn’t it?)

Chapter 15 – Mush B

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntfGxfn0Svw

The plot thickens and thickens and one just keeps swallowing the hopelessness of the same 80’s masala story of aam junta as well as upright officers victimised and exploited by powerful political forces. It’s like a potboiler seriously, a good old Sunny Deol film. We are back to the 80’s in 2019, some development for sure. Pansare had publicly claimed Karkare’s death was an organised conspiracy and the conspirators would be unmasked soon. He was killed too. The connections are ridiculously clear in this ‘we-all-know-who-dunnit-but-won’t-say-it’ not-thrilling-anymore, thriller that is more of a joke, our nation.

Chapter 16 – The end

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUcM_B0m77U

The series comes to an end with a deeper look into the amazing amalgamation the establishment and hindu terror outfits have become and keeps raising that one seminal question to chest-thumping nationalists, ‘Who Killed Gandhi?’ The answer to that may lie in the question, ‘Do we want a Hindu Rashtra or do we want Freedom?’

There, there is a discovery of a New India in front of us. It is upto us what we do with it, take it or leave it. Its upto us, really. After all, it stands to reason.

Fatema Kagalwala

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

Five boys in their pre-teens, hailing from a small-town in Maharashtra, each knowing the loss of a dear one, jump into a lake from a height in the total abandon of childhood’s innocence. The protagonist is the last to jump; he hesitates and then takes the plunge. For me, that was the defining moment of Avinash Arun’s debut film Killa.

 Killa 5

Cinema world-over, is moving towards telling big stories of small people. While we continue to have (and be mesmerised) by our Interstellars and Mad Max’, we are also rejoicing in looking deeper into the souls of the commoner through the canvas of everyday life. Iranian cinema, arguably, showed the world the way, and in India, it is Marathi cinema, among other language films, which has moved the cinematic zeitgeist inwards. Little people, little moments and large stories. Not larger-than-life; very common, very grounded, very real and because of this, large. Especially gratifying is the fact that the child as the protagonist is finally here. Our lenses have finally found his story worth telling. His world is being looked into, explored, understood and loved, a practice that has always been at the periphery in our cinema. Vihir, Shwaas, Tingya, Shala, Fandry…the list keeps increasing. And now Killa.

In Killa, Avinash delves into small-town life and his own personal memories of childhood, and paints a moving and heart-warming picture of learning to fight one’s battles with life. It is the journey of a boy still grappling with the death of his father that happened two years back, and the constant change of environment that has followed. It is the story of his mother, a single woman, gritty and upright, determined to ensure she is now the father and mother to her only son. It is the story of courage to break away from the past and it is a story of love, loyalty and trust. But most importantly, and which is why it is more beautiful, it is the story of taking the plunge. And thus, finding the light at the end of the tunnel. In Killa’s case, the cave.

Killa 4

“I think we have forgotten the life, the buildings, and the streets we used to have not so long ago.” Miyazaki said this about Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi. Killa, in more ways then one way, pays homage to a kind of childhood fast disappearing and one many of us have never even known. Yet, its emotional tone resonates universally, drawing in even those unfamiliar with the social landscape of the film. An intensely personal film, it is life experienced through the eyes of a sensitive, lonely, fatherless, pre-teen boy. Moving from town to town due to his mother’s transferable job, he pines for putting down roots, for friends he can grow up with and for his dead father. His mother is trying her best to be both the parents for him, stretching to breaking point to ensure him his due upbringing.  It is with a humane eye that Avinash sees the single woman’s struggle, also reflected in the elderly neighbour. Both women develop a bond of mutual respect, an intuitive sign of recognition when one kind, strong soul meets another. The women are lonely too and they are fighting it. Loneliness is the vast canvas Avinash paints his story on because little Chinmay has to break free of this very loneliness and find hope.

Killa, the central motif of the film then becomes the symbol of Chinu’s inner one, the fort of loneliness and mistrust he is caught in. His search for the exit from the fort becomes a beautiful metaphor of his efforts to get rid of the loneliness. And when he emerges into the sunshine he finds hope and trust, literally and figuratively. On the face of it, it is a simple film with a linear narrative, a well-used form. Couched within is a multi-layered narrative of an inner struggle, the experience of which is evoked rather than told. A complete freedom from the need of dramatic tension yet letting the story find its own resolution is evident in the way it unfolds and in certain ways, it is a liberating experience; to co-opt a 3 Act structure and do away with dramatic turning points yet end with confidence, is in my eyes, quite an achievement.

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The visual imagery of the film and its soundscape resonates with the simplicity of verdant, small-town life and a child’s inner tenderness. The spaces Avinash uses make up Chinnu’s external and internal world which we experience through the different locales, his home, school, bridge, fort, cave…The visuals are beautiful without being imposing or picture postcard perfect and the staging is natural, keeping the film moving with a steady rhythm of life instead of depending on the artifice of drama. Avinash also handles the small class-room dramas, especially the weaves of inter-personal relationships between children as peers with a certain tenderness and an understanding of the fragility of their world. The performances extracted out of the children are warmly naturalistic endearing each one of us with their quirks and innocence. We see them as children are, vulnerable and stubborn, inexperienced and wise. Perhaps, the biggest victory of the film is bringing to us the ‘cleanness’ of children…something that permeates into the entire experience of it.

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Ingmar Bergman said ‘No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.’ Killa does that in its own unassuming way, going directly to our feelings and deep down into the dark room of our souls and lighting it up a bit.

Fatema H. Kagalwala

First published in the Lensight Feb 2015 issue.

“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love…and then we return home.” –  Australian Aboriginal proverb

To observe, to learn, to grow, to love.

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14th June, 8 pm It’s the third day of our strike and ex-AAP member Yogendra Yadav is on campus to express his solidarity to our cause. We are happy but also wary of the protest being politically hijacked. The head of the media team, a close friend, is sharing her concern with me about these dangers. She is worried. She is a natural leader, a born-fighter and survivor and this is not her first fight against tough odds. She will also do this as many times as needed, but the memories of that one night refuse to leave her. When she was leading one such protest in her college. Where four men from a political party followed her at night. She was just 19 and terrified.

I place my hand on hers. I see her still shaken from the old old memory. I also see the courage that makes her go on.

16th June, 10.30 pmFourth day of the strike and I am taking a dinner break before we re-group for another round of exhaustive meetings. I am stressed and tired and mum calls. I haven’t spoken to her in ten days and have been wondering why neither she nor dad has called to check on me yet. She doesn’t know about it. I fill her in. She is completely removed from the world of politics and she asks some very simple (not simplistic) questions. I tell her in brief and she replies, in an upbeat and encouraging voice, ‘You kids go ahead! Datt ke strike karo and make sure you get what you want. The Government can’t do this!

I hang up and feel all stress has left me. The innocence and honesty in my mom’s straight-talk has unwound something inside me. Refreshed me. I decide to make this my go-to memory every time the stress of the protest gets to me.

17th June, 4 amThe sixth day of our strike has just ended. An intense meeting with all students has just ended. A group of us are still hanging around outside MT (Main Theatre) grappling with unresolved questions. A dear friend and one of us who is leading the strike says he got a call from his mother, who has been out of town and just returned to the news of the strike. In the middle of the conversation his mother suddenly asks him to hang up because she was scared his phone is being tapped. Stunned, he hangs up. We sit in silence and look into his eyes. He is not scared, but immensely moved. He has never ever heard such paranoia in his mother’s voice. It stops him. It compels him to look deeper and ask more questions of himself.

19th June 6 pm: Eight days have passed. Eight exhausting days of media interaction, solidarity calls to the world, strategising, debating and above all self-introspection.

Each day we put ourselves through the intensive rigour of asking ourselves tough questions. Of striving to remove the curtains the world has put on our souls in order to get in touch with the core. The core from which our art pours forth. The core that is all we have. For the art that is all we have. What are we really fighting and who? Are we becoming what we are fighting? What for? And for whom? These questions refuse to leave us. Everyday we find an answer, everyday we find a new question. And it goes on evolving.

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I like questions. They open up a whole new world; it’s like taking a trek through a yet undiscovered dirt road. The kind of exploration trips Enid Blyton’s kids take into the forest, spurred by curiosity, excited to meet the unknown. And then find something they have been looking for, a resolution. Till the next search begins. Life resides in the journey, after all.

We spent the first six days of the strike intensely strategising our moves. Only to realise we are beginning to play the same games we are fighting. We had begun to deliberate and measure our words and actions. We were censoring ourselves while we were fighting censorship. Why weren’t we tapping into or creative sides, our emotional sides? We were becoming hardened because we had stopped looking at our fears. In our drive for a ‘purer’ way of functioning, we were allowing ourselves to become corrupt. We were fighting, not standing up for anything we believed in, becoming totalitarian ourselves. Where is the tolerance in us, that we are looking for outside? Are we becoming part of the same mob we are up in arms against? Where are our individual, rather human voices? Fear is born of fear and fear feeds fear. Why are we shying away from our own fears when fear-mongering is what we are against? In that case, are we really standing up for ourselves, or running away? And running towards what? Labels and images? In between rejection and acceptance there is a flux. Why weren’t we engaging with it so that we can ‘be’ what we are standing up for?

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This protest has pulled all of us out of our cocoons, jolted us out of our complacency. I see all of us grappling with our deepest fears and facing them, looking for cracks in the walls we have built around ourselves to break them, trying hard to understand the world we live in and our relationship with it. The girl who was followed, she is facing her fears because of this. The boy who heard his mother’s paranoia has discovered a more human aspect of this struggle. I, someone who has always been scared of confrontation, am beginning to understand the nature of a fight and my place within it. And it is spreading.

Pic 16 We are students, still learning. We are budding artists, still growing. We are fumbling, we are foolish, we are emotional, we are impulsive, we are sensitive but that’s what makes us who we are. We are vulnerable and struggling to find our strength in it. That’s the only way to create for us. Until we accept this we don’t grow.Pic 29

There is an alive-ness on the campus these days. A vibrant, throbbing life I haven’t experienced in my one and half years here yet. We are waking up. To ourselves. We are faltering, falling too, picking ourselves up and others alongwith us, only to be met by the next seemingly unscaleable wall. But that’s part of the process of growing up, no one promised it was going to be easy, anyways. It’s awe-inspiring to see life bloom like this in front of your eyes. In people you live with, study with, care about, relate to, whose fears you share, whose angst you understand, whose walls you can see but can do little about… And in oneself, whose impasses one is almost tired of countering anymore. It takes immense courage, this insistent self-criticality. But I’ve realised, this is what FTII expects out of us. Honesty to oneself. All else will simply follow.

Pic 27

I see the living, breathing nature of our struggle. There is so much beauty in it, so much innocence, its humbling. And it has united us in a deeply stirring way. In taking the individual journey inwards. Together.

There is a churning that is happening in the womb of the erstwhile Prabhat Studios that has something life-affirming about it. It will see us through, I think.

For us, it’s not about FTII anymore. Neither is it about certain agendas of the Government we or you happen to see as ‘wrong’. It’s about all of us who are ‘fighting’ something.

How can we stop fighting and stand up instead?

How can we be the change we want to see?

Simple questions we are still trying to find an answer to.

– Fatema Kagalwala

To know more about the strike pls read –

Why we are doing what we are doing – https://campusdiaries.com/stories/the-ftii-strike-why-we-are-doing-what-we-are-doing

Beena Paul on the deeper problems of the issue – http://scroll.in/article/734769/dont-ignore-the-ftii-protest-its-problems-run-deeper-than-gajendra-chauhan

Ajith Kumar B and Kamal K M on FTII’s dilemma – http://www.countercurrents.org/ajith160615.htm

Prayaag Akbar on nationalism and killing cinema – http://www.catchnews.com/pov/prayaag-akbar-on-nationalism-and-the-art-of-killing-cinema-1434470651.html

A brilliant feature on culture and identity – http://www.jansatta.com/politics/ftti-pune-row-ftti-gajendra-chauhan-ftii-students-gajendra-chauhan-bjp-ib-ministry-rss/29575/

Sanjay Kak on BJP’s scorch-earth policy – http://www.catchnews.com/culture-news/sanjay-kak-what-have-chauhan-and-company-done-to-deserve-ftii-posts-1434460130.html

STEVE-LOPEZ-1

“The crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die” Søren Kierkegaard

I begin with Kierkegaard because Rajeev Ravi begins with Camus. “Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence”, his title slate declares. But before that we get a hint about the road the film might take from the title, ‘Njan Steve Lopez.’ I am Steve Lopez.

Steve Lopez is your regular, middle-class, Malayali college-going youngster of Trivandrum, used to singing songs of innocence. Angst and truth do not bother him, he not escaping nor seeking either. His angst limits itself to communicating his love for his childhood crush Anjali (Ahaana Krishna) and displaying mild abrasiveness to his aged grandfather. Anjali returns his affections and the grandfather isn’t a much of a threat yet Steve finds life boring, a mark of a mind seeking something more, finding it in temporary erotic pleasure by peeping at neighbourhood women from his bathroom window and then, well, moving on. As Camus said in The Plague, “The truth is that everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits.” Back to boredeom.

Minutes into the film we realise Steve is an onlooker, a spectator of life as it passes by. He doesn’t seem too keen on engaging with it but he does seem to be nursing a placid wish to understand it, even if it is from the fringes. Farhaan Faasil’s big clear eyes and soft looks reflect a certain innocence as did Fahaad Faasil in Rajeev’s debut, ‘Annayum Rasoolum’, help him incredibly in this task. Son of a DYSP who is also a protective father, Steve, by the looks of it seems to fall in that category of dreamy youth who, wasting away, remain lost in their own self-doubts. Hanging onto the fringes of life they keep drifting, out of touch within and without.

But Steve springs to life one day, when a random accident involving a daylight murder leaves a man bleeding to death in front of him. He rushes the man to the hospital only to be admonished by his father later. Clearly, there is a gangwar on and he doesn’t wish his son to be involved in it. Steve doesn’t see the logic but takes his father’s reprimands silently. As though he is trying to understand this part of life as well.

However, Steve decides to punctuate his silences with uncomfortable questions revolving around the culprit Hari. Questions his father and his subordinate do not wish to entertain. Questions that won’t let Steve be in peace. Gnawed by the need to know, he sets out on his own search for tenuous truth. He could just as well have been Sisyphus. Intuitively then, Ravi weaves the web of humanism across all the characters of the film, binding Steve and Hari together with one simple device, both their lady-loves are called Anjali. Hari is nothing like Steve but to Steve, Hari and he don’t seem much different. With this leit motif of the name, it’s almost like Ravi is nudging us to look closer at our own selves, and around; at others whose essence we share…

Njan Steve Lopez must probably be the simplest and least dramatic tale of existential angst ever told. Of course, it is sentimental using music, slow-motion, poetry at is evocative best. But in the sum of it, it is the internal world of Steve that it urges us to explore, a world that isn’t dramatised by form or style, simply reflected in his persona. A world built for us through a linear narrative, one that is as simple and straightforward as the milieu it belongs to, a mileu Ravi knows as well as he does his protagonist. Steve is quite a template character for the theme – sober, moody, innocent, aloof, reserved and prone to pathos. Yet, Rajeev Ravi paints him intuitively, almost seeming to know the next flick of his hair or twitch of an eye before it will happen. And because Ravi seems to know him so well Farhaan portrays him with more sincerity than sheer talent. And this sincerity is spread across the canvas, across the various actors fresh and experienced. Performances are given to a certain amateurishness and direction seems to be a little raw, something that one did not see a glimpse of in Ravi’s refreshing debut, ‘Annayum Rasoolum’, a Mani Rathnam-ish love story of common people busy loving each other the very common way, who find themselves caught in the web of ganglords and crime. However, Njan Steve Lopez is a more personal story, individuated by the search of this young man for truth and his inevitable coming-of-age. It’s a loaded theme, told subtly, even ponderously, something like Udaan what did, and that precisely draws us in, the deceptive simplicity. There is less deftness of skill but more depth of thought, there is less brilliance of craft but more heart and that is heartening for those whom linearity doesn’t appear as simple-minded. Unfortunately, the sensitivity of Steve’s search and the gentle, even motherly manner with which the film looks at him isn’t nurtured into a fully-formed film to give us something we may call satisfying cinema because of a certain hesitation in direction and performances that tags along throughout. There are times when the sincerity and good intentions alone aren’t enough.

Yet, the film appeals due to its personal nature and maybe that is due to the authenticity of the milieu Ravi creates. The middle class Malayalis of Trivandrum that the film is populated with, with their earthy ambitions and homely habits, cloistered morals and systemic conformation. People who have the ringtone of their phone set to the song in which their beloved’s name appears. People who admonish but take care of each other. People who seem very very real. (However, some of my Malayali friends from the region have bemoaned the fact of unripe accents of the actors mar the authenticity of the film.) Going by his two films, Rajeev Ravi, the film-maker, seems to be drawn to small, individual stories that is punctuated by an ethos and operate in a specific socio-politico-economic environment. Like in ‘Annayum Rasoolum’, he is happy speaking of and to a niche audience one that he knows very well. And maybe, because of this very choice Steve’s dilemmas are more palpable to us than they would have been in a universalised, sterile, lowest common denominator type of palette we are used to. Small town stories, regional stories, stories of India’s very common people, if we won’t tell them who will?

How one acts is, from the ethical perspective, more important than any matter of fact, truth is to be found in subjectivity rather than objectivity.” Kierkegaard’s subjective truth becomes Steve’s and in a metafictive universe seems like it is Rajeev’s own aim too.

Fatema Kagalwala

(To read more posts by Fatema, her blog is here)

The film has got a multi-city release with English subtitles.

Internet is a great place, especially if you are looking for under-rated gems. Varun Grover stumbled upon this documentary called The World Before Her. Mihir Fadnavis got in touch with the director and we managed to watch the film. So over to Fatema Kagalwala and her ramblings on this stunning and important film. We are putting this in our “Must Watch” film recco List. Watch it.

The World Before Her copy

We love living in extremes. Grey areas aren’t appealing because they force us to think. They are meant for individual assessment whereas black and white are fit for mass consumption. So we’ve draped ourselves with stark definitions of tradition and modernity and live a bipolar existence, merrily swinging between both. Sometimes, we find solace in middle ground but one that is obfuscated with the overpowering implications of the extremes that are tradition and the modernity.

Prachi, Ruhi, Ankita, Pooja – the central protagonists, of ‘The World before Her’, a stunning, award-winning documentary by Nisha Pahuja, are all products, or shall we say victims, of our collective need to ideologically belong somewhere, even if it is within an ideology that seeks to subjugate them. They are perfect lambs for factories manufacturing daily definitions of the traditional and modern according to their convenience.

The struggle between tradition and modernity is ancient. The documentary examines these two polarities with a clear understanding of all its inherent ironies. Let’s take a look at the two worlds it straddles to make its point –

World 1 – Miss India contest 2011 20-day training camp. Of beauty, botox and bikinis.

World 2 – Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Durga Vahini Camp. Of Hindutva, weapon training and military discipline.

Nisha takes us through both the camps, laying bare their belief system, process and the little dreams behind it all. We see training procedures up-close and peek into the lives of trainees. What makes the ambitious Ms India contestants tick and what drives the fierce Durga Vahinis? Through a thoughtful juxtapositioning, the two opposite worlds collide and before we know, melt into one voice. On the face of it, both espouse contrarian views on female identity. Beyond the façade of the titles of ‘modernity’ and ‘traditionalism’, both bind the very subjects they aim to set free, victimising the very subjects they aim to empower, treating the women they are pretending to liberate as cattle to be branded. The beauty of it all is the film doesn’t state it, but makes it clear with an intuitive stitching together of the narrative.

Nisha delves into both the worlds with care, aware of the mine of uneasy answers she is exploring, mindful of the dust her questions will raise. There is no attempt to impose a comment or paint a particular ideological picture. What makes the documentary a brilliant experience is the careful expose of truths and myths we live in, and the questing female mired in it.

In Ruhi, Ankita and Pooja, we see semi-urban, middle-class young women, very well aware of their social status as females, out to beat the system even if it is through succumbing to it. They are aware of the compromises they have to make and are fine with the cost to their dignity, if it transforms them, like Pooja puts it, ‘from a person to a personality’. The irony of their entire quest for identity within a system out to objectify them, seems to be lost on them. To my mind, Pooja Chopra, the girl whose father insisted on killing her at birth because she was female, almost seems like a tragic figure, bitterly fooled by an arrogant system laughing at her for believing she had carved a separate identity of her own and on her own terms. Ruhi, a young 19 yr old, feels obliged to her parents for bringing her up and feels the need to pay them back by becoming ‘something’, so that their creation is worth it…she never questions the route to fame she has chosen. Nor are her future plans of marriage and children at an appropriate age seem to clash in anyway with her present teen plans of becoming a beauty queen. ‘I can do all this now as I am young, later I won’t be able to do all this’, she says (quote not verbatim). There is no ideology at work here nor a tussle between the old and new. It is simple conditioning speaking but Ruhi doesn’t question any of it, for her her parents support for her contest participation is an empowering, liberating sign of modernity enough. For these women, the shine of glamour and the pain of centuries of repression are too blinding to see anything under or beyond.

At the other extreme is Prachi, the alpha female trainer at Durga Vahini, who has found a purpose and outlet in Hindu fundamentalism to escape the vulnerabilities her gender status thrusts on her. She is a single child of an orthodox Hindu family who feels her father is justified in hitting her (even brutally) because as a female child he let her live. She loves the power being a Durga Vahini trainer gives her, flaunts her dislike for ‘girlie girls’, is proud of being tough and is absolutely against marriage. Like the Ms India contestants, this Aurangabad-based girl too is looking to establishing her worth as a female in all-male world, but by embracing and perpetuating the orthodox mores of Durga Vahini. Unlike the other girls though, she is fully aware that the system she advocates aims at curbing her own freedom, yet, it remains her chosen vehicle to empowerment. Yet, I wondered if there was a glint of wishful-ness, an unacknowledged longing behind the façade of derision as she watched the Ms India contest. I don’t know if it was the artfully calculated shot lingering on her tad longer or my over-wrought zeal to understand her better or an actual fact.

I read criticism of the film saying this isn’t the reality of entire India and that the film does not reflect upon the middle path. It is possible I imagined the subtle jingoism in the criticism, but that apart, what it missed was the fact that these two extremities inform the lives of every woman (and men too) traversing the so-called middle path. Maybe they exist but I am yet to meet a person truly liberated from gender complexities and its socio-economic implications that the film so starkly defines. In fact, I saw Prachi, Ruhi, Ankita and Pooja as sharp and accurate spokespeople of the entire India, irrespective of class distinctions. Trapped in the half-baked definitions made by a commerce-driven, power-hungry, alpha male world, they languish confused in the debris of the shattered female identity they struggle to resurrect. Just like you and me.

As I mull over the needs of these girls, (and they are very familiar, they are around me and inside me) I see their quest with compassion. They have little choice other than adhering to a corrupt system to beat another equally corrupt one, to gain whatever semblance of self-respect they can garner for themselves. Patriarchy hasn’t left much for women to call their own or celebrate in the truest sense, has it? And if that wasn’t enough we have religious fundamentalism adding to the fire. Nisha doesn’t shy from showing news clips of Hindu fundamentalists beating up women in pubs and iterating the fact that Hindu terrorism is a bigger threat to India than Islamic fundamentalism. Not only is this a well-informed, deeply introspective, objective, exploratory documentary but it is very brave as well. One simply wishes the film does not get targeted by pressure groups if and when it comes to India.

As I watched the documentary and later, I wasn’t surprised by the ironical truths about female existence staring at me. It was all seen before, read before, said before. Yet, I couldn’t define the film in words and that is not because of the complexity of the film but of its theme. Which at one level is almost self-explanatory, but dig deeper and it will leave you distraught at the number of knots or rather untied ends it waves at you.

Why have we made the question of women’s identity so complex, almost impossible to unravel? Is it because we fear if we find the answers the world around us will no longer be recognisable? We are all slaves to gender equations and roles. Breaking free is scary because it means starting from scratch for human existence. Without the context of male and female roles and boundaries where would we be? What would we adhere to and what would we fight? Coz isn’t that exactly what gives all of us our purpose? The ‘shoulds’ our gender is supposed to wear? We either wear them with pride or fight them with gusto, satisfied in the purpose we’ve found to base our lives on. We then spend our entire lives empowering the very cycle the protagonists of this film believe/imagine they are fighting. We are no different from them, really. Gender politics apart, men and women, we are all in this together and for once, it isn’t a happy thought.

I realise I can go on writing about this film, such is the subject matter and beauty with which the story has been told. As I pull down the windows on my brains because I really want you to watch it with a fresh curiosity, let me leave u with a few moments that struck me with their irony, pathos and horror.

Pageant diction coach Sabira Merchant (proudly or matter-of-factly?) calling the Ms India training camp “a little factory … where you’re polished like a diamond. The modern Indian woman.” (Did the irony of what she was saying escape her or had she, like the contestants, made peace with it long back?)

Uma Bharti, while protesting against the 1996 Ms World contest to be held in India, “We are against a system that presents women as pieces of meat and judges them based on the size of their chest, waist and hips.” (I never thought I’d appreciate Uma Bharti in this lifetime.)

Prachi, with misty eyes, excusing her father for hitting her, “Knowing that I’m a girl child, he let me live … That’s the best part. In a traditional family, people don’t let a girl child live. They kill the child.” (I don’t think there was anyone among us who didn’t shiver on hearing her say this and actually mean it.)

The Miss India contestants parading in hip-length sacks and denim shorts in a round that judges who has the hottest legs.

Marc Robinson, the organiser, laughing off the indignity of the sack-round.

News clips of Hindutva louts beating up women in pubs.

Little girls at Durga Vahini camps being taught India and Hindutva was under threat from two main sources – Islam and Christianity.

Little girls lapping it up and regurgitating it like it was the only truth.

Chinmayee, a smart 14-yr old, proudly declaring at the end of the camp, ‘No, I don’t have a single Muslim friend. I did when I was younger but then I didn’t know that we are different.’ I didn’t know if I felt horror for India or pity for the little girl.

At the end of the Durga Vahini camp, girls getting sashes to wear identifying them as Durga Vahinis and the (gleeful?) exclamations of, ‘This is just like Miss India, Miss World!’

Touché.

Fatema Kagalwala

– FB page is here.

– If you are in Canada or USA, you can order it here and here.

She went to watch Aashiqui-2. She came back with pyaar, ishq aur mohabbat in her heart head. So over to Fatema Kagalwala who ponders over matters of the heart.

kagaz ke phool2

Insights don’t owe the source anything. Neither is observation obligated to its genesis. So while watching Aashiqui-2, when my mind began wandering with a momentum that had nothing to do with the emotional quotient of the film, it was time to set pen to paper. Or well, keyboard to MSWord. Why rein in a capricious mind that revels in intellectual masturbation?

There was a dulcet time in our movie-watching nostalgia when grand passions on screen were our personal emotional crescendos. Unattainable, intense romances that scarred us so bad, it was unbearable to live after that, yet a life like that was worth many without it. We could happily become the lovers on-screen and do everything they did with a resounding passion. We’d devour their legendary pain feverishly as though somehow it would redeem us of the pedestrian-ness of our lives and bring us instant immortality. The choices of the lovers were unquestionable, all was fair in love and war, and the world was at the feet of the two touched by Cupid. Nothing else mattered except that undying longing for the other. It wasn’t cute, it was disturbing in that lovely, intense way that morning dreams are sometimes, where you walk in deep darkness, with a red halo descending on you, towards the end of a tunnel that is showing the glimpse of dawn. You are alone in your anxiety yet clutching at hope, not knowing what the next moment brings but yearning to have it all. And then you wake up with a start and there is a weight on your chest like it is sometimes in morning dreams. You snuggle back but continue to savour that strange mix of dread and anticipation, having been there and not quite but longing to go back… That was love for us and what passion was always meant to be. Like Salim’s delirious love for Anarkali, Heer’s utter devotion to Ranjha, Vasu and Sapna’s inseparability or the sheer innocence of Raj and Rashmi’s bond. It wasn’t about how well the films were made as much as how deeply we aspired to that kind of love. And more importantly how we understood it. “Haif us chaar girah kapde ki kismet ghalib, jiski kismet mein hain aashiq ka gareban hona”. That is the kind of yearning love was made of…

Mughal-e-azam 1

Somehow, love was absolute for us. ‘Chhup na sakega ishq hamaara, chaaron taraf hai unka nazaara’. A non-negotiable reality. One for which anything, any action wasn’t too dramatic or no cost too much to pay. Letters written in blood drew painful sighs from us and parental opposition was villainy of the highest kind. The lover’s friends were Gods own angels and daresay if the lovers were to die, it was an irrevocable loss for us, as an audience. It was a scar that would refuse to heal, making the hero-heroines saints in our eyes. We’d love them for loving like that and more importantly having a love like that. Through them we’d have our bit of history-making and feel soul-satisfied for having ‘lived’ true to ourselves, even if it was for mere 3 hours, a dot on the terrain of our unbearably long drawn out lives.

But like a disheartening inevitability, love changed with time and so did love stories. It changed from love letters to running to catch truant trains to get together with your loved one. It changed from passion-drenched poetry to Geet-like non-stop chatter. From inner landscapes of Laila dying to know how her Majnu is doing out in the unforgiving desert to stunning locales where the yuppy boy helped the timid girl open up and ‘live-a little’. From longing to sex – that defining ache replaced by the inevitable first kiss that today is more ‘being-in-the-moment’ than drenched in the desire of true love. Compare the tender moment of Raj and Rashmi’s first kiss to any of our must-have liplocks today. Or the lovely, pubescent tension between Raja and Bobby. Or even Prem and Suman’s first sexually charged encounter in ‘Mere Rang Mein’ which seems corny to us today but speaks volumes of the philosophy that was sublime love back then. Back, when we devoured it with fatal sighs ourselves. But now love has ‘moved on’- as is the new-age term for growth and overcoming pain while leaving behind love’s scars – something we yearned to acquire in the past… it has gone from commitment that is default to questions that are endless. From a dream to a reality, that’s more often than not, a pain to suffer rather than an ideal to cherish. Imtiaz Ali made an entire ‘Love Aaj Kal’ defining more than just our attitude with one sweep. Jaane kyon log pyaar karte hain, the question Jai spent an entire movie finding an answer to

maine pyar kiya

And try as we might to resist it, love has got urbanized too. And it doesn’t matter if our romantic films aren’t telling the story of the small-towner because today even he aspires to be as cool as the big city-guy except maybe in a spare Ishaqzaade which tries to reverse this but gets it all wrong.  And maybe that is why there is no Mohnish-Bahl type villain anymore to fight, nor well-meaning but opposing parents – there is nothing to rebel against because the enemy is the mindset itself. The self that doesn’t believe in love and hence lets everything else come in the way, itself included. And the more modern our love-stories get the more we love them. But the modern they get, less they are about love. Today, it’s got to be fun, we don’t wanna hurt, it isn’t cool, it’s boring and so regressive. Emotions are cheesy and poetry is melodrama. Tears are meaningless and only thought has value. Self-debilitating passions like Jordan’s are addictions to us because our new-age mindsets cannot comprehend living and dying for that one, inviolable love anymore. “Aah ko chahye ik umar asar honay tak, kaun jeeta hai teri zulf ke sar honay tak.

So today, when we watch Rahul sacrificing himself for his girl we cringe because it looks so passe. Sacrifice is now self-pity and I wanted to slap him and tell him, ‘You idiot, stop playing the helpless victim. If you really love her do what needs to be done instead. Change yourself!”.  Like Jackie did for his Radha in Hero. But had I seen Rahul do that, I’d have screamed so old school! Who changes themselves for their lovers these days? Easier to change partners no? When Arohi, deep in the throes of her grand passion, throws away a stunning career we raise eyebrows. I wanted to shake her up and tell her, ‘Girl, this guy is hopeless, don’t bother throwing everything away for him. This is not love, this self-sabotage. THINK.” Something I never felt like telling Gulabo when I first saw Pyaasa, or Shanti in Kaagaz ke Phool. I wept with them and for them. But with Arohi it is different and the difference isn’t Guru Dutt and Mohit Suri. We see her as ‘today’s’ girl and hence her actions are confounding because if we are no longer like Gulabo or Shanti how can she be? We see her yearning to be with her man but we don’t see any reason in her choice. We don’t see that she had no choice, and so we do what we did with Cocktail’s Meera – define her in hundred ways that have nothing to do with her.

DevdasOver the ages and with all the progress we pat our backs about, love has taken the biggest beating; the only bloodless casualty of our hard-bought modernity. Today, we seek reason, labeling passion as desperation and self-sacrifice as moping, whereas at one point it signified devotion, a concept synonymous to ‘bhakti’. Take for example Zaara’s choice to live almost nun-like in the memory of her long-lost Veer, now assumed dead. Or Samar Anand’s decision to court death if he couldn’t unite with his lover in this lifetime. We shift uncomfortably in our seats when we encounter characters like these not because these films are less than perfect, but because the emotion they espouse sound alien to us and we overlook the fabric of love that compels them to do what they do. That fabric is tattered beyond recognition today as we weave other weaves to drape our souls in. We don’t accept the old, more enduring weaves anymore even if we see them. Rockstar’s simmering emotions, which spoke right through all its flaws, refusing to be contained despite a choppy flow exposed our vulnerabilities with a rare emotional intelligence but we couldn’t understand it. We won’t be getting a more honest or more intense love story for a long time after this but maybe that’s inevitable. We see what we are and we are no longer what we used to be when Salim declared his ardour with flourishing poetry to a trembling Anarkali dying to fall into his arms. That, may also have been part of the difference between Dilip Kumar’s Devdas and Shahrukh Khan’s.

But the makers are draped in the same cloth, one that is cut out of an unwieldy carpet cloth, so we don’t make love stories anymore either. We simply don’t know how to. We are bored of Shahrukh’s outstretched arms in which we wished to die 20 yrs back and we see red when we see women singularly committed to their loves. We yawn when we see love-at-first sight sort of chemistry and go blank should any character even speak of laying down their lives for the other. Our makers are the same as us, they don’t get it either and so we have half-baked stuff like Aashiqui-2. It isn’t anything to write home about but I still wonder, if it (or JTHJ or even Ishaqzaade for that matter) was made 20 yrs back would it be more watchable just because we, as an audience and as people were more in love with love then, than we are today?

Fatema Kagalwala

P.S.: At the end of this I caught myself telling myself ‘Guzra hua zamana aata nahi dobara’… and I suddenly remember this beauty is from “Shirin Farhad”. What irony… Sigh…

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