Posts Tagged ‘Imtiaz Ali’

Today morning, we were discussing reviews versus blogs. It started with a personal and candid post (Dad, We’re In Nebraska) by Rahul Desai. If you have seen Nebraska, do read it. It’s a strange feeling when you can identify your life with a film. And sometimes, it’s liberating in more ways than one. Today evening, we received another personal piece by @kuhukuro. This one is about Highway. An honest, brave, and candid open letter to the filmmaker whose film had an impact on her as it mirrors her life. Do read.


Dear Imtiaz,

I am not a film critic, nor can I boast of being very cinema-savvy. But I have been insane enough to source my philosophies from cinematic moments. Films have been thriving territories for epiphanies. Highway comes at a point in my life when I am delving in the art of being ruthlessly honest to my feelings, of asserting myself, and of exploring a newer version of myself. This one is a film that resonates with me for various reasons.

For starters, I was also sexually abused as a child, and the perpetrator was a close relative. I could relate to the lingering and stealthy effect of the trauma depicted on screen. I also disclosed this fact to my family after entering adulthood. The film’s portrayal of the family’s reaction mirrored my situation. Watching Veera intrepidly telling it like it is and being unapologetically ‘herself’ in the last scene was heart-wrenching yet therapeutic for me.  I have not allowed myself that outburst though. Not yet.

Last year, my father succumbed to his mental illness and committed suicide. I know what you mean when you say that Bhaati’s death was the ultimate liberation for Veera. My dad’s death had a similar effect on me. I faced one of my worst fears. Nothing really terrifies me anymore. It incidentally also happened to be the year when I confronted the reality of my troubled marriage. Two trips that followed set me free in many ways. The salt pan scene in the film set against the ‘Tu Kuja’ soundtrack echoed my sense of self-inquiry.  After watching this film, I was even more convinced that a journey from which you don’t completely return was exactly what I needed. Unlikely confidants, unlikely confidences, and accidental yet gratifying connections were a part of my journey as well.

The journey in ‘Highway’ unfolds like a map of tragedies that exist in us, unfurls.  It was a catharsis to observe the metaphorical ride from fragility to strength to nerve. I was nodding my head vigorously in agreement while watching the moments on screen where the lines between terror and wonder blurred for Veera. I noticed that Veera climbed many rocks in the film – big and small. I am assuming it metaphorically indicated overcoming obstacles and the joy of small victories. Many people couldn’t fathom Veera’s behavior – laughing interspersed with crying, and then questioning herself aloud like she was having an out-of-body experience. According to my reading, her emotional reactions were a part of the process of shedding the repressed parts of herself, and, embarking on the confusing yet exhilarating expedition of letting her real feelings come to the fore.  Liberation is a strange and an idiosyncratic process.

The silent scenes in the film aptly mirrored the way a meditative stillness seizes our inner world, when we travel. Then you stumble upon moments that break you before they make you. They unshackle. They teach you to trust your gut. It is important for life to whirl you around and turn your world upside down oftentimes.

Memory is not something that fades in my case. It looms large and I crouch in its towering shadow. This time I have decided to soar higher than this menacing force. Patakha Gudi has egged me on to unleash that spirit, which was hitherto tucked away and silenced.

I have just begun the task of developing my own vocabulary to express who I am. Thanks to Highway, I am propelling myself further in the direction of dismantling norms that don’t serve me.

Before I sound like a gushing obsessive fanatic, I should wrap it up. Your film will be a part of the trajectory that is turning me into a functional, healthy, and a fulfilled woman. Thank-you Imtiaz, Thank-you Highway. I know I will get there soon. Along the way, I will live like I mean it.


As far as the reactions go, Imtiaz Ali’s new film ‘Highway’ is more or less on the same track like his last film Rockstar – completely divided between lovers and haters. And like last time, Ali was quite open and candid to discuss the strength and every weakness of the film, and took it all head on. We love and respect those filmmakers who are open to such dialogues. So thanks a lot, Imtiaz Ali. Whatever film you make, hope you remain like this.

We also hope more bollywood filmmakers will be open to such Q and As. Who really wants to read about the film pre-release, which is still quite the norm in the country. And post-release, they just vanish.

Also, it all happened because Navjot Gulati took the initiative, contacted Ali, sorted the logistics and made it possible. And thanks to Mihir Desai, Aniruddh Patankar and Sumit Purohit for the videos.

The film got over by 12:15 or so, and then the discussion went on till 2:30 am, and then it went on for some more time outside the theatre. It was great fun. Hope you guys enjoy the videos as much as we enjoyed the live session. Some questions might not be audible, so do use your headphones or speakers.

Thanks to PVR Andheri and Shiladitya Bora for helping us out with all the logistical support.

Editor’s Note: Imtiaz Ali’s much-awaited film ‘Highway’ released last Friday, and, over the course of just a few days, has achieved the unique feat of inviting equal amounts of love and hate. What’s even more remarkable is the vehemence with which both ‘lovers‘ and ‘haters‘ have expressed their views about the film. Barring the sedate review or two, sharp words have flown between between the two ‘camps’, especially if you’ve followed the buzz on Twitter. Or perhaps you’ve read the gloriously funny Neruda-take on the film. With this Highway it seems, there’s been no middle-road.

However, as the fires die down, it’s time to pause and reflect on this undoubtedly fascinating film that’s made some fans of Ali despair at his latest turn; some fans exult in his new achievement; and converted some Ali-sceptics into fans. For now, here’s Shivam Sharma taking stock of the film and taking you on a journey he greatly enjoyed.

Also, if you have seen the feature, click here to watch Imtiaz’s original telefilm which inspired the feature and was also titled Highway. And do participate in an interesting poll in that post.

(The following piece contains spoilers. It also contains personal whims, fancies, two languages and if the point gets lost in between somewhere then भूल-चूक, लेनी-देनी माफ़ कीजियेगा.)

“मैं हमेशा कहती थी न कि मैं भाग जाउंगी यहाँ से, मुझे शहर में नहीं रहना।
सब कहते हैं न, पर भागता कौन है?”


१५ साल पहले इम्तियाज़ अली ने ज़ी टीवी के शो “रिश्ते” के लिए एक एपिसोड बनाया था उसके बाद उन्होंने काफी कुछ बनाया, हासिल किया और काफी हद तक बॉलीवुड में एक secure, genre-specific director बन गए. Especially after ‘Rockstar’, his biggest hit, his career graph has gone steadily upwards. ‘रॉकस्टार’ जैसी बड़ी hit देने के बाद, he had the option of going even bigger financially. Knowing how the industry works, giving a big hit generally works wonders — Nolan had a carte blanche to give his whims free rein after ‘The Dark Knight’; and so he made ‘Inception’. But the decision of not going bigger in terms of cast, budget and stars, and instead making a movie based on a story he wrote 15 years ago (or more) with a modest budget, stripped of most ‘Bollywood’ elements and with a not-so-bankable cast, tells us more about the director that Imtiaz is and the path he is on. ‘हाईवे’ की journey सिर्फ वीरा और महाबीर की नहीं है. ये इम्तियाज़ की भी उतनी ही “Finding oneself” वाली journey है. Back to his roots.
१५ साल पहले वाली.

Highway may not be Imtiaz’s best work but it’s definitely his most honest. Of all his films, this has the most scenes without crutches — minimal background music; long, apparently aimless scenes interspersed with silence as if they were unplanned; and scenes that are ‘real’, that feel raw: Veera laughing/crying without any reason sitting on a boulder by a freshwater stream; Mahabeer’s breakdown. Rough edges काफी visible हैं and some scenes seem unfinished in a sense. काफी clear है कि इम्तियाज़ खुद कुछ नया ढूंढ रहे हैं यहाँ. He relies more on his instincts and the power of raw scenes and narrative here than anything else — and he fumbles along the way quite often too. His warts are quite visible here and the screenplay isn’t entirely convincing. However, he has tried to get out of his comfort zone i.e. a strong soundtrack, typical funny side characters, likeable leads etc. The part which juts out like a sore thumb — and that I personally hated the most — was the end segment, the final 15 minutes where he tried to define everything, make sense of the proceedings and tie all the loose ends. It all felt forced and unreal. That part was the most Bollywood-like of the whole movie and I wish he had ended the film 10 minutes earlier and not necessarily provided a forced closure. (The Lunchbox followed it so beautifully. Ritesh Batra knew where to stop. पर it’s ok, कोई बात नहीं.)

The movie soars with the terrain it slowly travels — almost metaphorically. The part where Veera and Mahabeer lose themselves in the mountains, without a care in the world, is the most enchanting. These scenes soar higher than all others. सूफ़ियत कह लें या कुछ और, उस हिस्से में फ़िल्म एक अलग space में पहुँच जाती है. Imtiaz makes a great decision here to cut back on the spoken word and just let the ambient sounds and the scenery do the talking. This part is probably one of the purest cinematic experiences that I have had at a theatre ever.


“एक गोली में आदमी ख़तम हो जाता है न?”
“दो आदमी.”

What looks like a simple ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ story gradually becomes much more as we go farther up the mountains and Imtiaz lets the story take its course beautifully towards the latter half (with the help of some great cinematography by Anil Mehta). There are many scenes without much dialogue here. These silent scenes help — they make you think; at that point, it all becomes subjective. You interpret what you want to, you become a part of the journey and maybe that’s what it all comes down to eventually.
You find stuff about yourself.

The two leads shine as does the supporting cast. Alia is brilliant in most parts, despite overdoing a few things here and there. But what a revelation she is! Randeep Hooda is restrained throughout and gradually takes over when Mahabeer finally breaks down. He is one of the best actors we currently have and this performance strengthens that position. AR Rahman’s music and background score take a backseat here and honestly he does not have that much to do. It’s just not that kind of movie maybe. ‘Patakha Guddi’ and ‘Maahi Ve’ are soulful; Sooha Saha is a lovely track as well. However, I really missed Mohit Chauhan’s vocals. The visuals reminded me a lot of especially this song of his.

Highway tries and succeds and fails and then succeeds again. It has some glorious highs and some not-quite-there moments but कुल मिला कर its highs spectacularly overshadow the lows and the movie now and again transcends into a रूहानी space which is well worth the journey — a rarity in Hindi cinema.

But I have always been a mountain person all my life so do excuse me for being a bit biased. चलिए फिर, I’ll see Highway again and try to find out more.
अपने बारे में.

Shivam Sharma aka @GhantaGuy

(Professional procrastinator. Amateur doer. I sleep, eat, drink and live movies. And right now I am trying to learn how to make movies at FTII)

UPDATE (22-02-2014) : Highway has finally released. As Imtiaz mentioned earlier, it’s a retelling of one of his earlier telefilm which was also titled Highway. If you have seen the feature and not seen the telefilm, scroll down and do watch it now. And do participate in our poll.

Please do also rate the feature film on the scale of One to Five

If you HATE spoilers and have not seen the feature yet, DON’T watch the telefilm or read the synopsis. DON’T  SCROLL  DOWN  ANY  FURTHER.

EARLIER POST (18-12-2013)

Has Imtiaz Ali rehashed his own Highway? Watch it and decide for yourself. This ‘Highway’ was part of Rishtey series on small screen. It stars Aditya Srivastava, Kartika Rane and Manish Chaudhari.

And here’s the official synopsis of this highway –


Vinay and Veera are going to be married in a week. They meet stealthily as they are forbidden to meet before the wedding. They go for a drive on the highway, but unfortunately, some thugs kidnap Veera. Vijay, the head of the gang, regularly supplies girls to brothels and Veera is his latest catch. He plans to sell Veera but the plan is put on hold as he learns that her fiance’s father is a police commissioner. Veera tries her best to escape, but is unsuccessful. Somehow, Vijay and Veera begin to get emotionally involved with each other. Veera and Vijay spend time together escaping to another place. Veera confides to him that she was raped as a child. She tells him that she feels very safe when he is around because he would not let any harm befall her. Having a change of heart, Vijay asks her to escape and return to her home. Will Veera go back to Vinay or choose to stay with Vijay?

Imtiaz did mention about this Rishtey episode in few interviews. But after looking at the trailer and this episode, it looks more or less the same. Let’s wait till the film releases to see how much has been changed.

Still haven’t seen Om Dar-B-Dar? Want more reasons? Well, listen to Anurag Kashyap, Imtiaz Ali, Amole Gupte, Kiran Rao and Resul Pookutty to understand what the film means to them and why.

And here’s Rajat Dholakia on its music madness


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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Not again, I said. Bhartiya naari gets the guy. Boozie naari gets converted to bhartiya nari as she tries to get the guy. And the guy is desi at heart who is also Mama’s boy- will sleep with boozie, will fall in love with bharatiya. Imtiaz Ali, Sajid Ali and Homi Adjania took bollywood’s oldest and most favourite formula of love traingles and did just one brilliant thing – remove the communication gap between the three which has always been a bane in desi love triangles. So all three of them sat together and discussed it openly – tum mujhse, main isse pyaar karta hoon. And then? Nobody had any clue what to do – writers, characters, makers. As the formula goes, cool and confused lovers will travel a distance to discover true love. London —-> Cape Town —-> Delhi.

Fatema disagrees. She says there’s more to it. So, over to Fatema Kagalwala and Nadi Palshikar for the rest. We are going with the Cocktail trend. This post is also by 1 guy + 2 women –  @CilemaSnob

Cinema feeds us so many stereotypes. Loudly, brazenly, irresponsibly. In the race for finding the formula, women characters have been brutally pigeonholed in our cinema for ages, making us believe there isn’t anything more. The curse of populist feminism as well as quick mass appeal has given us generations of blanket portrayals of loud, gender role-defying women as ‘strong’ and shy, silent and traditional women as helpless wimps. It is easy for us to see a gun-toting Zoya and the sassy Veronica as perfectly liberated but is it a true portrayal of liberation or is there more? Are we missing something because the definitions we are fed are shaky themselves and years of gender polarisation have left us no gaps to sieve characters that don’t fit in? Is Meera as wimpy as she comes across and is Veronica as care-a-damn as she looks? Let’s uncover the world behind the characters of Veronica and Meera discovering what makes them tick and different in Imtiaz Ali’s and Homi Adajania’s Cocktail. First, over to Nadi

Veronica’s Parents. They send her money but do not really care. So our girl is a wild child. An attention-seeking child. She breezes into places and then behaves brazenly. Look at me, I am being bad. The loud music gets faster and faster until towards the end she says, “I can’t do this anymore” Tantrums are tiring. The tantrums have not worked either. Kya hai mere paas, she asks- not once saying “what did I get after loving you so much?” There has been no question of that anyway. There was supposed to be no question of that anyway. But that she is fatigued, exhausted. Going round and round like a child having a fit. Having banged her head against a wall to seek attention and then complaining that her head hurts to the same person that never saw anyway. For now that she knows that the love she wants can never be had, does she want to gain bliss by being child to this couple? This couple, who unlike her own parents, will stay together. This woman who has given her house a feeling of ‘Home’, this man for whom, what started as a superficial thing has turned into a love so deep that he has to be clung to- whatever maybe the rules of the game. Like Martin who does not mind being scolded like a child and then comforted by his wife Antonia when he finds her with Palmer in iris Murdoch’s A Severed Head. Like Anais Nin in some moments, felt about Henry Miller and his wife. And in our own cinema- my favourite ‘triangle- Gulzar’s Ijaazat (based on  Jatugriha by Subodh Ghosh)  where Maya says  about Sudha, her lover’s wife- “Didi maarengi toh nahi” while Mahender has said – I will put you in Sudha’s care. She will know what is to be done with you. And the bitter words between Sudha and Mahender that Maya hears over the phone- which remind her of the fights between her parents. And she goes away-

But coming back to Veronica-

Outside the club, Gautam glances at Meera- like an adult signalling to another about taking care of a child who is sick. Veronica quiet easily slides into the role of child being taken care of by parents. Two people who love each other, and yes she knows that, but are responsible for her well being. Deep, difficult, this. The scene – Lest we do not recognize that this has gone beyond mere two friends taking care of a drunk friend, is the explicitly spelt out – “Why can’t Gautam take me to the bathroom?” The tantrum of “Why can’t Daddy take me to the bathroom?” which is usually explained by a “Because you are a big girl now, and so you go with the women.” Which usually appeases the child.

But here the script goes dangerously close to the enactment of incest or rather an incest –like fantasy with the shocking “There isn’t anything you haven’t seen before.”And how easy it is to sink into fantasies. (Maybe this is the way he need not give this girl up?) Sink together near Veronica’s bed after tucking her in and ask a very adult, really caring. Are you okay? Parents saying thank God, the children have finally slept.

The next day- while Meera who is good and kind has done what she thinks is the right thing – gone away, we have veronica trying to win Gautam back. Not like an adult woman. But emphasizing the imitation of Meera – See, I got the recipe off the net – I will cook – just like her. The apron almost a disguise – poised with a ladle in hand. Saying defiantly – I sent her away. The simulation of the fantasy of mother being banished – I’ll look after father – I can even make ‘the yoghurt salad thing’ and the difficult biryani. And here, thankfully, I thought, Gautam does the responsible thing. He is angry, rightfully so. From somewhere far away there was more than money coming for this neglected child at last. Sensible, stern ‘parenting’?

And ‘stern’ I do not think she would mind. For looking back, we now remember that comic scene with Gautam’s Mama telling her how to sit properly, for Kavita Kapoor would surely disapprove. This comic scene in retrospect, seems poignant as this is what Veronica has never had – a gentle reprimand for the way she has been dressing and behaving wilder and wilder.

Here, when Gautam does the right thing- reprimands her for this silly behavior, looks for Meera, I saw hope for Veronica. After that  little relief that is awarded to her – Gautam looking after her- making her laugh, feeding her. Plaiting her hair- (reminding me of that other film – Sadma which too hinted at a kind of quasi-incestuous relationship), I hoped Veronica would realize the situation that she was in.

And so we are okay with Meera ordering Gautam to take care of Veronica, this being agreed to. Sure. Sometimes the writer would like to provide just a little succour for a character he can’t help but love.

And Veronica did not let us down. Being cared for a while- like someone blowing softly on all those wounds the crazy girl carried on herself- the hospital-bed scene actually bringing out the wounds, making visible, the scars of Veronica. This almost dying and then being given a chance to make a new beginning- and she does realize what the situation is. And decides to restore the rightful couple to each other. It is here that the script is not very kind to this, its most lovable character. And we see that although the character arc of Veronica seems to be on the way to something good, Gautam has not become adult enough. So there’s the jumping out of autorickshaw and dialogue like “My best friend’s marrying my other friend” or something as corny as that! And our photographer girl who has put them in the rightful frame and would have liked to click and walk away, is pulled into the frame- collective hugs all around. Once again, she is let down. You can’t really blame the Kapoors for not knowing the right thing to be done of course – after all, the D’costas didn’t.

For this is where she should have been restored to her place, the door shut in her face, so to speak. However traumatic it might be for her, the script should have left her behind while Gautam goes to India (Meera’s located nicely in this other separate world to where he can go ‘leaving’ Veronica to her own resources of which she has quite a few, considering her realization etc).

But even as the potential darkness is broken by a loud song, as the screen fulfils the Indian fantasy of both these girls dancing with the hero,  I say to myself – once again a ‘not really my type of movie’ has connected in a way I cannot describe. Once again, just a love story – good looking people in pretty locales – written by Imtiaz Ali has gone beyond – has shown me the painful journey, the remarkable transformation of a character. And just like that other time, Homi Adajania has very subtly gone dangerously close to taboos, hinted at the terrible hurts that lie behind our ‘bad’ behavior.

And now Meera. Nadi Palshikar’s intuitive post on Veronica made Fatema want to delve deeper into Meera. She was intrigued to uncover the world behind her character because something told her there was more to her. She felt Imtiaz hadn’t written a stereotype howmuchever our sensibilities may push us to believe… Read on.

Meera – In our cinematic landscape where women characters have to be one of a few ‘types’, on first glance Meera seems to be your regular chhui-mui, sacrificing goat because she knows no better. The first time we see her she is dressed in a demure salwar kameez, with jhumkas and a mangalsutra, extremely uncomfortable sitting close to a garrulous gent on a cramped flight to London. She manages her luggage awkwardly while she waits for a husband who doesn’t show up. We see her as a reserved and simple girl from the heartland of India (assumed by her dress and demeanour) and think she will be the dependant, helpless type as we are generally shown such girls to be. Soon after a long wait at the airport of a foreign land where she knows no one, has no place to stay and whose ways are completely unfamiliar to her, she heads to the police station to seek her husband. Her first action when she meets trouble is to look for a solution. Her first thought is not a victimised ‘oh what will I do?’ something we’d expect a character like hers to automatically do. She breaks down only after her husband brutally rejects her. We see her hiding in the bathroom of a store sobbing away…It is only later that we understand she wasn’t sobbing because she was feeling helpless at her plight but because she was deeply hurt. If by then we have already typecast her in our heads we are likely to miss out on more that we learn of her later…

Meera is a product of her upbringing. An upbringing that is rooted in values very Indian across the spectrum of positives and negatives. She does not understand live-in relationships and relationships without commitment. She is a self-respecting girl, one who is a little out of her depth in this foreign land but who does not let that become an excuse to wallow in self-pity. She willingly looks for and takes up a job to support herself, as if it is the most natural thing to do. Yes, she blames herself for her husband leaving her and that hints at a typically low self-esteem but how many of us haven’t blamed ourselves for our partners leaving us? Especially if you come from a space where marriages are sacred and a world where women’s identities are closely linked to their house-bound roles…Actually even without either…

One would expect Meera to ‘Indianise’ the rootless Veronica and Gautam, and the film to an extent. Any other film would have done so and that’s where Meera’s character becomes independent of the demands of the story. It does not use her character to sell Indian values, which is what we are used to seeing. She is who she is but she also lets the two stay who they are. She draws the limits of her comfort but does not impose her will. Yes, she does lack a confidence in herself in relation to the larger world but not in her own values; hence, she does not shy from praying to her gods in the irreverent household she lives in but refuses to give friendly hugs to Gautam, even after they become friends. Yet, she straddles both worlds beautifully, allowing herself to change some and then drawing her boundaries tight. She keeps emphasising ‘Main aisi hi hoon’. She rejects an idea not because it scandalises her but because that is who she is and that is what she identifies with. That is what she does not want to change… She does not flee at the first hint of trouble, but then we know she is not the fleeing type. She leaves when she thinks that is the right thing to do. Right not because she believes sacrifice is a great virtue and as a woman she is supposed to be so, but because that is what she sees as doing the right thing by her friend Veronica, someone she has come to love like a sister.

It is a thin line Imtiaz Ali and Homi Adajania tow in keeping Meera just this side of stereotyping but they do it with an intuitiveness and maturity we aren’t used to. It is another thing that a lot of this is swept by in dialogues and the compulsive yuppie-ness of the film. Some more is in the over-weaning need of romantic films to be dreamily so. Extrapolating a bit, it is this strength of character that must have made the flighty Gautam fall in love with her, something the film should have emphasised rather than go on a romantic trip of ‘you are this’ and ‘you are that’. She grounded him, something Veronica (or any other girl) couldn’t do for him. Isn’t love after all, about finding a home for our souls to rest in? Gautam had to find it in Meera because she always chooses to remain who she is not because she cannot go beyond her boundaries but because she won’t. Choice is empowerment and what better symbol of strength than the ability to make it?

It is for this that despite her shy exterior, Meera comes across as a woman stronger than cinema would have us believe. Because being true to oneself requires far more strength than we can imagine, in cinema as much as in life. It isn’t an exciting thing many times, hence Meera is a boring character and Veronica is attractive. But isn’t the foundation of ‘self’ far more solid than colourful antics and a glossy exterior that barely manage to hide the chinks inside? As a film, Cocktail didn’t strike me as anything more than a warm romance but all its superficiality couldn’t hide the worlds of its characters…created with a subtlety we aren’t used to watching.