Types of “Izzat” in Bollywood — Black and white movies to Badrinath ki Dulhaniya

Lalita Pawar, as the evil mother-in-law, has screamed, punched and kicked every Bollywood heroine in their heyday! And the heroines put up with it coz “badon ki izzat”. From then to now the Bollywoodisation of izzat has come a long way. 

Here are a few types of izzat that Bollywood movies have been peppered with in all their misogynistic glory:

  1. Badon ki izzat

The most convoluted form of badon ki izzat is the respect for the nikamma pati and the torturing in-laws. The doe-eyed heroine told anyone who cared to listen that she put up with every form of abuse because her parents taught her to respect her elders. I haven’t for the life of me been able to figure out how this education did not include self-respect. But hundreds of movies and millions of cine goers seemed to agree that this was the ultimate show of respect.

2. Ghar ki izzat

For some reason, this always meant that nobody outside the immediate family came to know about your financial predicament. It meant that you borrowed to keep up appearances, starved as you entertained guests, and beggared yourself while trying to sponsor your son’s fancy education. Then there is the the ghar ki laxmi meaning the daughter-in-law who formed a big part of the ghar ki izzat. And in such movies the bahu would end of torturing the in-laws.

Basically, among elders and the kids, whoever wielded the izzat to their advantage abused the other.

3. Desh aur samaj ki izzat

It was amazing to see a one man army demolish a ton of villains to save the desh ki izzat. Or, winning a cricket match against the goras like they did in Lagaan was enough to restore the desh ki izzat. No wonder we grew up thinking of desh ki izzat as a lost commodity to be restored with gimmicky acts and failed to learn that we need to demonstrate respect for our nation by treating our country and countrymen well. No, I am not going to launch a swachch bharat lecture but you get the drift.

4. Insufficient dowry = pink pagdi kadmon pe izzat

If the heroine’s father took off his pagdi and put it at someone’s feet, it meant total loss of respect. I have never understood what it takes to believe that you have to pay someone a huge sum of money and then beg them to take your daughter because you failed to cough up a few thousand more. And am sure that there is someone who is reading this and chuckling right now but will not even ask their parents about the “gifts” involved in their wedding.

5. And finally the lutne wali izzat 

Of course, we all know that a woman’s izzat is ALL about hymen remaining intact (not only in the movies).

This type of izzat has three variations:

i. “Mujhe bhagwan ke liye chhod do,” when you are rescued

Those were the days when the heroines begged to be left alone for “god’s sake” as the villain tried to rape them. Since the heroines were virtuous and pure, the hero always rescued them and protected their izzat by not revealing the identity of the villains to the police.

ii. “Mujhe bhagwan ke liye chhod do,” when you are raped

Every six year old in the country knew or maybe continues to know that the hero’s sister (read laachaar behen) would scream this dialogue, then vomit, then cry copious tears as she cradled an infant as the hero seethed impotently. If there was an andhi maa involved then the laachaar behen was married off to her rapist, often at gun point, by said hero who knew that was the only way to salvage her honour (again izzat) and that of the family’s.

iii. “Mun kala karana or naak katana” when they have sex outside marriage

When the woman has sex outside marriage, whether she gets married to the guy or not, she loses all types of izzat — from ghar ki izzat to the samaj kya kehenga to the duniawale, everybody is affected by the rupture of a tiny tissue…Uff the nose gets cut and face is blackened to cope with this trauma!

Badrinath is a movie that tries to move away from that kind of misogyny by telling the audience that guys and girls need to fight against regressive customs from dowry to honour killing. It also tries to highlight that marriage is not the ultimate milestone in a man or woman’s life. But, it loses these lofty ideals somewhere along the way. Between glorifying stalking to laughing when some villains are trying to “looto a man’s izzat”, the film reverts to gender stereotyping. Oh wait a minute, no hymen equal to no izzat maybe…Maybe that is why they think it is ok to laugh at attempted rape or believe that rape is a gender crime and heinous only when it happens to a woman!

Either way, Badrinath talks about a different type of izzat when Alia Bhat says that love is not enough when they don’t respect each other. This is a significant development in mainstream Bollywood cinema — the notion that respect is mutual and separate from the notions of izzat we have been used to!

Beauty and the Beast: Tale as old as time…Not exactly a review :-)

While watching Belle and the beast, I felt my fractured heart splinter into a million pieces and then slowly come back together in a shifting kaleidoscope till everything righted itself. What can I say except that it was so worth the wait. It is a sensory extravaganza and every little detail that has gone into the movie enhances the grandeur.

From the costumes to the expressions on the teapot, you will marvel at the finesse and be touched by the elegance. Belle’s enchanting yellow-gold gown and all the costumes got me googling and it is no surprise the kind of detailing and commitment to the costume and accessories is what makes it stand out. If you want to read about it, click here.

Lumiere and Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts have been “animated” yes, but they are more alive than many of us. I salute the artistry and the vision of team Beauty and the Beast. The song where Lumiere invites Belle to be their guest deserves a separate Oscar of its own. It is incredibly moving and a visual treat like no other. The age old waltz will cast a spell on you and the magic will never fail to move you.

One can’t exactly call it a children’s movie because I don’t know whether kids can fully wrap their head around the idea of an ideal love story. The movie plays to every fantasy every bookworm ever nurtured about romance. And if every hero needs a great villain, this Gaston is as vain and as vile as they come. What a performance! Watch it with your girl friends and oooh and aaah over the spectacular spread. As I saw the beast turn into Prince Charming, I couldn’t help remember Shrek and the transformation of a different sort. I realise all over again why that love story is so much more relevant and why little girls need to snap out of the Disney princess’ fantasy. But, for every girl/woman who was in love with the idea of being in love this tale is way to relive those moments 🙂

Raees: Angry young man returns?

srk-raees-angry-young-man-returns

Watching Raees is like watching those Amitabh Bachchan movies when you were six. Total dishoom dishoom!! And for a Shahrukh fan, the action combined with the charm is irresistable. I love the way the film is not out to make you cry or really root for the baddie. But yes, there are seeti bajao moments that made me wish I had taken a whistle with me.

Every punchline pe, you find yourself clapping and cheering. But, that’s totally SRK’s charm at work. As Raees the criminal, he does not evoke any sympathy. But the mastermind that he is, evokes a certain grudging admiration for his tactics. The sub plots are twisted enough to grip your attention and the songs are lovely. Zaalima has that Suraj hua madham quality minus the sizzling Shahrukh-Kajol chemistry. Mahera is a lovely actor but I am used to expecting someone stunning like Deepika on screen. SRK is the last of the romantic heroes and he makes anyone look good, but I just can’t get past Mahera’s nose.

Nawazuddin is now occupying the spot Iftekhar vacated — the perfect Bollywood cop anyone?

Of course, no talk about Raees can be complete without discussing the Laila song. I usually hate remixes, so I am biased. But, have you seen Zeenat Aman’s legs in the original??? I know they wanted to make it the new party song, but it is more of a cardio workout and lacks the sensuality of the original. Sunny Leone looks amazing as usual, but her costume and the choreography could have been waaaayyy better. Of course the events that unfold during that song are a completely different story. Talk about style and costume, I must say I am a big fan of Shahrukh’s kajal and pathan suit styling in the movie.

So all in all I say watch this movie with the pop corn and samosa and skip the coke as it rekindles your your childhood fantasies of being Amitabh Bachchan in a brawl with 10 people and heroically punching your way out with barely a cut lip!

Dear Zindagi – Conversations with Jehangir Khan (A movie review with spoilers that you will not hate me for)

Just as SRK crooned “Kathai aakhon wali…” which is one of his favourite songs, you will want to serenade him as you fall in love with the brown eyed King all over again. Along the way, you also swoon over the yummilicious Kunal Kapoor and have a girl crush on chocolate lover boy Ali Zafar.

Can’t wait for Gauri Shinde to direct a romantic movie! I know we have grown up on Yash Chopra, but watching Gauri Shinde’s take makes you realise the stark difference. While, a transparent, chiffon clad woman under a waterfall, may be the ultimate male fantasy, that is certainly not how a woman wants to be romanced. And no, it is not about her being a woman, Zoya Akhtar and Farah Khan continue to pander to the male fantasy. I laud Gauri for being able to speak a feminine language in romance and relationships. The most empowering scene in the movie is one in which Kunal Kapoor asks Alia Bhat whether she has anything else to say and she says no and bye and walks away. Even the lip lock with Ali Zafar is the tender kinda toe curling, bend the knee kiss which is seldom (if at all) seen in Bollywood.

But, all this is just a minuscule part of the attraction of Dear Zindagi.  I love the way it is mounted. The scale is just right. While I overheard a lot of people talk (crib) about the pace of the movie, I disagree. It is laid back but not plodding. You don’t need to soak it in. It doesn’t grab you by the gut or put you through an emotional roller coaster. The narrative is so graceful and sensitive and the high points are devoid of unnecessary frills with very real dialogues. It doesn’t pack a punch, it gently nudges your core and moves you without shaking you up too bad. This despite it being all about the conversations between a disturbed young lady and her therapist.

Dear Zindagi ticks all the boxes for me. Here’s why.

  1. The sets are gorgeous. From the nameplate of Jehangir Khan’s House to the kitchen at Rumi’s, every element is chosen by someone who clearly loves their job. If you are looking for inspiring home decor, this is it. You will just as easily be enamoured by the outdoors.
  2. SRKs’s look at styling is simply superb. The shock of black hair and gray at the temples and in the fuzz is just right. I love his shirts and the little nuances like Alia in the same style outfit towards the end.
  3. Sarcasm and a sense of humour makes a rare appearance in Hindi cinema. Only one film old and ready to take a dig at her first movie – way to go girl! Lot’sa people cracked up at the Lebanese joke while some found it in poor taste and were offended. But hey that’s what happens in the real world and laughing about it is the way to go. Touchy much? Thin line between sensitivity and touchy and the movie doesn’t even stray across the border.
  4. Alia Bhatt! There will not be a dry eye in the theatre when she is bawling her lungs out. I am an SRK fan, but this is Alia’s movie all the way!! And that is a saying a lot.
  5. High five to Gauri for not making a hotch potch of it as she touches upon so many sensitive topics without hitting a raw nerve. Really, you should be watching it to know about this one.
  6. It is like overhearing real people talking and not knowing what to do. Sometimes you want to reach out, sometimes you want to fade away into the background. The skype texting scene by Alia is one that will remind you of countless WhatsApp type and delete moments.
  7. Soul food! Ditch all the chicken soup books and whatever self help books are your fix and just get some wholesome entertainment for the same price.

 

The list will keep getting longer, the more I recollect, but I want you to watch it and come back and tell me more. Till then, I hope you are able to sing love you Zindagi if not today, then some day!

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is all about falling in love with Ranbir Kapoor!

It is apparent in every scene that the film maker loves Ranbir and you are tempted to fall in love with him. I didn’t like the title track much till I saw it on big screen. You can actually see the bass echoing in Ranbir’s face and expressions. Very intense. The movie has its moments and is peppered with beautiful dialogues. At one point Aishwarya says, “Tum samjhaoge to samajh jaaoongi, aur samajh gayi to bikhir jaoongi.” Such a simple line and yet it tells you that you have choice to not go through that emotional turmoil and stay on “hoping”. Hope, after all, is a terrible emotion.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is all about how heartbreak is important to get the creative juices flowing.

Having said that let me tell what stayed with me (in random order):

  1. Anushka’s styling. Me want those earrings and that stylist. Alia in a miss and blink appearance is also gorgeously styled.
  2. Bulleya–oh my!!
  3. Ranbir is oh-so-yumm but SRK rules! One brief scene and it shows why the big screen loves a super star. The quality of the movie changes in that one scene.
  4. Anushka is oh-so-wholesome and can totally pull off anything. Alizeh will be close to my heart for a long time.
  5. Why do they make Aishwarya wear expressions like clothes and make her strike poses in scenes? Wouldn’t it be easier for her to just be the character instead of reminding the world that she is beautiful every time? Remember Rain coat people?
  6. I sooo wish someone would cast Ranbir in a movie that exploits his potential. He can do anything but Barfi and Rocket Singh ke baad what next?

Bas that is it. But yes go watch the movie people. And laugh and cry. But more laughter from KJo this time and whoever wrote the dialogues is brilliant!

 

Tinder Chronicles: Part I

I lasted for 5 minutes on Woo and about 15 minutes on Aisle. I always had this daunting image of Tinder — the big daddy of dating apps. I  thought it would be sleazy. I thought I wouldn’t be able to deal with it coz I am not even sure about dating. Plus I am not a texting kinda person. So I downloaded it for a lark and am trying to figure out what the big fuss is all about.

One thing is true. Everybody (most everybody) is on Tinder. It is not just this or that. Not just a dating app or a social network. Not just a place to be social or a place filled with sleaze. Whatever notions you have about Tinder will be shattered in the first 5 minutes.

You are unprepared for sleazy message on Instagram or the odd creep on twitter and on Tinder you think you know what you can expect. But, nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the mass of humanity on Tinder.

Guys what are you thinking? Sticking your tongue out in a selfie is a strict no no! Please don’t hook your thumbs on your pockets. Are they your life jacket? Why oh why is your friend’s arm draped around your shoulders? Or worse, why are your friends in the frame with you? Who the hell clicks a pic with an idol in the background? So you smoke, but stuffing 3 cigarettes in your mouth naa-aah. Another big turn off — the ear hair that is threatening to stretch right out of the photo and dangle off my phone. And what do you
mean by you are are not there for hook-ups or romance or marriage? Plus , what’s with mentioning your height in your bio as 6.2 and a 1/2. You are a sapiosexual and interested in conversations — really you think no one understands this is code speak for my wife will cut off my balls if she finds me here?

This list is long but I am saving it for another time.

At first I was hesitant to swipe anywhere. Left is for Nope but be careful coz if you swipe Up it means Super Like. And the reservations about ‘hearting’ any profile pic held me immobile for the first few minutes. Then I got this message that I was super liked by someone. I had to google and figure out how to find out who super liked me. You see
Tinder doesn’t keep track of who you liked and all that. Unlike Instagram which not only shows you who liked your pic but also the posts you’ve liked, Tinder doesn’t bother with keeping count. So you are free of any and all baggage. You are truly in the moment as you
ruthlessly tap the X or heart icons. (Still not trusting my swiping  skills.)

So it turns out that you can only find out who super liked you by actually swiping through profiles till you find one with a blue bar and a blue star. So I went through the drill of hitting X and heart and finally reached the profile with the blue star and tapped heart ‘coz it was the very first Super Like. Yayyy. I was prepared for creeps and had my guard up. But, I needn’t have been worried. I had an innocuous conversation about Goa with my first Match. He promptly unmatched me after I said Good night. So far so good. Got another super like, but he seemed busy.

I realised that Tinder shows you profiles of even those who are out of the distance range that you define in your settings. And even those profiles you have marked as Nope keep reappearing in the deck. I kept shuffling the deck by changing the distance and age settings. So maybe it was because of that.

Then I started reading some blogs on the art of mastering Tinder. One of the recurring themes is not to feel guilty about swiping left or rejecting a profile based on the pic. Tinder encourages you to be exactly who you are. Sometimes in the physical world you can’t escape small talk with unsavoury characters. On Tinder you can Unmatch a person
if you don’t like the way they say Hello 🙂 Now I can understand how an entire generation, which thrives on instantly knowing whether or not they are interested in someone, does not make allowances for long term relationships to bud, let alone bloom. This is not about being old school here. Just an insight or a possible explanation on why most relationships and bonds are fleeting…It is not because of Tinder. It is in fact the other way round, Tinder thrives because that is exactly how people are or how they want to be. You realise just how importance physicality is. And no it is not about good looks or a particular type of feature set. It is about how a person strikes you as attractive or not at that very moment. Unlike the real world where you might take offense if someone you are chatting with replied after ages, on Tinder neither you nor the other person feels obliged to chat continuously. The feeling that nothing is permanent is all pervasive. Or was it just me building walls, I don’t know.

All I know is that I deleted my account after a couple of hours or so. But, I will definitely visit again. Maybe with my girl gang and laugh and poke fun and make light of it. Yes it sounds cruel but that’s not going to change, so if you are on it then you need to be made of stronger stuff 🙂 And who knows someday I might even find a Mr. Right-for-the-moment on Tinder. Tally-ho!

Guide to watching Bajirao Mastani

I decided to take the film maker’s word for it and suspended disbelief as soon as he mentioned it was his interpretation. Instead of being nitpicky about whether or not the real characters behaved that way I allowed myself to be drawn into a world where every frame was picture perfect and a story that made an illicit affair sound cool with the line, “Mastani se aiyashi nahi, mohabbat ki hai!” Who cared what historians said when Bajirao said that dialogue. For many it was a pure “seeti bajao” moment and there are such moments aplenty.

It was a visual treat from the word go because instead of wondering whether or not zippers were invented during that period, I rejoiced in the gorgeous costumes that Mastani wore, the vibrant silks in every hue and the sensuous drape of Kashibai’s sarees. Mastani with her glorious mane flowing unkempt on a horse and while brandishing a sword is sheer magic. No one ever wondered why the Vikings never had crew cuts in battle then why should Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Mastani be subjected to this scrutiny?

But, I am getting ahead of myself. Let me begin at the beginning with Milin Soman. Despite the salt and pepper moustache, he is as dishy as ever. This movie makes you remember why you tried to catch the “Made in India” song every time it played on TV. Aditya Pancholi never had a trustworthy reputation or face. And casting him as a naysayer and enemy of the mighty Peshwa Bajirao was a perfect call. The rest of the cast is just as perfect.

Tanvi Azmi as Bajirao’s mother is impressive, especially in the scene where she tells the Peshwa that she is proud of a son who respects women, but she can’t let him follow his heart. Everyone went gaga over Ranveer Singh chopping of his locks to play Bajirao, nothing has been written about her going bald.

Vaibbhav Tatwawdi as Chimaji Appa is a delight. I loved him in Coffee ani Barach Kahi and as the Peshwa’s brother he has outdone himself! Even the tiger who fails to intimidate the Peshwa is spot on. Kudos to Sanjay Leela Bhansali got these awesome artists together for his magnum opus. Irfan Khan’s narration is gentle and not overpowering.

This movie is all heart. It brings back the romance of conveying love and desire with a look and a gesture. Bajirao beckons his Mastani while standing in a little pool and Kashibai seduces her husband in the same way as she realises he is falling in love with another woman. Priyanka’s dialogue as she talks about the love between Krishna and Rukmini is another one of those “seeti bajao” moments. The love triangle tugs every heartstring and he goes for your gut in the scene where Mastani protects her son by singlehandedly fending off the thugs sent by the Peshwa’s enemies. She looks like an avenging Goddess as the Ganpati Vandanam plays in the background.

It is a movie where Tanvi Azmi chants, “sharanye triyambike gauri” and Deepika prays with her arms outstretched. These little things somehow assume a significance in today’s “intolerant” climate. Especially the part where Mastani verbally rips the Brahmin to shreds with her take on the religious use of the colour saffron and green. These dialogues are going to stay with people for a while.

I just felt the ending could have been a bit tighter. The drama and theatrics would have held more punch if it had not been slowed down towards the end. I am not going to talk about the battle scenes because whether or not it was Bahubali-esque or like the TV Mahabharata doesn’t mattter. Ranveer Singh is ripped and looks ready to take on the world. Deepika is every inch the royal warrior princess and Priyanka is towering as the Peshwa’s legal wife.

It is a movie worth watching in the theatre. Go and revel in the sheer opulence of the sets, the drama and the love. Yes, love. It is a movie that will make every woman in the audience go weak in her knees as she imagines herself in Mastani’s place as her dream Bajirao adores her and longs for her.

P.S. Just realised I haven’t spoken about the songs — the ode to Mughal-e-azam and his Singhamish Vaat lavli. What can I say? There is no comparison to Madhubala and wondering whether the Peshwa used that kind of language is a small price to pay when you step into Bhansali’s dream world. Then there is the powerful Gajanana vandanam to make you forget all this and revel in the music as you get goosebumps watching Mastani wielding her sword!

 

3 things you should know about Tamasha

1. OMG Ranbir Kapoor

He is so cute. Matargashti is simply the best part of the movie. You should stop watching it right there. It doesn’t get any cuter or better than that!

2. Rahman repeating his scores is just sick

Mid-way through many of the songs you feel like you’ve heard that tune before. Will definitely try to get back with a definitive list after checking the songs again whenever I am in the mood for forgettable music.

3. To be or not to be bipolar is not a choice

I think the My choice video has gone to Imtiaz’s head. You can’t show someone with serious psychological problems getting fixed like that. It just messes up with our head. Get a grip on your characters man!

Movie: Angry Indian Goddesses is blah!

Angry Indian Goddesses starts with a bang. The first few scenes grab your attention but the rest of the movie simply fails to deliver. It’s like the makers thought: let’s make a list of what is wrong with Indian society or what is it like to be a woman in India. Their list goes something like this:

  1. Eve teasing and molestation
  2. Slut shaming
  3. Discrimination in the workplace
  4. Objectification
  5. Frustrated marital life
  6. Guilt of being a working mother
  7. Increase in rape cases
  8. Victim blaming after rape
  9. Women have sexual fantasies too (just FYI)
  10. Section 377 (so lesbians can’t marry)
  11. Overly concerned boyfriends
  12. Objectification of men by women (reverse eve teasing)
  13. Lesbians being disowned by parents
  14. Obsession with fairness creams
  15. Trouble with in-law

Then they decided to write a few scenes around these issues. Then they assembled a cast and shot a ton of stuff. And at the edit they decided what to keep made a hash of it! So with actors like Sandhya and Anushka they could have had a mind blowing screenplay that would have nailed it if only they would have stayed true to character. Every character behaves in ways that you can never reconcile their actions to your perception. The only good thing is that they talk like women talk in real life. So the dialogues are cool.

And the direction is totally weird — they oscillated wildly between melodramatic and symbolic, which by the way was a total bouncer as we say it — what was that butterfly scene all about? If you watch it let me know. And what’s with censoring only the cuss words but wiping out pictures of goddesses from the screen. Yes! The screen is actually blurry in places.

All in law, if you want to know what real women talk like, watch this movie, just don’t expect to leave the hall with anything other than a mild sense of regret for having chosen to spend your time in this way because it fails to evoke any response. I can’t help wish the first scenes were the last part of the story and the rest was a flashback (with a different story) leading upto the first scene.

 

Bang Baaja Baaraat: It is not that common, it doesn’t happen to everybody and not many have heard of it!

I thought YouTube videos were it and everybody has heard of Permanent Roommates and Pitchers and Man’s World. So when Bang Baaja Baaraat opens with a couple who hooks up on Tinder, I assumed everybody has heard of Tinder.

Then I had this chat with a good friend about these Webisodes and she told me she had never heard of Tinder or Hinge or Truly Madly Deeply. I was surprised, but to be honest, they were just words to me till a few months back.

Somehow most of the men my age know of these apps, but women, especially stay-at-home moms have not even heard of theem. And my friends tell me that so many of these men are also on these apps regardless of whether they were married or single. My conversation with my friend about how many people are on dating apps, reminded me of this line from Friends where Rachel says, “Just so you know, it’s not that common, it doesn’t happen to every guy, and it is a big deal.”