A Woman Who Doesn’t Have to Fit In

A Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

Khoobsoorat – Movie Review

(Warning – Spoilers, lots of them)

When my niece recommended I watch this film, I was skeptical. It sounded like a predictable Bollywood romance, replete with beautiful sets, fine costumes and jewelry, one dimensional characters with very little subtlety, and situations that are too easily resolved, usually through the use of lectures and bit of melodrama.

It turned out to be some of the above. But despite these predictable traits, the movie surprised me.

The Protagonist

What I liked about the film is of course the protagonist Mili (Sonam Kapoor). Or rather, I came to like her. Cautiously. Gradually.

Mili is silly, irritating, and clumsy. She puts up her feet on the dashboard, drinks from the wine bottle, and eats messy food with her hands. She takes selfies of herself everywhere. I thought, “And THIS is what they call ‘spontaneous/bubbly’?” I rolled my eyes.

But over the course of the film, Mili emerges as a woman who likes herself and is not excessively concerned whether others approve of her or not.

She is very good at what she does (physiotherapy) and she does it unconventionally and with lots of heart thrown in.

Mili has had 3 breakups so far (shown funnily in a little flashback) and even though she’s just had it with men for a while, she hasn’t had it with life. In fact, she’s enjoying life more than usual, with the complications of a relationship removed.

Mili dares to dream. She isn’t overly awed by Prince Vikram’s wealth or class. At first she’s attracted to him, and then she begins to like him when she sees his human side. As she finds herself becoming closer to him, her only worry is that he is engaged. Never once does she feel he is “unreachable”. It’s as if she’s always seen him as an equal, as another human being. She conveys an easy, natural sense of self-worth here.

Supporting Characters

Another pleasant surprise – there are two other strong female characters in the film – the Maharani, Vikram’s mother, played by Rathna Pathak, and Manju (played by Kirron Kher), Mili’s kick-ass, Punjabi mom. Both characters were portrayed reasonably well. Power does not make the Maharani evil and being middle class does not make Mili’s mom servile.

The Maharani, although strict and rule bound, never raises her voice or gets abusive as befitting her classy background. Her bossiness is restrained, her dismissals aloof, her rebuttals are often polite, and her language is impeccably clean. And there are layers to her. You can understand that she needs to be authoritarian in order to run such a large estate, several businesses, and keep an army of staff running smoothly. You also sense she is protective of the wheelchair-bound Maharaja. She will not let anyone cross the wall he has built around himself. She fears that it could be devastating to him. Gradually, their previous relationship is revealed. How they played polo and tennis together. How the Maharani had love and friendship and playfulness from her husband before one tragic incident brought their lives to a screeching halt. Theirs was (and is) an equal marriage, a rarity among older (or even younger?) Bollywood characters.

As a foil to the Maharani’s character is Manju, Mili’s mom – loud, bull dozer like, and calls a spade a spade. You can tell where Mili gets her guts and a bit of craziness from. Manju often advises her daughter to “go get “em” if she needs to and to “not take any crap from the guy’s family”. That really made me laugh with happiness!:)

And now, coming to the male lead – Prince Vikram played by Fawad Khan. The actor is smoky handsome and sexy (I can see why my niece was so hooked on this movie now:). When I say sexy, I don’t just mean his physical attributes. I think people who are good looking in an empty sort of way are seldom sexy. He has what attractive men and women have – an air of mystery, a certain aloofness, quiet confidence that doesn’t require loudness or aggression, a reluctance to easily reveal himself and yet he does so in vulnerable moments. And when he does reveal himself here and there unintentionally, you like what you see.

When Mili accuses him of not joining the party with the servants because he has to maintain his distance/status, he replies, “Yeah …. something like that.” He doesn’t deny that the class gap exists and he doesn’t have all the answers. And then adds, “or perhaps, they (servants) would prefer it that way (him not joining their fun).”

He is puzzled by Mili’s craziness. He is befuddled by her impulsiveness. He is wary of her inclination to say things without a filter. He is jolted by her tendency to act on whim, without the slightest though to consequences.

But when he watches his mother’s reaction to Mili’s wackiness, he is secretly amused. All of his emotions were subtly conveyed – a raised eyebrow, a shrug, a warning look, a little hesitation, a tensing of the shoulders, a bit of subtle sarcasm, or some delicate rephrasing of an otherwise crass situation.

There is great chemistry between the two characters. In both the kissing/hugging scenes, they are BOTH drawn to each other, the feeling is mutual, and Mili as the woman is a willing partner, and once she is also the initiator.

Vikram finds himself reluctantly but helplessly drawn to Mili, despite his rational understanding of the volcano he’s walking into. Mili, on the other hand, true to her character, courts fire, and gives no thought to the consequences.

Humor

There are several funny moments – some everyday situations, some contrived. When Mili asks people from the royal family to join her skype call with mom, her mother puts on a sweet smile, but once they leave, blasts Mili for doing this to her when “she’s cutting onions and sweating in the kitchen”.

When the kidnappers tell Mili they’re just getting started with their ransom “business” and she’s their first victim, Mili who is now high on something, says, “I get it. I remember being excited too – when I got my first client.”

Mili’s breakups are funny – one is with a clueless guy who has found his soul mate in another clueless girl. Another guy is just someone who couldn’t handle Mili’s feet on his dashboard anymore.

And Vikram’s use of “hum” (we) to refer to himself are greeted by irreverent Mili (and her mom) with a “Who the heck is We?? Hello?? I see only one person here!”

I chuckled when the Maharani (upon being confronted in the middle of the night by Manju) says with lovely poise, “I’m sorry but I need my 8 hours of sleep. Can we discuss these “interesting” theories of yours in the morning?”

Room for Improvement

I thought they could’ve balanced out Mili’s character a bit – she doesn’t ALWAYS have to be smiling or ALWAYS have to drop things – we get it – she’s a fun gal and a tad clumsy. But when Vikram tells her they cannot share a future because they are so different, Mili hardens and softens at the same time. She looks at him both angrily and sadly and says, “I agree.” This is where her character looks more complete, more multi-dimensional. I wish there were a few more of these contemplative moments for Mili.

The confrontation between the moms was unnecessary and Manju’s pettiness and arguing to the bitter end dragged down the last part of the movie a bit.

I also thought the Maharaja’s situation was resolved a bit too simplistically. While I appreciate Mili’s determination to do her job as a therapist and her efforts to bring fun back into his life because she believes it will help him recover, I wish she never explicitly TOLD him he is stuck at the time of the accident, and needs to start living again. I wish she had trusted his capacity for self-direction. And I wish he had taken that first step forward himself, with her support.

The Ending

Loved the ending though! It is the royal family that learns to relax and adapt to Mili’s crazy ways rather than Mili changing herself to fit into the clan’s honored traditions. This is not shown explicitly but implied through the Maharani’s humorous acceptance of Mili and the last credits song.

The movie is based on an older film of the same name starring Rekha. And it does have shades of the Sound of Music. I’m not sure if it passes the Bechdel test but overall, I confess I enjoyed this movie. Charming characters, three strong women, one dashing prince, a hauntingly beautiful palace, and lots of heart make this a warm, pleasant ride. Did you like it? Let me know what you think!

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Dhobi Ghat. Zara Hat ke.

One of the many things I loved about ‘Dhobi Ghat‘ was Arun (Amir Khan) saying his paintings depicted the folks from Andhra, UP, Bihar, Gujrat etc who have worked so hard to create Bombay and he hoped one day they would feel at home in this city they have created. This bit reminded me of ‘Kameenay‘. ‘Kameenay mocks at the hypocrisy of changing names and claiming ownership of cities, when there is will do nothing else.  Kameenay boldly got away with it all. Dhobi Ghat is less bold, more ‘different‘.

Shai (Monica Dogra) does not respect Indian class, caste, community and gender divides. She  feels apologetic after losing her temper when the dhobi ruins her shirt, forgetting one doesn’t generally apologise to dhobies and bais in India. She is offended by the humble glass tumbler her bai brings for  Munna and lets him have her tea cup. Prateik Babbar (Munna), a dhobi is left truly confused. To be treated with warmth, respect and even fondness by a woman who was not his sister or mother could only mean she ‘wanted to do frandship with him‘.

Prateik Babbar is late Smita Patil’s son and as amazing an actor as his mother was, so are all the others.

The story of a young, bubbly girl from Malaipur, UP, married to an old (middle-aged perhaps) grouch in Bombay, I wish had ended differently. No spoilers. Once again, amazing direction by Kiran Rao. (I am glad she did not feel the need to change her name to Kiran Khan, wonder what Sanjay and Manyata Dutt think of this).

Don’t look for a standard story, enjoy the subtle humour and the interesting glimpses into the lives of four very different Indians. Some amazing insights, a re-look at just how different lives of four Indians can be even when they live just across the street from each other. And how easily we accept these divides and how we never acknowledge that these divides are the reason when confronting endless problems caused by them.

Bollywood in Truck Art :) and I’m Back!

[Note: The title of this blog post was suggested by my daughter Tejaswee. I did not want to add ‘and I’m Back!’ but she had complained that I ask for her suggestions but then I don’t accept them. Today I am glad, although she can’t be back, her demanding, delightful memory is back every time I read ‘and I’m Back‘…]

 

I have been away – thanks for emailing, tweeting and leaving comments to ask if all is well. For a million heartfelt ‘Thank You’s , click here 😉 [Thanks for the sticky tape Chirag]

Click on the image if you’d like to watch the song 🙂

It is not possible to take a total break from the blog 😐 There are reminders everywhere 🙄  Our JKG in Chief is popular enough to inspire this polite protest 🙂 You thought ‘Singh is King’?

Bollywood contd. 🙂

I expected a Maharashtra nameplate with this offer to drive to Khandala but the truck had a Rajasthan number.

If you’d like to watch the song click here 🙂

These trucks can say ‘Mere pass maa hai’ (Click to watch the dialogue not reserved for Bollywood sons)…

Ma ka Aashirwad‘ (Mother’s blessings). This one claims ‘Ye dil mange more‘ . This heart wants more of mother’s blessings?

Although ‘Maa ki Mamta‘ is mentioned, this one doesn’t seek her blessings because this one has ‘TURST in GOD ‘ 🙂

I wonder if this gets too much sometimes… do they mean it?

Dadi-Dada aren’t forgotten… but mother’s reign supreme 🙂

Not all messages are directly inspired by Bollywood. If these messages are any indication – we do seem to be basically a tolerant nation.

This message makes more sense than one would guess at first glance.
(‘Dekhi jaa chedi naa‘ translates to ‘Look as much as you like, but don’t touch’)

Here’s Indian philosophy summed up in one sentence. Translates to,
“You will get nothing more than you are destined to get and nothing before you are destined to get it.” (Better translations welcome 🙂 )

Don’t miss ‘Chamiya’ ( a flashily dressed woman?) on the middle flap 🙂 This truck is female 🙂  Many trucks are also referred to as sons (beta), daughters (beti), tigresses (shernee) and ladla (a male brat) or laadli (female brat) 🙂

Although she is a ‘chamiya’, a sherni (a tigress) and a laadli ( a dear girl child) – she is reminded… ‘Zyaada khayegi to moti ho jayegee‘.

(Translates to, ‘If you eat too much, you will grow fat.’) ;P

Love Aajkal is against Indian Culture, but Kicking is legal?

I am so confused!

First thing I notice in Love Aajkal is that even the heroine is ambitious! I like that. I clearly remember Bollywood once suggested that an ambitious woman left her child alone at home, ‘burning with fever’ to fulfill her selfish ambitions. She learnt a lesson – often after being slapped by her husband (I am not sure, but it is possible that it’s excusable under the law, unless your lawyer uses the right Act etc, though it seems Brinda Karat has challenged this). How does one prove that kicking is not an act of kindness when the old Bollywood heroine turns around and asks : ”Yeh thappar aapne mujhe pehele kyon naheen mara??” (Why didn’t you slap me earlier my Lord? ) Anybody watching movies of those times could get confused and think Indian wives are generally grateful for a timely slap (or a kick).  So any confusion is understandable.  Now are my maid’s mother in law and husband not cruel anymore? … was I breaking a law in supporting her? I am confused.

… but Dipika Padukone is ambitious. I admire her for that even if she is expressionless while being ambitious.

Then we have a heroine committing the sin of being drunk. Again I am confused, Kawariyas are provided liquor in shivirs but girls in Mangalore were beaten for drinking liquor, I get all confused by these modern definitions of my culture. Is drinking against our culture or not? Citizens in Ghaziabad (and Noida and Gurgaon) are advised, ‘kawariyon se na uljhen’ (‘Avoid getting into hassels with kawariyas’, in a local newspaper) but girls in Managalore are dragged by their hair and molested for allegedly drinking in a pub. Please explain.

Deepika Padukone in the meanwhile claims that she only pretended to be drunk, so that her boyfriend could “take advantage of her“. Reminds me of Kajol’s horror in a similar situation in Dilwale dulhania le jayenge (justified because  Shahrukh Khan was not her boyfriend till then) and SRK assuring her that he knew, “ek Hindustani ladki ki izzat kyaa hoti hai (Translated: He knew what honor means to an Indian girl). Saif and Deepika have no idea that in movies long ago a girl was required to rush blindly towards the nearest cliff because she had crossed her ‘maryada’ (even if it was without her consent).

So I liked Love Aajkal for showing some real life. And for showing women as sexual beings unlike this. I know of girls living happy lives with their husbands who took …err advantage of them before they filled their maang with sindoor. And what if things hadn’t worked out??!!! (Oh horror!) I am sure the disappointed guy would have eventually got over and the girl too, because unlike Rishi Kapoor in Love Aajkal, I believe, one must move on.

Life is too precious to be wasted because a relationship did not work. One’s First Love need not be one’s only love. This is something Bollywood understood ages ago… watch the video in the first comment.