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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Tejaswee Rao Scholarship and Blogging Awards.

We visited Tejaswee’s college and discussed and decided upon various ways in which we could start a Scholarship in her name. The option I like requires depositing a lump sum amount (Capital) and the interest from that amount provides Scholarships, and if we choose,  Hostel fees, PG expenses, Books, Field Trips etc to one or more students.  Also, we can continue to add to this amount if we wish to (like on her birthdays). This makes me wonder if we should continue with the registering of the Trust I have mentioned earlier. A Trust requires some legal knowledge, annual auditing etc, though it also enables other people to contribute. We need to think about this now.

Her favorite teacher said the selection of the recipients for the scholarship, “should not be based purely on academic performance… Tejaswee was brilliant and  creative, she really cared, she was compassionate, confident and she was involved, aware and opinionated, she was so full of life… ” She couldn’t go on. I understand now what they mean when they say ‘tears are a tribute we pay to the memory of those we love‘ …Every time I meet someone Tejaswee looked up to or cared for, I can’t help but notice how well she chose who she liked…

They helped us identify one student, a class mate, who will receive Tejaswee Rao Scholarship this year. I remember Tejaswee speaking fondly  of her. The college suggested we meet the child and I think we would love that. This is a positive beginning.

Her college also held this contest.

I have decided to do something similar on this blog. I had planned to use the Blogscars 2010 as a means to create a collection of links to posts related to the issues this blog deals with (Girl Child, gender bias, intolerance etc) and to recognize those which really can make a difference… I will be announcing the Blogscars soon. I would like to dedicate the Blogscars to my daughter Tejaswee with Cash Prizes and Certificates to be won…  Your suggestions are welcome.

I have created a blog – a Support Group for Coping with Grief and Loss, it can be found here.

She will live forever in our hearts.


Born: 19th Jan 1991.

Died: 11th Aug 2010.


Tejaswee’s blog.

A LETTER TO THE FUTURE..

http://blabberblah.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/a-letter-to-the-future/

LAST POST WRITTEN ON 29TH JULY, was after this one.

http://blabberblah.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/college-again-and-my-shift-key-breaks/

It’s difficult for me to talk about it now. All I would say is we have decided it would help tremendously to channelize our grief in some positive direction. A relative hugged me during her funeral and said, “Now this grief will go with you to your grave. Till the last moment of your life, till your last breath, this baby you gave birth to and loved is going to make you cry.” And suddenly something snapped. My daughter was an easy child to raise. My dearest friend and my closest ally, a confidante, a companion, we talked endlessly, we shopped, we read, we laughed at the same things and I never had to face any of the parenting problems one hears about. I feel I was extremely fortunate to have her with me for the best nineteen and a half years of my life. The thought of crying and not smiling fondly whenever I thought of her – a girl who never made anybody cry… I knew I did not want that.

We have all decided to talk about her without bitterness. One of her closest friends visited me and helped reactivate her Facebook account. (I had persuaded Tejaswee to deactivate it last month because I felt she was spending too much time on facebook). We have decided to understand that everybody has to go someday, she left earlier than we would have liked. We have decided to see which of her causes we can support. One of the thoughts is to start a scholarship in her name, maybe a fund. I would appreciate suggestions for this. And also any suggestions that help us stay positive.

Irresponsible girls who throw away their lives while in throes of lust for the completely wrong person…

In response to “Don’t let me down dear daughter!”, a comment expressed this opinion.

“In defense of parents – and while absolutely hating my parents for their emotional blackmail – I do see where they might come from. I have seen innumerable girls (and sadly this still applies to girls in our society) throw away their lives while in throes of lust for the completely wrong person.

These girls typically run away with the first guy who gathers enough courage to ask them out the first time. Typically this guy does not have a great value system, any sense of responsibility, any education,ambition, willingness to improve their lot in life, respect for women and so on and on. As a result, the said girl either lives her life in grief or returns to her parents home where none of guys among us will marry her anymore.
I have seen way too many examples of such irresponsible behaviour and so do not have any hopes of parents granting girls “freedom” within bounds.

As they say, it is the limitation that defines any freedom.”


I was going to delete this but further comments indicated that this was written in all seriousness.

My response:

I wonder why don’t we consider guiding these daughters instead of locking them up. That’s a more reliable ‘protection’. But is it really about protecting the girl from unhappiness? I don’t think so, because we don’t kill to protect.

Also…

Strangely, this  protection is only from falling in love (etc.) – not from violence, being burnt alive, abuse, murder or rape in their marital homes, even if this home is chosen by the parents.

Can an intelligent adult be expected to blindly trust such hypocrisy?

If the arguments given are honest and logical. If caste, community and the neighbour’s father in laws’ third cousin’s  opinion are not the reason given for rejection of a partner a daughter (so lustfully!) chooses.  Then the opinion of the elders would be considered worth taking. The parents have to earn this trust.

Sometimes girls are pushed into running away to escape forced-marriages or other problems at home. If the family accepts and supports their choices, girls won’t be forced to run away, they will see their home as their sanctuary and support system – as the place one always wants to come back to.

Assuming they do choose badly, could it be because they were not allowed to form independent opinions or choices?  While anybody can make a mistake  (including the parents) – some basic guidelines could make choosing easier for the daughters, but parents don’t want to hear of girls choosing their own partners.  They would rather kill them. One Khap supporter claimed only prostitutes choose their own partners.

When the parents arrange a marriage, do they always choose well?

Giribala said, ‘Freedom to obey’ is not ‘freedom.’ And when the obedient girl marries the person of her parents’ choice, she gets the ‘freedom to obey’ for the rest of her life!’

Freedom to obey also means, they can’t come back home.  Sometimes they must adjust till they die. Sometimes they kill themselves, sometimes they  are burnt to death, sometimes they are sixty before they realize they can’t go on. They are told their happiness depends on their luck. Does this make a daughter see the parents as her genuine well wishers?  Think about it, would you trust someone who says it’s your Destiny to live an unhappy life and your Duty to serve those who make life unlivable for you?

Social conditioning has such powers – some girls do.

Some rebel.

They can see that if they are old enough to get married then they are also old enough to choose their partners. Nobody has more right to decide who they marry than the girls themselves…

Sounds like common sense? But we tend to put custom (i.e. old habits ) over common sense.

There are some with unlimited freedom to control other citizen’s lives . It seems Gujarat  government has forgotten that these citizens are voters too.

GANDHINAGAR/SURAT: The Gujarat government has asked courts not to register marriages unless there’s parental consent in writing. (Click to read – Thanks for this link Desi Girl)

Lucky to be treated with respect?

An elderly friend once said her only prayer for her daughter was, “God grant her good luck (naseeb)”. She said she had seen women who were beautiful being treated cruelly, she had seen rich girls with huge dowries being treated like ‘maid servants’, she had seen highly educated girls being treated like they had no minds of their own – and she had seen ‘average looking, ordinary girls’ living like princesses.

Some girls are lucky, they wear what they like, their husbands love them, their in laws respect them, they visit their parents whenever they like…

I didn’t agree. If it depended on luck then we were left helpless. I thought one could expect to be treated with respect from those one treated with respect. Wasn’t it supposed to be mutual?

Now I feel it isn’t luck but self confidence that ensures respect. Legal rights and being born in a Democratic country helps  tremendously.

And then today I read this,

‘In laws insistence on the daughter in law wearing a sari does not amount to cruelty, says Bombay High Court’.[Link]

And what about being beaten if she does not wear a sari – does that amount to cruelty? [Click to read]

I don’t know how many Indian women would actually go to court for their right to be treated like intelligent adults. Any mention of such rights would be seen as unreasonable – even radical. Most women accept this (and more) as their destiny while their ‘luckier’ friends and neighbors, and other family members go on living their lives without having to take permission for every little personal decision. Sometimes  there are two sisters in one family – one leads a ‘lucky’ life. One doesn’t. We accept that as their destiny.

This friend doted upon her daughter and she grew up into a confident adult. When she was 22 she confided in me.  She was going to marry a class mate her parents didn’t yet approve of. They eventually did approve and now her mother blesses the son in-law for all the good luck he brought her. She doesn’t realise the good luck was given to her  daughter when they gave her the confidence that made her say, ‘They don’t approve of him YET, but I know they would eventually. They know I won’t want to marry him unless  I was sure he was really so right for me 🙂 “.  She didn’t want me to speak on her behalf – she needed no go-betweens. She knew she could speak to her parents about anything.

Hundreds of adults like this young couple in Kanpur who committed suicide by jumping in front of a speeding train probably did not have the ‘luck’ she had. Maybe they feared that their decision as two adults would not be respected, even though no matter what the  Khap Panchayats say, the law was on their side.

Related posts: The symbolism of a saree at Careless Chronicles.

Paraya dhan and her limited rights.

Somewhere in the blogosphere –

“… girls were considered a burden..but today times are changing…but having said that i will say that I feel pleasure in traditional giving to my daughter’s in laws..to me its my gratitude to them for loving, respecting and looking after my daughter, because my daughter lives with them, not their son with me, so its they who spend on her and look after her.”

A lot of Indians will find nothing wrong with this statement. Not even with ‘…they who  spend on her and look after her.‘ [One person works hard and makes himself financially secure. Another person works hard but remains dependent.]

Not even with,

because my daughter lives with them, not their son with me’. (Why not?)

We feel grateful to a paraya dhan‘s in laws for ‘looking after‘ her and we try to keep them happy.  Dowry and gifts for a woman’s in laws are rarely mutual.   It’s dangerous to assume that gifts and dowry  can buy happiness or safety for woman.

Won’t it be simpler to let the girl be self reliant? Not just financially but also in her attitude.

No, because yesterday an acquaintance complained, “Independence makes girls selfish, they don’t like to live in Joint Families.

I would have thought selfishness should make them want a system that is said to be good for them.

It seems the system does not suit all it’s members – so some member must be forced to accept it, in the name of custom, tradition, family values, honor, their destiny, sacrifice or love.

The Joint Family System is convenient for parents of male children. It is also the biggest reason why all Indian parents pray, fast, bless, abort or kill for a budhape ka sahara*.

We  even steal, or secretly replace our female babies with male babies in hospitals.

We openly express sympathy when a girl child is born.

We also believe that 50% of all equal adults in India (and their children and grandchildren) belong to their spouse’s family.  From the moment they are born they are prepared for being able to survive, adjust and accept a life that they may or may not want. Any objection to living with their spouse’s families is seen as being selfish – and no sin can be bigger for a woman, because the essence of a woman lies in her eagerness to ‘sacrifice‘.

All paraya dhans are expected to give up their identity when they marry. They can also be restrained from using this new identity if they separate from the spouse. [Thanks for the link Mr Gopinath.]

Murtaza Khan understands these double standards very well it seems. He believes that the ‘lady who opts for marrying outside the state (Jammu and Kashmir) must lose citizenship of the state.

I was relieved to note that the Jammu and Kashmir assembly witnessed an uproar… as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) member Murtaza Khan introduced …the controversial Permanent Resident Disqualification Bill. [Link]

(Jammu and Kashmir enjoys special status under Article 370 of the Indian constitution. Only residents of the state can acquire immovable property, study in professional institutions and get government jobs. [link])

____________________________________________________


Paraya dhanThe term is used for girl-children in India.  Traditionally a girl-child is seen as a liability, because her parents must train her from babyhood to live with and serve her spouse’s family. paraya’ – not one’s own, ‘dhan’ – property, wealth.

Budhape ka sahara – a male child – seen as a support in the old age. Also called budhape ki lathi – meaning a senior citizen’s walking stick.

Mothers and daughters.

My mom visited me the other day and the first thing she asked was to watch ‘Tere Mere Sapne’ at 1 pm. I groaned aloud and explained that with Airtel IPTV, she could watch any missed shows later also.

“Great then I also want to watch the last night’s show I missed yesterday!”

So my mom caught two shows I strongly disapprove of, one after another. We ate lunch while watching a group of women circling a peepal tree, praying for their husband’s long life and listening to Savitri’s story.

Savitri snatched her husband back from Yama, the god of death. (Even if we don’t hear of it, I am sure her husband would have done the same for her.) She asked Yama for a hundred sons… (and not one daughter) so he had to return her husband so she could have those hundred sons (no daughters). Now the entire nation seems to follow numerous examples like this, and everybody wants sons.

Gandhari in Mahabharata also asked for a hundred sons. Didn’t they miss having daughters? Sons are fine and good, but isn’t it fun for women to have life-long friends in their daughters?

I saw a friend transform. She had problems at home, and she didn’t seem to care how she looked or lived. She dressed conservatively, wore drab colours and seldom stepped out of her house.

Then her daughter grew up 🙂

During the last few years she took the mother with her to the gym, got her a haircut, both got a music teacher, they go for movies and shopping together,  and the daughter gradually changed her mother’s entire wardrobe. This happens with many women. Grown up daughters become best friends and allies. My friend’s problems are still there but now she has someone who understands and stands by her. She also looks visibly more confident with her new look.

When we were teenagers, my mother used to say she had heard of mothers being close to sons, and wondered why nobody said anything about the amount of fun mothers have with daughters.

My favourite poem by Usha Pisharody says it so well!

For a Daughter I Wish I’d Had!!!

By Usha Pisharody

Audacious smiles

laughter ringing clear-
warm hugs and
little sudden pecks on my cheeks!
A whirlwind of a girl;
now here, gone in a flash!
endearing entreaties-
unquestioning love!
Long long hours of girlish talk-
boys, books, heroes and men!
Life, love, trust and THAT!
Confiding giggles-
while ogling the boys…;)
summing them up, then
walking by in disdain!!
Cheering her up
when sadness strikes-
being there for her…
just in case, she asks!
Holding her hand-
without her knowing..
as only moms can do;
though she, being mine,
would know it too…!!!
Sharing myself with her-
my fears, my joys
my secrets, and my ploys-
Ending the day in warmth
so wonderful
so fierce and filling..
Wishing each mother had
a daughter..
so like mine!!

And a little girl is 19 now.

My wasted advice!

I was driving and Daughter was gushing over how much she loves the vibrant colours of the ethnic wear we had just bought for her, and then Radio One plays this beautiful song, “Aaj din chadiya tere rang warga…”

The beauty of his plea was striking after the post about Stalkers and Losers yesterday.

IHM: ‘”Wo jo mujhe dekh ke hanse, pana chahoon raat din jise, rabba mainu naam kar use, tainu dil da wastaa…” (The one I meet in my dreams, the one I want to be mine, God, give that one to me, my heart is breaking…) I never noticed the lyrics before!  …this is a lovely song.

Daughter: I would be scared to ask God for something like this, … what if God grants the wish and I realise he wasn’t the right guy?

IHM: You can add a clause in your prayers, ” God, only if he is the right one, then and only then should he be mine, if he isn’t, then may I feel nothing for him, and may he feel nothing for me.”  😉

Daughter: The best I like are the yellows! Mustard would go well with red.

My advice is wasted on them!

Her grandmom’s daughter?

Somebody is traveling all by herself for the first time today. It’s no big deal except that when they were young I was sometimes told I was overprotective, generally on occasions like weddings because I didn’t let them out of my sight. I feared it was on such occasions when everybody thought someone else was watching over the kids, that kids were most unsafe…

When I let her go to a (well-organised) trip to Europe some of the same people were surprised. They didn’t realize that my worry was never the chance of their becoming …err corrupted, but their being safe. We tend to mix mistrust with protectiveness. Anyway today my mom (she never thought I was overprotective) called to say she was proud of her grand daughter, and was glad she was more like her than me 😉

So the sounds heard in this house might be different for the two following weeks.

Endless conversation. Constant music. Excited barking. HBO. And an occasional sibling argument.

Two pairs of eyes will follow a human and they will look like they understand every word when she sings to them, her usual…

I better rush, it’s time to pick her.

Mamma Mia, Juno, Chocolat and motherhood.

A single mother Donna’s twenty year old daughter Sophie is getting married and would like her father to ‘give her away’. Her mom won’t tell her anything about her father (because she doesn’t know herself), but Sophie discovers her mom’s old diary and finds the three men, [click to view this hilarious scene] one of whom could be her father. She feels she will know him when she sees him and without telling her mother, invites her three potential fathers to her wedding…

I watched this crazy, funny, spirited adaptation of a popular musical, on HBO. After ages I liked ABBA again…  Money money money, SOS (Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep), Does your Mother know (with a difference 😉 ), Take a chance on me 😆 , Dancing Queen, Voulez Vous, Honey Honey 🙄 , many more, and of course Mama mia.

But why blog about just another funny movie?

Donna reminded me of Juno. If Juno was heart broken, pregnant and thrown out of her house, and if she had happily raised her baby on her own on a beautiful, sunny Greek island…??   🙂

Chocolat (the book, not the movie. The movie isn’t as good I’ve heard) and Mama mia have this in common: both are beautiful, moving, happy stories of single mothers and their daughters. I just couldn’t help wondering how some women raise their little girls with no support and how some other mothers agree to abort them (Edited to add: I only mean females fetuses/sex selection)… and never learn what they have lost.

Donna’s love for her daughter and her reluctance to let go can be heard seen in this moving song… Slipping through my fingers [click to watch].