Please watch ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ :)

The movie passes Bechdel Test with flying colours. The Kanpur accent and Kangana Ranaut’s Haryana accent, the music, the story, the way it ends, and everything else about the movie are absolutely delightful.

And while we are laughing hysterically, the movie conveys –

A woman smiling, laughing, talking, taking a ride or drinking or dancing with a man – may or may not be in love with him.

That self reliance gives confidence.

That courage, confidence, maturity and just plain common sense are not dependent on the language ones speaks or the accent or grammar (etc).

That men grow up and old too.

Men have ‘marital status’ too – even if it not talked about in Indian movies, and is not socially required to be displayed.

Men don’t hate getting married – despite all the shaadi ke laddu jokes one hears about. Men even have ‘marriageable age’ – though one doesn’t hear much about such social pressures. The movie makes references to men’s ages, like the ’35 and desperate to get married’ and 40th birthday shirt.

Men are also advised to Get Married and Stay Married. But instead of praying or fasting, men are offered the option of trying violence as an outlet if the situation gets unbearable – like breaking tube lights in their living rooms.

That the Khaps are fools.

It’s a problem that men’s manliness depends on their Sperm Count.

Men gain weight too.

Tanu does many things that generally only men are permitted to do

1. Complains that she finds her spouse boring and demands that she be pleased.

2. Goes out and has fun with old friends although she is married and loves her husband. She also calls her best friend her soulmate.

3. Meets visitors wearing a towel.

4. Drinks.

5. Gets away with being unreasonable. [Disagree?]

Lastly I think Kangana Ranaut is the Amitabh Bhachchan or Madhuri Dixit of today – only better.

Do’t believe me? Take a look 🙂

Many of us are going to watch this movie more than once.

Four other recent movies that passed Bechdel Test. 

Margarita with a straw.

Piku

Dum Laga Ke Haisha

Queen

I am optimistic that the success of these movies means that we will continue to see more such works of art.

Related Posts:

Piku in Patriarchy.

Please watch Dum Laga Ke Haisha – where a man is asked to Please adjust and save his marriage.

Please watch Queen. Feels like our country is finally changing.

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Piku in Patriarchy.

Another unexpected surprise. I guess with more and more Indian women watching movies, we are going to see more movies that acknowledge women as people. First Laila in ‘Margarita with a Straw’, and now Piku.

What else do Piku and Laila have in common?

1. Their families respect them and care for them.

2. They care for their parents, but they are not obedient and they do not fit into the traditional ideas of good Indian women.

3. They are sexually active, but are in no hurry to get married.

4. They are relatable.

They are involved in running their homes – Piku is shown cleaning cobwebs, loading her washing machine, counting clothes to be given to the dhobi and understanding their part time domestic helper’s need to take a few days off.

Piku gets impatient with and yells at someone she loves a lot, tolerates some amount of unfair dependence from her seventy year old father, but doesn’t prove her good-Indian-daughter love by sacrificing her social life.

She is caring and responsible without fitting into the stereotype of a good Indian daughter – this would still be considered unimaginable in traditional patriarchal families.

She complains about her father’s interference in her personal life, she appreciates sympathy from her maternal aunt and Rana Chowdhury, she talks about getting married but doesn’t believe that Getting Married and Staying Married is her goal in life.

Piku breaks some other stereotypes too.

I loved the scene where Chobbi Maasi is playing badminton with a younger man(Chowdhry?), who flirts with her, and instead of being flattered or overwhelmed (like the Bua in DDLJ and many other Indian movies) she casually (and confidently) says she was considering marrying a fourth time.

This maasi also wonders if Piku is stressed because she needs a sex life. Two women in an Indian movie talk, casually, about sex, but not about men or marriage – the movie passes Bechdel’s Test. (Laila and Piku have this in common)

My favourite scene [No spoilers] was when Chaudhury asks Piku if she would be able to manage it all on her own, and she says she would.

What if Piku was a son and was living with her mother? If the mother encouraged her… him to be sexually active but to be in no hurry to get married? And if the mother was demanding of his time and wanted to interfere in who he dates or sleeps with? I guess that is how it is for many Indian sons. Indian sons are also offered a solution – to bring home a daughter in law to take care of the mother.

In one scene Piku’s dad demands that Chowdhury picks and throws away a knife. Piku requests Chowdhury to indulge her father. How many Indian fathers of daughters can expect this from their thirty year old daughters? Most of them would be too worried about marrying the daughter off. I hope some Indian dads watching this movies see the possibilities…

Someone who didn’t like the movie said Piku’s father didn’t want her to have a life of her own because he depended on her, this is what, we know, Indian male children experience all the time. I guess what Piku’s father (and other parents who view their girl children as their care givers) would eventually want is freedom and rights for their children, to have a life that doesn’t require them to give up caring for their parents.

That, and that alone will change the way Indian parents view their girl children.

This would mean more and more parents encouraging their daughters not to get bullied into marriages and relationships that leave them dependent or unhappy, and cut off from their birth families.

This is how it would be in a society that is not Patriarchal, where all children and all parents  (whether parents of sons or parents of daughters) are valued and cherished.

I also felt Bhaskor Banerjee came from a  generation of spoiled and entitled sons and husbands who were raised to be ‘looked after’ by their mothers and wives and that was what made a seventy year old behave like a hypochondriac (though loveable, liberal, feminist and spirited) ninety year old. I know plenty of seventy year olds working and living independently, and cherishing their independence.

[SPOILER ALERT]

I was disappointed that women were not shown participating in the funeral.

 Related Posts:

CONTEST: Apply this test to Bollywood movies.

Please watch Dum Laga Ke Haisha – where a man is asked to Please adjust and save his marriage.

Please watch Queen. Feels like our country is finally changing.

Kai Po Che : Through feminist eyes…

Three thoughts on Bhag Milkha Bhag.

Dev D: Practical Paro Artless Chandramukhi

Bechdel Test: Apply this test to Bollywood movies.

‘Piku’: A review of reviews and some of my own thoughts.

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!

Heard about ‘Bol’ – from the maker of ‘Khuda ke liye’?

It’s amazing how one movie and lives of seven unhappy women has been used to show how when injustice becomes the norm, it can come to seen as completely acceptable. Nine members of an impoverished  family, denied happiness, education and literally imprisoned in their own house by orthodoxy and patriarchy are forced to accept and live with the most unacceptable of all crimes.

The movie begins when a young woman who has been sentenced to death, as a last wish, desires to speak to the media. She tells the media she was a murderer but she committed no crime. She also had a question. She asks, when it was a crime to take a life, why was it not a crime to give birth to children who the parents had no intentions allowing to live.

Her story begins, when a midwife explains to a father of seven daughters that his eighth born was “A boy, but not really  a boy. See him as a daughter.” This father, a hakim (a traditional medicine man) sees killing this baby as a solution. The mother pleads with him and persuades him not to. This father,  who controlled the destinies and lives of the nine people who lived in his fear, finds many other similar solutions to whatever he finds difficult to understand or accept.  Any opposition to what he deems right results in violence.

Most of the opposition came from his eldest daughter who names the eighth baby Saifi. The child grows up, much loved by all his sisters and mother but hated by the father.

Like in ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns‘ there is contrast in the lives of women growing up in the same neighbourhood, some risk being killed for using their minds, some live their lives. Like India, Pakistan and Afghanistan too live in many centuries and which era a family lives in, is generally decided by the patriarchal ‘head of the family’.

And the theatrical trailer.

In one scene a growing Saifi is exhorted to act like a man. Confused, Saifi declares that being like a man  was easy, all he had to do was frown and yell a little. His sister tells him he was describing their father, not men in general, and points to their immediate neighbour, living in another century.

I would have missed this movie if it wasn’t for Cheesychic‘s strong recommendation. It’s made by the director of Khuda ke liye, you will love this movie if you like movies that are entertaining but also meaningful. Actually you’ll love the movie anyway.

Do let me know what you thought of the movie, if you have seen it.

You’d rather watch Bodyguard or Singham? Just take a quick look at this video.

Related posts:

Have you seen ‘Khuda ke liye’?

Practical Paro, Artless Chandramukhi. (DevD)

Delhi Belly: Indecent, immoral, abusive language. Permitted everywhere except on screen.

Apply this test to Bollywood movies – Bechdel Test