Mom: Sridevi Impresses Yet Again, Despite The Glitches | Mom Movie Review

Sridevi starrer Mom is a powerful story of a mother, and draws you in, despite a somewhat unbelievable storyline.

Bollywood has matured over the years. It is refreshing to see that it now has lead roles for female protagonists who are in their 40s and 50s.

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To The Geet Without Aditya Kashyap and The Queen Without the International Vacation

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I watched the movie ‘Jab we met’ again over the weekend. This time it made me think very differently. It reminded me of the movie, Queen.

These two are my all-time favourite movies.  The protagonists in both movies are women who have been ditched by the men who they thought were the ‘love’ of their lives. After the initial shock, desperation, and pain, both woman move forward in life, becoming better versions of themselves.  Here is what happens:

  1. Geet meets Aditya Kashyap who she eventually falls in love with him. Aditya is not a cowardly idiot like Anshuman. He cares about her and likes her for who she is. Aditya literally rescues her.  They live happily ever after.

2. Rani (Queen) ends up going on her honeymoon alone. There she sees life outside the confines of her life in Delhi. She makes friends from different walks of life, including a boy who has lost his family in Tsunami yet tries to be cheerful in life. She discovers an identity for herself, as she meets people who appreciate her culinary talents, increasing her self-worth.

3. Anshuman and Vijay, the respective exes of these women realize their mistake and come back. Geet and Rani get to dump them this time.

I completely support the endings, and like the way they were empowering for women. But do all men actually realize their mistake, regret their actions, and come back? The world would have been a much more perfect place.   In reality, people dump somebody for good. They may not come back.  What about women who don’t necessarily find another man like Geet? What about the ones who don’t get to travel like Queen but continue their routine life feeling worthless after getting dumped? Living each day with a spout of misery with the most cherished moments of their lives becoming mere memories  and evoking mixed feelings? How do they ‘get over’ someone?

I am not a therapist, but still that would not deter me from expressing my thoughts on the subject.

  1. The world is a big and weird place. There are all kinds of complicated people. Anything can happen. Stop torturing yourself with ‘Why,’ and ‘What ifs’. There is nothing you can do to change things.

2. Try some kind of fitness regime. Whenever I have done any form of exercise on a regular basis, I have felt good about myself. Set a goal. For example 30 minutes on the treadmill. When you achieve it, you will feel like you are in control of at least something in your life. Aspects of your life like relationships that involve another person may not be controlled. But this is something you alone can accomplish.

3. Get out of the house. I don’t mean to go and date. Focus on your interests other than men (I know I have used this line in my previous articles, I guess I just love it). You may not immediately wish to travel alone or with friends. The thought may make you feel sorry for yourself (as you would have rather gone with a significant other). Then don’t do it. But go for a movie, play, poetry recital anything that you find doable and affordable. Then keep doing it regularly.

4. Try working towards self-growth. You must have heard that ‘Living well is the biggest revenge’. Resist the urge to immediately find someone else to spite your ex. Do not be the other extreme  either –  Swear to ‘ruin’ your life by staying single to make him feel guilty. Instead, try to become better (eventually more successful) in whatever you are working on.

5.  Take care of yourself. Go pamper yourself with a spa or a facial. Look good. When I was younger I used to think that being good looking was a pre-requisite for looking good. But over the years, the definition of ‘looking good’ has changed.

My friend’s mother is undergoing chemotherapy. She has lost all her hair. She sent me a picture of the mother recently, bald and lean. She was a very beautiful woman, and it pained me to her this way. But there was something lively about her picture. She had put on a dark maroon lipstick, enough to brighten up her face.

‘Aunty is looking good’, I had texted her.

Was I saying something inappropriate? Is it okay to say that  when someone is suffering from cancer?

She had replied, ‘Yes, she is better. Thanks’.

Another woman I knew lost her husband unexpectedly few years ago. She was unhappy for the longest time. Her daughter posted a picture of her from one of their recent vacations captioned, ‘Mummy wearing salwar suit for the first time’.

It was a very natural picture. She was not even smiling. She looked consciously at the camera, squinting her eyes probably because of the blazing sun. The salwar suit was also very ordinary. She looked more graceful in her saris. But everybody had complimented her, including me.

What made her look good? Maybe the fact that she had put in effort to do something different. She had hope. Hope that although she had lost the most precious part of her life, she was still trying to make the best of whatever she had left.

So finally to all the Geets without Aditya Kashyap, and the Queens without international vacations, your life is still  big and potentially beautiful.  Look around you. Everyone is struggling with something or the other. You may not necessarily get an opportunity to ‘dump’ anyone the next time around like these women, but you can dump your negative thoughts for the time being. Life is a series of mundane days with some temporary highs, followed by longer ‘low’ phases. Give it sometime. Things will fall in place.

 

Reema Lagoo – And Childhood Memories

On Thursday morning, I looked at my mobile mundanely to go through the morning news feed.

‘Reema Lagoo dead after suffering cardiac arrest. She was 59!

What? She did not have any serious illnesses that we knew of. She was not even a senior citizen technically. How could she die?

As a kid, (like most kids born in late 80s), I was in love with Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. I was around six when the movie was released. I had already watched it thrice in the theatre. At that time, there were only single screen theatres, the impact being much more grand. My relatives who were visiting from a small town wanted to watch Hum Aapke Hain Kaun in the ‘bigger city.’ My parents and sister wanted to watch Bombay. It was no dilemma for me. I joined my relatives to watch my favourite movie for the fourth time. That was a bold step for a clingy six year old – to choose to be away from parents for three hours.

But how could I not? When I loved all the characters in the movie. They all dripped of nobility. Especially, the graceful Reema Lagoo. She was part of two of the most entertaining comedy shows at that time, ‘Tu tu main main’ and ‘Shrimaan Shrimati’. It was a different time when comedy was not about cracking perverted jokes, or making fun
of every other famous person.

In the interval, I had asked my uncle to get me Thums Up, (in those glass bottles), and chips. Today, I can’t imagine drinking cold drinks. I don’t even have them occasionally. And I could eat chips in a theatre, without using sanitizer? It was an innocent, less complicated, carefree time.

I remember watching an interview of Reema Lagoo. I think it may have been on Shekhar Suman’s show. He asked her, “How can a mother be so beautiful.” She had replied that when she was offered Maine Pyaar Kiya, she took it up because it was a good role. She had no idea that she would be typecast in mother roles forever. She added that once she was asked to play ‘Dharamji’s mother’ to which they both had a hearty laugh.

I used to take things at face value. It never occurred to me that in Bollywood, actors could actually not be the age they were depicted. I asked my mother, why couldn’t she play Dharmendra’s mother. My mother told me that she is very young. She is not even old enough to play Salman Khan’s mother. I was shocked! How could something possibly be unrealistic in my perfect movie?

When I heard that Reema Lagoo passed away, I felt like all the good things I associated with my childhood are gone, one by one. Her death has bereaved us of not just a great actor, but of an era. For me, that era represented values, and everything good and positive. How will watching her movies ever be the same again? She played mother to people not so young, yet she did not live to see the age that she played? It seems so unfair.

I find it difficult to say things like ‘May her soul rest in peace’. But what I do want to say is that she led a blissful life. Such a timeless beauty with a kind face and exceptional talent, that we all loved her as if we knew her, and she were our very own. We will truly miss her.

13 Reasons Why – Suicide Prevention or Suicide Manual?

The latest show that is creating a lot of controversy internationally is Netflix’s original series – “13 Reasons Why”. It is about a high school girl who commits suicide, and leaves 13 audio tapes about the reasons why she did it. (No there is spoiler yet. This happens in the first episode).

The tapes are sent to the people who in some way or another have contributed to her suicide. There are serious issues shown in the show such as bullying, rape, cyber bullying, and of course suicide. The show is based on a book. The intent of the show was to create more awareness about suicide and the importance of being kind and sensitive to others. It sounds like a great idea. But I did not feel that the show manages to achieve this. I felt it glorifies, rationalizes, and justifies suicide.

1. First of all, nobody can call out from the grave. In the show, Hannah Baker reaches out to people after her death through the tapes. The very premise is unrealistic. The show supports the thought that once she commits suicide, people would sympathize with her and finally accept that they did her wrong. It is like a revenge strategy. The people who did her wrong in this case were her classmates. Why does the show make us believe that people will care about us after we are dead? Even if they do, does it really matter once we are gone? The only people who will suffer endlessly are parents, siblings, immediate family members, who do not deserve to suffer. The rest of the world (including classmates) may care for some time. Then they will forget and move on.

2. Hannah tries to get help from the school counselor who is not of much help. Why could she not reach out to her parents? Her parents are loving and do care for her. What kind of example is this setting? That there is no help whatsoever and suicide is the only logical option? I know that this does happen.People do not believe or support the rape / assault survivor or undermine the feelings of somebody who sounds depressed. But they could have shown her atleast put in some more effort to fix things for herself. That would have set a better example. How would assault / rape survivors / bullied teens feel after watching this show? That killing themselves is natural? Something that is expected of them?

3. Throughout the show, there are a bunch of high school kids keeping secrets in an attempt to “honour” their friendship. I found this very annoying. Some of them have supportive and approachable parents who keep asking them what is wrong. Still, none of them reach out to any responsible adults. It would have been more balanced if at least some character had sense of right and wrong.

4. I don’t even want to get into the graphic suicide scene.

5. The show puts the responsibility of Hannah’s suicide on so many of her classmates (not just the rapist) who received the tapes. “We all killed Hannah!” Does she ever mention her suicidal thoughts to anybody? Is she suffering from a mental illness? Sure, they could have behaved better with her. But were all they supposed to just know, and help her?

6. People who have appreciated the show have said that it will help start conversations on suicide, being such a tabooed topic. No, I don’t think we are still at that point in time where we should applaud each other just for initiating conversations. We should not have such low standards. We should work towards finding solutions, helpline options, feasible support groups.

Teen suicide is a very pertinent issues in the US. In India, so many students commit suicide because of academic pressure. Female celebrities have committed suicide after a break-up. Suicide is horrific and the biggest pain for the surviving family members. Recent live streaming of the video of a young man jumping to his death on a social networking site death was extremely disturbing. It was a call for help. But no help can be delivered after death.

Some people may be suffering from serious mental illnesses and their actions may not even be in their control. They need professional help.

The last thing people should be made to believe is that if they kill themselves, finally people who ignored and hurt them will realise they were in pain all along. And this would be their justice.

Badri Ki Dulhaniya – And Women Empowerment?

I watched “Badrinath ki Dulhaniya” after trying my best to avoid it. I am not a big fan of mindless entertainers, but the family wanted to watch it. The niece is a big fan of Alia Bhatt. Sister likes Varun Dhawan. Parents believe that life is stressful enough, why not go to the theatre to have a good laugh and watch a “light” movie? Friends had told me the movie is about dowry, gender equality, and women empowerment. Alia Bhatt is an interview had said her character is a “feminist”.

So, this was enough to convince me to sit through what I had expected be a very tortuous experience. From a social perspective, although they have given a disclaimer that the movie does not promote “dowry” and other “social evils”, and the events are dramatized, I could not help but cringe at the stupidity that unfolded on screen. This article is inspired by but not limited to the movie.

SPOILER ALERT!!

1. Dowry

The movie begins by giving a shameless (and unfortunately true) account of dowry in North India.

I am now diverting from the movie as I have witnessed this in the state that the characters belong to in the movie, adjacent to my home state. “How much is your budget?” is a common question that initiates the discussion of arranged marriages. Even parents who consider themselves righteous, who would never accept / give bribes and are against corruption see no harm in this. The tolerance level for evil is high. Daughters who try to speak up against dowry in all its forms are shut up by saying that they would end up alone if they try to act smart. They are told that this is the culture, this is society and this is how ALL GROOM’S FAMILIES ARE. Either they marry into one of them, or become an unhappy, frustrated spinster all their lives. Choice is theirs, and what an empowering choice it is!

They are also fooled into believing that the wedding is just one event. Once they are married, they will live happily ever-after with such (greedy, ill-treating) families. Most women give in and the disaster begins.

1. The boy cannot speak against his father

Badri cannot speak to his father against his greed for dowry. There are two reasons for this. One, he is an unqualified man heavily dependent on his parents’ money. So, rebellion will not do him any good. Second, being a regressive man himself, he probably does not see much harm in the privileges of patriarchy.

He represents the quintessential Indian man. He “respects” his parents (Depends on them for money and therefore, does not have the spine to speak up against them). Dowry from a woman’s family does not offend him. Her rejection does.

2. Stalk, gag, put a girl in car trunk as it is “love”

Stalking and harassing is taken to another level. The message is clear. Keep pursuing a girl despite her being persistent about saying no. Even if you beat up random strangers outside her house, gag her, and stuff her into your trunk it is all acceptable as you are in “love”. The girl who should by now realize that you were not just uninteresting enough to reject in the first place, but also immature, abusive, unstable and dangerous will instead realise that this is “true love”!!

3. Molestation of men

In a strange and absurd scene, Badri gets touched and teased by a group of men. Vaidehi gives him something to cover up, and all his friends laugh at him, embarrassing him. This was supposed to be a comedy scene.

All over the world, people are becoming sensitive about the fact that men get abused too. Men are being encouraged to speak up about it. It certainly is not a reflection of their masculinity. Sadly, the entire scene made a big joke out of an issue that has globally just started gaining some momentum.


4. I want to be a “Beta!”

Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt) is a “feminist” who wants to work and be independent. In one of the scenes, she says she tried so hard to be the “beta” of her family.

This is the most demeaning thing to say. What the hell does it mean? That a woman must be a “son” to be validated? Then the man-child, good for nothing, lover boy tells this “feminist” character, “Tum to beti hi kamal ki ho!”

Whoever wrote the dialogues has no clue what feminism is. No feminist would ever say she wants to be a beta!!

The ending of the movie is intended to be a call for social change. Badri finally speaks upto his father, and is supportive of Vaidehi’s dream to work.

I don’t care. Three hours of non-sense does not get redeemed by this ending. Bollywood, please spare us the rubbish. Or at the least don’t make claims for making socially reformed, women empowering movies.

Dangal – Entertaining and Inspiring. But is it a feminist movie?

Is Dangal really a feminist movie?

So the year 2016 is coming to an end. Pink, Kahaani 2 and Dangal. It seems feminism is paving its way into mainstream Bollywood.

I have written on Pink and Kahaani 2 and both the movies are very close to my heart. Absolutely loved them. I did like Dangal also, as it is about hard work, perseverance, ambition , achievement and the beautiful relationship between a father and his daughters. I want to appreciate it as a good movie. But is it really about feminism? No I don’t think so.

In a scene that turned out to be the turning point, young girls Gita and Babita shock everybody by beating up a bunch of boys. The boys’ mother is fuming and shames her sons for getting beaten up by girls. In another instance, boys are ridiculed for losing to the girls.

Maybe in this context, it is justified to some extent because boys are supposed to have more physical strength than girls?

But is it feminist and cool to shame somebody who laughs and says “Girls can’t beat boys” and then join him instead to laugh at the boys who get beaten up by girls? Is it necessary to support stereotypes either way, whether it is for men or women?

These are the skewed concepts of masculinity and chauvinism embedded from patriarchy. Men should be strong, men should not cry. This is why men who are brought up with this kind of mentality feel less of a man when they see a woman strong and powerful, and feel like they have to control her in any way possible to prove their masculinity, even if it involves violence.

Yes, we are now focusing on girls which is great. Teenaged Geeta and Babita emerged strong winners. But what about the boys who were taunted for the unthinkable shame of being defeated by girls? How would they have dealt with this frustration? How would they end up treating women in their lives? Would they not exert force to prove their worth knowing that girls going ahead of them would be considered the ultimate insult to their masculinity?

Girls are not less than boys

I detest this statement. Girls don’t have to prove that they are not lesser or greater than boys. Let us just accept them as human beings with equal rights. Let us not keep boys at the pedestal where they are the parameters of comparison to prove women’s worth.

If we are saying girls are not less than boys, but we are making boys feel less if girls are doing better them then is it serving any purpose? Have we really accepted gender equality? Do we have to make one sex feel superior to prove something and demean the other?

There is a part of the movie in which Geeta leaves her home and starts to see a different (normal?) side of life. Watching romantic movies, dressing up, applying nail paint, looking at boys and letting her hair grow. Her father is not happy with this. She reasons with her mother that in her training school, they are allowed to do all of this, and as long as she is performing well, how does it matter if she has some freedom in life?

I loved her statement. It applies to everyone not just wrestlers. Every girl who grows up and sees life, gets influenced by new lifestyles and new people she meets as she is discovering herself at the dawn of adulthood. She has to make choices in life, stay grounded to the values she believes in but also rejuvenate herself to fit in with the world. I would have liked to see Geeta live up to it. It was a very important moment in the movie.

But since Aamir Khan had to be glorified, she had to be proved wrong. Her performance declines and her father has to make a comeback as her coach (which is fine). But why did she have to cut her hair short? A strong ambitious wrestler cannot have the natural desire to look good? She had to defy that to prove loyalty to her work and her father? Again, the stereotype has been reinforced that women can either be strong and ambitious or bimbos. If they put on makeup and are in touch with their feminine side, how does it make them any less accomplished?

I hope I have not been too critical. I did like the movie. A lot. I just feel feminism has a long way to go. Even in movies.

Kahaani 2: Must watch

So I finally watched Kahaani 2. When I had seen the trailers, I had thought I’ll watch it the first day. But probably after watching Aye Dil Hai Mushkil and Dear Zindagi, I was not too excited for cinema. With mindless movies like Befikre hitting the theatres, the shows for Kahaani had reduced to a one show every day, and I was afraid that the one show may also go away on this Friday. And so I booked for a late night show on a Thursday. Had it been any other Bollywood movie, I would have fallen asleep.

But here I was watching Vidya Balan, my favourite actress. I don’t think our generation has any other actress who is so brilliant with her performance, and naturally beautiful (without any surgeries) and also talks sensibly in interviews.

Coming back to the movie, I loved it for touching a tabooed topic. The last time I saw a Bollywood movie on the topic of child abuse was Monsoon Wedding and Highway. Monsoon Wedding was also good, a little ahead of its times. I found Highway weird but the last part where Alia speaks up was impactful.

There are little things about the movie that are realistically and beautifully depicted. Lots of spoilers ahead…

1. Milli’s teachers loved throwing her out of the class because she is not good at studies and is unusually silent and sleeps through the lesson. Reminded me of Taare Zameen Par. This is common in a lot of Indian schools. Teachers (not all) don’t care to find out the reason for a child’s peculiar behavior and conveniently write him / her off as dim witted, making things worse for the child.

2. In one of the scenes, Vidya Balan points to her body to the little girl, and talks about being touched in private parts. I don’t think any Bollywood movie has had a scene like this. The only time we see something like this is in some awkwardly made educational videos teaching children about good touch and bad touch.

3. Vidya Balan, who has been abused as a child had a failed marriage with Arjun Rampal, because she could not get intimate with him. It takes time for women who have gone through abuse to get intimate with another man again. If they communicate to the partner, and he is understanding and patient then it makes things easier. In this case, Arjun Rampal was unaware of the horrors of her past, and assumed she did not like him. A man’s ego is easily hurt, so feeling rejected would have been pretty much been it for him.

4. Vidya Balan used to shiver every time Arun (the new guy she was seeing) touched her. Yet she wanted to lead a “normal” life with him and was trying for that. She was even eating fruits to make her skin look better, for him. It was endearing to watch all this conveyed from a woman’s point of view.

This is what survivors do. They don’t die and cry their entire lives because they have had a bad past. She may have had a phase where she was still affected (with Arjun) but then she moved on and was in a happy relationship with Arun, who respected her and whom she liked.

This is what I liked the most. Her character was neither glorified not victimized. It was an honest portrayal of the emotions she was going through. This is important because society loves to believe that a woman’s life is easily ruined and she can never find happiness again, probably the reason there is so much stigma around these issues.

First Pink, Then Kahaani 2. This has been a good year!

Why do we take our parents’ love for granted?

The other day I was watching Dear Zindagi. Alia’s Bhatt’s mother in the movie kept running after her, asking her what she would like to eat. Alia is always annoyed with her parents (I don’t want to disclose the reasons for those of you who haven’t seen the movie). She gets irritated when her mother focuses so much of her energy on her eating preferences. Alia has stronger grudges against her parents, for which she probably does not forgive them.

Just a couple of days back, my mother had packed my tiffin box with fruits and salad. I got busy with work and brought back the food home, untouched. After dinner, my mother started eating the leftovers.

How come you are eating the pomegranate, I thought you didn’t like it. Never seen you having it.” I asked.

“It’s not that I don’t like it, slicing the vegetables and fruits is a pain. I give it to you and your father, but don’t bother slicing for myself.” she replied.

There are small (big) things that our mothers do for us that we don’t care to notice. Sometimes it may be having the leftover rice for dinner because she is too tired after making rotis for the rest of us. Or maybe buying that dress that I was drooling at the mall, which was way out of her budget, by letting go of one of her essentials.

It’s their job, right?

We take whatever our parents do for us for granted and focus on what we believe they have not done right for us. The scene where Alia has an outburst with her family was effective and I feel people may be able to relate to it, for very different reasons.

Probably Alia’s mother was trying to show her love in whatever way she could (by cooking her favourite dishes), knowing that she may not have been there for her in the best way at some point earlier in life.

Shah Rukh tells Alia towards the end of the movie, to stop judging her parents by looking at them from the divine pedestal of parents, but rather as ordinary human beings. They are doing the best they can…

As we grow up, our parents continue to be there for us in whatever way they can. And we continue to take them for granted..

At the risk of sounding preachy, I would just like to say this, especially to those reading this who are younger than me:

Our parents deserve more respect that we give them. Love your parents!

Happy Women’s Day!!

I finally watched Neerja. I could not control my tears from the very first scene. A loving daughter, a doting sister, the lifeline of this family is woken up reluctantly by her mother to go to work. She is gone and the family gets to know that some trouble has come her way. They hope for the best. But God had other plans.

Throughout the movie, there are flashbacks of Neerja’s marriage. How she used to be humiliated by her husband – for being a model, for not being a good cook, for wanting to be in touch with her father regularly. Neerja’s husband had also written a letter to her father – insulting him on how a respectable father would never let his daughter be a model. On how he should not be talking to his own flesh and blood so frequently.

Why am I talking about all this and not about how she saved so many lives on the plane that day?

This woman had exceptional presence of mind. Most people would have panicked in this situation. She did not. Amidst that stress, she could think clearly and decide what was best for all. And finally, what a heart she had to take bullets protecting three unknown children?

How many of us would be able to do that?

She received awards for her bravery. We all salute her. She has become immortal because all parents are taking their children to watch the movie to show them how to be a strong woman. How to have courage in any situation. As her father rightly teaches her:

Never do anything wrong, never tolerate any injustice.”

What would have happened if Neerja stayed in that abusive marriage and tried to adjust? Everyday she would hear somebody tell her how incompetent and inadequate she is. How many flaws she has. How he is doing her a favour by being with her, and tolerating her. What would have happened to her self-esteem and her potential?

Have we all felt like that Neerja at some point? Where somebody has made us feel miserable about ourselves to the point where we have started believing it too? Is it worth taking it? Are we ever going to reach our true potential in life and become what we are meant to become, and achieve what we are capable of achieving if we continue to live with people / in situations that tarnish our self-respect and happiness every single day and moment?

We are all special, ladies. God has made us strong, compassionate and nurturing. Don’t let anybody / anything dampen your spirits. You are so much more than the world may perceive you to be!

Happy Women’s Day! Don’t settle for anything less than what you deserve! Let us choose to remove the negativity from our lives first. Our life and happiness will catch up!

Note:

I have not done any research on Neerja Bhanot. Whatever I have written above is based on the movie. I salute her and her family for raising a child who emerged as God that day, saving so many lives. May she be at peace wherever she is.