Saturday, August 3, 2013

Raanjhanaa...



Raanjhanaa begins by paying tribute to the old Aashiqui by playing the most remembered song of that film. Bas ik sanam chahiye aashiqui ke liye. Incidentally, Aashiqui 2 came out earlier this year but that film did not have a musical reference to Aashiqui. Perhaps it was a sign of the sheer craziness of the aashiqs in Raanjhanaa that the film wants to convey. Kundan’s craziness for Zoya. Zoya’s craziness for Jasjeet. Bindiya’s craziness for Kundan. Murari’s craziness for Kundan. Craziness not only for love, but friendship, power, superiority, redemption and letting go.

Not only Raanjhanaa gives a tribute to Aashiqui, but in a way to that bygone era of the 70s, the 80s, and the 90s as well. Kundan realizes that it is the time to tell Zoya that he loves her after he and Murari are watching a screening of Saajan. When Salman gives a rose to Madhuri in front of a morose Sanjay, Murari screams Sanju. It is also a silent comment on the effect cinema has on our society. But more on that later.


After Zoya slaps Kundan, another song but a less famous one of the 80s, Humka Ishaq Hua Hai Yaaro, from the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Coolie starts playing. Although Coolie did not have the overt lovers-from-different-religious subtexts, a Muslim character romanced a Christian character in that film, as a Hindu Kundan falls in love with a Muslim Zoya here.


Director Anand Rai’s fascination with that old era continues when he plays another popular song Saamne Yeh Kaun Aaya from a star crossed lovers’ saga Jawani Diwani, whose major plot was based on the economic disparities among lovers. It is a big coincidence that the name of that film also means young craziness.

                    


As if all these were not enough, the streets of Benaras are imbued with a poster of Sunny Deol’s Balvant Rai-Ke-Kutton Ghayal.


Raanjhanaa is essentially the story of Kundan Shankar. How he becomes a Raanjha for his Heer – Zoya. But the problem here is Zoya does not love him back. So he stalks her as he says, hamari UP me ladkiya do tareekein se patayi jaati hai, ek mehnat se, subha se shaam peecha karo, aur prem patra likho aur saheli ke haathon use bhejo. Lekin yeh to UP ka har launda kar raha tha. Aur dusra tareeka, ladki ko dara do


I rather felt that Kundan is more of a Devdas than a Ranjha, at least in the first half. His inability to accept that Zoya could love somebody else forces him to cut his wrists with a blade. In fact, he is so incapable of accepting this fact that the first time Zoya tells him, he drives his scooter right into the Ganga as if she has committed a sin that can be washed only if she takes a dip there. And then he goes and tells her that tumhari jagah koi bhi hoti, to use bhi toot ke pyaar karta. He decides to get married to spite her and get back at her, even though it completely breaks him from inside. As Murari puts it excellently, aashiq ki tab nahi fat ti jab uski mehbooba ki shaadi hoti hai, uski tab phat ti hai jab apni ho rahi hoti hai, apna felaya shanichar hai. Just like the masochistic Devdas. Look at the way, he refuses to take Jasjeet’s help in putting the cylinder.

Bindiya is Chandramukhi. Her undying devotion for Kundan is similar to Chandramukhi’s for Dev, even though the two men completely used them for their own selfish reasons. At one point, Bindiya and Zoya are even dancing together in the lovely song Aye Sakhi Saajan, as if recreating the song Dola Re from Bhansali’s Devdas.







Haaye paas na ho bada sataye...sataye
Paas jo ho bada sataye..sataye
paas bulaye bina batlaye...bataye 
paas woh aaye bina batlaye...bataye 
paas rahe nazar na aaye... na aaye 
paas sahe nazar lagaye..lagaye 

In the second half, he becomes Vanraj from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. He takes Zoya to Punjab to get her reunited with her lover. Due to some circumstances, he becomes responsible for Jasjeet’s death. Zoya blames him for that. And then comes atonement and redemption, which I feel was what the film was trying to convey. The first time he sees Jasjeet’s body he started vomiting as if he has become sick. His soul has become impure and he needs to spit that guilt out. Earlier in the film, Zoya lying in the hospital had spit on him. Kundan is not able to take out Zoya’s spit, a reference for the blame that she has given him. He is unable to face Jasjeet’s mother who thinks he is a hero because he tried to save Jasjeet’s life. He is mentally tormented that he takes refuge in spirituality as beautifully portrayed in Tohe Piya Milenge. He cleans the floors and he cleans the utensils as if that would cleanse his soul of his deed. He visits a gurudwara, a mandir, and a dargah in his quest for inner peace. 






Jis ko dhoondhe baahar baahar
Wo baithaa hai bheetar chhup ke
Tere andar ek samandar kyoon dhoondhe dubke dubke..


He also gets a ‘jhada’ done as people say it rids you of evil spirits. He travels to different places in different directions just as his soul is wandering in different directions showing his restlessness. Finally, he comes to Prayag, where they say that taking a dip there washes your sins. This was my favorite scene in the film when he is sitting on the banks of sangam and a strange man says to him, tumne kiska katal kiya hai? Tumhare chehre pe likha hai. Duniya me kisi ganga me, kisi dargah me kisi dhaage me vo takat nahi, jo insaan se insaan ka katal maaf kar sake. Jao kuch karo..Lekin yaha Ganga kinare mukti milne se to rahi..


That you cannot correct the wrongs you did by taking refuge in religion. You have to correct the things that you made wrong in the first place. So, he comes to Delhi. That is where I got a bit confused as to what exactly is his purpose. Does he want to correct the wrong he did to Zoya or to Jasjeet? If he wants to atone for Jasjeet by helping his party, then why is he still stalking Zoya at night? If he wants to atone for Zoya why just he doesn’t apologize and stay away from her when she clearly does not want to meet him? Why is he repeating the same mistake again? He still harbors feelings for her but she has made it very clear that she has nothing to do with him. Rather we blame Zoya for her coldness to him as we are supposed to feel for Kundan. But Kundan just cannot let go of her. 

That brings another theme of the movie - the inability of the people to let go. Not only Kundan’s but Bindiya’s. I was astounded by her. She prays to gau mata for Zoya’s death but still helps Kundan in stopping Zoya’s marriage. She knows that Kundan does not love her at all but still she doesn’t let go of him. When Kundan comes and tells her that he will marry her, she knows the reason but doesn’t even ask a question. Kundan forgot about his own wedding and he didn’t turn up and yet when she sees Kundan’s news in the end, she rushes to the hospital with Murari. She just could not let go of him, even though he treated her in the worst possible way. As if she has no self-respect. If Kundan was Raanjhanaa for Zoya, she was as much a Raanjhanaa for him. 


Not only Kundan and Bindiya, even Zoya was a deeply flawed character. At one point in the film, Bindiya says to Kundan, vitamin humse khao aur aashiqui inse ladao. I think that line could also fit perfectly if Kundan said it to Zoya. Zoya was manipulative who used Kundan for her own selfish needs and then threw him out calling him jaahil. It is all right that she no longer remembers her childhood infatuation but then why are you playing with a poor guy’s emotions now? Recall the scene when she emotionally blackmails Kundan in helping her and later on, we see it was the same time she was speaking to Jasjeet calling him to Benaras. She explains to Jasjeet that people are not equal and some people are more privileged and she kisses him in the campus to prove her point. Her class bias is very clear from the fact she calls Kundan a cylinder vala. But later, she becomes a supporter of Jasjeet’s party that had ideals of communism. As if she had no principles at all. She falls in love with Jasjeet who used to cheat in exams, who also roughed her in front of his friends but she doesn’t see his faults and calls Kundan jaahil? She takes the help of goons to get admitted. She was also in some way responsible for Jasjeet’s death but she puts the blame entirely on Kundan. She says, you are over romanticizing a situation which needs a much more logical approach


Rather she was over romanticizing by putting her blame on Kundan. It is no surprise she agrees to the plot hatched by the CM to get Kundan killed because just like others she just could not let go of Jasjeet till now. She said, duniya thukegi mujhpe agar pyaar kar liya tujhse. Perhaps she also finally decided to let go of both Kundan and Jasjeet as she gives Jasjeet's clothes to Kundan, pushing Kundan and Jasjeet's memories to death. Use tayyar nahi kar payi, tujhe to kar dun, for death?


I am still not sure what caused her change of heart to expose her plan but Kundan was one step ahead of her. He knew he is going to be killed but he still went ahead to the rally as if this final act will atone for his deeds, and if this is what she wants, he will give it to her. In the final scene, when he lay dead, he spits out blood as if redemption has been achieved. His soul has killed off the guilt and is finally at peace but in doing so he has had to pay a heavy price. Earlier, in the hospital, when Zoya was admitted she had spit on him but now he has taken that spit of guilt out and he is finally cleansed. It is also when Bindiya lets go of him when she says yeh tera hai Zoya, mera Kundan khoon nahi thookta tha. In the moving scene, Kundan says he has done enough and he is tired..par ab saala mood nahi hai and it was heartening that at least in his death he finally acknowledged the people who loved him the most – Murari and Bindiya.


My favorite character was definitely Murari. He was as much a Ranjhanaa in friendship going to any lengths for his friend. He was more a Sudama than a Murari (Krishna). He literally goes mad when Kundan dies and he also finally says to him mar ja. All the three people in a way let go of him. 


One of my other favorite scenes was also when Jasjeet and Kundan are discussing about how everything went wrong. It was as if an unspoken bond has formed between the two of them by loving the same women.

Interestingly, Anand Rai has dedicated the movie to Lord Mahadev and his beloved Ganga and there are numerous instances to Shiv ji and Ganga river. The prominence of Kawariyas, the shiv lings, the dressing of young Kundan as Shiva, the shooting on the banks of Ganga being some of them. Perhaps also a reference to the spiritualism of the wisdom in the story of Ganga and Shiva.

Overall, I found the movie all right but not excellent. The performances are good, especially Murari who shines like a star. This is Sonam’s best performance till date. Music is very good. I think I will have to watch it again to understand some things better. Raanjhanaa has cause a huge controversy due to its support for stalking of girls. Mihir Shah in Business Standard lambasted the movie in scathing words. He says, “fourth-rate directors working with third-rate stories basking in first-rate praise. No wonder we're a second-rate culture. Until we stand up and shout that our pop culture, especially our film industry, is an incestuous, regressive cesspool of mediocrity and back-slapping, that 99 per cent of our movies are just plain bad, our "soft power" will remain the laughing-stock of the world.

I strongly believe that films do give out messages. Even in the film, Kundan decides to tell Zoya that he loves her after he sees Saajan. We are always affected by films. Films have a huge influence on us but it is up to us to see how it is treated in the film. A film showing murder doesn’t mean that is supporting murder. Did the murderer get convicted? Recall Darr? SRK literally stalked Juhi but in the end, he dies. In Aashiqui 2, Rahul was an alcoholic but he died in the end. In Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Avi was an alcoholic and a gambler but in the end his bar is not saved by any of his friends, even though they could have saved it. Twenty five lakhs was not a huge sum for Aditi and Taran! But they did not. Here also, I do agree the film supported stalking but it was due to the fact Zoya in a way abetted it. She was enjoying it. Why just she doesn’t call the cops? Why did she smile when she slaps Kundan? As Baradwaj Rangan puts it excellently,

“I’m not sure that this film is ‘regressive’ in its attitude towards women. The *people* in the film are, sure. But the film, I thought, was just telling a story. Yes, bad things happen to the women here but does that make the *film* regressive? Something to mull over.

For that matter, I don’t even find films like ‘Vivah’ regressive. There are people like that still in India, and the film is just showing us a story about them. I would think that a regressive movie is one without nuance, which revels in characters whose behavior we find regressive. Something like the Kalpataru-directed family films of the 1980s, where the director takes a moralistic stance and leaves us with messages like ‘you have to obey your husband.’ By the end of these films, opinionated wives are subjugated, they learn to toe the line etc. But here the ‘take home’ isn't regressive IMO. It just is. The characters may feel a certain way, but the film doesn't seek to impose their views on us.We know Parma's mother in Ishaqzaade feels a certain way, and we may find her views obnoxious, but she pays for her stance and her son doesn't endorse those views. Rather he ‘atones’ for them, in a manner of speaking. So it didn’t feel regressive to me. And adding to this, in “Raanjhanaa” too, the hero atones for his sins and dies, so I feel the misogynism is in him, not in the film. The big problem I had in this film was in this hero’s “cute-ification” in the second half, but towards the end, I didn't have any issues.

I watched Raanjhanaa on Eros Now. They have now started an option of online rental for 48 hours as well. It is just $2. They do not have a good collection, so I feel subscription is not very useful. But rental is an excellent option. Next they will be releasing Lootera. More on it soon. :)

Dialogue of the Day: 
"Namaaz me vo thi, par laga dua hamari manzoor ho gayi."
 - Kundan, Raanjhanaa

9 comments:

  1. Long time Pankaj :) Enjoyed your review..thorough as always and even though I have not seen the movie, I understood quite a lot of it already ;)

    However, I believe that you have used the term "masochistic" incorrectly to describe Devdas, for that involves sexual gratification from abuse. Firstly he is on a self-abuse spree and secondly, I don't think he was seeking sexual gratification. See the link for what I guess would be masochistic, as told in this clip from Kill Bill (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ew5EYd5_i6M)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Dipankar,

    :) Long time :)
    I agree masochistic involves some form of sexual gratification but I used it metaphorically in terms of the pain/sadism that Devdas gave to himself :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. As always, a brilliant review! I seriously think you should start a blog exclusively for movie reviews and publicize it. You have the talent.

    I loved Dhanush's friends too. Murari and Bindiya were just awesome in the movie. Overall, I agree with your review. I too liked the movie but didn't love it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you Aastha. But I do think people are just interested in making judgements on other people's choices, which I cannot bear :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Murari bhayya the sahi me banarsi babu.. Humko murari bhayya bahut pasand aaye! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your review was good but the opening scene was of ''saajan'' not of ''aashiqui''

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hello pankaj, its too late i m reading this review. First of all i got answer of all of my queries about the movie.
    But one thinh still i didnt understand.

    Why zoya killed kundan? Isnt it only revenge!
    Zoya wasnt happy with kundan as he is becoming leader of politics. I know she couldnt forgive him for her loss.

    But zoya, whag she got after all? Nothing... She exposed CM. But she lost his party, cause there is no leader. And everybody might hate her after all..

    So i feel zoya is a chracter here, who is the signs of modern young gen. She hated kundan as kundan 'gawaar'...
    She is the reason behind 'jasjeet' death. She couldnt match up with social, religoius, as she lied jasjeet as muslim.. After all done by kundan she still didnt understand his love, and send him to way of heaven.
    I feel... She truly represent the stuborn mind of a girl "agar mujhe pyaar karna hain to tujhe ekbar dekh ke hi karungi, nahin karna hain to marja mitja kuch bhi kar... Bass nahin karna':p

    Plz say something about it

    ReplyDelete

Post a comment