I was watching parts of Aiyyaa and Queen after coming back from work. There is something magical about these movies that cheer me up instantly. And, I was thinking about Rani and the friends she makes in Amsterdam—Olexander, Taka and Tim. At one point, Taka and Rani are talking to each other in their respective native languages. But, it feels that they still get each other. All these four had some pain in their lives, and maybe that made them such great friends, by having the power to empathize with someone else's pain. Olexander used to paint to take out his anger and pain at the continued destruction of earth's resources and the war over oil. He says to Rani that he expressed his anger through painting. Taka used to cheer everyone by his funny acts, but deep inside, this was a mask for coping with the death of his parents. As they say, humor is a mask used by comedians to bear with the grief. Tim is a musician who sings on the streets of Paris and makes money from selling his CDs. Interestingly, Tim is played by Guitobh Joseph, who, in fact, is a member of the group Presteej, that in real life sang on the streets of Paris, and is now, collecting money to bring out their first album. Their website is here. The guitar that he uses in Queen also has Presteej written on it. Perhaps Tim uses music to cope with the pain of poverty. Of course, Rani suffered heartbreak when her fiancé broke up with her only a day before their wedding. All of her friends used some form of creative expression to cope and move on with their lives, and maybe that helped form a bond between all the four of them. In Rockstar, they said, "Toote hue dil se hi sangeet nikalta hai." Maybe, it should be said that toote hue dil se hi kala nikalti hai—it is heartbreak that creates art. There is a beautiful paragraph in Siddharth Dhanvant Shangvi's evocative The Last Song of Dusk. He writes, "Perhaps all art is nothing but a road from lovelessness. A means to manage the void. Because love in its ripeness, annihilates the impulse to create simply because it is creation. The lived experience seeks no outward expression; private and secure in its own self, it just is." Maybe, that is the reason the greatest creations have been created by the most depressed artists.
There is another great aspect of the movie. The character of Ruksar/Roxette. Ruksar speaks chaste Urdu and she works in the red light district of Amsterdam in one of those neon lit sex shops. But the film never judges her choice of profession. We do not know if poverty drove her to do something that made us not give her real address to her ammi. Compare it with the abhorrent media coverage of case involving Shweta Basu, the award winning child actor of Makdee and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki, in the last few days. There is a great point that Greatbong makes; he says if educated people can sell their brain for money, then what is wrong if someone sells their body? We don't know if Ruksar likes her work, but she is living her life, and Queen never forces us to judge her. Even Vijaylakshmi, who has a child out of wedlock, is never portrayed as someone with a loose character. She is a strong woman who is not shy to embrace her sexuality. In a scene, she and Rani have a very touching moment at the Eiffel Tower. It gave me a feeling that there is something sad about Vijaylakshmi as well. Queen is about these sad characters but their sadness never overshadows their will to live their lives. The expression of Rani's father on hearing about the cancellation of the wedding is so heartbreaking, yet he accepts it and even cheers Rani about the future. That is the lesson that Rani learnt from all of it, and that is why Queen is such a great film, a collection of sad characters, embracing their grief, and moving on.
There is some sort of kinship that we all have with Rani. Till two years ago, the maximum distance that I might have traveled alone would be about 20 kilometers. I did not have many friends in college, and no body really liked me because I am not exactly a fun person. I don't have the gift of the gab, but after coming here, I have traveled alone to places that I never thought I will. I went to Chicago all alone for a week, and saw places where there was not one person to be seen. Travelling in buses and subway trains, asking the way from strangers, getting lost in the underbelly of the city in the middle of the night because the cellphone got discharged. I stayed in Des Moines for three months where there was exactly one person who knew me. I walked five miles in California, and at that time, I did not have a smartphone, to watch Jab Tak Hai Jaan. I have lost my luggage whenever I have moved to a new city. Sometimes, I travel to beaches far away all alone. I have been living alone for the last two years, and I, actually, like living alone. I cook for myself, pay my bills, clean my house, set up my furniture, wash my clothes. It has taught a lot, and I have learnt many things about myself, which I never realized. I am not a happy person but I try to do things that make me happy, like watching movies. That is how Rani learnt so much from her trip abroad. She became a totally different person. And, as Santosh Desai puts it splendidly in this piece on Rani, "...an individual emerges from within quite effortlessly once the cloud of implicitness that governs behavior is lifted. Europe lifts the expectations that accompany class and gender in Rani’s local context in India, and her foreign-ness renders irrelevant her external appearance and behaviour. She is freed even from the limitations of language; English is after all, merely another language in Paris, not an instrument of class."
I thought I will write something but my thoughts went blank last week, and I didn't have anything that I wanted to write on. I have lost my analytical ability, so I feel I will have nothing more to write about movies. I don't know if I will be able to continue writing with the pace that I used to write earlier.