Sunday, September 25, 2022

Good Luck Jerry—The Usage of Innocence

Siddharth Sen's Good Luck Jerry is the Hindi remake of the Tamil film Kolamaavu Kokila. It stars Janhvi Kapoor as the eponymous Jerry. Hailing from Bihar, she lives with her mother Sarbati (Mita Vashisht) and younger sister Cherry (Samta Sudiksha) in a town in Punjab. She gets involved with the drug mafia to fund her mother's treatment for cancer. She tries to get out of the mess after a while; however, things go awry.
Jerry, whose real name is Jaya, shares her name with the lovable mouse from the cat-and-mouse cartoon show Tom and Jerry. Jerry is an intelligent mouse who is able to easily outsmart Tom during their shenanigans. He thinks of innovative ways to escape or dodge attacks in dangerous situations. Jerry from Good Luck Jerry is modeled on similar lines. Early in the film, she compares herself to a mouse who wants to move out of the rathole. Jerry is also able to come out of sticky situations with her intellect even if she does not have the physical strength.
More importantly, Jerry uses her femininity and innocence to her advantage. She almost weaponizes it to her advantage in her life. There is a point in the film when she tells her mother that she is aware that she is a girl and knows when to cry or smile. Timmy (Jaswant Singh Dalal), the drug supplier, uses this for his benefit as the police will not suspect any girl of getting involved in the drug trade. The other men are routinely beaten by the police, but she can get past them quite easily. In the film's final segment, Jerry devises a plan to transport the drugs, and she tells her mother and sister to pretend to be innocent if caught by the police. Perhaps, the most interesting scene related to this aspect is when Timmy understands this trick of hers. He tells her that she is 'bahut chaalaak.' She knows the different situations to address him as Sir, Timmy, or Timmy Ji to her advantage. Like the situation where Jerry makes him kill both his men even if one of them was innocent. When the film starts, it shows Jerry dealing with 'bad luck,' and it feels that she is like Shruti (Katrina Kaif) from Jagga Jasoos, but it is not the case. There have been many films that depict women using their sexuality as a weapon to get things done. Good Luck Jerry depicts a woman using her becharapan to her advantage.
In this sense, Good Luck Jerry has a premise similar to Sujoy Ghosh's Kahaani. The Vidya Balan-starrer film told the story of a pregnant woman who comes to India to find her missing husband. Using her pregnancy as a ruse, she can trick a country's entire security and intelligence establishment to take revenge for her husband's death. A character pointed out that nobody suspects a pregnant woman of anything suspicious. Therefore, she was able to get past easily through many dangerous situations.
There have been comparisons of Good Luck Jerry with Abhishek Chaubey's Udta Punjab because of a Bihari family living in Punjab and getting involved in the drug trade, but I was thinking of Pradeep Sarkar's Laaga Chunri Me Daag (coincidentally, Mita Vashisht had given vocals for the film's title song). The film also told the story of two sisters, their mother, and an absent father. Vibha (Rani Mukerji) moves to Mumbai looking for a job when her family falls upon hard times. Possessing no real skills that could find her employment of any kind, she's left with no option but to become an escort. There was a moralistic and perplexing premise to the story. Jerry in Good Luck Jerry faces a similar dilemma, but the film does not adopt a preachy tone to her choices. She works at a massage parlor even if her mother does not like it. She is fine with her choices and knows how to navigate the circumstances in her life.
Towards the film's end, Jerry faces another hostile situation where she is again on the verge of being sexually assaulted. The scene happens in a sty, and the camera repeatedly tries to show the pigs. Maybe it was the film's way of representing the men literally as chauvinistic pigs (MCPs). Jerry, her sister, and her mother fight off the man while the other 'heroes' sit outside and helplessly cry, imagining the horror happening inside.
Good Luck Jerry has the typical quirks of characters that we expect in a black comedy film. At one point, a bunch of gangsters capture the policemen, and they say the police ko chaaron taraf se gher liya hai. The film frames are teeming with bright colors, sometimes even distracting the proceedings. It is also, perhaps, for the first time that a film set in Punjab shows fish farming instead of the usual sarson ke khet. The music is quirky as well. There are songs titled Paracetamol and Snake Bite. I wish the film was a little shorter as it loses a bit of pace in the second half, and the climax is stretched.
A frame from the film: The colors of the parrot match the ones on the walls.
Janhvi Kapoor as Jerry is quite delightful. In many an interview, she has said that she is not as innocent as people think her to be. She brings the same to her advantage in the film. Also, for the first time, I saw a glimpse of Sridevi in her, not acting wise, but in how she looked in the film. Compared to her contemporaries (such as Sara Ali Khan), Janhvi is getting better with every film. The other performances, especially by Mita Vashisht, Deepak Dobriyaal, and Sahil Mehta, are noteworthy.
Good Luck Jerry ends with Jerry and her family coming out unscathed. She ends the film talking about being brave, but at the same time, she acknowledges it was luck that helped her out. Films often depict heroism and bravery but, in life, it is not like that in real life. It is good to remind ourselves of the survivorship bias. As Upamanyu Chatterjee in his magnificent book English, August, "Remember you are not James Bond. You only live once."

1. Books In Movies: An Introduction To Political Theory by O.P. Gauba.
2. Achhe Din in Good Luck Jerry.
3. Anal Sachdeva (Saurabh Sachdeva) from Manmarziyaan is Malik in Good Luck Jerry. Also, see the fishing posters in the room.  
Dialogue of the Day:
"Darr se bas do-teen kadam aage hi ek duniya hai jahaan jaane ke liye na rickshaw lagta hai na auto. Lagta hai bas thora sa himmat."
—Jerry, Good Luck Jerry

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Darlings—The Scorpion and the Frog

In Hansal Mehta's Simran, there is a beautiful character Sameer (Sohum Shah), who, at one stage, says, "Mujhe lagta hai ki kabhi insaan ko puri tarah se samjha nahi ka sakta. Kyunki badalte rehna hi insaan ki fitrat hai. Change is the only constant." One can never completely know a person because it is human nature to change. Jasmeet K. Reen's Darlings believes in the other side that some people can never change as it is in their fitrat to behave in the same way all their life. Set in the lanes of Byculla, Darlings tells the story of Badru (Alia Bhatt), who faces domestic violence from her husband Hamza (Vijay Varma). Badru's mother Shamshu (Shefali Shah) lives in the same chawl and advises her daughter to leave Hamza, but the gullible Badru keeps hoping that she can bring a change in him.
Darlings takes its premise from the animal fable The Scorpion and the Frog, which teaches that 'vicious people cannot resist hurting others even when it is not in their own interests.' The fable is about a scorpion who asks for help from a frog to cross the river. The frog agrees, but the spider still stings the frog as it is his nature to do it. In Darlings, Hamza is the scorpion, and Badru is the frog. Hamza is addicted to alcohol. He regularly beats Badru at night. The following day, he behaves like he is the most loving husband in the world. He thinks Badru takes his abuse as she loves him. It is as if he cannot help beating her. He even asks God to take the demon out of him. Badru tries every trick to reform him while accepting violence. Ultimately, she realizes that Hamza, like the scorpion, will never change. Kuch mard bicchoo hote hain, kabhi nahi badlenge. Therefore, she decides to leave him. 
What also interesting was that not only Hamza was incorrigible, but Badru also did not seem to change easily. Like the frog, she always acquiesced to his demands. She believed whatever Hamza told her. Even when she has tied Hamza up, she starts to be convinced by his sweet talk. If Hamza was incapable of change, Badru could also not easily become a hardened soul. She tried to become the scorpion by paying him back the same way, but it was in her fitrat to be the frog. Darlings, thus, shows that some people can never really change.
To get rid of Hamza from their lives, Badru and Shamshu hatch a plan to kill him. They tie him onto the railway tracks. However, some epiphany hits Badru. She sees herself sitting in front of a mirror and putting on a necklace. But then she starts to see some scars on her face. She tries to rub them off but cannot. Badru figures out that if she kills Hamza, he will keep returning to her memories all her life. She will never be free of him. Badru had told her mother that Hamza used to cause her physical injuries earlier, but he has even started to cause mental injuries. Darlings ends on a similar note. The scars in the mirror were not the physical scars that can still heal but the emotional scars that could run deeper than the Nile. Badru does not want to deal with those. She did want to become the scorpion as her nature was to be the frog. Therefore, she releases Hamza and lets karma punish him.
Earlier this year, Suresh Triveni's Jalsa also talked about power and revenge. Ruksana (Shefali Shah) discovers the truth that it was her employer Maya (Vidya Balan), who hit her daughter and drove away. She decides to take revenge by paying back her similarly. She takes Maya's son Ayush (Surya Kasibhatla) to the beach as if planning to drown him. She, however, does not take the final step. Because an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. She could have left Ayush to drown, but she did not. Thus, she comes out as a bigger person in the end.
Shamshu also tells Badru that she did the right thing in letting go of Hamza; otherwise, he would keep coming back to haunt her. It is then revealed that Shamshu, too, had killed her abusive husband and took the help of the neighborhood butcher Kasim (Rajesh Sharma) to dispose of his body. I could not help but think of Shakun Batra's Gehraiyaan, which also talked about the circle of life and how the things that happened to our parents also happen to us in our lives. It is like we are in a loop, Al. Like Shamshu, Badru was facing the same circle of violence at the hands of her husband. Shamshu keeps telling her to leave Hamza or kill him because she knows Hamza is like her husband. Many a time, Badru tells her mother that it is her life and her story is different. She adds that Hamza, unlike her father, loves her back. But, as it happened in Gehraiyaan, it becomes clear that Badru and Shamshu's stories follow a similar trajectory. Alif Be Te is not just a poem for the kids but also a reminder of Badru and Shamshu's shared past. Badru breaks out of the past by letting go of Hamza. 
Early in the film, when Hamza is released from jail, he is suspicious that Shamshu is the one who complained against him. He even hits her on the nose, bleeding her in the process. Shamshu does not retaliate. She comes home and washes her face. Hamza's hitting, perhaps, reminded her of her husband. The camera pans to his photograph, setting the stage for the impending revelation in the end.
Darlings is full of tiny details. When Hamza met Badru when they were dating, he gave her a teddy bear that says, "Kaha na sorry." It is a perfect allegory of their relationship. Acting cute and trying to apologize. The apartment where Badru and Hamza live has the number 302, the same as the section for murder in the Indian Penal Code. At one point, Badru goes to the neighborhood pharmacy, and the shopkeeper instinctively pulls out an antiseptic solution for her wounds. When Badru refuses that she does not need it, he gives her sanitary pads. Badru is also shown to be superstitious. She avoids stepping on the nimboo-mirchi. She throws salt on her body. She believes that bird droppings bring good luck and that taking money from the left hand brings bad luck. She does not let Hamza play with the empty jhoola. However, after her miscarriage, she sees a black cat when she leaves the hospital. But, at that point, she does not wait to clear the path or anything. She simply walks away on the way as if something in her has changed. 
Darlings boasts of worthy performances by an ensemble cast. Vijay Verma is terrific as Hamza and reminded me a bit of Nana Patekar's character in Partho Ghosh's Agni Sakshi. Alia Bhatt, who has also produced the film, is again superb (though in some scenes, her voice seems to shriek a bit). Her best moment in the film is when she breaks plates in anger; however, this anger turns to dread when she thinks Hamza has returned. Shefali Shah is delightful, and her eyes play the role of the best supporting actor in the film. Other cast members are also excellent.
The film uses sound to add a layer of fear. Early in the film, Hamza finds a stone in the food while chewing. There is a cracking sound, and everything goes quiet. Moments later, he finds another one. The terror on Badru's face becomes palpable as she realizes the trigger has been pulled. At another point, Hamza returns from the office while his lunchbox makes eerie sounds about the impending horror to be faced by Badru. There are many other moments such as these.
Darlings uses humor to lighten up the proceedings. The beauty parlor lady and her clients below Badru's house provide a comical commentary on the dark events happening up the stairs. Dialogues, such as Bapu in jail, are amusing. Songs, such as Pleaj!, also have funny lines like, "Darte darte hum to dry fruit ho gaye, piste piste hum pista ho gaye." Some moments surprised me, such as when Zulfi's (Roshan Mathew) affection for Shamshu was revealed. To be fair, earlier in the film, there was a scene when he created a video for Shamshu that hinted at the same. Zulfi was quite a fun character. He gets easily manipulated by everyone. He is an aspiring writer. He tells Hamza that he is writing a horror comedy, maybe like Darlings itself.
Darlings leaves a few plot questions unanswered. For instance, after Badru falls from the stairs, she appears to lose consciousness. It is not clear how she reaches the hospital all by herself. When Hamza is captured, he does not scream. Given the close proximity of the chawl, it was unfathomable how he did not make a fuss. It loses pace in the second half until it reaches the climax, which redeems it. Also, in this era of streaming, the brand placements in the film feel outdated, but hey, I am not producing the film.
Darlings has been co-written by Parveez Sheikh, who also wrote Vikas Bahl's Queen. Queen depicts the story of Rani (Kangana Ranaut), who goes on her honeymoon all by herself after she is ditched at the altar by her fiancĂ© Vijay (Rajkummar Rao). Rani realizes that she does not need any Vijay to make her happy. She is complete on her own. There is an element of Queen in Darlings as well. The film opens with Badru waiting for Hamza outside a movie theater. He turns up late. The ice cream melts. She misses the movie. Later, he mocks her that she won't be able to live without him as she has not been able to even go to the movie theater all by herself. The film ends with Badru driving to the theater on her yellow scooter. She decides to go watch a film all by herself. The extra S in Darlings is, perhaps, her own self. And, as the song in also Queen goes, "Agar maajhi saare saath mein, gair ho bhi jaayein, toh khud hi to patwaar ban, paar honge hum. Auron se kya khud hi se, poochh lenge raahein. Khud hi to hain hum kinare." Even if everyone turns against us, we will become oars ourselves and cross the sea on our own.
1. Darlings uses films produced under the Red Chillies banner interestingly. The film shows a movie theater playing Badla and ends with the theater playing Zero, which was, in reality, released before Badla. Songs from Om Shanti Om are also referred to in the film.
2. Kaun Banega Crorepati in Darlings.
3. Luck in Gehraiyaan and Darlings.
4. Feelings in Darlings.
5. Darlings mentions a lot more films in its credits. It seems a few scenes have been cut, as I did not see these in the film.
Dialogue of the Day:
"Twitter walon ke liye duniya badal gayi hai, hamare liye nahi."
—Shamshu, Darlings

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Coverage in Hindustan Times Brunch

I was interviewed by the Hindustan Times Brunch magazine last year about my Instagram account @ReadingFilms and my book on Dil Chahta Hai. It was finally published. I was not sure that it will be published as the journalist who took the interview quit the organization a few days after the interview. But, now, all of a sudden, I see it was published. I am putting it here. I do not have the hard copy. I wish I could get one. I do not like the picture but it is fine. The link to the online version of the article is given below. :)

I am working on some posts and will put them out soon.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Trivia Post 29

I am adding some trivia notes for the last few months.

1. Missing trains in Imtiaz Ali's Jab We Met and Aditya Chopra's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
2. Parathas in Subhash Ghai's Pardes and Kunal Kohli's Mujhse Dosti Karoge.
3. The message of taking a chance in life Anurag Basu's in Life in a... Metro.
4. The contrasting light in Atlee's Jawan.
5. "Madad chaahti hai ye Hawwa ki beti,
Yashoda ki hamjins, Radha ki beti,
Payambar ki ummat, Zulaykha ki beti,
Jinhe naaz hai hind par wo kahaan hain
Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Gangubai Kathiawadi pays tribute to Guru Dutt's Pyaasa.
6. "Tune thama aaj yeh aanchal hai" in Ashutosh Gowariker's Lagaan.
7. The colors of Tabu in Yeh Rishta in M.F. Husain's Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities.
8. A lovely still from Anubhav Sinha's Tum Bin.
9. Lovers in the snow in Vikramaditya Motwane's Lootera, Abhishek Kapoor's Fitoor, and Vishal Bhardwaj's Haider.
10. The colors in Siddharth Anand's Anjaana Anjaani.
11. The first and the last scenes in Mani Ratnam's Raavan.
12. Hindi pulp fiction writer Surender Mohan Pathak is mentioned in Navdeep Singh's Manorama Six Feet Under.
13. A beautiful line from Gulzar's Aandhi.
14. The title design of Anubhav Sinha's Anek is nice. NE (North East) is a part of the word ANEK just as it is a part of the different states of India. Also, the word Anek reminds me of the unity poem—Ek Anek Aur Ekta—(Ek Chidiya, Anek Chidiyan) that was telecast on Doordarshan. 
15. Some mirror shots from Satyajit Ray's films.
Pather Panchali
16. R. Madhavan's debut as an actor was a cameo in Sudhir Mishra's Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin.
17. In the charming Tera Mera Pyar, the lead guy (Bhanujit Sudan) comes to watch the film all by himself.
18. Shah Rukh Khan in his interview with David Letterman on Netflix.
19. Arun Lal in Mile Sur Mera Tumhara.
20. Aamir Khan is credited for the screenplay of Mahesh Bhatt's Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke. Robin Bhatt is the half-brother of Mahesh Bhatt.
 Urmila Matondkar in Chandraprakash Dwivedi's 
22. Never forget your old friends in Zoya Akhtar's Luck By Chance and Gully Boy.
23. There is a beautiful scene in Nagesh Kukunoor's Dor where Zeenat (Gul Panag) gives a teardrop to her husband Amir (Rushad Rana) and says, "Aakhri aansu. Jab tak laut ke nahi aayoge, main nahi royungi." She never cried till he returned.
24. Random similar moments in Farhan Akhtar's Dil Chahta Hai and Subhash Ghai's Pardes.
25. The lovely 'Bijli' scene from Ashutosh Gowariker's Swades.
26. Shashi Kapoor in similar roles in Gulzar's Ijaazat and Yash Chopra's Kabhi Kabhie.
 27. Subhash Ghai has made films with the titles — Hero and Villain.
28. The beautiful sand choreography by Brinda in Fitoor from Shamshera. He throws the sand, and they both get engulfed in it. The song is shot in the desert, under the sea, and near the mountains.
29. A lovely still from Ji Huzoor from Shamshera.
30. Rishi Kapoor's characters meet the children of the women he loved in Yash Chopra's Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's Delhi-6.
31. Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha) watched Varun (Ranveer Singh) from behind the curtains in the first and second half of Vikramaditya Motwane's Lootera.
32. Aishwarya Rai plays Nandini in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Mani Ratnam's Ponniyin Selvan: 1.
33. The 'Friend' cap from Sooraj Barjatya's Maine Pyar Kiya in Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om and Vishal Bhardwaj's Haider.
34. Amar Akbar Anthony in Om's (Shah Rukh Khan) locket in Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om.
35. In Abhishek Kapoor's Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, the shirt says Ki Farak followed by an emoji of a panda. They used a panda for painda.
36. In Chaitanya Tamhane's The Disciple, the reality-TV-show contestant becomes famous by singing more popular songs. She completely transforms, almost becoming unrecognizable. Sharad (Aditya Modak), however, refuses to compromise with his art but doesn’t achieve her level of fame.
37. Baggages (emotional) and women in Vikas Bahl's Queen and Farhan Akhtar's Dil Chahta Hai.
38. In Aaja Mahiya from Khalid Mohammed's Fiza, the first few lines are—"Aa dhoop maloon main, tere haathon me." In the initial moments of the song, Amaan (Hrithik Roshan) plays with the sun and gives life to these lines
39. Famous fashion photographer Gautam Rajadhyaksha in Khalid Mohammed's Fiza.
40. Jaya Bachchan played the mother of misguided sons in Khalid Mohammed's Fiza and Govind Nihalani's Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa. The son is missing in the former while dead in the latter.
41. The lovers' gaze in Subhash Ghai's Taal.
For more trivia, follow me on Instagram at @ReadingFilms.

Other Reading:
1) Trivia Post 28—Link
2) Trivia Post 27—Link
3) Trivia Post 26—Link
4) Trivia Post 25—Link
5) Trivia Post 24—Link

Dialogue of the Day:
"Har ishq ka ek waqt hota hai, woh hamara waqt nahi tha, par iska yeh matlab nahi ki woh ishq nahi tha."
—Imran, Jab Tak Hai Jaan