Friday, December 26, 2014

Finding Fanny — Of Finding Love, Happiness, and Closure

At one point in Homi Adajania's Finding Fanny, Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah) remarks, "Wait karne se kuch nahi milta, dhoondne se milta hai." This beautiful line perfectly summarizes the film's message that one should not keep on 'waiting' for love and happiness would come and knock on the door, but instead, one should 'find' these on his own, through his own journey. If you do not try to find it, you will not get it which, incidentally, Dev (Shah Rukh Khan) also said in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, "Nahi dhoondogi toh nahi milegi." Adajania's third film marks his return to the genre of filmmaking that he is most comfortable with — dark comedy. Finding Fanny is essentially the story of people living in a small hamlet in Goa called Pocolim, where as the film says, "Yahan ghadi bhi na kuch ajeeb chalti hai, ruko to ruk jaati hai, daudo to daudne lagti hai" — life follows your footsteps. One day, Ferdie (Shah) receives a letter he sent 46 years ago to the love of his life, Fanny, and finds out that his letter was never delivered to her. Heartbroken that he spent his entire life thinking that he had been rejected, he is convinced by his virgin widow friend, Angie (Deepika Padukone), that he should find her because "Koi love story aise incomplete nahi reh sakti." Angie, then, devises a plan to find Fanny taking the help of Savio (Arjun Kapoor), with whom her relationship can be described as 'It's complicated.' Savio is a mechanic who is repairing a car owned by Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapur), a painter who finds inspiration in buxom women. His latest inspiration is Angie's mother-in-law Rosalina (Dimple Kapadia), sometimes, called the First Lady of Pocolim. Angie manipulates Don to come on a road trip, and they use his car to travel to find Fanny. The plot is wafer-thin, but as most films go, it is not the destination but the charm of the journey that is more important. All these people embark on a journey to not only find love and happiness but also to find closure to their incomplete adhoori lives.
Beneath the facade of comedy, the film is impregnated with a scent of the melancholy of its lugubrious characters. There is an element of tragic helplessness associated with each of the characters. The cause of their despair is not entirely due to their own actions, but mainly because life, in more than one way, has been unfair to them. Rosalina's husband left her for another woman leaving her pregnant with Gabo, and she had to put a sham that he died because her pride would not let her accept her husband's affections for another woman. Her soul is painted empty by Don Pedro because she has not let go of her pride. Angie's husband died on her wedding day, after her first kiss, leaving her sexually deprived as a virgin. Ferdie spent his life thinking that he had been rejected, but his letter was never delivered in the first place. Savio went to Mumbai to make a living but ended up being a waiter and returned to his crumbling home, which his father left him. The fact that he is lying and that he made money in Mumbai reflects that he is also trying to hide something like Rosie. Not to forget that the girl he loved married his best friend, leaving his own love story incomplete. There is a sense of incompleteness—mental, sexual, or emotional—associated with each of these characters, and that is why the thing that they are looking for the most, even more than love, is a sense of closure. And, as to the lecherous Don Pedro, he is only a means to reach that closure, whether be it his car that they use to find Fanny or his painting that helps Rosie realize her abject hollowness, which is why he died midway, unnoticed by anyone. Even the cat Nereus got a decent burial than Don.  

There is also a sense of similarity between Angie and Rosie, and Ferdie and Savio. At one point, Angie remarks that there is one thing common between her and Rosie, and that is loneliness. Not only that both of them are terribly lonely, but there are other similarities between the two of them. Their husbands have died (at least Angie does not know the real story of Rosie's husband). Their husbands, perhaps, never loved them. Rosie's husband left her for another woman. Angie's husband loved himself more than her, and later we find out that he married her because Savio wanted to marry her. Both these women were left abandoned by their husbands, trying to take care of each other. If Angie protects Rosie from the physical advances of Don Pedro, Rosie would do the same to protect Angie from Savio because uski nazar na thori kharab hai.    
The similarities between Ferdie and Savio are even starker. Both of them somehow did not have the courage to express their love. Ferdie wrote a letter to Fanny, and when he did not get an answer, he assumed he was rejected. Earlier in the film, he cries in front of Angie, saying that his whole life is a lie. Angie, then, remarks why he did not go and say it to her. Ferdie says he feared rejection, but Angie, again showing her wisdom, says, "Lekin puchenge nahi, to pata kaise chalega ki vo kya kehti?" Even later, he is hesitant to go and find Fanny and it is only Angie who convinces him to do that. Later, Angie says the same thing to Savio. When Savio confronts her by saying that she married Gabo only because he asked first, she replies because he never asked. Both Ferdie and  Savio had immense love for their lovers, but their hesitance and fear in expressing love became the cause of their despair. Ferdie spent 46 years waiting, and Savio went away quietly to Mumbai and did not get married for six years. Although it seems Savio might have had physical relationships with other women but observe his disappointment when Angie says that she will not tell about them Rosie but would continue their sexual escapades. He wants that love to be reciprocated. That also explains why Ferdie and Savio are such good friends. At one point, when Ferdie dreams about Fanny, he is wearing the same sunglasses as Savio, demonstrating some more linkages to their similar nature. Later, when Savio is taking a piss after Ferdie misguides them, he says, "Nikal raha hun us bloody idiot (Ferdie?) ko apne system se," as if he is taking out the inner Ferdie that is in him showing more connections between them. There is another fabulous moment in the film. At one point, when they all are waiting at the railway crossing, both Ferdie and Savio tilt their face to the left and then to the right simultaneously with the same movement. It is such a beautiful moment that conveys so much. Waiting for the train to cross, just like both of them waiting for love to come into their lives. They first look to the left, and then to the right, as if they finally got to know what is the right turn.
Same Sunglasses
Later, this right turn again comes into play. Savio asks Ferdie where is that 'right turn' to Tivoli. The 'right turn' is, of course, a metaphor for the right direction in their lives. After a few moments, they do take a right turn and enter into a different state. They wanted to go to Goa but, somehow, entered into Karnataka — a different 'state'. But this state change is not only literal but also mental, as the dialogue says, 'a bloody mental state.' And, it is in this changed mental state, these people experience a transformation, confront their demons, and finally, come to terms with the truth of their lives. Ferdie experiences a change in state where he finally realizes, "Wait karne se kuch nahi milta, dhoondne se milta hai," and then embarks on a journey all by himself to find Fanny. Also, as Rosie remarks, "Pehli baar Ferdinand apne baare me nahi balki dusro ke baare me soch raha," signifying another change in him.   
Angie also gets to experience a change in her state, where she gets some sexual gratification. She also tells the truth to Savio about the real reason for Gabo's death which she has hidden from everyone. Savio, as well, experiences a change in a state where he tells the truth about his failed life in Mumbai, where he was a waiter and did not make much money. He never told this to anyone before as well. Both Angie and Savio confront and discuss their complicated and unspoken relationship that was left incomplete six years ago. The biggest change in the state comes for Rosie. Don Pedro convinces her to let him paint her, and he paints a portrait of her. He says he will awaken the soul that exists within her beautiful body. When he finally paints her, he realizes that he was mistaken in recognizing her. She might be magnificent to look at, but she is completely empty from the inside. She has no soul, and he had to make one for her for the painting. The expression on Rosie's face is a terrific piece of acting that conveys her wretched state so powerfully. It was as if the facade that she was putting up has been exposed just like the way she is standing with her clothes taken off, and being painted naked. She has nothing to hide now, and she now needs to accept her loneliness and move on with life. Don Pedro humiliates her in the worst possible way, but this mortification will help bring a change in her state. She finally undergoes an emotional outburst on reading Ferdie's letter and speaks her mind out about her son who should have never died. She also starts showing feelings for Ferdie. Perhaps, she always had those for him, like the scene earlier where she admonishes Ferdie for injuring his hands by bringing yellow roses. Thus, there is a transformation in Rosie's mental state and she begins to accept the truth of life. In an unrelated mention, it is interesting that Dimple Kapadia has been painted by someone again after Dil Chahta Hai.
There is another interesting aspect in the film which tries to show Rosie's state of mind. Rosie owned a cat named Nereus. She loved the narcoleptic cat a lot. There is even a portrait of the cat in their living room. Was Nereus a replacement for her dead son? Just like Gabo died suddenly and freakishly in his wedding, death came instantly to Nereus as well when he was thrown out of the window. It is Angie who goes to pick up the dead cat and brings him to the car so as to not hurt Rosie who will be shaken by Nereus' death, like the way Angie has to live her life after Gabo died perhaps because she cannot leave Rosie to live alone. Angie is even crying after his death like she would have when Gabo died. Just like they carry the dead cat with themselves in the car, Rosie carries the memories of her dead son. The dead Nereus was a metaphor for her dead son. For instance, look at the scene where Angie is left standing as a widow in front of the tree, and we see that a cat goes away from her, just like Gabo goes away from her. Later, Savio, when accused of being selfish by Rosie, remarks Nereus is 'as dead as your bloody son'. It is worth noting that the conversation about the dead cat precedes Rosie's emotional outburst that Gabo should have never died, again pointing to some connection. It is when Savio tells the truth about the dead cat, they bury him, again, perhaps, referring to the fact that Rosie has to let go of her past, bury those things that are holding her back, move on, and let others move on. She also finds love in Ferdie later. There is another interpretation about the cat, which I cannot justify completely, though. Could the cat also be referring to Rosie's ego? At an earlier point in the film, Angie remarked that Nereus suffers from narcolepsy and that he sleeps at the strangest of times anywhere. Rosie remarked that she should leave Nereus alone because next, she will be telling her how much she should sleep? Was this metaphor of sleep referring to Rosie's inability to see reality, and she was trying to run away from the truth by putting a pretense of sleep? Recall in the car, it is Rosie who is sleeping, just like Nereus; was this referring to her sense of 'false pride' as Savio remarks that she is trying to avoid seeing the reality? And, in the end, when they finally bury the dead cat, she has buried her ego and moved on? I am not able to entirely convince myself of this interpretation, but this could be thought as well, right?
Gabo runs away like the cat runs away
Burying the past
My favorite character was Angie. As I have written before, there are some people who look more beautiful when they cry, and Deepika is one of them. I can see her pictures of crying all day. She has such poise and grace that she makes sadness beautiful. She is wonderful in the film. I loved it that all the times in the film when she was alone, she was listening to music from her cellphone, and untying the knots of the earplugs. I counted so many times when she did that as if trying to untie the knots of her own life. What kind of music would she be listening to? Adele, Bob Dylan, or Pink Floyd? I would love to see her music choices. Deepika brings an ethereal charm to Angie, just like an angel.
Untying the knots of life
However, there are some things that I am still trying to make sense of but am completely unsuccessful. At one point, they all go to the Russian's house; the guy asks Don Pedro what he wants. Don replies that he is looking for an umbrella, and the Russian replies, "This morning Stephanie Fernandes ran away with his umbrella." A few minutes later, we see Angie sitting with an umbrella. I just could not understand this umbrella reference. I am not very adept at identifying references from foreign films, and I am sure this has some connection to a film, else why would Don ask for an umbrella? I thought about what it could mean but could not find any convincing answer. 
Does the umbrella mean protective love?

Also, later, Savio remarks that his father left him '20 dentures, 10 shirts, 5 pants, 3 socks, 2 underwear, and one crumbling house.' Notice the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, and 20 - what is that about? And, the dentures—a set of artificial teeth—for what?

In an interview, Homi Adajania says, "Besides, I grew up very influenced by Márquez, Camus, Kundera, Allende — the visions of those small towns are in my head; you can smell the walls and know everybody’s business." That explains why he named Angie's husband Gabo, after Gabriel Garcia Márquez, who was also popularly called Gabo. There are multiple references to Shakespeare as well in the film. But the biggest influence in the film can be seen is that of Wes Anderson. I have not watched many of Wes Anderson's films, but some things in Finding Fanny puzzled me, and I just could not find answers and read Homi's interviews. The name that popped up most often was Wes Anderson. In his latest movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson kills a cat; here, we have Homi killing Nereus. Anderson has been known to not have an affection for dogs and cats in his films. Also, there is an underwater shot in all of Anderson's films. So, we have an underwater shot in the film's poster of Being Cyrus, and two underwater scenes in Finding Fanny, too. Finding Fanny has a distinct Latin American feel to it; there are paintings that appear to be inspired by artists of that region. 
It is also worth noting that everything associated with Rosie has a rose. All her dresses have a rose print on them. Her house has curtains, tablecloths, and wallpapers with roses. Even the teacup has roses. This reminded me of another of Dimple's roles, Neena Walia, from Luck By Chance, where everything associated with her had flowers, too. More on that terrific film here.  
Rose Dress
Tea Cup
Wallpapers and Curtains
There is immense grief and pathos that people in Finding Fanny carry with themselves but the film's message is not to keep on waiting but rather find something. It is people who die but love remains, so, look for love, look for happiness, look for closure. "Log marte hai, pyaar nahi, haan baat to vohi hai ki life khatam hoti hai, love thori, vo to hota hai kahin na kahi, bas use dhoondna padta hai, chahe tumhari har wish ka sikka kue me gum ho jaye, chahe darwaze pe koi letter tumhara intezaar nahi kar raha ho, apni adhoori kahani ka end dhoondne ke liye khud hi ko nikalna padta hai." We are responsible for our own happiness because no one else will come to complete our love story. We will wait 46 years, and nothing will happen. It is the journey that is most important. Death can come suddenly like it came for Gabo, like it came for Nereus like it came for Don Pedro. If we don't take control of life, life will show us the middle finger, like the young boy showed it to Savio, every time he passed by. It is only when he speaks to Angie, the boy smiles at him, and life will also start smiling at him. Life is like the imported blue car in which they travel. If you don't use it, it will get rusted. Our life will get rusted the same way, and then, sometimes, it might be too late because then, as Savio says, "Pahunch ke bhi nahi pahunche," even after reaching, we will not reach. So, we have to find love. As Angie remarks, "Kabhi kabhi pyar ke liye na thori koshish karni padti hai." Will you try to find love? Will I try to find love? Will we all try to find love? Will we all be able to find love? Only time will tell.
Life will show the middle finger
But if we try to find love, life will smile at us
Else even after reaching, we will not reach
So, we need to make an effort to find love.
Dialogue of the day:
"Kabhi kabhi pyar ke liye na thori koshish karni padti hai.
— Angie, Finding Fanny

P.S.—The best article that comes close to identifying the film's theme is this. Also, I saw the film in Hindi because English DVD was unavailable. A lot is lost in translation, so I would not recommend it in Hindi.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna — Love Will Find A Way

In the last two-three days, I watched Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna for perhaps the nth time. I know so few people who love this movie as much as I do. Almost every film critic has censured it. I do not have much understanding of cinema the way they do, but somehow, I have immense love for this film and its flawed characters. I have written here multiple times that I find Karan Johar to be a fabulous filmmaker, notwithstanding his reputation as a maker of candyfloss romantic films. It has been more than eight years since the film was released, and by now, we all know what this film is about. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is the story of Dev (Shah Rukh Khan) and Maya (Rani Mukerji), who suffocated in their respective marriages, and decide to help each other to find happiness but eventually fall in love with each other. As Karan succinctly says, "What do you do if you meet the right person at the wrong time? And, all because you married the wrong person at the right time?" 

I find it challenging to write a conventional film review about the story, screenplay, music, and other intricate elements of film-making. Still, I want to write about the beautiful nuances in the film I love. I am a big fan of symbolic metaphors in the film, and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is full of them. One of my favorite scenes in the film is the one with the bouquet of flowers. At one point, Dev brings a big bouquet of red roses for Maya, whom he is about to meet in a few minutes. Suddenly, he sees Rhea (Preity Zinta) walking toward him. Maya, unaware of Rhea's presence, is gloriously smiling at Dev, excited to meet him and get those flowers in a few minutes. There is a palpable tension on Dev's face as to what will happen next, and to save himself, he calls out Rhea's name just in time, and Maya quickly turns back. He lies to Rhea that he got those roses for her and gives them to her. And all he is left with is a single rose which he gives to Maya. The scene is so beautiful that it can sum up their entire lives. For instance, look at Maya and Dev's costumes. Maya is dressed in a red top with a green skirt, just like a rose flower with red petals and a green stem. Dev, too, is dressed in a green jacket and is wearing a red muffler, almost like a red rose. It is as if both are like red roses to each other and bring beauty to each other's morose lives. They complement and complete each other, which was the foundation of their relationship. However, he cannot give the bouquet of roses to Maya because he is married to Rhea, so he has to give those to his wife. The bouquet of roses is a metaphor for love. He is bound by the rules of society to give those flowers (interestingly, a bouquet is also a collection of flowers forcefully bound together). All he can do is give one single flower, unbound by anything, just like his love for Maya. Later, Rishi (Abhishek Bachchan) tells Maya, "Phoolon ki apni bhaasha hoti hai. Khamosh rehkar bhi kitna kuch keh dete hain." Of course, these flower scenes speak so much without saying a single word. Isn't it so beautiful?
Maya is dressed like a rose.
I thought a lot about the relationship between Maya and Dev. In Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Johar told us, "Pyaar dosti hai. Love is friendship." But here, it seems he has grown up. He demarcates a line between love and friendship. When Dev and Maya meet for the first time in the film, Dev says, "Rhea aur main college se ek dusre ke dost hain, phir humne socha apni dosti ko ek aur naam de dete hain. Vaise bhi ek dost ke saath zindagi beetane se behtar aur kya ho sakta hai." Maya replies, "Kabhi kabhi dosti mohabbat ki jagah leleti hai aur phir mohabbat ke liye jagah hi nahi bachti." Maya never loved Rishi. But it seems that Dev also never really loved Rhea. When he met with his accident and became such a bitter person, he became more vocal about his feelings which, perhaps, he always felt. Dev and Rhea had an uncomfortable relationship even before his accident. Dev and Maya never loved their partners in the first place and consequently felt trapped in the relationship. I also thought that the film pointed out that couples need to have similar personalities to be compatible. Rishi is a man that any woman would die for. He cares for his wife and says the most romantic lines. He is charming and has the gift of the gab. Similarly, Rhea is beautiful and is a successful editor of a highly-ranked fashion magazine. She is an accomplished woman and better than her husband in every aspect. Rishi and Rhea are so perfect that their perfection actually becomes one of the reasons for their doomed relationship with Maya and Dev, respectively. Maya can never become a mother; she feels incomplete and always treats her husband like a child. She constantly cleans things because she feels dirty from the inside, as if cleaning can remove her internal blemishes. Dev is literally a broken man whose broken leg is a symbol of his failed dreams. They both are plagued by their imperfection, and the perfection of their partners only accentuates their shortcomings. They both are so similar. They hate going to parties. At one point, Dev says to Maya, "Hum dono ek jaise hain, bilkul ek jaise. Hum ek hi sation par jaate hain. Idiot bachchon ko padate hain. Chot dono ko lagi hai. Fark sirf itna hai mere zakhm dikhte hain, tumhare dikhte nahi." That also explains the brouhaha over everyone, not understanding Maya. We could at least see why Dev behaves like a jerk, but since Maya's wounds are internal, even the audience could not understand the reason for her unhappiness. This was also the movie's point: you do not need a perfect person in your life; even two imperfect people can be perfectly happy if they have something in common and love each other. Rishi and Rhea are so different from Maya and Dev that love was not able to overcome their differences. 
Cleaning her internal blemishes
Later, Dev's mom says something to them, which makes Dev and Maya realize their similarities. She says, "Jab do insaan ek hi daur se guzarte hain, to vo ek dusre ko zyada ache se samajh sakte hain. Kareeb aa jate hain. Jo kisi se nahi keh paate, ek dusre se keh paate hain." They are so alike that the film shows us that they love to drink coffee simultaneously. During the song Mitwa, they order the same food and have the same drinks. They sit on the same side of the dinner table. They sometimes wear the same colored costumes. In contrast, when Rhea and Dev sit together to have a cup of coffee, they actually break up, as if the coffee is only meant for Dev and Maya. Such lovely nuances the film shows us. 
Dev and Maya like coffee
Sitting on the same side of the table.
Same color costumes
When Dev and Rhea drink coffee, they break-up
There is something so beautiful about the way Karan picturizes his songs. In the title song, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, we see the emptiness in Dev and Maya's lives. In all the places they see in the song, there is not one person in it. There is only one scene in the song where Maya is shown around kids, which also points to the emptiness in her life. Dev is walking through empty stadiums. Maya is sitting all alone on a bench, or she is standing outside her apartment, eating alone, or sitting inside an empty stadium. The emptiness of the scenes is a metaphor for the void in their lives. The motif of emptiness is such that when Dev proposes to Maya in the end, he says, "Tumhare saath rehkhar shayad zindagi puri nahi hogi, lekin zindagi to hogi. Kya yeh adhoori zindagi mere saath jiyogi, Maya?" 
The emptiness in their lives
I also love the small metaphors that the film shows us. When Dev and Rhea fight, she stands on a higher pedestal than him on the staircase, reflecting Dev's pettiness and Rhea's superiority over him.
Rhea is at a higher level, like in life.
When Sam finds out about Maya's affair with Dev, and they come home, she starts panicking. In her trepidation, she breaks a plate into two pieces. The broken plate means that her relationship with Rishi is also broken forever. Even if she tries to repair it, some cracks will always show. 
Broken plate and broken relationship
Dev and Maya's love story starts and ends inside a railway station. They'll meet at the station. The station signifies that they are waiting to embark on a journey to find love and happiness and escape their marriage if only they could escape. Dev says to Maya, "Sochta hun is train se safar karna chhod du, buy myself a new car, a nice new blue car, you like blue."
Waiting for happiness
When Rishi comes to invite Maya to his wedding, they are standing on opposite sides of the road as if distances have come between them, and they have moved away from each other, emotionally and physically.=

Emotional and physical distance
There is also a very interesting tribute that Karan pays in the film. When Dev meets Maya in the park when she is about to get married, he introduces himself as Dev Anand. Later, in the song, Rock and Roll Soniye, we see references to the 1960s with some dance moves based on Shammi Kapoor and women dancers dressed as Mumtaz from the song Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyaar Ke Charche. When Rishi meets Dev for the first time, he calls him Rishi Kapoor. And we have Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan as actors in the film. So, Karan pays tribute to all superstars from each decade of Hindi cinema. From Dev Anand in the 1950s to Shammi Kapoor in the 1960s, to Amitabh Bachchan in the 1970s, to Rishi Kapoor in the 1980s, and of course, Shah Rukh Khan in the 1990s.
Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyaar Ke Charche
Books In Movies:
Maya reads Fighting For Your Marriage by Anna Marie Lou.
Tarun Mansukhani, director of Dostana, plays a special appearance in the film. He also did one in My Name Is Khan.
I will always love this film. Please also read this terrific review of Baradwaj Rangan's film, which has called it the most mature film since Lame. I love this line, "When Dev and Maya finally admit to their spouses that they are in love, Rishi flies into a rage and begins to break things around the house, while Ria remains calm and collected. Rishi wants to know if Maya enjoyed sleeping with Dev, but Ria asks Dev if he's in love with Maya; the man is more concerned with the sexual aspect of the betrayal while Ria, all woman, tries to come to grips with the emotional implications." I wish I could write just 1% like him. Beautiful.

For completeness, I also added the text of an earlier post on the song, Tumhi Dekho Na

I was amazed by Karan's sense of visual poetry as I watched. Tumhi Dekho Na is a picturesque song accentuated by the terrific use of colors. As in Dil Se, the song Satrangi Re depicts the seven colors of a rainbow, Tumhi Dekho Na also shows the seven colors of the rainbow. Maya and Dev are in love, and their love is like a rainbow that brings color to their grim and desolate lives, and everything around them becomes colorful. Everyone around them is wearing the same-colored dress because Dev and Maya also see the colors in those people. All the rainbow colors — blue, green, yellow, orange, red, violet, and indigo — are present in the song. At one point in the song, Dev and Maya are surrounded by nothing but yellow taxis. No other cars pass by them, and all around them are the yellow cabs rushing past them.

The song starts with blue.

Dev gives yellow flowers to Maya, and then they are surrounded by yellow cabs, and no other cars pass by except the yellow ones.
Then, we move to orange.

Now, everything is violet with a tinge of indigo.

Then, we see everything is red.
And, finally, green takes over.
Dialogue of the day:
"Sapno ka kya hai, neend khulte hi saath chod dete hain."
— Dev, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna