Monday, July 28, 2014

Satrangi Re — The Seven Stages of Love

Dil Se has been on my list of movies that I had wanted to watch for the longest time. I have seen it only in parts when it came on TV sometimes. This week, I finally got some time to watch it. I have seen only about an hour of the movie and I am already floored by its sheer beauty. I have always believed Dil Se to be A.R. Rahman's finest work. His music is spellbinding. Farah Khan's terrific choreography and Santosh Sivan's spectacular cinematography are some of the best ever that I have seen in a Hindi film. However, this post is not on the film, but on one song from the film — Satrangi Re. The music and the lyrics are thoughtful, having that characteristic Rahman vibe. The video is gorgeous. When I actually realized the depth of the song, I was amazed by the fact that how can anyone make something as beautiful and poetic like this. So, today, I try to deconstruct the meaning of Satrangi Re

The word satrangi means something that has seven colors, and it is, generally, used to describe a rainbow. In the song, we actually see the seven colors of the rainbow — violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red — popularly known by the term — VIBGYOR. The song is filmed on two lovers, in which a boy (Shah Rukh Khan) is singing and expressing his love for a girl (Manisha Koirala). He calls her satrangi and we, actually, see her in all the seven colors of the rainbow. Not only is this a literal depiction of the colors produced by the dispersion of light by a prism, but also of an underlying symbolism alluding to the seven stages of love. Earlier this year, Dedh Ishqiya's trailer talked about these seven stages. In Arabic literature, love is supposed to have seven stages. The seven stages are namely hub (attraction), uns (infatuation), ishq (love), akidat (trust/reverence), ibadat (worship), junoon (madness) followed by maut (death). Satrangi Re, in some way or the other, whether though lyrics or the choreography, gloriously portrays these stages of love and charms us along.

The song begins and we see that both the lovers are dressed in black. The lyrics say,

Koi noor hai tu, kyun door hai tu,
Jab paas hai tu, ehsaas hai tu,
Koi khwaab hai ya parchhayi hai, satrangi re

It is as if some kind of light is attracting him to her. He wants to go near her and is wondering why is she far away from him. At some point, he is near to her and at the other point, he is far away from her. When she is near, it appears that she is a thought, a dream, and a shadow. The shadow is represented by the black color of her dress, and the enigmatic quality is pulling him toward her. This is the first stage of love — hub

Then, when he sees her in reality, she is far away from him. The distance between them is shown by the presence of water between them. She is wearing white and is as pure as the snowflakes on her head. When he was dreaming, both of them were dressed in black, but now, she is away from him and she is dressed in white, and he is dressed in black. To reach her, he has to cross this path and undertake a journey, as if moving from darkness (black) to light (white). 

Then, he says,
Aankhon ne kuch aise chhua,
Halka halka uns hua

He is infatuated by the touch of her eyes. His heart feels that infatuation. This is the second stage of love — uns. 


Then, the lover sings,
Tere jism ki aach ko chhoote hi, mere saans sulagne lagte hain,
Mujhe ishq dilaase deta hai, mere dard bilakhne lagte hain

He says that as soon as he touches her body, his breath is ignited. His pain makes him cry, but his love for her consoles him. The fire in the tree behind them represents the fire that is burning inside him. This is the third stage of love — ishq — as is evident in the lyrics. 


Then, he says,
Chhooti hai mujhe sargoshi se, 
Aankhon mein ghuli khamoshi se

He says he is enchanted by her fragrance. He is enthralled by the silence of her eyes. He is showing reverence and admiration, symbolized by the lighting of the lamps in the monastery. He looks at her with deep reverence in his eyes. She is his aarzoo. This is the fourth stage of love — akidat.


After that, he begins to start worshiping her. 

Main farsh pe sajde karta hoon, 
Kuch hosh mein, kuch behoshi se

He kneels down on the floor, and bows in front of her, sometimes consciously and sometimes, unconsciously and, thus, he has reached the fifth stage of love  ibadat.


Now, he has become united with her, and they are joined to each other. Their passion is depicted by the red color.
After they become one, they dance in the water. She has now become the water of his life, symbolized by her blue- and indigo-colored dress. He cannot live without her if she goes away from him, even for a few moments. He feels helpless when she goes away.

He, then says,
Teri raahon mein uljha, uljha hun
Teri baahon mein uljha, uljha,
Suljhane de hosh mujhe, 
Teri chaahon mein uljha hun

Slowly, and slowly, he is getting more and more entangled in her love. He wants to go back to his senses but he is bound by her love. He simply cannot untie himself, even if he tries, as depicted by the rope-dress of hers and the net that he is trapped inside.

After that, he says,
Mera jeena junoon, mera marna junoon,
Ab iske siwa nahi koi sukoon

He is unable to free himself from her love and it has become an obsession for him. His life is an obsession, like the deep violet of her dress, and his life will be like this until he dies. Nothing brings peace to him except her love. He has entered the sixth stage of love — junoon.


Finally, he says, 
Mujhe maut ki god mein sone de,
Teri rooh mein jism dubone de

He wants to sleep in the lap of death. He wants to immerse his body in her soul. He has finally reached the seventh stage of love — maut. Also, worth observing is that now, he is wearing pristine white, like her, as compared to the black that he wore in the beginning. He has crossed that pond of water (as was depicted earlier) and transcended the barriers to reach her. He has undertaken all the steps of his journey and all that he wishes for now is death in her arms so that he can be in peace. Perhaps, both of them have attained some salvation, and have reached some cosmic redemption, and that is why a white heavenly aura around them starts shining. He has finally attained his death, and his spiritual voyage encompassing the stages of love has reached its destination — his lover.

As beautiful as a song can be. Also, particularly note that we see all the colors of the rainbow in her dresses, apart from black and white, again referring to those stages.

Seriously, can there be a song more beautiful than this one? Before I am accused of being over-analytical and hagiographic about the song, I found out that Mani Ratnam, in fact, in an interview has said that this was his intention. He had given directions to Rahman that he wants to make a song based on the seven stages of love. And, as I always say, there is so much more to our movies, and I wish more people are able to see the brilliance of Hindi cinema.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Of The Enigmatic Allusions Of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

I had not planned to write this post as I had something else that I had researched, and on that topic, I had some thoughts that I hoped I will write this week. But something happened yesterday that made me postpone that post for some other time. Yesterday, I started listening to the terrific song Manmohini from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam as it was playing in my head for the last few days. And then, I started listening (and watching) to all the other songs in the film. Something struck me while listening, and I started observing a similar pattern throughout its songs. Sanjay Leela Bhansali considers V.Shantaram as his idol. In numerous interviews, Bhansali has said that he tries to incorporate elements from V.Shantaram's films in his own films. Whether it is Ae Malik Tere Bandey Hum from Do Aankhen Baraah Haath sung by Gulaab ji (Rani Mukerji) in Saawariya, or countless peacock motifs inspired by Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje in Ram Leela, Shantaram's influence is visible in a Bhansali film. I had written in my post on Ram Leela that the film was brimming with peacocks — the songs, the lyrics, the art direction, the characters — some or the other things were inspired by India's national bird in the film. I had never noticed but this same pattern is repeated in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. As I always say, I did not know how to watch films (perhaps I still do not know). It is after reading and constantly thinking and observing even the smallest details that I have begun to understand some aspects. There is still a long way to go but when I saw this peacock pattern in the Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam's songs as well, I felt a bit of amazement at myself why I had not seen it before. It is present everywhere in the film and considering it is one of my favorite films, how could I miss it in the first place.
In Albela Sajan, we see a peacock near the pond where Sameer (Salman Khan) is sunbathing. Then, a few moments later, Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) starts playing with a peacock. The lamps in Nandini's father's room and in Nandini's own room have peacocks on them. The handicraft piece on her room's door has peacocks embroidered on it. Nandini's room has peacock feathers and peacock-shaped brass statues. In Aankhon Ki Gustaakhiyaan, the same pattern is observed. We see peacocks on curtains, lamps, and walls. In fact, Nandini's dress has peacock booties all over. Then comes Nimbooda. What is worth noting is that as soon as the song begins, Nandini does some arm movements that are reminiscent of a peacock flapping its wings. Later, at one point in the same song, some men even say hurrr as if trying to shoo away a bird. In Nandini's parents and daadi's room, there are again peacock-shaped brass lamps. In Chand Chupa Baadal Me, there is a line that says, "Pyaar to naam hai, sabra ka humdam, wo bhala bolo kaise karen hum, sawan ki raah jaise dekhe mor hai, he rehne bhi." In Dholi Taro, yet again, we see that there are peacock lamps. Isn't this simply fascinating? Bhansali uses the same elements in Ram Leela. I guess I need to see the movie again to find more peacocks if these are the references in only its songs. Why are these included? Is that a tribute to V.Shantaram, or does a peacock hold a special meaning in Bhansali's life that he makes it a point to include them in some way or the other? I tried to research the reasons when I wrote on Ram Leela, but I am not sure if the symbolism of the peacock — beauty, love, pride, purity — is the only purpose. I, sometimes, wonder if I have something like this in me. Why do people make films? Yes, money is an obvious reason but what drives this passion for telling stories in a unique way. Why did Bhansali include such tiny details that I guess hardly anyone noticed or even cared about? Does this concept of taking inspiration and giving a tribute bring them closer to their idols? If I meet Bhansali someday (and I really hope I get that chance), I know he loves peacocks, so, does film-making help them understand their own self better? Does this creativity bring them a sense of joy that takes them closer to some metaphysical concept of consciousness? Is that why some people really want to get high — to experience that feeling of ultimate exhilaration? Perhaps, it is something that only our auteur and genius filmmaker can guide us to some answers. 

In addition to these alluring peacocks, there is another glorious depiction which my staid brain is still trying to find some probable elucidation. At one earlier point in the film, Nandini is asked to vacate her room for Sameer. Her family members make fun of her by saying all that she has to do is take out only three things — some yellow flowers, the chandelier, and her diary. I had written earlier in this post about the chandelier. Nandini and Sameer meet for the very first time at the chandelier. Nandini is shown lighting the chandelier with a candle and that was actually a symbol of the beginning of their love. When Sameer is leaving, Nandini runs, her dupatta catches fire, the chandelier shakes, and eventually, Nandini breaks the chandelier as if their love has ended. What I want to talk about are the yellow flowers. Her room is full of yellow flowers. When Sameer leaves, he remembers Nandini by these yellow flowers; one of them which he even keeps with himself. There are yellow flowers in Nandini and Vanraj's (Ajay Devgan) hotel room in Italy; nothing extraordinary, as flowers are quite commonplace in hotels. But what struck me is that the scene where Nandini is shot is filled with yellow flowers. Was this resplendence of yellow flowers a sublime sign of Vanraj's abundant and infinite love for Nandini, who loves these flowers? Nandini is dressed in a lovely green saree whose color matches the stem of the flowers. Is her face, then, like one of those yellow flowers? Does the presence of these numerous yellow flowers in some way refers to the limitlessness of Vanraj's love as compared to the delicateness of a single flower that Sameer carries, that is perhaps referring to the delicate first love of Nandini and Sameer? Nandini while meeting Sameer in the end says, "Tumne mujhe pyaar karna sikhaya, pyaar nibhana maine Vanraj se seekha hai?" Do these yellow flowers symbolize that? I am still trying to find answers. Even if these do not mean anything, the scene is gorgeously shot. 

I know I think too much but somehow, I can always find something that convinces me that, perhaps, what I am simply conjecturing might be true. A short post, but I have so many more things to write about. More later. Old posts on Ram Leela here and on Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam here. And, putting the pictures of the peacocks and the yellow flowers below.  
Vanraj's infinite love
Peacock near the pool
Nandini playing with a peacock
Peacock lamps
Peacock lamps
Peacock feathers
Peacocks on the door handicraft
Peacock brass statue 
Peacock behind the curtain
Peacock lamps
Peacocks on Nandini's dress
Peacock painting
Peacock painting
Nandini dances like a peacock
Peacock lamps on the bed
Peacock lamps on the swing
Sawan ki raah jaise dekhe mor hai
Peacock on saree
Peacock lamps
Vanraj's abundant love
Sameer's delicate love
Yellow flowers
Nandini's room with yellow flowers

More later.

Dialogue of the day:
"Teri yaadon ke saaye me guzaregi ye zindagi,
Us khuda ke baad to pooja hogi bas teri,
Chahe jo maang lo, sab tumhara hai."
— Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Regressive or Realistic?

This week, I read an old story on Deepika Padukone where she defends the character of Veronica played by her in Cocktail. The interview says, "Deepika insists that the film is a reflection of our times. So many of my single girlfriends are independent and bohemian and modern, and they’re forced to change the way they dress or speak when their parents are looking for a boy for them. I also know enough men who like to date free-spirited girls, but who look for exactly the opposite kind of person when it’s time to settle down. Acknowledging that what she’s saying is delicate, yet making it clear this is all she will say on the subject, Deepika adds with finality: It is what it is! Imtiaz and Homi were clear they wanted to present things the way they are, and not the way they perhaps should be."

When I had watched Cocktail, I also felt the film was somewhat regressive in its treatment of the character of Veronica. But the last point that she mentions in the interview — to present the things the way they are and not the way they should be — is a point that requires further thinking. Cocktail received so much flak for it that the director and the producer had to explain that the movie was only being realistic. There is somewhat of a conflict with having movies with how characters should behave and how they actually are. If all characters behaved the way we wanted them to be, would there be any story? Anbumani Ramadoss, the ex-minister of health, ran a campaign against depiction of smoking in our films. The Hindi film industry vehemently opposed his diktat and argued that they are being curtailed the freedom of creative character expression. The film industry argued that the depiction of rapes and murders does not lead to rape and murder in the society, therefore, depicting smoking is not necessarily going to influence people to smoke. The paternalistic attitude of the government needed to be stopped. If we argued for that, why are we then so eager to pass judgments of morality on character's choices? Are not characters being only realistic? Would any Anurag Kashyap film be made if he showed how characters should actually behave? We do not raise a hue and cry when someone in his film murders someone for the flimsiest of reasons? Also, this splendid piece defends Gautam's (Saif Ali Khan) choice in marrying Meera (Diana Penty) in Cocktail by saying, "He falls for Meera for the same reasons why Veronica loves her: she grounds him, she keeps him real, she doesn't take any of his bullshit and she is, unlike Veronica, emotionally available. By the by, the moment when Gautam starts noticing Meera is not in her demure interactions with his mother but rather when she lets herself go and channels her inner Veronica, showing that there's more fun to her than what Gautam initially thought. So technically speaking, it's not the virgin that gets the guy, it's the wild side of the virgin that gets him to notice her. But that's once again going into details. The point here is: any guy would fall for Meera. And any guy looking to settle down would choose her, not because she's a virgin but because she exudes stability. It really is that simple. Or to put it more plainly: why wouldn't he choose her? He is only being realistic."

Baradwaj Rangan, insightful as always, gives us some more direction in understanding it further. Writing in the context of Ishaqzaadey and Raanjhanaa, he argues, "I’m not sure that Ishaqzaadey 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. 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 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."

Even if I defend the argument for being realistic, I cannot completely stop myself from dissing some films. I am among the minority of people who believes that Hindi films carry a deep underlying message, if we are able to look beneath the razzmatazz of the song and dance. Cinema is a powerful force and has a high influence on all of us. I could not stand the excessive stalking of Zoya by Kundan in Raanjhanaa. I was put off by the caricaturing of homosexuality in Dostana. It is because watching films is a very personal experience. It is about forming a connection in the darkness of the cinema theater. A connection is formed when a film tries to depict something that we are able to identify with. Watching films brings us closer to the sum total of all our experiences in life. In a way, it helps us understand more, about who we are, perhaps that is why I love films. Anybody who does not agree with our thinking, we start condemning him and criticizing him. I just read a post, by someone on my Facebook timeline, dissing Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya calling it the worst film ever. On the other hand, I read some glowing reviews of the film, too. Instead of saying 'I hated the film,' we say 'the film is pathetic.' Even I am guilty of this. We confuse our opinion with fact. What is the criteria to call a film good or bad? Box office? Whose figures? Critical acclaim? Which critics'? That is where this whole confusion of realistic and regressive lies. A film is a director's viewpoint, one can agree with it or disagree with it. Humshakals got terrible reviews and went on to make 40 crores. The film is misogynistic and homophobic, yet it makes money. Because that is the way majority of the people are. Cinema offers them anonymity. A film like Lamhe flops because no one liked the romance of an old man with a girl of her daughter's age, who also looks like his lover. Because the society was not ready to accept it. As Mayank Shekhar puts it perfectly here,"In crowded cities, the cinema doubles up as that rare, vast empty space where you can be in public and still feel like you’re completely by yourself. The killer air-conditioner and cushy seats provide comfort. Dark halls encourage privacy. You could cry or laugh yourself silly in such public places and nobody will know where everybody is seated so far apart."  

Consider the film 2 States. At one terrific sequence in the film, Ananya (Alia Bhatt) shames a groom who wants dowry. So progressive. Consider another scene in the film. Krish's (Arjun Kapoor) mother openly says that in their culture, the bride's family gives gifts to the groom's mother whenever they meet. Krish, an IIT-educated man, even convinces Ananya to bring expensive sarees for his mother. How is that not dowry? Why don't we judge Krish as harshly when he also asks for gifts? Is that not regressive? Because we think it is alright as we see it in the weddings that happen in our own families. This is perhaps the paradox. Films will continue to be made; people will continue to like them or hate them. This debate of being regressive or realistic will go on, unless the whole society's moral and ethical fabric is in perfect unison. Perhaps, that explains the almost universal praise for Rani in Queen when she dumped Vijay because everyone felt he was a loser. Imagine the furor if Rani had gone back to Vijay :)

P.S. — At the risk of being called a turncoat, I am not afraid to change my opinion on something. I have re-watched many movies and sometimes, I like a movie which I previously did not like. Why that happens? I don't know but I like to connect movies with my own life. Dolce and Namak's terrific piece has convinced me that Cocktail was not regressive. We criticized the film because an independent girl did not get the guy — how is that not sexist? As the piece says, "Veronica is fucked up. There's no way around this, she just is. She was abandoned by her parents who don't give two shits about her, she's been leeched off of probably her whole life because she has money, in fact it's been happening for so long that this has become her way of keeping people around, and she's incapable of building real, committed relationships. She loses herself in alcohol and drugs every night because she just wants to feel something. In a brilliant little scene after Veronica takes Meera home, she is shown talking to the videocamera and asking herself "How do I feel?", then unconvincingly concluding she feels "happy". That little scene sums up Veronica's needs in a nutshell. But to me Veronica gets the happiest ending of all three characters: she learns how to create and maintain a relationship that can give her the emotional stability she craves. That's what she thinks she wants from Gautam, and because society told her so, she thinks she can only obtain it by getting married and being a good wife. But the awesomeness of Cocktail is that she realizes she can have all this without giving up her personality. How is that not modern enough? How can people be so narrow-minded as to root for her to "get the guy" and get married when that's EXACTLY what would obliterate her personality completely? Her personality, by the way, is not that she drinks and parties, but that she's free-spirited and independent. And not yet ready to settle down and play wife. Nothing wrong with that from where I'm sitting."

Yes, completely. I eat my words. Now, thinking on it, I do not find the movie to be regressive at all. I will watch it again soon.

Dialogue of the day:
"Zare zare me usi ka noor hai, jhaank khudme woh na tujhse door hai, ishq hai usse to sabse ishq kar, is ibadat ka yahi dastoor hai."
— Delhi 6