Thursday, March 26, 2015

Roy — Of Two Halves

Ever since I saw the first rushes of Vikramjit Singh's Roy, I was fascinated by it. There was something mysterious about it. When I first saw the poster of the movie, I had tweeted that it appeared that Ranbir Kapoor and Arjun Rampal seemed to be the same person in the film. Notice the poster, both their faces are presented in such a form as if they are the two halves of one face. There is perfect symmetry between the two. After watching Roy, I can say that I was right in a way. Arjun Rampal plays Kabir Grewal, a film director, who is writing his third film called Guns — Part 3. His lead character in the film is Roy played by Ranbir Kapoor. Roy is Kabir's alter ego. Kabir creates a character that undergoes the same tribulations as his own life. Both Roy and Kabir's stories have the same underlying theme. The poster, thus, makes perfect sense. 

Roy got terrible reviews. I could not find one review that had anything even remotely positive to say about it. Deepanjana Pal's piece in which she mentions some audience reactions during the screening is outrageously funny. This piece made me miss watching movies in a theater. It is almost six months since I watched any Hindi movie in a theater. Even the ever so insightful Baradwaj Rangan called the movie to be pretentious. Maybe something is wrong with me but I did not find Roy to be as terrible as some of the other people felt. In fact, I loved some parts of the film. I have a low bar for watching movies, and if a movie has even four-five scenes talking about something hidden, I start liking the movie. That explains why I almost dozed off while watching PK — a film in which I could not find anything of note that made me think deeper. Raj Kumar Hirani's films are anyway not known for nuance. In Roy, I enjoyed finding some of its layers but I can see the audience's problem with it. It was targeted for the wrong audience, it is not a big-budget thriller as it was promoted; it is a film that a niche audience would like to watch. Jai Arjun Singh says in this wonderful piece, "It makes me uneasy that so many young people watch movies on tiny screens - computers, tablets, even cell-phones - and that by default the thing to be focused on in such viewings is the story, "what happens next", rather than the form or the "how" of the film." That is also one of the reasons that Roy tanked. It is more about setting a certain mood in the film rather than an engaging screenplay, which is somewhat predictable. Nevertheless, Roy gave me a good break for some new things to research and even though a handful of people are going to watch it, I still wanted to write about it. 

The film that Kabir is making is about a thief named Roy. Roy is asked by his boss (Barun Chanda of Lootera fame) to steal one half of a painting by a French artist named Alexander Dande. Roy's boss has one half and he wants Roy to steal the other half as the price of each painting is about $120 million. At one point in the film, we see a Wikipedia article on the painting which is called Two Halves. The article describes the painting as a Gothic expression of art dealing with love and anguish and pain. Two Halves is not only significant in terms of the story of Kabir's film but is also a metaphor for the entire premise of the film Roy itself. The two halves refer to the two characters of Kabir and Roy who are alter egos and share a similar trajectory in their stories, like the two halves of the painting. This is also in line with the film's poster that shows their faces as two halves of each other. In addition, these two halves are a symbolic representation of fiction and reality. The film is a juxtaposition of these two entities and blurs the boundaries between these two. Although we see the two stories of Kabir and Roy in parallel, the thing to note is that they are happening simultaneously at the same place. For instance, we see Kabir and Ayesha frolick on the beachside, and immediately in the next scene, we see Roy and Tia lying on the beachside. At another instant, we see Kabir on a sailing boat, and in the next scene, Kabir appears to be standing on the same boat. This theme runs throughout the film as if we are watching two halves of the same story. And, we never see Kabir and Roy together in the entire film except during one scene in the end where both of them are sitting together alone on the stairs in the end. It is a brilliant scene where both of them are smoking and are also dressed in black. There is a shadow of Roy in the scene as if he is Kabir's shadow. The conversation they have again pointed to their oneness. Roy says, "Tere aur mere sawaal bhi ek the, jawaab bhi ek hain. Hum dono ki kahani ki shuraat bhi ek hi jagah se hui thi. Khatam bhi ek hi jagah hogi." When Kabir begins to write his script, he sits in front of the mirror as if he is creating a character based on his own mirror image. Thus, Roy and Kabir are in a way mirror images or shadows of each other, or the two halves of one soul.
The theme continues in other parts of the film as well. Kabir casts an actress in his film who plays Tia (Jacqueline Fernandes) who looks exactly like Ayesha Amir (also, Jacqueline Fernandes), again blurring the boundaries between fiction and reality. At one point, we see that Ayesha is reading a book on horses, and later the film shows us that Tia has a special liking for horses. She wants to purchase the horse painting The Bella; she owns horses in her mansion, and even makes paintings of horses. In another scene, we see that Ayesha is called the 23rd girlfriend of Kabir. In an earlier scene, when Tia bids for the painting, she has a placard with the same number 23. At another point in the film, we see that Detective Wadia (Rajit Kapur) is reading the book Anatomy of Thief. A few scenes later, we see the same book on Kabir's table. We are constantly shifting back and forth between reality and fiction in the world of Kabir, between the film and the metafilm, and in some ways, between the film Roy and the real world itself; thus, the underlying theme of the two halves summarizes the film perfectly. As Francis Bacon said, "Truth is so hard to tell, it sometimes needs fiction to make it plausible."
At another point in the film, we see that Kabir gifts Ayesha a book called 'Common Traits of Filmmaker — A Psychological Perspective'. I immediately searched for this book if it is real or not because it is exactly the way I like to view films. Later in the film, Ayesha after reading Kabir's script says, "Pata hai writers ke baare mein kya kehte hai? Unki kahani padh lo, aadmi samajh mein aa jaayega." She makes certain decisions about Kabir based on the story he wrote. In an interview, the film's director Vikramjit Singh says that he is like Kabir in real life. It is another metaphor where instead of reality and fiction in the film, we are dealing with reality and fiction in the real world. Another curious thing is that none of the paintings or the books that we see in the film actually exist in real life; they are all fictional. It is as if the film is involving us in this game as well. What should we believe? What is truth? What is fiction? As they say, truth is indeed stranger than fiction. 
I was also intrigued by the numerous philosophical references in Roy. In the initial few moments of the film, Roy remarks, "Ajeeb baat hai naa, apne aap se anjaan mehsoos karna." All his life he kept running away from himself and his questions. He wanted to leave everything behind. He probably does not know his true self. Later, when he was stuck in the sea with nowhere else to go, he spent all his time with himself and all the same questions came back to him. And, then, he realized, "Zindagi bhar saawal vahi rehte hain, bas jawaab badal jaate hain." Questions remain the same throughout life, it is only the answers that keep changing. Tia has helped him find answers to his questions, and he now wants to meet his own self, which explains why he starts singing the song Tu Hai Ki Nahin in which the first line of the song is mujhse hi aaj mujhko mila de. He is pleading with his lover to help him meet himself. In Mohabbatein, Aishwarya Rai serenaded Hum Ko Humi Se Chura Lo; she asked her lover to steal her from herself and hide her somewhere in his heart. Fifteen years later, the protagonist pleads with his lover to help him meet himself. Times change. And, this generation thinks about its own itself first, and that is why it sings Matlabi Ho Ja Zara Matlabi in another song of the film. To add one more similarity between Kabir and Roy, when Kabir meets Ayesha, he also says to her that she brought him closer to himself like Tia has helped Roy.
There is another related theme that Roy talks about. He says, "Hum insaan hamesha kisi aur ki zindagi chura ke jeena chahte hain. Yeh fitrat hai hamaari." Later, when he is sitting with Tia, he remarks, "Hum sab chor hain." There is a very deep meaning in this line. Is thought equivalent to an act? Don't sinful thoughts lead to sinful actions? Roy gives no clear answers but it gives us enough to think about the anatomy of a thief. 
One of my other favorite lines talked about silence. "Zindagi ka asli shor uski khamoshiyon me hi fasa hua milta hai. Jo baat hume samajh ne nahi aati, vo humein sunai bhi nahi deti."

At another point, we see that there is an hourglass on Kabir's table. Later, when his father gave him a watch, he said he does not wear watches, then, his father remarked that he should take it as it might help him realize the value of time. Indeed it did. When his father died, he realized that he did not spend enough time talking to his father and he kept running from his relationships, too. Now, he wore the watch in a way realizing the value of time. In a contrasting scene, Roy who had stolen Detective Wadia's watch gave it back to him as if he understood the importance of time in his own way. Talking about Detective Wadia, was it a subtle tribute to Byomkesh Bakshi as both the detective characters are played by Rajit Kapur? In another deeply philosophical scene, Detective Wadia is sitting outside the Louvre with a pair of binoculars. He is searching for Roy without realizing that he is sitting next to him. Looking for a thing too far when it is right next to you. It is a very insightful scene. 
At one point, Kabir says, "Jiske haath me bandook hoti hai, vahi hamesha control me rehta hai." I thought that this explains why he named his film Guns but I could not understand the connection between Part 1, 2, and 3. Was it in some way referring that part three will lead to closure as he said in the interview with Cyrus Broacha?

Roy is far from perfect but each but everything is created with such meticulous detail that it gave me enough to ponder about. The music of the film is fabulous and the three actors do a decent job. I also felt many similarities with Shabd and Aks. At one point, Kabir says, "Ittefaq kuch nahi hota, har cheez ek vajah ke liye hoti hai." This is true for Roy, too, where everything is there for a reason. During the last scene of the film, Tia and Kabir walk off the screen and they merge into the Two Halves painting. Perhaps, that is the message of the film itself —  to merge reality and fiction. 

Ranbir Kapoor in a dynamic role.
Dialogue of the Day:
"Kehte hain ki ek achi tasveer vo hoti hai jo puri kahaani bata sake, aur ek achhi kahani vo jo ek tasveeer me sama sake."
Roy, Roy