Friday, February 19, 2016

Fitoor—Of Passion, and Possession

In a scene in Farhan Akhtar's Dil Chahta Hai, Tara (Dimple Kapadia) comes to see the paintings of Sid (Akshaye Khanna). After carefully admiring the beauty of them, she says to him, "Isme bhi vahi baat. Aaj maine tumhare bare me kuch jana hai. Ek aisi baat jo pehli mulakat me pata nahi chali thi. Kehno ko to tum logo se milte ho, haste ho, bolte ho, lekin tumhare andar jo ek duniya hai, tumhare khwaab, tumhare sapne, vo tum kisi se baante nahi. Mujhe to lagta hai jo log tumhe jaante hai vo bhi tumhe nahi jaante." Sid, amazed at her insights, asks her how can she say something like that. She replies, "Darwaza khula nahi hai, andar koi ja nahi sakta, bakse ko kas ke tala lagaya hua, koi chori nahi kar sakta, aur in aankhon ke peeche kaun se jazbaat hai, kaun bata sakta hai. Tumhari har tasveer apne andar na jane kya kya chhupaye hai, shayad tumhari tarah." I couldn't help but remember the scene while watching Abhishek Kapoor's gorgeous and poetic Fitoor, an adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. Fitoor is the story of Noor (Aditya Roy Kapur), Firdaus (Katrina Kaif), and Begum Hazrat (Tabu) enacting the roles of Pip, Estella, and Miss Havisham.
Noor is an upcoming artist from Srinagar. At one point in the film, his friend Arif tells him, "Jo andar hai vahi dikha." Then, he creates some of the most beautiful creations showing what he has inside. He paints numerous portraits of his childhood lover Firdaus, depicting all his memories of her. He paints his life in Srinagar. Later, when he is angry with Firdaus at the party, he makes a painting of her with barbed wires on it, which is auctioned as 'Scar Tissue.' In his exhibition in London, he makes a sculpture of a horse lying upside down, symbolizing his pain as he saw Firdaus for the first time on a horse. When Begum sees this sculpture, she remarks, "Mashallah, Noor, kya dil toota hai tumhara. Sab kuch to nikal ke bahar rakh diya, andar to sab khali ho gaya na." He took out everything that he had in him. It is here that there is a contrast with Sid. As Tara says, there is a leitmotif of something hidden in Sid's painting; however, there is nothing hidden about those of Noor, perhaps, like his own name that means light. Begum further adds, "Nanga lag raha hoga." He must be feeling naked. In earlier shots, we had seen Noor working with his shirt off. His chiseled naked body represents this naked state of mind. He has nothing to hide, and he is literally and metaphorically naked. But the irony of fate was that he depicted his true self in his creations, but his entire life was based on a lie.
There is an interesting theme throughout Fitoor—of having an amanat (treasure). Noor keeps every memory of Firdaus with him all his life. He does not let go of a single thing associated with Firdaus. He keeps her scarf with him. When Firdaus remarks that he is mad that he has kept it with him all these years, he replies, "Amanat hai meri. Jaise tumhare zevar nahi hote." He makes a horse for her that is made of fiber, and in the end, he makes another horse at his London exhibition as he associates Firdaus with running on a horse. He keeps the tiara he made for her with him throughout the years. He keeps the dog that Fridaus played with as his pet with him all his life. He paints all the memories of Fridaus in his portraits. He buys an expensive second-hand red car because Firdaus had a red car. Chahiye to chahiye. He even gets a tattoo of Fridaus on his arm as if he wants to permanently hold on to her memory within him. He learns the story passage that Firdaus told him when she was reading a book. When Noor and Firdaus meet in Delhi, they visit the Humayun's tomb. Then they go to the Taj Mahal. Both being the monuments of love built in the memory of love—the former being made because of an initiative of Bega Begum for his deceased husband Humayun, and the latter being made by Shah Jahan for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. (In a scene, we see Noor drinks Taj Mahal tea brand—great product placement and some nice way to make money). Not only Firdaus' memories, but Noor also holds onto the sketching book his sister gave him when he was young. Begum, too, holds on to her possessions. Her amanat. She refuses to let go of Anjuman when offered a price much higher than the market price, even though she is on the verge of penury. She keeps the necklace that her lover Mufti gave her; like Noor mentioned earlier, he holds on to the scarf like jewelry. Begum's jewelry is precious to her not because of its monetary value but because of its emotional value. She always wears it and keeps touching it when she is thinking. Her relative mocks her behind her back, saying, "Aadhi se zyada jaydaat gehno me zayar kar di hai." When she gives a necklace to Firdaus, she says it is her ammi ki amanat. She tells Firdaus, "Ab tum kisi ki amanat banne ja rahe ho." Firdaus replies about what good she will be when she becomes an amanat, she will be like a decorative necklace hung as a showpiece. Firdaus was given as an amanat to Begum. Bilal physically abuses Fridaus as if she was his toy. When Firdaus realizes that she is not anyone's possession, she buries her mother's necklace with her dead body and makes sure to give her engagement ring to her fiance's father. Bilal's father holds on to his amanat—his lifelong love for Begum. Even the mysterious benefactor Mauzzam remembers the phiran that Noor gave him on that snowy night. Woh ladka nahi bhula paya, jo ghar se bhaag ke liye mere liye phiran laya tha. Us phiran ki yaad ne kai raat mujhe garam rakha. These characters are trying to hold on to their possessions, memories, and amanat because "Dum toot jata hai par peecha nahi chhotata. Pyaar. Pyaar bhi ajeeb jaanwar hai, chabuk taan do, bhukka maar do, zinda gaadh do, par kambhakht baaz nahi aata." Even after death, one cannot escape love. It is like an animal, Beat it, starve it, bury it, but it never goes away, and it only comes out stronger. Deep inside, they are terribly sad, and the physical artifact compensates for the lack of physical and emotional availability of the people they love.

Unlike Haider, in which the political symbolism was quite overt, in Fitoor, the political symbolism here is slightly subdued and focused more on the characters' love story. In the beginning moments of the film, Begum remarks, "Sabko is jannat ke chhote choote hisse chahiye." Kashmir is often called jannat. When Noor is introduced in the social circuit of Delhi as the boy from Dal, a socialite asks him about his views on freedom. He says that art and politics cannot be separated. The song Hone Do Batiyan appears on an initiative called Roots where a delegation of Pakistan comes to India for talks. After this song, Noor makes a political remark where he screams a famous slogan, "Doodh mangoge to kheer denge, Kashmir mangoge to cheer denge." One of the most impacting scenes of the film is a bomb blast in Srinagar. Noor's exhibition is called Art For Freedom series. At a later point, Arif remarks, "What could be macabre from one could be freedom for someone else," quite similar to the statement one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Though politics remains in the background, an analogy can also be made to the film's characters here. Firdaus is like Kashmir, Bilal is like Pakistan, Begum is like India, and Noor is like the people of Kashmir. The stunning beauty of Kashmir parallels the beauty of Firdaus. In fact, at one point, Begum says, "Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, haminasto, haminast." If there is ever a heaven on earth, it's here, it's here, it's here. This phrase was used for the beauty of Kashmir, and it has the word firdaus, reinforcing the idea that Firdaus was indeed Kashmir. At another point, Noor talks about the wars between India and Pakistan and that he will have to fight to get Firdaus (Kashmir) this time. Bilal from Pakistan tries to take control of Firdaus and physically abuses her. Begum is like India. Like Firdaus is not the natural daughter of Begum, but she takes care of her and tries to control her, the same can be said of India and Kashmir. At one point, Begum remarked that she had locked away Firdaus' heart in a safe. In this, Noor fits as the boy from Dal, and he loves Firdaus like Kashmiris love Kashmir. Firdaus tells him that she thought he would free her, and he replies that either death or love can give freedom from oneself. In the end, Noor and Firdaus get together as if making a statement that only Kashmir and its people can decide their fate. It is his love that sets her free. But to reiterate, the film focuses more on the love story aspect rather than making political connotations on Kashmir.
The film also shows us the difference in the economic class of Noor and Firdaus, and various elements show this difference. When Noor sees Firdaus for the first time, she is riding a horse, and he is standing on the ground. She sees his shoes with a hole in them, and Noor becomes conscious of them. Later, Firdaus is standing at the window, and Noor looks up. When Noor meets her at a Delhi party, she comes down the stairs, and Noor looks up. Later, when she calls him from an exhibition, she again stands at a higher level and looks at his shoes. He twitches his toes in his torn shoes. A few seconds later, he goes to a shop and buys the finest polished shoes. Firdaus is shown at a higher level to symbolize her high status, and the shoes reflect Noor's changing stature. When Begum saw Noor, she had said, "Jooton se aage aur bhi jahan hai." Later, there is another shoe reference, when Leena remarks, "Joote ghis jaate hai yahan tak pahunchte, Noor," where Noor's shoes are worn out.
At one point, Begum says to Noor, "Itna dard kaise laate ho apne kaam me." Later, when she visits London, she says, "Kya dil toota hai tumhara." Noor's paintings carry a lot of pain in them. This premise was the theme in Rockstar where Jordan wanted his heart to break because Khatana Bhai had told him, "Toote hue dil se hi sangeet nikalta hai, jab dil ki lagti hai na, tukde tukde hote hain, tab aati hai jhankaar." Music comes from the miseries of the broken heart. When the heart feels pain and gets broken into pieces, the music beats start playing automatically. We, actually, see him feeling the pain. He makes a sculpture using barbed wires and hurts his hands while making it. Like Jordan, Noor, too, becomes a great artist driven by Firdaus. Not only Rockstar, but at many times, the film's mood is quite reminiscent of Lootera. The pace and the theme give strong vibes to Lootera. At one point, Firdaus and Noor are in a car, and the scene looks exactly like the one between Pakhi and Varun, which was also present in the film's poster. At one point in Lootera, there is a replication of a scene in a painting, and in Fitoor, during Pashmina, there is a replica of a scene in a painting. There is also a particular sequence that reminded me of Jodhaa Akbar. There was this scene in that film in which Jodhaa used to look at the ceiling and couldn't fall asleep initially. When Akbar visited Jodhaa's place, the same thing happened to him. Never fully understood the real meaning of that, but here, too, Noor looks at the ceiling. Later, Firdaus also looks at the ceiling but there is a circular wreath lining it, similar to the gift that Noor had made for her.
The first time Noor sees Firdaus, she is riding a horse, dressed in pure white, surrounded by the pristine snow. There is a shot of a frozen stalactite just before she comes. In many ways, Firdaus was like the snow—a cold person. She does not show much emotion and is sent to London. In the final scene of the movie, she runs towards Noor. Again, she is dressed in pure white, and Noor embraces her in his arms by wrapping his shawl around her as if the warmth of his love has finally been able to melt her coldness and aloofness. She runs on a bridge from one end to the other as she has crossed to the side of Noor's love.
Amit Trivedi's music is excellent. The songs mainly come in the background. As shown in the promotional videos, Pashmina is splendidly choreographed on the grown-up Noor and Firdaus, but that sequence is not used in the film. It is picturized on the young Noor and Firdaus and is lovely. The song is melodious and soothing. Most of the imagery mentioned is about things that are new and delicate. Pashmina dhaagon (threads of wool), bune (weave), kaliyon (bud), naye saaz (new beats) and many words with kacchi (raw), shabnam (dew). Most of the things are those we cannot touch, only imagine or feel, such as khwaab (dream), ehsaas (realize), raaz (Secret), jazbaat (emotions), hawa (air), dhuaan (smoke), dhoop (light), saaya (shadow), khayalon (thoughts), and lamhe (moments). It makes sense that the song is filmed on the young Noor and Firdaus who are trying to form a new bond between them. I totally loved Ranga Re.
The red colored-hair of Firdaus and Begum is a representation of the passionate red of the chinar leaves. At one point, Bilal's father says about the love that as time passes, it gets even thicker. "Jaise waqt guzarta hai, aur bhi gaadha ho jata hai." The thick red color of Noor's palette is symbolic of this love. His love, too, grew stronger with time. Anay Goswami's superb cinematography accentuates the fitoor (passion) in Fitoor. Kashmir looks beautiful in those colors of white and orange. The film is visually stunning.
No surprises again that Tabu delivers another fabulous performance. It seems as if she is made to do characters based on English classics. She brings gravitas to the role. In the book, Miss Havisham looks like a ghost and is not a likable character. At one point in the film, a character does mention that Begum's house is haunted, and one should be wary of ghosts there, but the film humanizes Begum and gives a background of why she behaved the way she did. Begum is haunted by the events of her past, and she cannot let go of them. It is only in death that she finally gets her freedom. Interestingly, she meets her end like Nimmi (Maqbool) or Lady Macbeth (Macbeth). It is also noteworthy that the film's title credits begin with Tabu, and the names of Katrina Kaif and Aditya Roy Kapur come after Tabu. Hindi films usually start with either the male hero's name first or the lead characters, which is definitely a sign of Tabu's acting prowess. Initially, Rekha was supposed to play the role but backed out at the last minute. In an interview, Tabu said she stepped in, and when she tried the costumes originally made for Rekha, she fit perfectly in them as if the role was written for her. I was pretty curious that Begum's house was named Anjuman. In Umrao Jaan, Umrao, played by Rekha, sang, "Is anjuman mein aap ko aana hai baar baar." I wonder if that had something to do with it. The first time we see Begum, she is listening to Hamari Saanson Me Aaj Tak Vo Heena. It is a lovely ghazal.

Aditya Roy Kapur as Noor is excellent. He channels Noor's passion quite well. He has worked hard. Katrina Kaif as Firdaus is decent. She is not as bad as some reviews have called her. She looks the part and performs well enough. Initially, I was skeptical of her, but she has worked to improve her acting. I really enjoyed their scenes. My favorite scene was when Noor sees her at the party and forgets all the pain of separation over the last few years, and he blushes. Sab pyaar ban ke beh gaya. Firdaus. Bas ek lafz ne hisab kar diya mera.
Some things are not very clear. We never get to know the reason for the limp of Noor's sister. It is also not clear the reason for Arif's dislike of Begum. Also, the film subtly hints at the homosexuality of Arif. At one point, I thought that Noor was Begum's son, whom she had to give away because she became pregnant out of wedlock, but eventually, everything ties out nicely in the end.

Even though the film is based on Great Expectations, we see a reference to another story by Charles Dickens. Firdaus narrates the famous opening lines from Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other wayin short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
Fitoor presents a beautiful concept of love. Love is a fragrance. Noor smells Firdaus' scarf as it reminds him of her. He says he wants to return to the old days when he could smell the fragrance, "Phoolo vale, khushboo vale din." Mufti smells Begum when they meet and says, "Pagal kar degi yeh khushboo humein." Begum tells Firdaus, "Kheench hi layi na tumhari khushboo use." Love also makes them stuck in the past, and they try to hold on to those memories. Noor says he misses the old days and says, "Ab jo chala gaya waqt, dil usi ko dhoondta rehta hai." When they drive to Taj Mahal, he says, they are going, "Saalo se peeche, sitaron se aage." Going back in time, ahead of the stars. Firdaus writes a letter to Noor in which she writes when will they both grow up? She later scolds Noor for being childish. Begum, too, is stuck in her past. She remembers what Mufti did to her, and her decision to cut off Firdaus from Noor was based on what happened to her. At one point, Firdaus even tells her that what happened to her in her past has no bearing on what will happen to her in the future. As Gulzar has said, "Dil dhoondhta hai, phir wahi, fursat ke raat din, baithe rahein, tasavvur-e-jaana kiye hue," Fitoor reminds us of this again.

At one point, Leena says to Noor that his work requires, "Presentation, scale, context." Abhishek Kapoor's Fitoor has all three—presentation, scale, context. She later pitches Noor's work to a client. Bahut soulful kaam hai iska. Likewise, Fitoor is soulful. It is heartfelt. It is thoughtful. O haan main rangaa re. Tere rang rangaa re. 

Dialogue of the Day:
"Ek bas seene me dil chahiye, baki aap puri kayenaat se lad padoge."
—Noor, Fitoor

Sunday, February 7, 2016

I have written on Queen many times before, but there is something about the film that is so amazing. I can watch it any number of times. Rani's journey is exhilarating and cathartic. There is so much to learn from Rani's story. At an earlier point, when Vijay refused to marry her, Rani's dadi tells her that to not lose hope. Kaun kahan mil jata hai kisko kya pata, bas apni zindagi jee aaram se bilkul, jo milna hota hai na zindagi me, vo mil ke rehta hai, use koi nahi rok sakta; jo hua accha hi hua. Initially, Rani is depressed and angry at the circumstances that shake her innocent life. In a state of drunken stupor, Rani narrates the story of a certain Gupta Uncle. She says, "Mera haal na Gupta Uncle ke jaisa ho gaya hai. Gupta Uncle ko na cancer ho gaya hai, unhone kabhi sharab nahi pi, cigarette nahi pi, phir bhi cancer ho gaya. Isse accha to pi lete. Apni mummy daddy ki har baat maani hai maine, teachers ki har baat maani hai maine, kabhi exam me cheating nahi ki, kabhi jhooth nahi bola, tu jiska naam lo uski har baat mani hai maine." I felt that the underlying message of both these statements is the same. There should be no expectation of award for following our own choices. Likewise, there is no point in being desolate at something that is not under our control. 

Somehow, I was reminded of Geet and Aditya in Jab We Met. At one point, Geet says to Aditya, "Tum to life mein bahut serious the Aditya. Kya fayda hua? Bahut bade problem to tum bhi pahns gaye na. Agey kya hone wala hain iss par kisi ka control toh hai nahi toh aise mein main wahi karti hoon jo mera dil kehta hai. Kal ko main kisi ko blame nahi karna chahti ki tumhari wajah se meri life kharab ho gayi. Meri life jo bhi hogi mujhe pata hoga ke mere wajah se aise hai toh I’ll be happy. Mujhe to lagta hai ki insaan jo kuch bhi real mein chahta hai na, actual mein, usko life mein vohi milta hai.” It is a beautiful thinking, which is why Geet stole our hearts. I don't necessarily agree with the last part that we get everything we want, but I take it in the sense that we need to take actions to get what we want. At this point, last year, I was in a miserable state and almost on the verge of a breakdown. I have worked with all kinds of people in my very limited work experience, and I think I have a high amount of patience, but never I felt I was under a state of horrifying terror like last year at this point. I think I survived that time by watching movies, and it might seem childish, but it was kind of therapeutic. Queen was one movie that I watched again, and again. Rani's story is motivating that eventually everything happens for a reason. She has no anger towards Vijay in the end, rather she thanks him for bringing a sea change in her life. So, thank you, Rani, and Geet, for the motivation in life. If only, we all could learn from you all. 

Dialogue of the Day:
"Jo chhoti si har ek neher, saagar ban bhi jaaye,
Koi tinka le ke haath me dhoondh lenge hum,
Kinaare. Kinaare. Kinare.
Khud hi To hain hum. Kinaare."

Even if every small canal turns into a sea,
We’ll take a straw in our hands and find the shores.
We ourselves are. Shores.