Saturday, April 23, 2016

Fan—Of Devotion And Obsession

Michael Macrone's It's Greek to Me! details the etymology of the word 'fan'. According to him, the word 'fanatic' is derived from the Latin word fanum, meaning a temple. Its meaning as someone who is zealous or a zealot is derived from the behavior of priests who served the Roman war goddess Bellona at a fanum built by the military dictator Sulla in the first century B.C. It is believed that every year the priests used to stage a festival during which they tore off their robes and hacked themselves with axes, splattering blood everywhere. This behavior was considered a sign of divine inspiration, and fanaticus came to mean something like crazed by the gods. When the word fanatic first appeared in English in the sixteenth century, it meant a crazy person. Eventually, the word was shortened to form fan, which simply means a devotee or an adherent. Maneesh Sharma's Fan is a story of one such fan Gaurav Chandna (Shah Rukh Khan), a devotee of his God Aryan Khanna (Shah Rukh Khan, again), who becomes a fanatic.

The movie's premise is that a fan looks like a star he is a fan of. Not only is this spooky, but it gives immense power to the fan to actually wreak havoc in his star's life. Early in the film, we see that Gaurav owns a cyber café named AK Cyber Chat, after his favorite star. On the entry gate of his shop, the word photocopy is written. It is befitting to show the photocopy because Gaurav is indeed a copy. In fact, when the goons come to his shop, one of them even calls him photocopy. For many kids, superheroes are their idols. Gaurav calls the two young kids in his cyber café as Superman and Batman and shuts their game down as he has no interest in them because his only superhero is Aryan. The cyber café is also a statement on how the internet has played an essential role in reducing distances between the stars. One can instantly connect to their favorite celebrities using the internet, something completely impossible ages ago. Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, play another crucial role in the film, which Gaurav uses not only to reach Aryan but also as a weapon to tar Aryan's image.
At the film's beginning, Gaurav says he followed the 'cut-copy-paste' actions of Aryan, and he and Aryan are made of the same mitti. Whatever was left of the mitti that God used to make Aryan, she used it to make Gaurav. He says, "Main aur vo alag alag hai, dur hai, lekin ek hai." They are poles apart, but there is an essential similarity between them. Not only do they look like each other, but also they share some similar traits. Early in the film, Gaurav asks his dad to put perfume on him. When he is getting ready to meet Aryan in Mumbai, he again sprays perfume on himself, and later, in two scenes, we see Aryan, too, putting perfume on himself. When Aryan's assistant calls Gaurav 'sanki', Aryan replies, "Accha toh main kya hun?" They both are sanki and crazy; perhaps, Aryan is even crazier in some ways. When Gaurav enters Aryan's study, he tells Aryan's wife that Aryan collects memories of the days he wants to keep closer. Memories samet ke rakhna chahta hai apne pass. Likewise, Gaurav also collects memories of Aryan with him. Both Aryan and Gaurav collect memories. In their final confrontation, Aryan explains to Gaurav that there is not much difference between him and Gaurav, and he started from the same humble beginnings like that of Gaurav.
Not only common traits but also there is the recurring motif of reflections in Fan. Gaurav and Aryan are look-alikes of each other. There is an interdependent relationship between them. Gaurav hai to Aryan hai, Gaurav nahi to Aryan kuch bhi nahi. Later, Gaurav writes on the mirror in Aryan's room, "Main hun to tu hai." It is a fabulous scene when Aryan and Gaurav meet for the first time. They are sitting opposite each other in a room with mirrors on two opposite sides. In the mirror behind them, we see the image-in-an-image pattern to infinity. The film contains meta-references, and the scene perfectly encapsulates that concept. Image in an image. A story in a story. The two men who look like each other are sitting opposite each other as if each is the reflection of the other. In fact, the entire film is full of mirrors, rather I should say images. So many times, we see the characters in the mirrors. When Gaurav is traveling without a ticket on the train, we see his face in a mirror on the berth. When the ticket master saves him from jumping, his face is again seen as a reflection behind him. Later, we see Aryan in front of the mirror, smiling and looking at himself. In another scene, he examines his face in the mirror. One of the significant events in the film happens at Madame Tussauds—where exact replicas of real-life personalities are kept. There is something very dark about a living look-alike guy calling a look-alike wax statue fake when both are copies of another real-life personality. When Gaurav dances in front of Aryan's images at the competition, it feels as if Aryan is Gaurav's reflection at the back. In the final scene, when Gaurav finally gets the hug he wants, Aryan advises Gaurav, "Jo mazaa apni pehchaan ke saath jeene me hai, vo kisi dusre ki parchchai banne me nahi." The pleasure one gets by living with your own identity is much more than living as someone's shadow with no identity of your own. This was the inherent message of the film as well.
The poster of the film also tries to show us the reflection theme. We see both of them side by side in the poster. There is the face of Gaurav, shining in the light similar to that of the sun (or fire, or something warm). Next to him lies the face of Aryan, shining in the light similar to that of the moon (or water or something cold). Gaurav Chandna has the name 'Chand', which means the moon. Aryan Khanna has 'Aryan' which means someone related to the sun. Aryan is the superstar, and the sun is also called the largest star (superstar). The moon has no light of its own, but its light is a reflection of the light of the sun. The moon is dependent on the sun for its light. Likewise, we see this dependent relation in the film's poster where Gaurav is like the sun, while Aryan is like the moon, quite opposite to the words in their names. In another poster, the color of light on the two of them are reversed, matching their names (Aryan in sun, and Gaurav in moon), signifying their interdependent relationship. A fan needs a superstar, but a superstar also needs a fan. Main hun to tu hai. The individual entities cannot survive without the two, which the film later shows us. This is also seen at many other points in the film. When Gaurav is in prison, there is a constant shift between the moonlight and the sunlight that falls on his face. In another brilliant touch, when Gaurav falls to his death, a set of lights falls with him, and the color of those lights is again yellow and blue, like the sun and the moon. There are no other lights that fall with Gaurav. Midway through his fall, the lights went off, perhaps, as a reminder of the life lost. A superstar lost a fan, and a fan lost a superstar. Both Aryan and Gaurav lost. 
Shah Rukh is no stranger to controversy. Throughout his career, there have been enough incidents in his life that he has been (in)famously associated with, and that has given much fodder to the media. It is worth applauding that Fan refers to some of these incidents, and Shah Rukh does not shy away from their portrayal on the screen. The scene where he talks about giving a slap to Sid Kapoor (SK) was quite reminiscent of the slap he had given to Shirish Kunder (or Salman Khan—both SK). The #AKvsSK could be interpreted as the constant Twitter battle between the fans of Shah Rukh and Salman Khan (SK). At one point in the film, the media talks about Aryan as an aging star whose films have started to flop, and his position is threatened by Sid Kapoor. This criticism is often heard for real-life Shah Rukh, whose last few films have not been well received. When Hrithik came on the scene in the early 2000s, everyone said Shah Rukh's career was finished. Shah Rukh is quoted saying he was afraid to venture out at that time. Later, we see Aryan dance at industrialist Bhutiani's daughter's wedding, much like when Shah Rukh danced at industrialist Laxmi Mittal's daughter in Paris. After all, I am spending a bomb on you. Only you can. Shah Rukh was paid £300,000 to dance at that reception, an amount that most people won't see in their lifetime. When Aryan is chasing Gaurav, many times, Aryan is seen holding his back, and Shah Rukh, over the years, has undergone multiple surgeries due to his back injuries. At one point, even the ticker on the news channel shows that someone named Shiv Rawail (also credited as the film's assistant director) purchased Bhubaneswar Bulls, a nod to Shah Rukh's investment in Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League. The boycott of Aryan due to the sexual harassment case in Fan is eerily similar to the recent absolutely rubbish debate around intolerance, where Shah Rukh was quoted heavily out of context, and the nutcases demanded his boycott. Not one person showed up when Aryan's show was about to take place. He is alone in the auditorium, staring at his abyss as if his fear has come true. In numerous interviews, Shah Rukh has said that losing the top position is his biggest fear. I am scared of failing. I am afraid of coming second. I am scared of not making it big. It is fear that drives him, and he has spent half his life wanting to be loved. The story and screenplay of the film pay tribute to Shah Rukh's films and his life. It is some kind of cosmic connection that Shah Rukh's first film was also titled Deewana—crazy. In fact, the very first scene of Fan is taken from a sequence of Deewana, his first film, where Shah Rukh, dressed in blue pants and a blue shirt, does a rollover jump. Gaurav is like the crazy and passionate lover of Darr, but his love is for Aryan. There is a tribute to Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and the mandolin. The chase sequences in Dubrovnik at the rooftops reminded me of the race sequence in Main Hoon Na. The climax is a silent tribute to the epic falling scene in Baazigar. Shah Rukh has played numerous double roles in his films, such as Duplicate, Paheli, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Ra.One, Om Shanti Om and Don. The film reminded me a lot of Don. When I first saw the trailer, I felt that something like the twist in Don would eventually happen where Gaurav will become Aryan. Although it did not happen exactly, Aryan and Gaurav did end up becoming each other. I cannot think of another star who would have shown his real life and story on screen with such detail.
In Zoya Akhtar's brilliant and the-one-movie-I-can-never-stop-talking-about Luck By Chance, Zafar Khan's character, played by Hrithik Roshan, is also inspired by Shah Rukh Khan. At one point, Zafar sits in front of the mirror and explains to Romi Rolly (Rishi Kapoor) that he is not Zafar Khan. "Zafar Khan ek image hai. He is an icon. I work for Zafar Khan." Years ago, Shah Rukh had given a similar statement in an interview in which he said, "I am just an employee of the Shah Rukh Khan myth." Later, at another point in Luck By Chance, Karan Johar meets Zafar Khan at a party and tells him his theory of how a new hero is born in the industry. He then quotes how Shah Rukh Khan got a break in the industry. Hearing this, Zafar Khan feels vulnerable if he made the right decision to let go of Romi Rolly's film, and in that scene, he does not say anything, yet his eyes say everything. Ironically, Zafar is played by Hrithik Roshan, who himself was the new star who threatened the stardom of Shah Rukh Khan when Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai became a massive blockbuster hit. Hrithik became the darling of the nation. Finally, in perhaps, what is my favorite scene from Luck By Chance, Shah Rukh himself makes an appearance with his entourage. He meets Vikram (Farhan Akhtar) and advises him to never forget the people there with him when he was a nobody. With a mean streak in his eyes, he says, "Stardom ek cocktail hai, fame power, money. Bahut khatarnak nasha hai. It's insane. Lekin ek baat maine bahut jaldi samajh li thi. Unhe mat bhoolo, jo tumhe jab jaante the, jab tum kuch nahi the. Kyunki bas yahi hai jo hamesha tumhe sach bolenge." In Fan, Shah Rukh Khan is played by Shah Rukh Khan himself as Aryan Khanna, like Shah Rukh Khan was played by Hrithik Roshan as Zafar Khan in Luck By Chance. Like Zafar, Aryan is often found in front of mirrors. At one point, Aryan is looking at himself in the mirror, massaging his cheeks, and is displaying a haunting vulnerability where Aryan seems threatened by the rise of the upcoming star Sid Kapoor like Zafar did at the party. And, like Luck By Chance, Fan is based on the real-life persona of Shah Rukh Khan.
Fan continuously surprised me with its darker, sometimes almost creepy undertones. Fan compares the relationship of a fan and a star to that of the devotee and his God. When Gaurav is about to participate in the Super Sitara competition, his dad asks him why he is wasting time and money participating. Gaurav replies that the prize money is twenty thousand rupees, which his father won't give him to meet Aryan. He, then, says to his father, when he goes to the Hanuman temple every week by changing four buses, and donates one hundred and one rupees every time, isn't that, too, time waste? For Gaurav, Aryan is his God. Think about it, the entire world is fighting wars over God, someone whose existence is not even proven, and they call a fan crazy who wants to go and meet someone who at least is real. So, who is the crazier one? Gaurav, who worships an actual human, or the people who worship an imaginary God? There is also a somewhat related theme of stature between the two. Gaurav sees Aryan for the first time from a lower platform, while Aryan is shown at a higher place. When Gaurav meets Aryan in person for the first time in prison, he is lying on the prison floor and cannot even get up properly while Aryan stands tall in front of him, reflecting the lower stature of a devotee in front of his God. There is a similar dynamic seen in their chase sequences where Aryan is seen at a height. At some point, Aryan tells Gaurav that if he has to make him fall, he must first reach him. Ultimately, Gaurav climbs the stairs to see Aryan performing on stage as if he finally made Aryan reach his level. Gaurav's death occurs when Aryan sees him falling from a height. Nothing in the film is without some reason, and the film is meticulously detailed. Like even the food choices are shown consistently. When Gaurav goes to Mumbai, he orders a vegetable thaali, and when he is Dubrovnik, he orders a vegetable sandwich.
When Gaurav runs away from Hotel Delite, the chase sequence that follows is fascinating. At one point in that sequence, Gaurav jumps from parapet to parapet, and he runs into the 'fan' of the air conditioner. The next moment, he catches a wire from another 'fan,' this time a table fan, from inside the room. The fan (table fan) inside the room falls, while the fan (Gaurav) outside, trying to hold on, also falls, and it is only the table fan wire that prevents him from falling. When Gaurav enters Aryan's house, another big table fan is in the background in the dark shadows behind. Something was discomfiting about the old crumbling parapets of the building and the dilapidated worn-out walls of the jail. Perhaps, like the crumbling stardom of an aging star. The scene of Gaurav lying on the prison floor, like a fan trapped in his own world. After the policemen beat him, there is a precise moment when Gaurav vomits something and sweats profusely. At that exact moment, the love he had for Aryan came out of him. After this, he returns to Delhi, which is why he closes his shop and removes every poster from his room. His love came out in that moment in jail, where he threw out the deeply internalized love in his body. 
There is also a theme of circularity in the film. In the first half, the fan chases the star, while in the second half, the star chases the fan. The hunter becomes the hunted. In the first half, Gaurav has to spend a few nights in jail due to Aryan's orders, while in the second half, Aryan has to spend some time in prison due to Gaurav's deeds. The film began at a fair in Dussehra and ends after a year at the same place on Dussehra (there is even a star near the Ferris wheels). It felt as if the brightly rotating Ferris wheels at the fair denoted a certain symbolism that their lives had come a full circle. In the earlier fair, it was Gaurav enacting Aryan on the stage, but in the end, the cycle completes when Aryan has to become Gaurav, and Aryan enacts Gaurav on the stage. There is again some kind of deeper meaning that this happens on Dussehra, a festival known for celebrating the victory of good over evil. Ravana, the king of Rakshasas, was perhaps the smartest person to live, but due to his ego, he met his end at the hands of Rama. During that scene, Neha actually calls Gaurav Rakshasa. Rakshasa ban gaya hai tu. Gaurav was Aryan's biggest fan, but just to get an apology from Aryan, he committed serious crimes, and we all could see that his end was kind of coming and it was quite clear that it would definitely not end well for him. 
It is often said that the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference, and if you hate someone, it means that you still care and you are still connected. Gaurav could not cross the wall to be indifferent to Aryan after he was spurned by him. Gaurav had constructed his entire universe around Aryan. He is ready to commit a murder for Aryan. He does not realize the acts of criminality because, for him, the only crime that someone can commit is to hurt Aryan. In two instances, he mentions this to Aryan. When he meets Aryan in the jail after he assaulted Sid Kapoor, he says to Aryan, "Crime toh logo ki nazar me hai, aap ke dil me to pyaar hai." Later, when he goes to Aryan's house, he says, "Jo aapko pyaar karta hai, uska dil todna bhi crime hi hai." In this context, I was also surprised to see Gaurav's mom not defending his criminal acts. She pleads with Aryan to punish her son and imprison him, not beat him. If Gaurav was a criminal, then Aryan was also a criminal as a vigilante. The first instance where he puts Gaurav in jail shows that he bribes the policemen to remove all documentary evidence of the case. Later, although he did reach out to the police commissioner, Aryan decides to take the matter of dealing with Gaurav into his own hands. What he did can also be termed a crime. In another instance, he proudly tells us that he slapped Sid Kapoor. The irony is he was teaching his daughter not to bully anyone at the exact moment when he talks to his wife about the slapping incident. He says he will show his Delhi vala chehra against his star face known in the media. So, if Gaurav wore masks literally to hide his identity, Aryan wears masks to hide his true face, again pointing that how similar these two were, and continuing motif of images, and reflections. 

The film also takes a potshot at fans of superstars. Gaurav says that other fans are dogle—two-faced. They will criticize the star's films, but they rush to click a selfie with him when they meet the star. He is not that kind of fan, he will support Aryan in everything. He will follow the exact same path as Aryan followed. He will go to meet him because dur se to kachche vale fans taali bajate hai. This is another theme that the film tries to explore.
I know many ardent fans who have devoted hours of their life to their stars. I have often wondered about the kind of fan I am. I won't demean the real passionate followers of stars by calling myself a fan. In fact, I am one of those people who claps and cheers from away. I don't know the latest details of the lives of the stars. I don't fully understand character motivations in film. I can't even call myself a critic because I cannot evaluate a film's technical strengths and find loopholes in its story. I am just a silent watcher from far, keeping my connection very personal. The holy trinity of the Khans in the film industry can be divided into three parts—heart (Shah Rukh), mind (Aamir), and body (Salman). In life, I have always listened to my heart, and perhaps, that is why I feel an affinity and connection with Shah Rukh. It gives me immense happiness to see Shah Rukh back in form, given some really questionable choices in his films in the last few years, and I am really looking forward to the following films of his. He was fabulous as Aryan. My favorite part of the film was the initial fifteen minutes where Gaurav performs at the Super Sitara competition. His parents fully support him and create an innovative presentation, but to see Gaurav dancing matching the exact steps of Aryan's film, was sheer bliss. There was even a picture of Michael Jackson on the stage but at that moment, all eyes were on Gaurav. I shed a tear at the moment when Aryan comes and greets his fans, and the whole crowd goes berserk. The magical look in Gaurav's eyes, the sense of anticipation, and that exhilaration that one has finally seen his God, thus, seen everything. How can anyone not be moved!
In an article in India Today, critic Anupama Chopra explores the cult of the stars. She mentions the hypothesis of film historian Nasreen Munni Kabir on why we are crazy about stars. According to Kabir, Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, India's first filmmaker, came from a family of priests. Our earliest films were historical, mythological, or dramas based on religious texts. Traditionally, film stars have played larger-than-life roles in dramas that allude to cosmic battles of good versus evil. The religiosity has transferred and stars arouse passionate devotion. In another article in The New York Times, author Suketu Mehta writes, "Why do I love Bollywood movies? To an Indian, that's like asking why we love our mothers; we don't have a choice. We were born of them. Kitschy, illogical, often defying common sense, these movies have made me who I am. They shape the way I conduct my love affairs or think about religion or treat my elders." Everyone can come up with their hypothesis, but it all boils down to one thing—connection. And no one else can understand that connection except the one who felt and lived through the connection. Like Aryan did not understand Gaurav's connection. This connection transcends the barriers of time, space, and sometimes, even death. Like Gaurav's connection. He might be dead, but his fan spirit will live on forever as a reminder of that connection.
Dialogue of the Day:
"Kitna bhi chilla lo, jati nahi aawaz us tak."
—Gaurav. Fan

P.S.—Where to get those super cool matchboxes with Shah Rukh on them?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Tamasha—Of Rushing Up and Down the Stairs

One of my absolutely favorite moments in Imtiaz Ali's Tamasha is the scene when Tara (Deepika Padukone) is reading Joseph Heller's Catch-22 at Social, and in her heart, she is waiting for Ved (Ranbir Kapoor) to show up. One day, he, finally, turns up, and she is thrilled. When she sees him sitting behind her, a smile comes up on her face, but deep inside, she is elated. Her wait has ended, and she is bursting with happiness, but she cannot share this moment with anyone. She immediately goes downstairs, trying to pretend as if nothing has happened. She pauses downstairs, then, comes back up, and again, rushes downstairs. This time she lets out an even bigger smile, and that smile has relief and ecstasy. She rushes up back again, and composes herself to show that everything is normal. The beats of Heer Toh Badi Sad Hai play in the background, and the scene conveys her emotions splendidly. It gives me so much joy to see that scene again and again, and I start smiling to myself. I have never experienced this feeling, but seeing Tara's emotions, it is as if this thing is happening to me. I started to think about her other scenes. Interestingly, there is another similar scene in the beginning of the film. When she is about to leave Corsica, she surreptitiously goes downstairs without saying a goodbye to Ved, but again comes back up. She goes to Ved's room, and they sleep together, and then, she comes back downstairs again. The song Heer Toh Badi Sad Hai starts playing. Again, something similar happens in the final scene in the tea conference in Japan. When she sees the ring on a tea cup, she rushes to the elevator, but it closes, and then she takes the stairs. She goes out and sees no one, and comes back up. This time, she meets Ved, and they finally spoke like they did in Corsica. In a deleted scene that follows this, Tara and Ved come back down. Immediately, before this scene, the beats of Heer Toh Badi Sad Hai had played, when the storyteller baba told the young Ved the story about Ranjha going to meet Heer. In all the three cases of rushing up and down, Tara finds Ved in some way or the other and meets him. Chronologically, when she rushes back to his room before leaving Corsica, Tara meets Ved physically in a sexual way. Second time, she meets the real Ved physically at Social after waiting for him for years. Finally, she meets Ved-Don in Japan physically again and also emotionally. In all three cases, Tara experiences happiness, even though the song talks about Heer's sadness. In fact, the film is full of scenes of Tara taking the stairs. Her house is full of stairs. When Ved and Tara sing Matargashti, there is a gorgeous scene of them together on the stairs. In Corsica, she is often seen near the stairs, and they sit near the stairs. They take the stairs together to her room, They take the stairs on the road. In a scene in which they go to watch a movie in Delhi, they are again seen taking the stairs. On the other hand, we don't see many scenes of Ved near the stairs alone except when he in his house in Shimla when he is young, and when he finally confronts his father about his life. Otherwise, he takes the elevator daily in his office. I am not sure if it was really intentional or not, but there is nothing that I can say with certainty about directorial intent. Perhaps, it has something to do being Tara being the guiding star to Ved to the ups and downs in life. The only connection that I could gather was that in one of the interviews regarding the making of the film (video link below), Deepika describes Tara as someone who is fast, and takes small steps. She is also seen near the stairs, perhaps, it has something to do with it. Of course, this may not mean mean much, but I was very curious, by the constant rushing up and down, and the number of such scenes that could have been edited out. Else, just listen to the gem of a song Heer Toh Badi Sad Hai again for its sheer uplifting quality :)

Oh, that realization and that magical feeling

He takes an elevator 

Tara takes small steps

Other Reading:
1. On Tamasha (link)
2. On Agar Tum Saath Ho (link)

Dialogue of the Day:
"Na khaati peeti.
Rona dhona mushkil.
Pyar ki loo mein itni jal gayi,
Loo meain jaana mushkil hai,

Loo meain jaana mushkil hai."
—Heer Toh Badi Sad Hai, Tamasha

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dum Laga Ke Haisha—Of The Force Of Gravity

There is a scene in Sharat Katariya's award-winning Dum Laga Ke Haisha that I have been trying to decipher ever since I have watched it. At one point in the film, Prem (Ayushmann Khurrana) is talking with his shakha teacher, and says, "Kal raat ko apni na sun saka. Yeh grahasth jeevan ka gurutvakarshan daldal me mujhe kheench ke rahega." This is the scene sequence after the night where Prem is not able to control himself, and tells his teacher that he consummated his marriage with Sandhya (Bhumi Pednekar). Gurutvakarshan—गुरुत्वाकर्षण—is the word that he uses to describe his attraction. Actually, the word is used to describe gravity in Hindi. Going back to the grammar classes, there was something called sandhi vichched where a word is broken into its component words. Using the same concept on gurutvakarshan, we can see that the word is derived from two words—gurutva and aakarshan. Gurutva is the abstract noun derived from the adjective guru, that means something that is big, large, or massive, while aakarshan means attraction. Therefore, we learn that gurutvakarshan is a force of attraction by virtue of being massive (or having mass), that is the force of gravity. In the next scene, Prem and his teacher keep discussing the same issue. Prem says, "Koi ilaaj nahi hai, shakha babu, meri kuntha ka." His teacher replies, "Yeh gurutvakarshan na hai, aakarshan hai grahasth jeevan ka." In the sense, Prem says that a gravitational pull is sucking him towards Sandhya, and his teacher says, it is not gravity, but the pleasure of sexual gratification to which he is attracted. Immediately after this discourse, we see Sandhya walking to an empty classroom, and practicing to take a lecture. Interestingly, the topic that she chooses to describe is nothing but again the law of gravity. She says, "Prithvi ki har vastu, har dusri vastu ki aur aakarshit hoti hai. Gurutvakarshan ka pehla niyam, lekin kyun vo ek dusre ki aur aage nahi badte, kyun thame rehte hai apni hi jagah, kyunki dono ek dusre ko apni aur kheenchne ki koshish me vahi ke vahi khade reh jate hai." All objects on earth are attracted to one other due to the law of gravity. But why do objects not move towards each other, and stay at the same place. Because in trying to attract one other, they remain at the same place.

Based on the above, a scientific element that can be read on the story of the film. As we know, gurutvakarshan or the force of gravity is directly proportional to the mass of the objects, and inversely proportional to the distance between them. In this context, Sandhya is the one with the more mass, in fact, the film makes it a point to show her overweight, and call hers fat at many times in the film. More mass also refers to Sandhya's much stronger intellectual capability than that of Prem. This can be used to imply that given her more mass, her force of attraction towards Prem is much stronger. Prem, due to his low mass and low stature, is the one that does not increase the force between the two. In a sense, we can also compare gravity to love. The similarities between gravity and love are quite interesting. Both gravity and love are non-contact forces, meaning that they do not require objects to be in contact with each other. Both gravity and love are attractive forces. Gravitational force increases by reducing the physical distance between the objects, while love increases by reducing the emotional distance between the lovers. Sandhya is trying to bring Prem closer to her, and reduce the distance (both physical and emotional, in this case). It is also worth noting that Prem means love. She is trying to attract Prem's prem towards her. Sandhya also sings Moh Moh Ke Dhaage. Moh—another word for an invisible force—that attracts one person to other.

The difference between the two forces is that gravity can be measured, while love cannot be measured. Gravity is a very weak force, while love, as Gandhi said, "Love is the strongest force the world possesses and yet it is the humblest imaginable can make."

Here is the slightly confusing part. Sandhya, then, talks about gurutvakarshan ka pehla niyam. There is no first law of gravitation in science, there is one universal law of gravitation, but there are three laws of motion. Laws of motion were given by Newton, just as the law of gravitation. In this context, perhaps, she meant the first law of motion. First law of motion says that an object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion with a constant speed and direction unless acted on by an external force. Although gravitational force attracts objects towards each other, objects don't move because gravity is a very weak force that is hardly perceptible, and also, the motion produced by gravity is canceled by other forces on the body, such as friction, producing no net movement in the body. But the first law of motion describes inertia. The tendency for an object to resist change in its motion is called inertia. Here, we understand Prem's inertia towards, he is resisting to move towards Sandhya, and he will move towards her if there is an external force acting on him. He has to overcome his lack of his self-confidence that is forcing him to not move towards her. 
It is again some sort of cosmic coincidence that the film's title is also based on dum that again means force. Dum Laga Ke Haisha—give in all your energy. The film's theme is based on a race where a husband has to literally carry the wife on his back. This race of obstacles is an allegory for the race of marriage and its similar obstacles. The dum that will drive this to completion is the dum of love, perched on his back, guiding him, and motivating him.

Dialogue of the Day:
"Ye moh moh ke dhaage,
Teri ungliyon se ja uljhe,
Koi toh toh na laage,
Kis tarah girah ye suljhe,
Hai rom rom iktaara,
Hai rom rom iktaara,
Jo baadalon mein se guzre."
—Dum Laga Ke Haisha

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Wazir—Of Queen, and Kismat

Bejoy Nambiar's Wazir is quite an interesting film. Initially titled as The Fifth Move, the film was supposed to be a Hollywood project, starring Dustin Hoffman. However, due to the death of the producer, the project never saw light of the day. When Bejoy met Vidhu Vinod Chopra, he chose the script, and Wazir was finally made, but this time in Hindi. 

Wazir is the story of Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) officer, Daanish Ali (Farhan Akhtar). In a freak encounter, his daughter gets killed, and he blames himself for it. He is on the verge of killing himself, but he meets a wheelchair-bound chess grand-master, Pandit Omkar Nath Dhar (Amitabh Bachchan), who has lost his own daughter, in what seem to be questionable circumstances. Both men, bound together by loss and grief, develop an unlikely friendship. However, there lurks a mysterious enemy who is threatening to harm them, and they both need each other's help to fight this demon.

I am familiar with chess, and used to play it as a kid. When I first saw the trailer of Wazir, I was a bit surprised to see that the title of the film is wazir, but the poster of the film, has a queen in it. I thought that, perhaps, this is some clue to the mystery in the film, as the characters of the film could be like the different pieces of chess. When I used to play chess, the bishop was called as the wazir. In fact, almost all reviews of the film have called wazir to be a bishop (link and link). I think this is part of some misunderstanding by everyone. A wazir is not a bishop. In Shatranj, the queen is called wazir. Even in Hindi, it is called wazir, while the bishop is called uth. The queen has different names in various languages—Arabic (wäziir, firzān), Russian (ferz'), Farsi (vazir, farzin), Uzbek (farzin), Hindi (farzī, wazīr) and Turkish (vezir). It is a European invention to call wazir as the queen, while all other languages have the same etymological root wazir that is gender-neutral, and means a minister. After watching the film, it becomes clear as to why there was a queen in the poster of the film, that is because in the film, wazir means the queen. In fact, at one point, during the scene with wazir (Neil Nitin Mukesh), the subtitle called it the queen. In the final scene, Omkar Nath gives a pen drive to Pammi and asks her to give the wazir to Daanish when he comes looking for it. The pen drive was in the form of wazir, and it is again the queen piece. 
It is in the final scenes of the film, the above meaning becomes even more clear. In the recording, Omkar Nath called himself as the pawn, a weak man, who can only take one step at a time. But slowly and slowly, he played his moves, and eventually reached the final square on the other end to become a wazir. In chess, a pawn can reach the other side and is, then, promoted. When a pawn reaches the position of the opposite side's queen, the player gets an opportunity to get a queen piece, while the pawn is removed. It is in this context that Omkar Nath became the all powerful wazir (queen) from a pawn. He sacrificed himself to play an elaborate game in which he used the powers of queen to checkmate his opponent. A wazir (queen/minister) is indeed the most powerful piece in chess, even stronger than the king, and the number of ways it can move is much higher than any other chess piece. In this game that he played, Daanish was the rook, the elephant. He used Daanish's anger and power to target Yazaad Qureshi. It was also worth noting that Daanish always attacked his opponents from the front, as the rook that can go only straight. Perhaps, people already knew that wazir is called a queen, but I thought a wazir is a bishop, and it is this confusion that needs to be removed. I should find as to when and why the wazir became a bishop.

We see that Omkar Nath keeps listening to Aao Huzoor Tumko that was his wife's favorite song. The song Aao Huzoor Tumko is from Manmohan Desai's Kismat (1968). I watched that film if there is any connection to that film. Kismat is also a thriller in which the police is trying to find a group of criminals involved in sabotage. The film stars Biswajeet as Vicky, and Babita as Roma. In the final scenes of the film, the mastermind is found to be none other than Roma's own father. His face mask literally breaks to reveal his face, while in Wazir, the twist involves breaking of the mask of another father when his reality is revealed to everyone. There are some laugh-out-sequences in Kismat that show the ultimate coolness of the movies of the sixties; from magical cars, to flying balloons, to revolving beds, to a band called The Monkees, it has everything. 
My favorite part in Wazir was when Daanish was about to kill himself in front of the grave of his daughter, a light is thrown on him. And, he stops. It is as if this was a message to him to see the light. Later, Daanish visits Pandit ji, whose house has a bell that is seen in the temples. Daanish has a Sikh friend Saartaaj, whose house is lined with the pictures of the Golden Temple. Daanish has a friend in SP, that is all we know about him but is played by John Abraham, a Christian. Perhaps that is the larger point that these extraneous labels don't mean much but what matters is the human bond, joined by the shared feelings of love, happiness, and loss. Like the very unlikely friendship of Pandit Ji and Daanish, sharing the same feelings of loss of a child, ans helping each other in every way possible. Yeh ladaai aapki thi. Ab hamaari hai.

Dialogue of the Day:
"Is game me haarne vale ki jeet hoti hai."
—Pandit Ji, Wazir