Sunday, July 30, 2017

Jagga Jasoos And The Magical World Of Anurag Basu

Anurag Basu's Jagga Jasoos is a delightful musical film. It is the story of a young detective Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor) who is in the search of his father. He is joined by a journalist Shruti (Katrina Kaif) who is also the narrator of the film. Saswata Chatterjee (Bob Biswas of Kahaani fame) plays Badal Bagchi/Tutti-Futti who had adopted Jagga as his child. The film is told as three stories of a comic book series named after Jagga Jasoos. The first part introduces Jagga and his detective skills where he solves the murder of one of his school teachers. In the second part, he meets Shruti and helps uncover an illegal arms-smuggling racket along the India-Myanmar border. Finally, in the third part, he goes on a search to find his father who has disappeared after getting involved in a related global arms-smuggling racket. Basu takes inspiration from the characters that influenced his childhood to create a beautiful mélange of a film that speaks to the inner child in all of us.

There is a lot of Anurag Basu's previous film Barfi! in Jagga Jasoos. While Barfi!'s protagonist was a deaf and a mute boy, Jagga Jasoos' stutters while he speaks; in a way, there is some speech-related defect in the lead character of both the films. There is a close relationship between the father and the son in the two films (also, the film begins by paying homage to Anurag Basu's father Subrat Bose). The female lead characters in the two films share the exact same name―Shruti Sengupta. There is a funny cop in both the films. There was Barfi, named similar to a sweet in Barfi!, and there is Tutti-Futti, named similar to an ice-cream in Jagga Jasoos. The two films have a similar setting, Darjeeling in Barfi! and Ukhrul in Jagga Jasoos, and look a lot like each other. In addition, there is a heightened color palette with gorgeous cinematography in the two films which makes them look magical as if the films are set in some fairy tale.
In addition to the above overarching themes, there are quite a few other similarities in certain scenes of the two films. There is a heartbreaking moment in Barfi! when Barfi goes to meet Shruti's parents and realizes that he is never going to be good enough for Shruti. Through his silent gestures, he communicates it to Shruti, wishes her the best, and then leaves. There is a similar scene in Jagga Jasoos when Jagga cries in front of the policeman who brings him the news about his father's death. Jagga tries to say something, but his emotions get the better of him, quite reminiscent of the scene from Barfi!. In Barfi!, Jhilmil and Barfi use the reflection of the mirrors to communicate with each other. Likewise, at an early point in Jagga Jasoos, Jagga uses the reflection of the sunlight on his window to wake up the caged birds of the policeman who stays nearby. In Barfi!, there is a song titled Aashiyan; in Jagga Jasoos, the hotel where Shruti stays when she comes to Ukhrul is also called Aashiyana. In Barfi!, at some stage, Barfi, after going through an emotional day, comes and sleeps along with his father on his bed. There is a replica of the same scene in Jagga Jasoos when the young Jagga comes and sleeps along with Tutti-Futti on his hospital bed, signifying the close relationship between the father and the son in both the films. In both Barfi! and Jagga Jasoos, Barfi and Jagga get to climb the top of a clock tower. In addition, falling lamp posts play a small part in both films. There are a few other scenes of Jagga and Shruti in Jagga Jasoos that are quite reminiscent of Barfi and Jhilmil of Barfi!, such as the scene where the two of them cross the waters of a river, and the scene where they are sleeping together. The scene where Jagga and Shruti go into the tunnel on a raft using wooden oars is like the one where Barfi and Jhilmil escape from the policeman on a train trolley where Barfi uses a wooden pole to move forward. Even some locations in the two films are the same, such as the place where Barfi lives in Barfi! is the exact same one where the injured brother of the smuggler is being treated in Jagga Jasoos

Jagga Jasoos and Barfi!
At some point in the film, Shruti tells the kids that we are all like comic characters and our stories are written by God. He adds in certain unpredictable plot twists if he wants to make two characters meet. This is like when Shakespeare had said that all the world's a stage and we are merely the players, playing our own parts. The film presents Jagga as a comic book character and his story is narrated in three comic books. Jagga is also inspired by other famous comic characters. Tutti-Futti makes a tuft of hair on Jagga, giving him a look like Hergé's famous character Tintin, who also had a similar tuft of hair. Jagga shares his love for solving mysteries and going on adventures with Tintin. There is a little bit of Indiana Jones in Jagga. There is also a little bit of Harry Potter in Jagga, when the film tells us that Jagga used to sleep under the stairs, just like Harry's room at the Dursleys. Additionally, Jagga and Harry wear similar eyeglasses. The film also has references to other fictional characters, such as Feluda and Sherlock Holmes. Shundi, the place where Jagga and Shruti go to in Mombaca, was also the name of the kingdom where Goopy and Bagha go in Satyajit Ray's Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. In that film, as it happens here where cakes are dropped from the sky, Goopy and Bagha drop sweets perched from the top of a temple's tomb after which people assume that they are Gods. 
Hindi films are often called musicals, however, the concept of a musical film genre is quite different. Although in fairness, over the years, the definition of a musical has become more subjective but still it is worthwhile to elucidate on the concept of a musical film. There have been very few true musical films in Hindi cinema, such as Shirish Kunder's Jaan-E-Mann (2006) and, perhaps, some parts of Shaad Ali's Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (2007). In a musical film, the music helps advance the plot. As Lee Hamilton writes, "A writer is going to have to use the same techniques to write a musical that they would a drama, horror or comedy. The most crucial difference is, of course, the use of musical numbers. Numbers function, not as light relief from the storyline, but like any other element, the dialogue or the scene, it must be active, advance the or develop the character." We saw a little bit of it in Barfi! which opens with a lovely song Ala Barfi that narrates the events of Barfi's life―Radio on hua, Amma off hui, toota har sapnaJagga Jasoos has a similar template but it uses the entire film as a musical to propel the story forward and which is what makes it a film truly belonging to the musical genre. The songs are not added as Hindi films, usually, have songs, but because they take the narrative forward. A song is reciting what the character might have said in words; however, since it is narrated in the form of a song, the result becomes a thrilling musical expression like an opera. 
In the beginning moments of the film, Tutti-Futti tells Jagga that the human brain is like a walnut. There are two sides of the brain―the left and the right. The left side is systematic and organized, while the right side is creative and a little nutty (quite opposite to what is seen in political ideologies where the Left is, typically, more artistic and creative as compared to the Right). The left side helps in speaking, while the right side is for singing. Tutti-Futti tells Jagga that he should sing which will help him in his stuttering and then he can see the magic. We, actually, experience the magic of this singing and the music throughout the film. Tukka Laga, Miss Mala, and Khaana Khaake are simply fabulous. Even the non-lyrical portions with only the music are a treat to watch. Whether it is the banging of the plates, the tapping of the feet, the imaginary playing of the piano, the pendulum of the clock, or simply the sound of a typewriter, it feels as if everything in the film is trying to create its own music. 
There is a lot in the film to not just visually experience but also to process and make sense of it. The proceedings are fast and I was struggling to catch up in some parts of the film. But I was never bored. The film treats the audience as intelligent to figure some things out. It does not spoon-feed everything and leaves some things for the audience. For instance, at an earlier point, Shruti was reading an Igbo-English dictionary. Later, when she is confronted by the Mombaca police, she starts singing in Igbo and we get it because she was reading that book earlier, she can sing in that language now. Or, for instance, there was a plaster on Bagchi's hand when he gives the tape to Sinha. Later, it all makes sense as to how he would have got the fracture when Shruti falls from one of the buildings and gets a similar plaster. In addition, there is great attention to detail in the film. A cyber café in Calcutta is called Stebe Jobs Café. In another instance, during the second half, Shruti and Jagga have to take a plane. Shruti asks Jagga if he knows how to fly one. He tells her that he has read it in the library. In the first half, we did see that there is a book called How To Fly A Plane that was clearly visible in his room. There are quite a few other books in the film as well. The second part of the film, Jagga Jasoos and the Murder on the Giant Wheel, takes a few points from Sugata Bose's His Majesty's Opponent, based on the life of Subhas Chandra Bose, and Jagga is shown reading the same book. Another book that the film showed was A Burmese Perspective but I have not been able to find the original book and its author. 

Anurag Basu also creates some really quaint whimsical moments. The film opens with a shot of a lone tree in Purulia. A similar shot of a single tree is repeated at different places in the film. At many points, when there is a scene cut, a giraffe just randomly walks across the screen. Talking of giraffes, when Jagga and Tutti-Futti unite in the end and hug each other, the film shows that the two giraffes are also trying to hug each other. There is a laugh-out scene involving a policeman and the phones. Mobiles are absent in the film. There is another wonderful scene comparing Agapastala hotels to Bikanwerwala sweets. I would be interested to know if there is some theory behind choosing a man with one body and two faces as the villain. Is it some indication of the two sides―good and bad? Also, the two faces are called Bashir and Alexander. Going by stereotypical rationale, the names belong to two different religions. Of course, only Basu can tell more about them, perhaps, if there is a sequel. 
I am not entirely sure as to how to fully explain it but there is somewhat of a continuous interplay of reality and fiction in the film. Recall the time when Jagga goes to meet Shruti at her hotel after the murder on the giant wheel. The camera shows us that on the television, there is some kind of a fight going on between two tribal characters. Then, Jagga and Shruti start throwing things at each other, like the events happening on the TV. In another similar depiction, during the Tukka Laga song, Jagga and Shruti jump into the room located just below their floor amidst the gunshots by the policemen who are trying to kill them. When they land in the room, there is a lady who is playing a video game in which she is shooting a few characters, mirroring what is happening to the film's characters. In both instances, the reality and the fiction in the film kind of merge. In addition, the film opens in Purulia depicting the famous arms-dropping case, and ends in Mombaca, a fictional place. The first half of the film is based on real-life places and plausible scenarios that could exist in reality. In the second half, the film moves to a realm of complete fantasy, where not only the events, but even the places they go to, such as Mombaca and Shundi, are fictional. Jagga and Shruti escape behind ostriches and fly a plane over 'imaginary' world maps. At an early point in the film, a kid asks Shruti if Jagga is 'real'. At that point, Jagga is depicted as a comic book character, and by the end of the film, Jagga makes a 'real' appearance at the kids' show. The larger point that I am trying to make is that the film creates a world combining both real-life and fantasy elements, something like the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez and Salman Rushdie. Someone with a better understanding of cinema can, perhaps, articulate this point better. 
The first time Jagga sees Shruti getting down from a bus, it reminds us of Tutti-Futti and his bad luck. At that point, I thought that Shruti is Badal Bagchi (don't blame me, anything is possible in Anurag Basu's world) in some form, or, perhaps, she is his daughter, and that would be the film's final twist. How can two people share the exact mannerisms or bad luck, without having any relation between them? It was a little discomfiting that a boy's love interest and his father are a 'carbon copy' of each other in their behavior. But what I really liked about the film is that it treated people with bad luck as equally important contributors. It might be funny to witness the things that happen to such people, but somehow, their bad luck brings in good luck to others as Jagga explains. Instead of mocking and ridiculing her, Jagga convinces Shruti to be his partner in his quest to find his father. That is an important takeaway. People who succeed despite having bad luck have no other factor except their own hard work as a reason for their success. And, the other important 'message', if it can be so-called, was the philosophy of the song Khaana Khaake. "Life ki simple si philosophy yeh jaan lo, hum yahan do din ke mehmaan hain, yeh maan lo, nonstop ek party hai, jahaan sab ko aana hai, aur khaana kha ke daaru pi ke chale jaana hai." Again, we see that Shakespearean theme as mentioned in preceding paragraphs, but this time, life is compared to a party, where everyone comes for a party, eats, drinks, and goes away. The song is wonderfully choreographed and it becomes one of the defining moments of the film which will make me remember the film. It is also deeply poignant that in the song they are celebrating the birthday of a dead person.
The film ventures into new territories, not only in its treatment but also in the places in the film. The film shows some cultural aspects of Manipur and Assam. When was the last time we saw a depiction of a real tribal community? The Kayan people look fabulous. It is great to see the North-East getting prominence in Hindi films. Earlier this year, Vishal Bharadwaj's Rangoon was also shot in Arunachal Pradesh. Instead of going to Europe and the Americas, the film is shot in Morocco in Africa, a relatively unexplored location for Hindi films. 
Ranbir Kapoor, who also turns producer with the film, is simply superb. This role is quite different from his other recent roles, but there has never been doubt about his acting prowess. He is amazing. Katrina Kaif is good enough. Saswata Chatterjee wins hearts with his portrayal of Tutti-Futti. But the film belongs to three people―Amitabh Bhattacharya, Pritam, and Anurag Basu. The music is the soul of the film, and it is only after watching the film, I started loving the songs. This would be half the film it is now, if not for the music. S. Ravi Varman's gorgeous cinematography deserves a special mention as well. I loved Shiamak Davar's choreography of Ullu Ka Pattha
The film opens with a tribute to Raj Kapoor, where we see his picture holding the clown from Mera Naam Joker, and the lines Gardish Me Taare Rahenge Sada from the song Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan from the same film written below it. Directed and produced by Raj Kapoor, Mera Naam Joker suffered big losses at the box office. The film was panned for its length and plot. It took nearly six years to complete and the film's failure almost led to the sale of Kapoor's RK Studios. However, over the years, the film acquired a cult status and found its audience, and is regarded as a classic today. It is worthwhile to observe the parallels between Jagga Jasoos and Mera Naam Joker. Jagga Jasoos has also been in the making for quite a while (over three years), and like his grandfather, Ranbir has put his own money into the film. Like Mera Naam Joker, the initial reactions have been mixed with the film being criticized for its musical nature. It is struggling to catch up on the box-office. By its very nature, the film is a huge risk given the experimental nature of the plot and the limited preferences of the Indian audience. But as Shruti says in Barfi!, "Life mein sabse bada risk hota hai, kabhi koi risk na lena." If no one takes a risk, how will the world move forward? Over the coming years, perhaps, Jagga Jasoos will also find its audience and will be considered a 'misunderstood masterpiece' like his grandfather's movie. If not, Gardish Me Taare Rahenge Sada. The stars will forever be in the sky. And, it will still remain a small but significant part of the history of the movies. 

Dialogue of the Day:
"Duniya me sirf do tarah ke log, keel aur hathoda, tumhe kya bannana hain tum decide karo."
―Tutti-Futti, Jagga Jasoos

"Chor jab tak pakda na jaaye, woh chor nahi, artist hai."
―Tutti-Futti, Jagga Jasoos

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Movie Patterns

Devdas and Pakeezah

Jagga Jasoos and Barfi!

Dialogue of the Day:
"बर्फी ने सिखाया था खुशियाँ छोटी छोटी चीज़ों में होती है..हथेली पर पानी में भी जहाज़ तैरते हैं..कागज़ की चिड़िया के भी पंख होते है."
—Shruti, Barfi!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

O. Henry in Hindi Cinema

William Sydney Porter was an American short-story writer. He is better known by his pen name O. Henry. His stories touch an array of themes, such as love, sacrifice, deception, and coincidence. In addition, his stories typically have a surprise ending. He lets the readers think that they have it figured out but then there is something waiting at the end of the story. He keeps the readers under suspense until the last sentence. His oeuvre is, thus, best suited to be made into films, and in fact, there have been quite a few Hindi films that have been inspired by his work. 

One of the earliest adaptations of O. Henry's works in Hindi cinema was Bombai Ka Babu (1960). Directed by Raj Khosla, the film was inspired by Henry's story A Double-Dyed Deceiver. The film is the story of Babu, played by Dev Anand, who takes to crime from a young age. After coming out of prison, Babu decides to mend his ways. He goes to meet his associate, Balli, who tries to convince him to join in another heist. Meanwhile, the police raids Balli’s hideout, and arrests all his associates. Balli is released on bail and suspects Babu of being a police informer. When Balli meets Babu again, there is a fight between the two and Balli dies on the spot. Afraid of being implicated again, Babu runs away to Shimla, where he gets entangled in another criminal racket. Bhagat, the leader of the gang, wants Babu to go in disguise as the lost son of a wealthy man, who had run away from home two decades earlier. Babu becomes Kundan, and is received with affection by the wealthy parents. His younger sister Maya has some doubts about her returned brother but never expresses it. Meanwhile, Babu falls in love with Maya. Bhagat continues to blackmail Babu to rob the family of their possessions. In the climax, Babu discovers that Kundan was no one else but his dead associate Balli. The romantic angle between the brother and the sister was not present in A Double-Dyed Deceiver but other events including the final twist were inspired by it. Bombai Ka Babu's ending is rare and unconventional with hints of incestual relations as the two lead actors with romantic inclinations end up as brother and sister. 
A variation of A Double-Dyed Deceiver was also seen in Ravi Chopra's Zameer (1975). Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saira Banu, and Shammi Kapoor, the film is about Badal, a small-time criminal, who is asked to impersonate the son of a rich farm owner Maharaj Singh. Badal is accepted by his new family. He falls in love with Sunita, but she is conflicted as he turns out to be her lost brother. Badal knows that he is not her brother but does not tell anyone. Circumstances bring Maharaj's real son Suraj into their lives. Years ago, a dacoit had abducted Maharaj's son to avenge the death of his own son who was killed by Maharaj during a robbery. After learning about Suraj, Badal takes up the responsibility of restoring Suraj to his family. Zameer has been cited as the remake of Bombai Ka Babu, but unlike that film, there is no twist in the end in this film. However, the theme of lovers as a possible brother-sister duo was present in Zameer, too. 
K.Shankar's Sachaai (1969) is based on Henry's another famous story After Twenty Years. The film starred Shammi Kapoor and Sanjeev Kumar in lead roles. It is the story of two friends Ashok and Kishore who are roommates living together. Ashok takes to crime, while Kishore is an honest upright man. The two friends disagree on living life honestly. They decide to meet each other after a period of three years to see the effect that life has had on them. In the ensuing period, things change a lot. Kishore becomes a hardened criminal Baghi Sitara while Ashok realizes it is not worthwhile to pursue a criminal career, and becomes a police inspector. Ashok is assigned the task of apprehending Baghi Sitara. On the other hand, Kishore must kill Ashok in order to carry out his nefarious activities. After three years, the two men have an emotional meeting, unaware about the other person's changed circumstances in life, as it happened in the original story by Henry.
Noted actor Pran's son Sunil Sikand made Lakshmanrekha (1991) that was also a retelling of After Twenty Years. The film starred Naseeruddin Shah as Amar and Jackie Shroff as Vicky. Amar and Vicky are close friends. Amar is a police inspector, while Vicky is a criminal. At some point, Amar's father is killed before his own eyes by Birju. Amar attempts to avenge his dad's death by plotting to kill Birju as he had managed to escape conviction by producing false alibis. When Amar tires to finish Birju, he is confronted by Vicky, who has now become a police inspector. Vicky will not permit Amar to take the law into his own hands. The basic premise of two friends changing their belief in the criminal justice system over the years is inspired by After Twenty Years
Priyadarshan's Vellanakalude Nadu (1998) is considered to be one of the classic films in Malayalam cinema. The film starred Mohanlal and Shobhana in lead roles. The film was remade in Hindi by Priyadarshan as Khatta Meetha (2010). The film's theme of the lead pair's changing opinion over the years about the ethics to be followed in life was again based on After Twenty Years. Khatta Meetha starred Akshay Kumar and Trisha Krishnan as the lead actors. It is the story of Sachin Tichkule, a small-time contractor, desperate to succeed in a society that is skewed heavily towards the corrupt. He gives up his Gandhian philosophy and becomes an immoral and corrupt man, ready to pay bribes to move ahead in life. However, a meeting with his ex-girlfriend Gehna, who is now an honest and upright municipal commissioner, brings a change in his conscience and he turns back to his ethical code of living.
Rituparno Ghosh's first Hindi film Raincoat (2004) was also inspired by Henry's story The Gift of the Magi. Henry's story is about a married couple, Jim and Della, and how they deal with buying Christmas gifts for each other, with their limited means. They both sacrifice their prized possessions to buy gifts to show their love for each other. Adapting beautifully to an Indian setting, Raincoat is about Mannu (Ajay Devgn) and Niru (Aishwarya Rai). They grew up in the same neighborhood and were lovers once. Due to Mannu's poor financial condition, Niru marries another guy. It is now six years later. Mannu has lost his job and needs money to start his own business. Niru, now a married woman, is dealing with her own financial problems as her husband suffered huge financial losses. She is also struggling to make ends meet. Mannu goes to visit Niru; they reminisce about the past, and make up false stories about their perfect life. In the end, like it happens in The Gift of the Magi, a surprise gift awaits the both of them, which becomes a testimony of their continued love for each other even after so many years.
Most recently, Vikramaditya Motwane made the poetic Lootera (2013). Set in 1953, it is the story of Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha) and Varun (Ranveer Singh). Pakhi is the daughter of a rich zamindar of Manikpur. Varun is an archaeologist who wants to excavate some sites near her house. Pakhi falls in love with Varun, but he turns out to be a thief who steals all the antique jewelry and artifacts from her house. Devastated by his betrayal, Pakhi moves to Dalhousie. She does not keep well. Every day, she looks out at a big tree outside her window, and thinks that when the last leaf of the tree falls, she will die that day. Varun comes to Dalhousie for another robbery, but the police is looking for him. He takes shelter in Pakhi's house, and learns about Pakhi's last leaf theory. Varun had always wanted to be a painter, and in the end, he paints a leaf and puts it on the tree outside Pakhi's house so that Pakhi can live. In doing so, he not only paints a masterpiece but he also seeks redemption for his betrayal and proves his immense love for Pakhi. The second half of Lootera involving the leaf sequences is based on Henry's The Last Leaf, which was the story of an old artist Behrman who saves the life of a young girl Johnsy, suffering from pneumonia, by giving her the will to live. Johnsy thinks she is going to die when the last leaf on the ivy vine outside her window falls. However, the leaf does not fall, and she starts to get better. The same day she gets better, Behrman dies. It is discovered that the last leaf on the ivy plant was painted onto the window by Behrman, who died of pneumonia which he contracted while being out in the wet and cold, painting the last leaf. 
Besides Lootera, Hrishikesh Mukherjee's directorial debut film Musafir (1957) has also been thought to have a few shades of The Last Leaf. The film is about a house and the lives of three families who live on rent in it for different periods. Musafir comprises three different stories related to the circle of life. The third story in the film is about a widowed mother Uma (Usha Kiron) and her son Raja (Daisy Irani) who cannot walk. Outside their house, Pagla Babu (Dilip Kumar) keeps on playing the violin. Pagla Babu is none other than Uma's ex-lover Raja, who had left Uma two days before their wedding, and after whom she named her son. A friendship develops between the young Raja and Pagla Babu. Raja tells Pagla Babu that he dreamt that there were big red flowers on the tree outside their house. Pagla Babu tells him that he will walk the day there are flowers on the tree outside. Meanwhile, it is found that Pagla Babu is suffering from cancer. Pagla Babu's health deteriorates and he dies. The day he dies, Raja starts walking and red flowers appear on the tree. Like it was in The Last Leaf, Raja walks on the same day when Pagla Babu, who had given him hope, dies. There is a contrast with Henry's story as instead of the last leaf falling, there will be flowers blooming in the tree. 

In addition, commentators have also noted the themes of melancholy and waiting for death in Musafir to be similar to that in The Last Leaf. In his book Hero, Volume 1, The Silent Era to Dilip Kumar, Ashok Raj writes, "Although the film [Musafir] presented Dilip Kumar as Devdas reincarnated, there was a difference; the lover-sufferer, in this case, is not restless, but in a state of chronic depression, which finds expression not in self-indulgence, but in a kind of resigned sadness. He keeps on playing his violin as if announcing his inevitable death any moment. It seems that Hrishikesh Mukherjee took this idea from The Last Leaf, the famous short story by O. Henry. In his later highly acclaimed film Anand (1970), Mukherjee transformed this role of death-in-waiting to a highly spirited positive character (played by Rajesh Khanna), a cancer patient, who intends to take death merely as a way of life. Anand, unlike Devdas, lives every precious moment of life with full zest before accepting an untimely death.
For the sake of completeness, one of the episodes of Doordarshan's TV serial Katha Sagar was also based on The Last Leaf. Starring Supriya Pathak, Neena Gupta and Irshad Hashmi, the episode was directed by noted film director Shyam Benegal. 

Henry had written, "There are stories in everything. I've got some of my best yarns from park benches, lampposts, and newspaper stands." His stories reflect that, and perhaps, that is what makes these films even more thoughtful as they help us discover the beauty of emotions in everyday life.

Other Reading:
1. Fyodor Dostoyevsky in Hindi Films—Link
2. The Oedipus Complex In Hindi Films—Link
3. Court Judgements Citing Films—Link
4. On RaincoatLink
5. On LooteraLink and Link

1. Bombai Ka BabuLink
2. ZameerLink
3. SachaaiLink
4. LakshmanrekhaLink
5. Khatta MeethaLink
6. RaincoatLink
7. LooteraLink
8. MusafirLink

Dialogue of the Day:
"Mera zindagi mein sab ne mera istemaal kiya, pyaar sirf tumne kiya."
—Varun, Lootera

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Random Screenshots

I have been having a bit of brain freeze for the last few weeks. I just cannot write anything and am struggling a lot to articulate. It seems I have completely run out of ideas. I guess it is the beginning of the end. And, yes, it has happened after the blog completed ten years this week; perhaps, it is tired, too. Just putting a bunch of shots which I did not get a chance to put earlier. 

The feeling of freedom and exhilaration in the films of Imtiaz Ali, opening up of arms and feeling the wind—Sejal (Jab Harry Met Sejal), Meera and Jai (Love Aaj Kal), Aditi (Socha Na Tha), Geet (Jab We Met), Ved (Tamasha), Heer (Rockstar), and Veera (Highway). 
Roses in the films of Sanjay Leela Bhansali—Paro (Devdas), Kashi and Mastani (Bajirao Mastani), Sophia (Guzaarish), and Gulaab Ji (Saawariya). 
The character of Sophia in Guzaarish seems inspired by Frida Kahlo. 

Looking at their lovers—Paro (Devdas), Pakhi (Lootera), and Charulata (Charulata).

Dialogue of the Day:
"College di gate de is taraf hum life ko nachate hai, te duji taraf ,life humko nachati hai."
—DJ, Rang De Basanti

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Raincoat—Mathura Nagarpati kahe tum Gokul jao

Rituparno Ghosh's Raincoat is a beautiful film. The film is inspired by a story by O Henry called the Gift of the Magi. The story is about a married couple, Jim and Della, and how they deal with buying Christmas gifts for each other with their limited means. They both sacrifice their prized possessions to buy gifts to show how priceless is their love. Adapting to an Indian setting, Raincoat is about Mannu (Ajay Devgn) and Niru (Aishwarya Rai). They grew up in the same neighborhood and were lovers once. Due to Mannu's poor financial condition, Niru marries another guy. It is now six years later. Mannu has lost his job and needs money to start his own business. Niru, now a married woman, is dealing with her own financial problems as her husband suffered substantial monetary losses. She is also struggling to make ends meet. Mannu visits Niru; they reminisce about the past and makeup stories about their perfect life. Like it happens in the Gift of the Magi, a surprise gift awaits both of them. 
In one of the film's songs, Mathura Nagarpati, the lyrics ask Lord Krishna why he is going back to Gokul. Krishna was raised in Gokul by Yashodha and Nanda. He went to Mathura, where he killed his evil uncle Kansa and became the ruler of Mathura. The song talks about why he wants to leave this great kingdom and go back to Gokul to his old love. His beloved Radha is a married woman who has moved on; then, why bring back the painful memories again. Why can't he forget her and move on?
Tumhari priya ab puri gharvaali,
Doodh navan ghivoo din bhar khaali,
Biraha ke aansoon kab ke ponch daali,
Phir kaahe dard jagao,
Mathura Nagarpati kahe tum Gokul jao. 

The girl you loved (Radha) is a married woman,
Busy all day with taking out milk, cream, ghee,
She wiped away the tears of separation long back
Why do you want to evoke that pain again?
Krishna, why do you want to go to Gokul?

Although the song is ostensibly about Krishna and Radha, it mirrors the life of Mannu and Niru. Mannu and Niru are like Krishna and Radha. They were lovers once. But now a lot has changed. Niru is married to someone else and is busy with her life. At the beginning of the film, Mannu's friend Alok tells him to not go to Niru's place. Alok reminds him that he took him out to watch the same movie again and again so that he could move on. Mannu's mother also tells him to not visit Niru. In the film's final moments, Alok's wife, Sheila, tells him that women are practical. She says that at that time, Niru's husband would have come back home, and she would be busy with him. Mannu believes that Niru would be reminiscing about him, but it is not like that. Niru would be busy with her own issues, and she won't be thinking about him. Tumhari priya ab puri gharvaali, doodh navan ghivoo din bhar khaali. Yet, Mannu will take a journey to go and meet Niru—his Radha. Thus, we see a playing out of the song in the story of Mannu and Niru. Like the eternal love between Radha and Krishna, who could not be together but formed a lifelong bond, Niru and Mannu share the same bond. Even after years, they still love each other. There is a leitmotif of Radha-Krishna in the film's other songs.
There is a deep poignancy in Raincoat's songs that is very touching. Every song of the film is layered with melancholy and loneliness. All the songs tell their own short story within themselves. Most of the songs have been penned by the inimitable Gulzar, while a few have been written by Rituparno Ghosh himself. Shubha Mudgal has sung these beautifully. Whenever I think about Shubha Mudgal, the first thing that comes to mind is the rains. Not only because of Ab Ke Saawan, but also because her songs have a certain nostalgia that reminds us of our past, like the same feeling one gets when he is listening to music when it pours outside. It is noteworthy that the film uses a powerful voice like Shubha Mudgal's in the background score. Piya Tora Kaisa Abhimaan is lovely, but my favorite is Akele Hum Nadiya Kinare, a song filled with so much loneliness.
Maajhi tora naam to bata,
Phir kaise pukare tujhe, kaise pukare,
Akele hum nadiya kinare.
Niru left Mannu because her parents fixed her wedding with someone who could provide her security in life. Niru had not seen the man she was marrying even once before her wedding. She married her [unnamed] husband for financial security, and Mannu's financial condition was not strong enough to take care of her. The film never judges Niru for her decision to marry someone rich. She did what she had to do. More than often, humans make choices that they think are the best for them at that point. The consequences of those choices are experienced only later. As Max Baucus said, Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but one cannot operate by hindsight. Even when Niru and Mannu are lying to each other, there is never a judgment on either of them.

We understand their reasons for doing so, and we don't judge them and their actions. However, there is a point in the film where it feels that the film wanted Mannu to have shown more himmat to convince Niru. When Niru is getting married, he comes and tells her that he has arranged the loan of the car that she wants. Niru tells him that she has known him for eight years, and he has shown his himmat only a day before her wedding. Later, the landlord also tells Mannu, "Agar kaleje me itna zor nahi tha toh kahe ki mohabbat." If you did not have guts, then why get into romance? It is here that it feels that Mannu should not have given up so easily after all what is the point of love if you don't fight for it. 
There is an early point in the film when Mannu is crying in the bathroom. Sheila listens to his crying from the outside, and, later tells him that he should put the shower on so that no one can hear him crying. The bathroom makes an appearance a few other times in the film. On being asked why she does not travel with her husband, Niru says that she is afraid she will get locked in a bathroom on the plane and no one will help her bring her out. Mannu laughs at her. Later, this bathroom again comes back. Niru tells Mannu that she wants to leave everything and fly away somewhere. Even if she is stuck in the plane's bathroom, at least she will go somewhere with it. She is locked even today, so what if she is stuck in the bathroom. Mannu tells her that one cannot be locked in a bathroom forever; someday, someone will come and open the door for her. Thus, both of them get their own bathroom scenes. He locks himself up and cries in the bathroom; she feels trapped in her house as if she is locked in a bathroom and wants to fly away. He has not moved on from his past and is not married, still locked in the past memories, while she is locked in the burden of perpetual poverty. There is an element of entrapment and loneliness in Niru, like Charu had in Charulata. As José Arroyo writes about Charulata, "The film's windows are closed off against the heat but seem semi-barred and begin to suggest a prison. She hears a bird. She's framed by her house, sumptuous but overwhelming in its immensity: it takes her a while to get to the drawer holding her opera glasses. Finally, she peeks at the world outside, with its music and it drums, its workers. Life is available to Charu only through opera glasses and barred windows." Likewise, we feel that Niru is trapped in her house, and here too, she keeps all the windows of her home closed as if she is in prison. 
The film's title Raincoat is given as it plays an integral part in the movie. The raincoat that Mannu wore had a letter about his hardships, which Niru reads when she wears it to bring food for him. Ironically, a garment worn to hide and protect becomes the medium through which something is revealed. Hence, the title is significant. In one of the raincoat pockets, Niru puts her own jewelry so that she can help Mannu in her own way. Mannu only finds out about it later when he reaches home. This is a classic trope of surprise endings in the oeuvre of O Henry, as we saw in another recent adaptation of his story in Lootera. And, as in Lootera, there is a feeling of melancholy in the principal characters in the film. 
In the film, Mannu says that he has not come to break Niru's marriage. After this stage, we hear a lovely song in the background. The song is Meri Jaan Mujhe Jaan Na Kaho and was initially sung by Geeta Dutt for the film Anubhav (1971). Directed by Basu Bhattacharya, Anubhav is the story of the relationship of Amar (Sanjeev Kumar) and Mita (Tanuja), a married couple who, after six years together, are trying to spice up their marriage. Mita is unhappy as her husband is always working. She tries to be intimate with him. However, Meeta's ex-lover Shashi re-enters Meeta's life and finds a job in the same organization as Amar, throwing her marriage again in jeopardy. Anubhav was the first in a trilogy of Basu Bhattacharya films based on marital relationships in contemporary urban India. In that film, there is a lovely dialogue where Amar tells Shashi, "Beeta hua kal aaj hamare beech tabhi aata hai jab hum aaj ko puri tarah jee nahi paate." The past memories come between us when we cannot fully live in the present. Rituparno Ghosh pays homage to the rain song from Anubhav, which also fits beautifully with Raincoat's own narrative. The song has beautiful lyrics by Gulzar and has many possible interpretations.
Sookhe saawan baras gaye, itni baar in aankhon se,
Do boondein na barsein, in bheegi palkon se. 
It is funny that when we meet people after a long time, we expect them to change as the general expectation is that people change with time. However, if two people had been meeting all the while, the change is not observed and the expectation of change diminishes. Niru tells Mannu that he has changed a lot in appearance and as a person. He has become darker, has lost weight, and has become quieter and more pensive. He tells her that she has not changed and is still the same as earlier. The two of them still remember many of their past memories, and they still have feelings for each other. She still feels jealous when he talks about any girl, be it his secretary or fiancée. 
Rituparno Ghosh creates some beautiful layered moments in the film that are hard to explain. When Mannu pays the rent for Niru's house, the landlord asks him that aapka prayashit hai ya prathishodh. Is it his penance or revenge? He does not answer, and he remembers when Niru was getting married, and she had told him that if they ever met again in life, she would act happy, and he won't get what she was acting. This is what she actually did when they met again. At some other point, Mannu tells Niru that since she wants a car with the same color as that of her bangles, he will fill it with roses so that the colors match. Niru advises Mannu to name his production house after her as this way, they could become life partners somehow. All through the film, the strap of Niru's bra is visible, perhaps, related to the comfort that they both had in each other's company. Niru's house is full of old antique furniture, symbolizing the past memories that they are still harboring in their hearts.
The character of Sheila was also a lovely one. She has her own background story where she did not get to marry the person she loved. The two women in the film get married to people who are not their lovers. Perhaps, this is why Sheila is always sympathetic to Mannu, as she understands the pain of unrequited love. She is also far more practical. She might still miss her old lover in some moments, but she has moved on with grace and closed that chapter of her life. Biraha ke aansoon kab ke ponch daali. 
There are quite a few interesting references in Raincoat. In the bathroom of the house of Alok and Shalini, there is a poster of Sophia Loren. I am not entirely sure about its context; perhaps, it is some film connection that I cannot find. At different points in the film, songs from other films are used. When Niru and Mannu are getting ready to watch an adult film, Sau Saal Pehle starts playing. When Niru is getting married, Mere Haathon Mein starts playing. When Mannu goes to meet Niru at her house in Bhagalpur, Jhoomka Gira Re starts playing. It is also worth mentioning that in the film's opening credits, all actors are called 'players.'
Sophia Loren
Harry Potter Books

When he narrates his business plans, Mannu tells Niru that he plans to name his production house "Rajni Productions" after the old TV show Rajani. He adds that his numerologist told him to change the name as a five-letter word is unlucky. He says he is planning to write it as Rajnee. But the fact is the original TV show was called Rajani and already had six letters. Years later, this would come true in some other form when Ajay Devgan changed his name to Ajay Devgn.

Shot in a record sixteen days, Raincoat is Rituparno Ghosh's first Hindi film. Aishwarya Rai and Ajay Devgn give fabulous performances. They both look at the part and channel the pain and the suffering of Niru and Mannu beautifully. They are ably supported by Mouli Ganguly and Annu Kapoor. The film's music and lyrics by Debojyoti Mishra and Gulzar add to the film's beauty. Over the years, the film has become a classic, and even after so many years, it does not feel dated.

Raincoat is a story of love, of the façades that we wear to pretend that we have moved on from that love. But in reality, there is still a lot of love left, and one can never really move on completely. There is always a corner of the heart where this love stays. And, someday, a torrential downpour will bring back the memories of this love, and then, even a raincoat won't be enough leaving us drenched in the myriad emotions of happiness and sadness. 

Dialogue of the Day:
"Kisi mausam ka jhonka tha,
Jo is deewar par latki hui tasweer thirchi kar gaya hai,
Gaye sawan me ye deewarein yun seeli nahin thi, 
Na jane kyon is dafa inme seelan aa gayi hai,
Dararein par gayi hain,
Aur seelan is tarah behti hai, 
Jaise khushk rukhsaaron pe geele aansun chalte hain,
Ye baarish gungunati thi, isi chhath ki munderon par,
Ye ghar ki khidkiyon ke kaanch par ungli se likh jaati thi sandese,
Girti rehti hai baithi hui ab band roshandano ke peeche,
Dopehrein aisi lagti hain,
Bina muhron ke khaali khaane rakhein hai,
Na koi khelne waala hai baazi,
Aur na koi chaal chalta hai,
Na din hota hai ab na raat hoti hai,
Sabhi kuch ruk gaya hai,
Woh kya mausam ka jhonka tha,
Jo is deewar par latki hui tasweer thirchi kar gaya hai."