Saturday, December 29, 2018

Food Lessons from Hindi Cinema in 2018

Another year is ending. It is the time of year-end lists. I usually do my best scenes list but this year, I thought to write something on the food and the lessons we got from it in the movies of this year. After all, food is something that sustains us all. And, as Sehmat's mother Teji (Soni Razdan) says in Raazi, "Khali pet iraade nahi bharte." Truly, the strongest intentions fall weak on an empty stomach.
Food choices became the subject of socio-religious commentary mirroring the real-life polarized climate between different communities in some films. In Mulk, a Hindu man secretly relishes non-vegetarian kababs and korma but pretends to be a vegetarian in front of the society. Some Hindus would come and attend functions in their Muslim neighbors' homes but would not eat anything there, even if special vegetarian food is served to them. Likewise, in Love Per Square Foot, Sanjay (Vicky Kaushal) and Karina (Angira Dhar) belong to different religions. Sanjay's parents eat the brownies made by Karina's mother only after she tells them that they are eggless. During their conversation, Sanjay's father Bhaskar (Raghubir Yadav) says that in their home, everyone is a vegetarian, and Karina's mother Blossom (Ratna Pathak Shah) responds that in their house, everyone is a non-vegetarian, thereby, raising concerns on the compatibility of the married life of their children. It is Sanjay's mother Lata (Supriya Pathak) who comes to the rescue when she says that let the kids decide their own life. In Mukkabaaz, Shravan's coach (Ravi Kishan) is almost lynched to death by the goons of Bhagwaan Das (Jimmy Sheirgill). However, he conspired in fake news and let out the word that there was beef that was being eaten at the house and he actually saved the coach. This is again inspired by some recent events where gau-rakshaks have indulged in the lynching of people whom they suspected to be cow smugglers. 
Food brings out the contrast in the personalities of Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh) and Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) in Padmaavat. Khilji devours red meat with his bare hands, while Ratan Singh eats vegetarian dishes, served in plates, representing barbarism and etiquette, respectively. One of the other scenes in the film also involves food when Ratan Singh invites Khilji to his palace. Khilji is a little suspicious of the intentions, so, he changes the plate offered to him with Ratan's and then changes it back, which makes Ratan laugh. It is a clever scene that depicts the mind games between the two. In Raazi, food is a source of confrontation. As a new daughter-in-law, Sehmat (Alia Bhatt) makes parathas for everyone in the house. However, Abdul (Arif Zakaria) questions her reasons for doing the same. He admonishes her that she does not know the eating preferences of the household members and she should have stayed out of the kitchen. As parts of the film are based in Kashmir, at some other stage, Sehmat asks for loquat but her mother says it is not its season but says that she had made badaam ka sherbet for Sehmat.
The women in Lust Stories again make a comment on their lust through their food choices. Three out of the four short stories in the anthology film end with women talking about food. A piece of mithaai provides a sweet feeling to Sudha (Bhumi Pednekar) who gets to experience lust for some moments in her life. In an earlier scene, the girl who is getting married to Sudha's employer Ajit (Neil Bhoopalam) picks up a cookie and asks him, "You want to share half?" Sudha has shared the same man with her in some ways. When Reena (Manisha Koirala) leaves the house, she compliments Libertina (aptly named) that the fish fry she made was great, reflecting the game that she played with the two men in her life. Megha (Kiara Advani) wants to just have ice cream when her husband Paras (Vicky Kaushal) asks her final decision to move back with him which is nothing but another term for the fulfillment of women's hasrat (desire).
In a lovely shot in Lust Stories, Sudha puts lemon juice over a plate of poha. We see poha appear again in Andhadhun. Sakhu (Chaya Kadam) serves Akash (Ayushmann Khurana) a plate of poha when she is trying to hatch a plan to steal his kidney. There is another variety of poha in the film called the Chinese poha that Rasika (Ashwini Kalsekar), the police inspector's wife, serves him which he absolutely hates. In fact, all the women in this film get a scene where they feed something to the men. The Machiavellian Simi (Tabu) prepares crab meat with her hands covered in red sauce as if portending the future where she will have the blood of her husband on her hands. Sophie (Radhika Apte) also makes an omelette for Akash which he calls it the best that he ever ate.
We saw some men also trying to cook for their wives and their daughters in some films. In Sui Dhaaga: Made In India, Mauji's father (Raghubir Yadav) tries his hand at making food for his sick wife as Mauji (Varun Dhawan) and Mamta (Anushka Sharma) are delayed because of work. The rotis don't seem to turn out that well as shown by Mamta's expressions. In Pad Man, the trope of maa ke haath ke khaana is reversed to become the papa ke haath ke khaana where Pari's IIT Professor father (Suneel Sinha) makes food for her so that she can miss him when she is married. He learned cooking because one can truly enjoy fatherhood by becoming a mother. Baap hone ka mazaa maa ban ke hi aata hai. He makes the most delicious vathal kuzhambu for Pari (Sonam Kapoor). Food teaches an important lesson to the enterprising Laxmi (Akshay Kumar), too, where he gets the idea of compressing the pads while eating some puffy chhole bhature
Food played a role in budding romances between the lovers in some films. In Laila Majnu, Qais (Avinash Tiwary) flirts with Laila (Tripti Dimri) by secretly paying for pastries at Chaai Jaai restaurant. Later, he buys pastries for all her friends in college on her birthday. And, then, again, he plays a server at a wedding where he offers her a pastry and slips his phone number along with it. Qais and Laila also love to eat softy ice cream. In Once Again, food becomes the medium of communication between Tara (Shefali Shah) and Amar (Neeraj Kabi) where she sends him lunchboxes from the Mangalorean restaurant that she runs. In a lovely scene, Tara puts her hands on Amar's face to make him smell the scent of the herbs that she had put in the salad. Like their old-school romance, the kitchen in Tara's restaurant consists only of traditional types of equipment. When she cooks fish, she uses a furnace where she puts the raw fish wrapped in banana leaves and covers them with sand.
It seemed that food had a short supporting role in some films, too. In Manmarziyaan, there are lovely shots of samosas, jalebis, laddoos, and lassi during the wedding preparations. Kaka Ji (Saurabh Sachdeva) is disappointed when he sees ghiya at dinner and sarcastically replies back to his wife that he will give her divorce only after she makes kofte. He also tries to convince Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan) to select a girl as she knows how to make achaar. At another stage, Rumi (Taapsee Pannu) tries to please Robbie when she lovingly makes paneer ke pakode for him. We see something similar in October as well where people are often seen eating and the food is shot exquisitely. At one stage, Dan (Varun Dhawan) and his friend eat khichdi (which was also in Piku) while discussing Shiuli's (Banita Sandhu's) accident. Later, Dan becomes a sous chef at a top hotel where he prepares pasta and salmon, reflecting his transformation as an individual who finally grows up. 
Street food continued to mark its presence in many movies this year as well. In Manmarziyaan, Rumi eats gol gappe whenever she is angry. She wants them to be extra spicy even if they will burn her tongue. The friends in Veere Di Wedding talk about the problems in their life while gorging gol gappe. In Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Sonu (Kartik Aaryan) tries to convince his Titu (Sunny Singh) to not marry when they are out on the streets eating kababs. In Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, an American spy manages to extract vital clues from the team members working on the confidential nuclear project while eating chaat. The spy claims to love teekha but cannot bear the heat and has to spend the next morning battling dysentery. In Sui Dhaaga: Made In India, Mauji and his father have chowmein from a street shop after a fight with a neighbor.
Food assists the warring sisters in Pataakha to realize that they cannot survive without each other. Badki (Radhika Madan) eats a raw bhindi (okra) from the field, a reminder of the time when she put red chillis in her younger sister's favorite dish. On the other side, Chhutki (Sanya Malhotra) drinks a glass of milk, of which her elder sister ran a business. Only after this, they start recuperating from their health issues. In Karwaan, food is used for the celebration of death which it treats with a lightness. Like a success party on a journey reaches its destination, death is treated in the same way here. The acerbic Shaukat (Irrfan Khan) makes mutton and Tanya (Mithila Palkar) bakes a delicious chocolate cake after the funeral ceremony of their relatives. Earlier on this road trip, Avinash (Dulquer Salman) meets his ex-girlfriend Rumi (Kriti Kharbanda) whom he had ghosted in college. He gets to have a grilled cheese sandwich at her place and learns some valuable life lessons from her as well. 
In Pari, Rukhsana (Anushka Sharma) is desperate for food which leads her to eat leftovers from the dustbin. Arnab (Parambrata Chatterjee) stops her and prepares rice for her and gives her all of it which she devours like a hungry child. In Bioscopewala, Rehmat Khan (Danny Denzongpa) comes to stay at Minnie's (Geetanjali Thapa's) place and is searching for food in the refrigerator when Minnie catches him there. Like a young kid, he has peed all over the floor and it is only later we learn that he is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
There are some other small but worth-mentioning food moments in films as well. In Badhaai Ho, Priyamvada (Neena Gupta) makes Rooh Afza for her friends at the kitty party at her house. Her husband Jeetender Kaushik (Gajraj Rao) brings mangoes for his family which he does not share with either his neighbors or subordinates. In Zero, Aafia (Anushka Sharma) and Bauua Singh (Shah Rukh Khan) eat bread pakoras in their first meeting, almost reminiscent of Shruti (also, Anushka Sharma) and Bittoo (Ranveer Singh) in Band Baaja Baaraat gorging and swearing on bread pakoras, adding to the film's myriad meta-themes. In Mitron, Jai (Jackky Bhagnani) wants to be a cook but his father is not convinced. He manages to find a business-savvy partner in Avni (Krtika Kamra) and start a successful food truck business. In Fanney Khan, Adhir (Rajkummar Rao) makes eggplant noodles for his friend Prashant Sharma (Anil Kapoor) which he really likes. Dhadak opens with a khaane ki jung with a competition that requires eating mounds of items, such as kachorisghewar, and green chillis that will surely put one off food for some time. Additionally, this year, we continued to see films with confrontational dinner scenes (such as Hichki, MantoRaid, Raazi, and Veerey Di Wedding) and films that had food in their titles (such as JalebiKhajoor Pe Atke, and Rajma Chawal)
Hope you liked the above and did not hate the other writings on this blog that I wrote this year. I will try to improve and write more and better. Let's see what the next year brings. So Long, 2018!

Other Reading:
What I Learnt from the Movies in 2017—Link

Dialogue of the Day:
"Khali pet iraade nahi bharte."
—Teji, Raazi

P.S.—I run a Twitter account called @FoodInFilms. Unfortunately, I have not updated it for films from 2018. I will try to do that soon. Follow it, if you like. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Manmarziyaan—Let Your Soul Fly

One of my favorite scenes from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is the one where Chutki (Pooja Ruparel) catches Simran (Kajol) and Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) secretly meeting at the terrace. She advises Simran not to marry Kuljeet (Parmeet Sethi) because she does not like him, instead she says that she likes this Chhat Vala guy. Mujhe naa yeh chhat vala bahut pasand hai. I really like this terrace-hopping guy. I could not help but get reminded of this scene again while watching Anurag Kashyap's Manmarziyaan which also opens with Vicky (Vicky Kaushal) hopping the roofs to meet his girlfriend Rumi (Taapsee Pannu) at her place. He always comes to her room via the terrace and never uses the front door. While Raj had a reason to come from the roofs as he and Simran were secretly planning something, there is nothing that really stops Vicky from having his affair openly except his own lack of commitment. Writer Kanika Dhillon explores first love, commitment, arranged marriage, and modern-day romance for the millennial generation in Manmarziyaan. As they say in Grey Waala Shade, "Zamaanaa hai badla, mohabbat bhi badli, ghise pitey version nu, maaro update." The world has changed, and so has love. Now update the old versions.
The film is the story of Rumi, a hockey player, living with her family in Amritsar. She is having an affair with Vicky, a part-time disc jockey (DJ) who wants to be Honey Singh. Vicky is the typical commitment-phobic guy. Tu banda na bada sahi, lekin zimmedari ke naam pe hag deta hai. You are a great guy, but you shit in the name of responsibility. There is no parental opposition that stops them from getting together; however, Vicky is not ready to get married. He does not even want to get engaged. He wants to enjoy the fun without taking any responsibility. He is the kind of person who forgets his wallet when running away from home. Frustrated with Vicky's attitude, Rumi agrees for an arranged marriage with Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan), a banker working in London. Robbie knows about Rumi's relationship with Vicky, and yet he agrees to marry her. After some more broken promises of Vicky, Rumi and Robbie are eventually married. The film shows us the chaotic struggles of the three to make sense of their messy love lives. 
One of the best things about the film is Taapsee Pannu's stupendous performance as Rumi. She owns this character completely even if we have seen shades of this character before. If there is one word that describes Rumi, it is unapologetic. She is not afraid of anything in life. Sharam ke chakkar me zindagi kharab kar loon kya? Should I spoil my life because of shame? She answers back to people without any hesitation. She believes she is always right. She drinks and smokes. She drives a bike. She colors her hair. She has passionate sex and wishes for multiple orgasms. She has undergone an abortion. She is called Laal Paridaayan, even an atom bomb. She has no regrets in life. Named Rumpreet (as mentioned in the annulment papers) but called Rumi, after the Sufi poet, she truly follows the wishes of her heart—manmarziyaan. Perhaps, that is why she can be seen running all through the film in her sneakers. She does whatever her wandering soul tells her to do. A poster in her room reads, "Be your own hero." Another one says, "This girl can." She really can.
Manmarziyaan emphasizes contrasts between the two men in Rumi's life. Vicky or Robbie. Boyfriend material or husband material. Intense first love or calm maturing-with-time love. Love marriage or arranged marriage. Blue-colored hair or turban-covered hair. In addition, there is the motif of the twins in the film that represent some kind of duality. Two twin girls (played by Poonam and Priyanka Shah) keep appearing near Rumi at different stages in the film. They symbolize the conflict in Rumi's mind. In Kashmir, two twin boys are again seen near Rumi where they are drinking kahwa. This sense of duality is seen in other little things in the film, too. The characters talk about Pyaar (love) and Fyaar (lust). Only a letter differentiates the two. An advertisement on the radio talks about a website that is called Shaadi Waadi. Later, Rumi explains the difference between Y and J (Yonex and Jonex) to a customer in her shop. The film's title also displays this duality where it can be seen that it is written in two colors. A passionate pink gives in into a more sedate yellow, mirroring the events of Rumi's life.
Vicky is not a bad person at all. He really loves Rumi. After her wedding, he wants her to move on but does not want her to hate him. At many places, when Rumi tears him apart or even slaps him, I assumed that he will hit back and react violently. But he never does that. He knows that Rumi is saying the truth, but he does not want to hear it. His indecisiveness might be a flaw but it is not a toxic one. In the last few years, cinema has focused on the internal conflicts of the characters. Vicky is suffering from the same syndrome. As his father explains, all his life, he just moved on from one thing to another. From the different toys he wanted in his childhood to the different careers he switched in his adulthood, he has followed his own manmarziyaan. His father adds, "Uski shaadi kahin aur pakki ho gayi hai, eda mann pakka nahi hoya abhi tak." There, her wedding is fixed, and here, his mind is not fixed yet. Vicky Kaushal is superb in portraying the angst of his namesake.
For me, Robbie was perhaps the most fascinating character in the film. The role suits Abhishek Bachchan perfectly and he has played him with utmost restraint and dignity. When his mother asks him to select Lovely instead of Rumi, he says that he agreed to arrange marriage but that does not mean he will kill his soul. Iska matlab yeh toh nahi hua ki apni aatma maar deni hai maine. Unlike the self-sacrificing Ram Ji type of characters that we have seen before, there is something mystical about Robbie. He is not that innocent and is far from perfect. It is later we learn that he had his own chequered past where he, too, made mistakes. He had also hopped roofs (like Vicky) at some point in his life. In another film, Robbie would have easily let go of Rumi but here, he takes the film into interesting territory when he starts his own mind games. At some stage, Rumi goes to his place and informs him that she is eloping. During that particular scene, Robbie takes out his turban, smokes a cigarette, and calls Kaka Ji where he asks him to manipulate Vicky's parents. It is here that the dark element in Robbie fully comes out. He will not let go off Rumi without a fight. After the wedding, he plays cool and does not ask any questions to her. He gives her a choice to leave the marriage but there is a feeling that he is onto something. He is hurt when he learns that Rumi thinks of Vicky when she sleeps with him. Rumi had never mentioned it explicitly but only days before, she asked him to either switch off the lights or close his eyes which made Robbie assume this as the truth. This makes him realize that he cannot accept this and decides to walk away from his marriage.
In Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, which has my favorite performance of Abhishek Bachchan, Rishi is raging with fire when he finds out about the affair between Maya (Rani Mukerji) and Dev (Shah Rukh Khan). He questions Maya if she slept with Dev. Rishi is unable to accept that his wife is sleeping with another man. In almost a parallel contrast in Manmarziyaan, Robbie is in a state of complete chaos when he believes that Rumi thinks about Vicky when they have sex. Unlike Rishi, Robbie is not as disturbed by the relationship (even physical) between Rumi and Vicky as much as he is by the thought of Rumi thinking about Vicky. While Rishi reacted violently, Robbie displays controlled anger. He thought he would be fine, but things did not work out the way he had hoped, and lands in his own emotional mess. His internal turmoil can be clearly seen in the song Hallaa. "Mann wich halla halla halla hai, pyaar tu kalla kalla kalla hai." There’s a turmoil inside my head. Love, You are a lonesome being. What is noteworthy about this particular sequence in the film is that here for the first time we see Robbie around the twins instead of Rumi, symbolizing the chaos in his mind. The twin girls are almost always in perfect sync when they are near Rumi, but with Robbie, one of the girls is hidden behind the other and tilts her head the way Robbie does in that scene. I felt as if the film was making some comment here which I am still trying to grasp.

 
Comparisons of the film with Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam will be inevitable as essentially Manmarziyaan has the same premise as that of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's film—a woman lets go of her first love and ends up with her husband. Besides that, there are quite a few other similarities and contrasts that provide a lens to view the two films. In Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Sameer (Salman Khan) is an aspiring musician; in Manmarziyaan, Vicky is a part-time DJ and an aspiring Honey Singh. In the former, when Sameer is asked to leave the house, Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) runs after him but a game of statue makes her freeze after which he walks away. In the latter, when Rumi is getting married, Vicky comes to her house and remains standing all day like a statue as Rumi's uncle says but Rumi asks him to go. I felt that the way both these scenes have been shot is quite similar. In Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Nandini almost died when she tried to run after Sameer in Italy but Vanraj (Ajay Devgn) stops (and saves) her. She is angry at Vanraj for doing that and questions him as to why is he helping her and trying to be god. Kyun bhagwaan banne ki koshish kar rahe hain aap? In a similar vein in Manmarziyaan, Rumi questions Robbie's attitude when he asks her to take her time to be in their marriage. She replies, "Sabko devta banna hai yahan pe." Everyone is trying to be a saint here. In the end, we see it is Nandini who runs to Vanraj where she tells him that she wants to be with him; something similar happens in the other film, where it is Rumi who runs towards Robbie after sending him a friend request. We can also study the contrasts between the two films. First is the way the two films treat sex. In Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Nandini's naïvete in the matters of physical intimacy is visible when she thinks that she can get pregnant by a mere kiss; on the other hand, in Manmarziyaan, there is Rumi who is unapologetic about sex and has even undergone an abortion all by herself. In the former, Vanraj and Nandini do not have sex with each other after their wedding as in the words of Vanraj, "Shaadi sirf jism ka rishta nahi, man ka milan hai, aatma ka rishta hai," while in the latter, Robbie and Rumi have no hesitation in having sex even if Rumi is in love with the other person. She continues to have sex with Vicky as well after her wedding. Manmarziyaan's attitude towards sex is not virtuous at all. Additionally, Robbie and Vanraj can appear to be similar; however, Robbie is not really the self-sacrificing type like Vanraj. And, in what can be called a cosmic connection between the two films, Aishwarya Rai and Salman Khan fell in love while making Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam as if they were mirroring the story of Nandini and Sameer. Years later, Abhishek Bachchan, the real-life husband of Aishwarya Rai, plays the role of the husband in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam's retelling in the age of Tinder and Facebook. If Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was made today, Nandini could have easily found Sameer on Facebook. Vanraj could have easily tracked Sameer by his shows on YouTube. Really, so many films will make no sense if they were remade today.
Ever since I have watched the film, there have been some scenes and characters that keep coming back to me. After his separation, Robbie meets Lovely (Sukhmani Sadana), the dentist, at a restaurant. With tears in his eyes, he is talking to her about Rumi all the time. He tells her if there is something she wants to ask him. She has only one question—"Mera naam kya hai?" What is my name? Robbie is stunned and is unable to answer. She further adds that there is no need to hurry. He should take his time. These are the exact same words that Robbie had told Rumi when he gave her a choice to stay in the marriage. Koi jaldi nahi hai. Take your time. There was something extremely graceful about Lovely and the way she peeped inside Robbie's soul in minutes. Maybe she would have been the Robbie to Robbie if their match had been finalized. This one line of hers made me respect her. In the same vein, I found Robbie's father to be endearing. He does not speak much but he understood people so well. His conversations with Robbie while having a drink are heartfelt. I smiled when he sees Rumi and Robbie drunk and says to his wife, "Bachche comfortable ho rahe hain." Even the characters of Kaka Ji who runs an arranged-marriage bureau but his own wife wants a divorce and Rumi's Aunt who knows how to steer a conversation (just watch the scene where she quickly saves herself when she what does she know about 7-11s) are wonderful. 
One thing that kept popping up in the film was the animal-related references. Vicky was called a neela kukkad (rooster) by Rumi's aunt as never comes home like normal human beings. He is also called a shuturmurg (an ostrich) by his father. Rumi calls herself a dragon who spits fire when she is angry. She is also the sherni—the lioness—as mentioned in the song Sherni. She roars like a lioness and has a foxy mind. At some other point, Rumi and Robbie are talking about a gadha (donkey) and a bakra (goat). Post the wedding, Rumi is watching a Nature-type show on television where they are talking about the mating of lions, mirroring the actions of Robbie. At a later stage, Rumi is again watching a similar show but this time, it is about the mating of simians. In addition to these, there are gorgeous shots of food in the film. Samosas, jalebis, laddoos, lassi, and pakore, even ghiya—the food here looks more delicious than the way it was shown in recent food films, such as Chef and Mitron.
There is also a very visible touch of DevD, Anurag Kashyap's other love story, in Manmarziyaan. The twins in Manmarziyaan are reminiscent of the Twilight Dancers in DevD. At another point, Vicky and Rumi come out from the fields of Punjab after engaging in some sexual activity, something Paro and Dev did in DevD as well. Remember Paro took a mattress on a cycle to the fields. The cinematography at places, such as the one where Rumi and Vicky are on a bike, where the camera appears to move faster is like Dev's movement in DevD, too. There is the commonality of Amit Trivedi's music between the films and some similar colorful shots as well. 
One criticism of the film is the length of its second half. There is a drop in its pace and it goes into a mode where nothing exciting is happening for some stretches. If it was about twenty minutes shorter, the film would have been much better. Also, in the second half, the music tries to do the job of the characters. And, I had to rely on the subtitles (excellently done) to fully understand the lyrics of some Punjabi songs. Amit Trivedi's music by itself is just splendid, definitely among of the best this year. I don't know which one is my favorite song. I loved Darya, Grey Wala Shade, and Hallaa. There is also a beautiful line in Chonch Ladhiyaan that says, "Jis wal vekhan kalandar naache, bande andar Paigambar naache." The moment I saw a Qalandar dancing, it felt like God is dancing inside a man. Shellee's lyrics deserve a detailed analysis of its own.
The film's two best sequences come at the end of the first and the second half. In the first one, Rumi is waiting for Vicky so that they can run away again. Vicky is in his car behind her, thinking if he should go ahead. He cannot take a decision again. For a minute, when he flashes the headlights, I thought Rumi would turn back, instead, he turns back his car with tears rolling down his eyes. And, Rumi speaks words from Main Tenu Phir Milangi, a poem written by Punjabi writer Amrita Pritam (to whom the film is also dedicated). The background music makes the scene even more beautiful. At the end of the second half, Rumi and Robbie walk together where she starts telling him the answers to the questions that he had asked her earlier. She opens up about herself. She likes to eat Gol Gappe when she is angry. She admits to manipulating her family members using the death of her parents. Robbie talks about his past life before he became Ram Ji. They also talk about the thinking behind their actions in the last few weeks of their lives. The sequence is beautifully done, almost feels like Céline and Jesse walking and talking in Before Sunrise.
At one stage, Vicky's father chides Vicky for his plans to elope with Rumi. He says that he was living fine absolutely fine till now; but when Rumi is getting married, he is saying he cannot live without her. Manmarziyaan explores this idea that not getting together with your first love is not really the end of the world. Life moves on and love can be found again. Like when Robbie asks Rumi if she loves him. She says, "Ho jayega pyaar." It will happen slowly. Wish there was an app for that, too. 

Trivia:
1. At one point, Robbie says that the name of the first girl he kissed was Kanika, which is also the name of the film's writer, Kanika Dhillon.
2. In the scene when they are drunk, Rumi and Robbie talk about Sholay, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, and Baazigar. At another point, the film Queen is also mentioned. 
3. Sukhbir's Ishq Tera Tadpave on Rumi's cellphone; Itna Karona Mujse Pyar on Vicky's cellphone.
4. Vicky wears shirts of Jim Morrison and Frankenstein
5. Led Zepplin in Robbie's room
6. This joke that we have seen in some forwarded messages.
7. Text message
8. This subtitle
9. Let your soul fly
10. I was trying to validate if Indian laws allow for annulment if a marriage is not registered. I could not get confirmation, but it is mentioned that even if a marriage is not legally registered and if the ceremony has taken place, the marriage is considered legally valid. There are only a few grounds for which an annulment can be sought. In that case, Rumi and Robbie would have to undergo a full divorce, given that their marriage was also consummated. 
11. Not related to the movie but a few days ago, this beautiful tweet was trending on Twitter. This is so moving. 
The Cutting Scissors:
Dialogue of the Day:
"Main tenu phir milangi, 
 Shayad ek khayal banke,
Tere mann mein jotrangi,
Ya tere mathe di lakeer banke,
Khamosh tenu takhti rawangi,
Main tenu phir milangi,
Kithe, kis tarah, pata nahi,
Main tenu phir milangi."
—Amrita Pritam (spoken by Rumi in Manmazriyaan)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Circus in Cinema

It is rightly said that films record human history. As time passes, the changes in society are visible in the films as well. For some time, I have been thinking about how certain professions are not seen anymore in our movies, just like it happens in real life. Characters of postmen in films were quite common earlier but we no longer see them. Instead, these days WhatsApp and Twitter find a place in the lyrics of songs. Likewise, circuses were wildly popular in the earlier decades. However, as new modes of entertainment come in, circuses lost their charm. I thought to document the instances in Hindi cinema where circuses have made an appearance.
One of the earliest appearances of a circus in Hindi films is in S.S. Vasan's Chandralekha (1948). The film tells the story of two brothers named Veer Singh (M.K. Radha) and Shashank (Ranjan), who are fighting with each other over their father's kingdom and for marrying the village dancer Chandralekha (T. R. Rajakumari). Shashank's aides imprison Veer Singh in a cave and seal its entrance with a boulder. Chandralekha rescues him with the help of elephants from a passing circus troupe. Later, Veer Singh and Chandralekha join the circus to hide from Shashank's men. However, they are found out by spies when Chandralekha performs at the circus after which they run away again. The film was originally made in Tamil but was later remade in Hindi with a few changes. It was considered to be the most expensive film made in India at the time.
The circus was also an important part of the film Circus Queen (1959). It starred Fearless Nadia along with the action hero of the time John Cawas. Directed by Noshir Engineer, the story of the film is based in a circus called The Great Punjab Circus. A five-year-old child enters the lion’s cage and Usha Devi, the star performer of the circus famous globally as Circus Queen, rescues the child. Later, it is found that the lost child is the son of a wealthy father and is also a part of a kidnapping plot. Usha Devi and Detective Kishore save the child and help him return to his family. 
In K. Mishra's Yeh Dil Kisko Doon (1963), Shashi Kapoor plays Raja, a rich man, who leaves his home and roams the town as an aawara man. He meets and falls in love with a girl Sherry (Ragini) who works at a circus. With Sherry's help, Raja finds work at the same circus. Murder In Circus (1971), directed by A. Salam, is also based at a circus where a string of mysterious murders is taking place. The murders revolve around a stolen case of diamonds, with many possible suspects. Jaymala plays the star trapeze artist and shares her name with the character. She solves the crimes with the help of Gopal (Sujit Kumar), the lion-tamer and fill-in trapeze man at the circus. The film's plot was inspired by the Anglo-German international co-production thriller Circus of Fear (1966).
Perhaps, the most popular movie that comes to mind when thinking about a circus in Hindi films is Raj Kapoor's Mera Naam Joker (1970). The film traces the story of Raju (Raj Kapoor), a circus clown who works at Gemini Circus, from his childhood days to his final act as a performer. Raju's father died during a trapeze performance which made his mother averse to anything related to the circus. However, as fate would have it, Raju follows the footsteps of his father and he becomes a clown. In his final act, the three women whom Raju fell in love with at different stages of life, come to see his performance at the circus. The film's underlying philosophy is similar to Shakespeare's All The World's A Stage. The film was a critical and a commercial failure that led to a financial crisis for Raj Kapoor who had mortgaged his family assets to release the film. However, over the years, it has slowly gained acceptance from the audience and is now considered to be a cult classic.
In Ashok Roy's Kalabaaz (1977), Vijay (Dev Anand) and Radha (Zeenat Aman) play trapeze artists in a circus called Rayman Circus which is managed by Radha's father G. D. Sapru (Pradeep Kumar). During a risky act called shadow jump with no safety net, Vijay is unable to catch hold of Radha who falls down to the grown and suffers serious wounds on her face. After a surgery, her face is disfigured. Disillusioned by the events, Radha leaves Vijay and moves abroad. The film takes a turn in the second half where it becomes more of an adventure story where Vijay travels to the mountains to retrieve the stolen idols of Radha and Krishna that were of huge importance to Radha. 
In Chandra Barot's Don (1978), the character of Jasjit (Pran) plays a tightrope walker at a circus who was forced to conduct a robbery at the instructions of Don's henchman Narang (Kamal Kapoor). In Ramesh Sippy's Shaan (1980), Rakesh (Shatrughan Sinha) was a shooter at a circus who used to shoot targets blindfolded which led to Shakaal asking him to assassinate Shiv Kumar (Sunil Dutt). In Appu Raja (1990), Kamal Haasan plays a dwarf named Appu who grows up in the circus with his mother and falls in love with the daughter (Rupini) of the circus owner (T. S. B. K. Moulee).
The circus plays a pivotal role in Rakesh Roshan's Krrish (2006), the sequel to Koi... Mil Gaya (2003), which narrates the story of Krishna (Hrithik Roshan), a man who has inherited superpowers from his parents. He is the son of Rohit (Hrithik Roshan) and Nisha (Preity Zinta), the leading characters of the previous film. Krishna falls in love with Priya (Priyanka Chopra) and follows her to Singapore. A friend invites him to the Great Bombay Circus, where a fire breaks out. Many children are trapped in the blaze. Krishna wears a black mask and rescues the children. It was at the circus where Krishna becomes Krrish, the superhero. The film also has a circus song Dil Na Diya that shows many colorful antics.
Neeraj Vora's Phir Hera Pheri (2006) is about three men, Raju (Akshay Kumar), Shyam (Sunil Shetty), and Baburao Ganapathrao Apte (Paresh Rawal). The film tells the story of the shenanigans of these three men who have to return the money of the gangsters that they borrowed after they are duped in a financial investment scheme. The film ends in a circus called The Great Royal Circus where the three of them dress up as jokers to save themselves from the gang members and end up performing some trapeze acts. The film's story is inspired by Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998); however, the plot of the circus was adapted from Charlie Chaplin's The Circus (1928).
Zoya Akhtar's remarkably insightful Luck By Chance (2009) is the story of two struggling actors trying to get a break in the Hindi film industry. In the film, Armaan Kapoor (Hrithik Roshan), the current top-ranked star of the industry, shoots the song Baware with Nikki Walia (Isha Sharvani) in a circus-setting for Romi Rolly's Dil Ki Aag. After Armaan gets an opportunity to work for another producer, he leaves the film and Vikram (Farhan Akhtar) gets a chance to fill in his shoes. He reshoots the song Baware and Dil Ki Aag goes on to become a big hit. The song Baware is quite colorful and fully utilizes the skills of Hrithik Roshan and Isha Sharvani who are known to be terrific dancers. Baware was shot at an actual circus called Rambo Circus, whose website mentions other films, such as Mujhse Dosti Karoge, that have been shot there. 
Vijay Krishna Acharya showed a contemporary circus in Dhoom 3 (2013), the third installment of the Dhoom franchise. The film opens in 1990 at a circus called The Great Indian Circus that performed in Chicago. The circus is run by Iqbal Haroon Khan (Jackie Shroff) who is struggling to keep it afloat due to financial difficulties. The circus is shut down by the bankers who are not convinced even when Iqbal shows his most spectacular act—The Boy in a Box—in which his son gets inside a box and comes out from a different place. The circus is shut down and Iqbal commits suicide. Years later, his son Sahir (Aamir Khan) restarts the circus and performs the same trick of his father that was inspired by Christopher Nolan's The Prestige (2006). The film also has a song Malang in a circus setting with many aerial acts performed by Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif and is considered to be the most expensive song ever shot in the Hindi film industry.
There have been reports that Ali Abbas Zafar's next film Bharat, starring Salman Khan, is going to have some daredevil sequences and a grand song based in a circus. All the three Khans—Aamir, Salman, and Shah Rukh—have a circus connection as well. Remember, Shah Rukh Khan in his early days starred in Aziz Mirza's television series called Circus
Colombian figurative artist and sculptor Fernando Botero once said, "The circus allows one to be logical and unreal at the same time. In the circus, all is possible, there can be a man with two heads or a character with a green face." The same can be said for our films as well, after all, films and circuses have a special relationship as they share the same underlying purpose of entertaining and engaging with the audience.

Other Reading:
1. On diaries in Hindi cinema—Link
2. On gifts in Hindi cinema—Link

Dialogue of the Day:
"Kabhi kabhi puraane dino ki yaad, sehat ke liye bahut achchi hoti hai."
—Raju, Mera Naam Joker