Saturday, 1 March 2014

Please Baba, aar five minutes khelbo...

Unlike my friend, the Mutinous Scribe, I care deeply about Imtiaz Ali's filmography.

I have, since the day I stumbled on to Socha Na Tha on t.v*.
In one scene, the hero and heroine are in Goa and facing the prospect of sharing a room together. (They aren't in love yet). The heroine tells the hero, "Ghabrao nahi, main tumhare izzat pe haath nahi dalungi."
That nonchalance, the non-drama was refreshing then to a child of the nineties for whom the Hindi film heroine was always a bit of a tight-ass paragon of virtue.
Geet in Jab We Met was even better etched, with lovely shades of so many people I knew. Self-obsessed, talkative, feisty, and armed with a healthy sense of adventure. And then came Veera**, who on the outside, was in the same mould as Geet. When she hides herself in the truck during the police search, and Aadu, the genial goon asks her why, I didn't need her to answer. It was just what an Imtiaz Ali heroine did.

Except it wasn't. While Geet's flight came from the protected, indulgent child-hood she had had, Veera's was a result of her cloistered one. And it wasn't a sense of adventure, as I came to learn a bit later in the film, it was a need to escape, a need to enjoy her new-found freedom. I wouldn't say that this need or feeling resonated with me, because it didn't, at least not at the time I was watching the film. There was so much else to take in-the characters, the acting (thanks to the casting-everyone, down to the creepy molester goon, was perfect), the visuals of the great Indian countryside (which I admittedly wouldn't care for, in a lesser film), the music (it is all I listen to, anymore), the world that Ali transports us to (so much so that the police shooting, in spite of its inevitability, felt like an intrusion in an otherwise idyllic life),  the "neat" story-telling (Mahabir dying before he was put on the stretcher). But the reason that all of this came together, the reason that I understood and accepted Veera's longing for the journey to continue (even if it was with her kidnapper), was possibly because I have wanted the same at different points in time.
Did I have a traumatic childhood? Far from it.

But who as a child has not wanted to play for "five more minutes", because home was boring place in your sister's board years? Which child hasn't dreaded the last week of the summer holidays when all the pending homework would have to be squeezed in? Which harassed masters student has not wanted to run away before a game theory/ econometrics exam? In fact, I only realised why I loved Highway the way I did, four days after I had seen the film, as I listened to "Patakha Guddi"on my way to office, in the white cab that dutifully carries me there and back every working day.

*And not since the day I realised I went to the same college as him.
**Yeah, I just pretended that Love Aaj Kal and Rockstar didn't happen.


  1. Can't agree more . I am almost in awe of the director , as to how well he understood and how precisely he was able to depict ,that traumatic incidents like these , no matter how much one tries to underplay them, always have a hand in shaping you as person.

  2. 1stly, Love Aaj Kal was a great movie. How sublty Imtiaz portrayed huge things.. DP could have done better no doubt, but her glam made up for it. ;)
    2ndly, Highway I must say I did not fall head over heels over it, the day I watched it in theatre. The storyline was unbelievable. Adventure and all is great, but what about sanitation and hygiene...I read somewhere, "Highway made a mockery of poverty..its not as easy as is shown out to be". A traumatic childhood gears you up for staying in hard conditions and be very happy about it..had her parents taken care of the molester and severed all ties with him, would Veera have escaped at the first opportunity she got from her captor? Why was she running in a wrong direction in the Kachh area..why didn't she run towards civilization and made one call home while she didn't still come to terms with her kidnappers(when Mahabir freed her for the first time to escape)?
    Keeping all these things in mind, I will be honest..I have Highway in my phone and I have re-watched my favourite moments over the weekend and I must say, I loved it.
    My best portion: In the end, she leaves her house and goes to a Highway, gets down from the car,cries and bids farewell to Mahabir. The song that plays is "Veera" which has lyrics from Sant Kabir's doha. I post the punjabi folk and the translated version of the first few lines here:
    "Heera Sohe Saraahiye
    Choose only that diamond which
    Sahi Ghanan Ki Chot
    Can withstand all kinds of blows
    Heera Sohe Saraahiye
    Choose only that diamond which
    Sahi Ghanan Ki Chot
    Can withstand all kinds of blows
    Kapat Kurange Maanwa… Parkhat Nikra Khot…
    The deceitful person is proven false upon testing."
    Inspite of its "not-flawless" plot, I loved it because of its cinematography, the lush green fields, the non-virgin(which is usually the case) snow upon which they slide and above all Veera. It was a fantasy come true for her and for us as well, because she was "so like us". Imtiaz managed to showcase serious stuff in a way that won't be too offensive for an average movie goer, keep his crowd in mind.
    This is my substitute for a post that I was going to write for this movie.
    Ending it with "Haan toh..a liitle more". :)

    1. Fine, the joke about Love Aaj Kal and Rockstar was a cheap shot-I am generally the first one to concede that people have different tastes in films :)

      Sanitation and hygiene didn't enter my thinking at all...I am frankly surprised it mattered to ANYONE...

      Where exactly was poverty trivialised? Mahabir's scars from his past were linked to the class divide, weren't they?

      About Veera hiding herself in the truck- I don't know what would have happened in an alternative scenario. As ekta writes in the comment above, traumatic events generally DO shape you as a person. Plus Mahabir was the only person who had tried to protect her (for whatever reasons). (Remember her shock when all her fiance says is "I told you so"). When I saw it like that, her motivations were pretty clear to me.

      About her not running towards civilisation, I thought there was NO civilisation there. That's why Mahabir said "Bhaagne de, bhaag kar kahaan jayegi" or something to that effect...

      Lastly, I didn't think Ali was pandering to his audiences. The very mixed response to Highway is some indication of that. I am glad you liked it though :)

    2. *the song that plays is "Heera".
      SANITATION & HYGIENE is basic human need. Without much sanitation,hygiene and irregularities with food, Veera was having those incessant fevers and shocks while recuperating.
      Poverty was mocked at whenever an inexperienced Veera liked or was in awe of anything dilapidated(or some other signs of poverty)..its the typical reaction you get from people who have been rich and comfortable all their lives and don't mind getting away from it for a few hours or camping or like foreigners going "wow" while taking a "slumwalk" through Dharavi.
      About the running away scene, it seemed as if Veera was running in the correct direction and Mahabir got hold of her and set her off in another direction. :P
      (P.S. Lets write a paper on this soon. :D)

    3. That wasn't poverty being mocked at...That was how a rich, inexperienced girl would react. So that way, the portrayal was spot-on, right?

    4. Moreover, if you think Veera was having those issues recuperating, because of the lack of hygiene earlier (frankly, I thought it was PTSD), then where's the problem in believability? :p

      Let's agree to disagree on the running away scene (or wait to meet before we debate that).

      And the paper, yes to that.

  3. The only disconnect I found in the entire movie was the hasty and premature inclination of alia bhatt's character towards her kidnapper.

    1. Yeah I read this online as well...
      Somehow it didn't really bother me. Though to come to think of it. I was processing it very differently. When she starts chatting with the kidnappers after the first night, my brain said "Geet!!". So when I was watching that bit, I thought this was about a girl I already knew. Who I could accept would do something like that. Hence it wasn't really dissonant to me.

      Also I read some of your food reviews. If you have been to the White Waters place so many times, why do we keep going around in circles every time we meet????? :p

  4. hahaa.. meet me this time ... il take you where you want ... itna ghoom li hun cp mein ... i know it by heart now ..i was thinking about it the other day ..iss bar ninni aur chatto aaenge toh i'l guide them so well :D :D

    1. Acha so you anyway seem to spend all of your work-week there. Ab chutti ke din bhi CP ko haunt karegi?
      PTSD is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder...