5/8/11

MOTHERS AND BOLLYWOOD

In a film industry that gives out the most inequitable treatment to women, the role of mother has always found some space. A male dominated industry allows female characters to survive only in relation to the “hero”, hence either as “the love interest” or our archetypal “affectionate mother”.

What started out as a “tribute to mothers”
 we took the road less travelled by and instead of celebrating the Mother’s Day by listing out the The Top Moms in Hindi Cinema we analyse this role. One might still call it a tribute. But tribute to a mother just cannot shape up akin to our special post on fathers’ day even if attempted, although that was not a Bollywood tribute but blatancy will throw at us mothers from Hindi film cinema while doing this. 

A typical tribute will ignore the differences between the roles of cinematic fathers and mothers. Let us structure such a tribute. It can reasonably be expected to start with the quote “Mere paas maa hai.” On this journey that the author takes us on, we shall pass  
Deewar, Karan ArjunRam Lakhan among others, celebrating such character actors as Nirupa Roy, Lalita Pawar and Rakhee. A long list of movies that these have played mothers in can be easily produced. All tributes in the market keep reproducing them. But the important questions were being skipped. What made the role of mother end up as a stereotype and thus scripted the emergence of these character actors? There is something within the meaning of character actors that points to triviality. Hindi films treat mothers as something abstract. The misery of Rakhee playing mother to an older Amitabh Bachchan in Shakti is seldom recognized.

Men never faced such a stereotype. There has been nobody to parallel Nirupa Roy, someone who would have made a career out of character roles of a father. Thus if we were to pick out these poor, poor mothers of Bollywood we are not adhering to the same logic we did for the father’s day post. 


The Bollywood films that could have been included (
Akele Hum Akele Tum) are the ones in which fathers can still be the centre and the child’s presence is in respect with the father, with a relationship from the top. If not that, then as equals in conflict, Mughal-E-Azam, ShaktiTrishul are some of the numerous examples. In case of mothers and sons (it has to be sons because daughters too cannot be central) the relationship is from below.
While Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor save the character to be pushed into peripheral, it is Kirron Kher etc continue to play to the limits of the formulaic mother.


A careful study of the industry cannot draw a blank. Since this post is more on what does not celebrate mothers as what does, we do not cover all movies giving true tribute to mothers. Restricting it to few,
Mother India we cannot not exclude.

Surely one of the best films in Bollywood ever, 
Mother India was made as early as 1957 and yet hardly any film in the next six decades has dealt with the character of a mother in as much depth. In Mother India, the beauty lies in the fact that various dimensions of a mother, both in the dynamism of her role (wife, widow, daughter) and also presenting the facets of her personality as a mother itself. Mother India shows the protagonist Radha as a nurturing, caring and strong mother who teaches her children the right values in life and does her best to take care of them in the worst of hardships. In contrast, she also is a person of her word and expects her beloved son Birju (Sunil Dutt) to keep his promise of not harming their exploiters in the past (Sukhilala). As he breaks his promise, Radha kills his own son to stay true to her values and promise. Mother is not at all an abstraction but is in “flesh and blood.”

It is unfortunate that not many films in the future could support a script where the mother was the lead character. Nobody is yet contesting the impact scored by the mother’s in Bollywood. 
Deewar’s Nirupa Roy is also very much flesh and blood.  Mothers are there to instill values into their sons that will grow up to be heroes.  Banally we refer to My Name is Khan. The impact of his mother on Rizwan Khan is important. Interestingly, the same film shows another mother-son relationship but here from above. Kajol may not be the lead (there is always only one), but her efforts to bring justice to her dead son are not exactly peripheral.

One can say while on a tribute that “there’s no place that reveres mothers more than Bollywood”, and describing their “adoring smiles, strokes that sooth away fears, soft voices singing lullabies and those pain-filled eyes reflecting the sacrifices made for the sake of their children”. People have done this. Descriptions such as these define the limits for such roles.  Most of our criticisms are against the articles obtained as top results on Google for “Famous mothers of Bollywood”, also the widespread view.


We only wish for an equal share for women in films. Celebrating the stereotypical roles of mothers is defeatism. This mother’s day realise that your existence rests on your mother and not the other way around.

5/6/11

STYLE AND THE CITIES

 In the last month, the multiplexes saw a sudden storm of releases which were fighting each other for the three hour attention of their audiences. And most of these films were promising too. Dum Maaro Dum, I Am, Shor in the City and Chalo Dilli were the major Bollywood flicks amongst the other regional and Hollywood films.

It is a #facepalm that we could not catch up with I Am yet, having interviewed Onir himself about the film before its release! But we did manage to watch Dum Maro Dum and Shor In The City. We cannot help but notice some similarities in these films. For starters, both the films have a city as an important character in the film. While DMD's cinematography beautifully revolves around Goa, SITC uses Bombay as its silent character where all the "shor" (noise) is happening (Dhobi Ghat a much much superior film with Bombay playing a similar role). 

Rohan Sippy's DMD is his third experiment with stylish film-making after Kucch Naa Kaho (blah!) and Bluffmaster (slick!). DMD has one of the most fast paced first halves we have witnessed in a long time. Well, the unfolding of the suspense is not bad but a little disappointing after the heightened pulse rates in the first half. DMD is a film of characters and not stars and that is something we liked about the film. The story is intriguing as all these characters have a story in their past which has something to do with drugs and Goa and co-incidentally all of it revolves around a 17 year old guy (Prateik, good presence) being caught at the Goa airport carrying drugs. The drama unfolds and we find out that the bad guys in the movie may not be "the" bad guys and there exists a worse and a more dangerous villain behind the whole drug scene in Goa who is a shadow, an unknown entity. He knows everyone, but no one knows him! The revelation of the climax may be disappointing to some people, but we think it is not as anti-climactic as people are telling it is. 

The thing we were wondering while watching Shor In The City was why does this film look disjointed? As in, some scene will please the critic immensely and the other would be worse than a graduation film made by the worst student of a film school with poor infrastructure :P We wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that there were two directors credited for the making of this film. Like DMD, even SITC has a screenplay in which the first half tells random stories about its characters and the second half weaves those into the climax. But unlike DMD, the screenplay of SITC was weakish, the characters were undernourished in some cases and obese in the others.
Both these films have been made very stylishly. Right from the posters to the trailers to each frame in the film is attempted to be stylish. While DMD clearly wins in this arena also, SITC is pleasing in some parts and plain in the others. SITC had an interesting story line though. The makers have claimed that each of the stories in the film is inspired from a newspaper incident. If that is so, then let us just say that they should have looked for some better stories, because some of them were just blah! 

Why we chose to put both these films in one post is that it brings up an important point in filmmaking. While in Dum Maro Dum the stylishness of the frames and the amazing dialog writing only adds to the awesomeness of the script, Shor In The City is a film where a quasi-dynamic plot was attempted to be set in motion by all the style and glamor. Sadly, it did not work to that extent as a good Hindi film caper does (Johnny Gaddar, Yeh Saali Zindagi)

Talking of the performances, both these films have put forth two new faces to Hindi cinema in the form of Rana Daggubatti (Joki, DMD) and Sendhil Ramamurthy (Abhay, SITC). While Rana seems much more promising as an actor, Sendhil is a brown Greek god but somewhere he looks incomplete in his role, as acting in a Hindi film may not be his cup of tea. But he was not the worst actor in the film. Tusshar did not do that bad a job in SITC, but we were almost constipated in the interval when we saw the trailer of his upcoming film with Amrita Rao (No, we do not really give a fuck to remember its name). The newcomer in SITC, Sundeep who played Savvy the wannabe cricketer who may be a twin of Kumar Sangakkara, was probably the weakest link in the film when it came to the acting part. In DMD, there were some seasoned campaigners in charge (Abhishek, Govind Namdeo, Aditya Pancholi, Bipasha) and they all pulled off a good job. 

Finally, the only aspect where SITC may be at par with DMD is the background score and OST. Apart from that, you may really avoid the "shor" and do the "dum" peacefully :P