Wednesday, December 17, 2008

therein lies the rab

I am very concerned - and I say this without facetiousness - about Aditya Chopra's mental health.

I know that a lot of people will think Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is a crap movie. But frankly, I thought it was quite lovely to start with - uptil the scene where she tells him she'll never be able to love him. And it had a pretty good ending sequence or two. But of course in between it was like - as hapless as Suri's character. In the part where the female protagonist has her completely ridiculous epiphany I started yelling Bachao Bachao quite loudly much to my friend's horror. This sort of tapori-pan is much tolerated in Bombay but in Bangalore there was only a horrified silence. People acted as if they hadn't heard. Or perhaps they had been stupefied by the sheer gone-to-lunch-ness of the script.

But to return to AC's mental health.

Now, I genuinely feel this could have been a beautiful film. The ideas at the heart of it are eternal questions about love and romance: as we project what we think the object of affection likes, as we seek romance, how do we figure out what love is? How do we know if we are loved for ourselves or for the idea we have projected. And in the middle of it all, which is really us?

If the screenplay had handled this frivolously even that would have been something. But it's more like a certain incoherence sets in, an inability to explain what the script means.

Given the kind of relationships it explores (especially the easy homoeroticism of so many male friendships in the North), some of the very fine dialogue in the film (often spare, infrequently verbose), the moments that matter - Suri's deliriousness at getting his first tiffin for instance - you can see there is a genuine understanding, a mesured sensibility that embarked on this film.

What then prevented it from becomign what it wanted to be?

Basically I think, the stubborn-ness of the director-producer's idea of himself, ironic as that is. So insistent has Bollywood been that it is mediocrity that triumphs; that people don't want a thing of beauty and maturity; that they know the commercial formula tune to which the public dances, that it won't let itself go down the path which opens up. So neurotic is this interplay between the felt thought and the imposed commercial rationalisation, that Aditya Chopra stifles his own very bonny baby because he thinks he knows how to make a mannequin.(sorry I am sounding as incoherent, but you know what I mean I hope). It's almost as if this director wants to assert that he has not been wrong with all the movies gone by in the last couple years, even if it means not making the movie his heart tells him to make.

So, strangely enough, the film becomes exactly what the main character is - repressed. But instead of moving towards some sort of release and resolution, it remains impotent and turning its violence onto itself to become a lesser being.

Makes you feel so sad. And worry for Aditya Chopra's mental health.

6 comments:

Banno said...

I've yet to see the movie. But it sounds sad. I think what you've written about this 'commercial sense' taking over is so apt. I wonder sometimes, if even our smaller films land up being so confused because of this. I know I am often confused about the stories I want to tell. Unsure whether it needs to be a baby or a mannequin.

parotechnics said...

Hey Banno

I think we all feel this - I thought I didn't used to. But interacting over the last two years with the world of feature film I've come up against it so much it erodes the love and strength and pleasure of enjoying to tell stories. It's because now it's all supposedly possibly if you can figure out the right password to enter the club, the club being a fixed notion of what audiences can or do want. And yet, truth I think is the only thing that works - the truth of the unabashedly commercial film also being a truth in the end. But this second-guessing, this Americanised belief in the technologisation of everything - art, craft, communication, life....where will it end up if not in strangulations or at most detached cynicisms?

dipali said...

Such a lovely review, Paro.
(Coming here from Banno's blog).
Parts of the film were lovely and true, and as for the rest, Rab hi raakhey.

anja said...

Paro, what an excellent review. If only I could write so intellectually and heartfelt-ly at the same time. I wished there was more nuance in Bobby, or some traces of Suri in him..he didn't have to be such a bafoon..Your review very eloquently expressed Aditya Chopra's own dilemma..perhaps a conversation wih his 'experienced' family made him mistrust his instinct..?

parotechnics said...

Anja, thanks. I didn't mind Bobby much - in the Hindi mainstream film paradigm one sometimes accepts broad characterisations. I think the sad thing is that Aditya Chopra isn't even actually having the conversation I'd bet. This is a conversation many end up having with themselves I imagine - a self censorship which becomes a bad instinct.

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