2016 marks the tenth year of me reviewing movies, and I realize in hindsight the transient nature of film reviews. Most often, the reviews are written in haste, having to ward off competition from other reviewers, and thus emotions are running high. At times, I’m still dazed by the film, and the dark hall, the music, the visuals – they leave a buzz not completely different to a weekend party where you consider a stranger as your closest friend.
As a result, I have decided to review films after a few days of watching the film. It’s my own Litmus Test, to see if the film still resonates with me after a few days. Fan, for example, got near universal good reviews, is really an aging star masturbating furiously for attention. And Housefull 3 which got panned, isn’t very different from the loony films that Salman Khan churns out. And so, like Rahul Dravid in his final years, I have decided to pull out from the quicker format, choosing instead to take some time off to analyse my feelings about a film, and only then pen them down.
The other peeve against film reviews in India, is that most of them are outright dumb. Very rarely will you find a review that doesn’t mention spoilers. Some of Sairat’s reviews contained the headline – ‘A tragic love story’. You moron, the director worked his ass off for three years to make the movie, and it took all of three words and a pea-brained critic to give it all away. I have consistently worked on reviewing films without spoiling them, though I don’t know how good I’ve gotten at that.
I had written a passionate review of Sairat, the film of the year for me so far. And yet, I fell into the trap of a conventional review – Introduction, Main Body, Performances, Final verdict. But it’s to the film’s credit that I still watch a few clips from the film, and play the songs after a good joint. And here are a few thoughts that stayed with me.
Kindly tread into the rest of the review carefully. There are spoilers, but the film has been playing for two months now, and I assume you’ve made your decision about whether to watch it or not. If you still nurture any desire to watch it, it’s still playing in theatres.
What do we find funny?
Sairat got the ‘look and feel’ spot-on. Most big-budget commercial films resort to cheap imitations of villages. Most times, you can see that the entire set up is merely a set, and it gets rather difficult to believe the film from there on.
Sairat also got the casting spot on. So good, in fact, that is makes Omkara seem like a cheap, high-school play. While the leads are very efficient in their task, I am surprised nobody is talking about the hero’s two friends – Tanaji Galgunde as Pradeep and Arbaj Shaikh as Salya. While Hindi films usually use disability to squeeze out cheap emotions to hide bad writing (Bhansali) or for cheap laughs (Sajid Khan), for the first time, there was an actual fletched out character with a disability.
It is difficult to view a character without the prism of disability, since we in India ensure that the person’s entire persona revolves around it. The actor was terrific and the scenes well-written, and yet the audience laughed every time he walked, every time he was called Langda.
There’s a stirring scene in which Pradeep believes a girl has thrown him a letter, only to break down later – the audience was laughing throughout. Another beautiful scene is the one where Archie asks them to call him by his name – Pradeep – whose face lights up.
I was filled with shame and embarrassment, of sitting in a dark room with hundreds of people whose idea of humour is a man limping, of him being called Langda. Which took me back to Omkara and Saif Ali Khan’s depiction of a limp man. Nobody laughed at Saif Ali Khan, for we all knew he wasn’t really disabled. When Saif Ali Khan essayed the role, people went Wah! Kya acting hai. But here, when the director chose to cast a disabled person, we realized it’s OK to laugh at him.
I thought it was the initial shock value, and yet, the audience continued to laugh. The final shot of the amazing actor is when he’s getting beaten up by the goons – the audience continued to laugh, right till the very end.
WHO KILLED ARCHIE?
While I was expecting a tragic ending, thanks to the brilliance of our moronic film critics, when it came, it hit me hard.
The audience that had been giggling all along sat in stunned silence, unable to comprehend what had just happened. How could a director do this to them? A film that had small smiles and little tears, with the occasional lame joke thrown in, how could it take such a savage turn? And yet, I could imagine the director smiling in joy. It is that one scene that encapsulates the movie more than anything else. The director was not here to entertain you. He’s here to cajole and coax you into a joyful ride, much like a pedophile, only to deliver the slap right at the end.
And yet, the film left so many delectable loose threads that I have been thinking about it for weeks now. Who really killed Archie? The obvious finger points to her father and the goons. But is it really that simple?
Could it have been her own mother? We haven’t been shown much of the mother. She’s shown toeing the line, petrified of the patriarch, never once voicing an opinion of her own. Once Archie has run away, she’s shown as a shadow of her earlier ghost-self. Was she so ashamed of her daughter that she gave her away?
Or was it the Panchayat? When Parshya’s father requests them to ‘do anything’ that could make them atone for their sins, the elderly members of the Panchayat nod. Was it them that sent the killers to locate them?
Or perhaps it was Archie’s idea of a perfect home that took her life. The hope that her parents would turn a new leaf and accept them with love and joy. And that’s perhaps the mistake we all make.
We have been taught that our parents are amazing people. That they are good, noble, will stand up for you when the time comes. Which is not necessarily true. This unnecessary worshipping of parents in Hindu culture is responsible for half the problems in the first place. Issues like caste are carried over by families, not through friends. Most of our parents believe in caste, and yet think they’re harmless.
The fact is Indian parents are not the greatest set of parents in the world. Constantly straddling the two worlds of tradition and modernity, they finally resort to what THEIR parents would have done.
Matru Moron Bhava. Pitru Petty Bhava.
And that is what killed Archie.
(Featured Image courtesy: Arbaj Shaikh’s Facebook page).