Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Padmavati―First Look

In Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish, the character of Sofia was clearly inspired by Frida Kahlo, the famous Mexican painter. Frida Kahlo’s portraits, mainly autobiographical, explored themes of identity, gender, and race. Her artwork is celebrated because of its "uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form." Kahlo’s famous unibrow was also a form of resistance and symbolized many things―courage, boldness, honesty. She refused to compromise and change in spite of all the ridicule she got. It seems Sanjay Leela Bhansali is again taking inspiration from Frida Kahlo for Padmavati. Queen Padmavati’s unibrow should be seen in this aspect. Like Kahlo’s, Padmavati’s unibrow also represents resistance and opposition. Padmavati would rather commit suicide and kill herself than surrender to Khilji.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Lipstick Under My Burkha—Dreams of Desire

Alankrita Shrivastava's Lipstick Under My Burkha is about four women at different stages of their life—Rehana (Plabita Borthakur), a college student who loves to sing; Leela (Aahana Kumra), a beautician who harbors the dream of having her own business; Shireen (Konkona Sensharma), a mother of three children who works as a saleswoman; and Usha (Ratna Pathak Shah), everyone's Bua Ji, a widow who owns a building where a number of tenants stay. The fifth character in the film is Rosy from the book that Bua Ji is reading—Lipstick Vale Sapne. She does not have a physical presence in the film but her story connects the story of the other women. The four women relate with Rosy's story at different points. They are Rosy in some way or the other. These women live with their lipstick vale sapne in a building called Hawai Manzil, appropriately named, as the fulfillment of their dreams seems difficult. There is a lovely scene in the film when Leela tells Shireen, "Pata hai, Di, hamari galti kya hai. Hum sapne bahut dekhte hain." Their fault is that they dream too much. As women, they have to keep their desires under the veil of burkha. Hence, the title Lipstick Under My Burkha. Lipstick becomes a symbol for expressing their desires that have to be kept hidden. Lipstick Vale Sapne Under My Burkha
In Anshai Lal's Phillauri, there is a scene when Shashi (Anushka Sharma) finds out that she is pregnant and her friend Amrit (Nidhi Bisht) asks her, "Sharam nahi aayi." Shashi initially nods yes, but then says no and starts smiling. It is a heartwarming scene that a woman in the early 1900s has no qualms in admitting that she had premarital sex. It is this sharam (shame) that the women in Lipstick Under My Burkha are constantly reminded of. Rehana is asked to not dance in a family function because of this sharam. Rahim asks his wife if she was shameless enough to purchase a condom from the chemist shop. Leela's mother calls her shameless after she finds him having sex with Arshad. Bua Ji's nephews tell her that she should be ashamed after they find out about Jaspal. Sharam, as is often said in our films and in our society, is a woman's jewel. But it is also said, "Jisne ki sharam uske phoote karam." These four women try to fight this patriarchal sharam to live the life they want to, with their limited means. 
The film also shows us different contrasts in the lives of these women. There is Rehana who stitches burkhas for other women, but in her college, she protests against the ban on women wearing jeans. As a mark of protest, she tears her jeans. There is Shireen who is the best saleswoman in her company, and can sell the most ridiculous of magical products but can't weave some abracadabra to sell the idea of her as a working woman to her own husband. There is Leela who is stuck between two men—one who can give her the security of a home without her ever needing to step out, and, the other with whom she has the chance to travel far but no security. There is Usha who has to pretend to follow the path of Swami Ji but what, rather, who she really wants to do is her swimming coach. She is the owner of a hundred-year-old dilapidated building and takes her first trip to a newly constructed mall to buy a swimming costume.
There is a point in the film when Shireen plans to tell her husband that she got a microwave by being the top-performing saleswoman at her company. She bakes a cake for her husband hoping that he would allow her to work. But telling him was no piece of cake. She enters the room and sits on the bed; however, her husband does not even look at her, and is busy watching the television. She tries to speak but he asks her for the remote. She hands him the remote, and, then, he grabs her hand forcing her to give him a handjob. The remote scene is telling because Shireen's husband remote controls his wife for the fulfillment of his sexual needs whenever he wants; like switching on the television at his will, without caring that sex is an activity that requires mutual consent. He shows no concern for her pleasure. He does not even bother about the basic comfort of Shireen during sex. 
During the same above scene, Rahim is watching Keh Do Ek Baar Sajna from Prakash Jha's Mrityudand. This is a self-reference in the film as Prakash Jha is also the producer of Lipstick Under My Burkha. It is also significant as Mrityudand is also an important film that dealt with the issue of women empowerment, and did a better job of portraying it. In Mrityudand, there is a point where a building contractor Vinay (Ayub Khan) tells his wife Ketaki (Madhuri Dixit) that she should not try to become his husband. She had refused to sleep with him after he physically abuses her. He taunts her that she has to respect his needs by saying, "Dekhiye Srimati Ji, apna aukat me rahiye. Hamra marad banane ki koshish mat kijiye." She should stay in her limits and not try to become his husband. Ketaki replies, "Aukaat ko taakat ka taraju me tolne ka koshish mat kijiye. Aap hamre pati hain, parmeshwar banane ka bhool mat keejiye." You can't define limits with violence. You are my husband, not God. As Rahim (who also works for a building firm, like Vinay) is watching Mrityudand, a similar scene appears in his story only. During the end, when Rahim rapes Shireen (again) after she finds about his affair, he tells her, "Biwi ho, shauhar banane ki koshish mat karo." She is his wife and she should not try to become a husband. Ketaki and Shireen, who are much smarter than their husbands, are told by them to remain in the limits of being a wife, and not try to become a husband. 
After Shireen feels humiliated by Rahim who does not eat the cake, she goes back to the kitchen. Silently crying, she eats the piece of cake all by herself. The scene took me to a similar one from Zoya Akhtar's Dil Dhadakne Do where Neelam (Shefali Shah) also eats cake in front of the mirror after her husband humiliates her yet again. Her philandering husband keeps mocking her eating habits. At the onset, it feels that it was a usual taunt, but only after this scene, we realize, she is compensating the love that she craves from her husband with food. The characters in Dil Dhadakne Do belong to the rich upper class but that film also portrayed some of the same issues that women have to deal with as it is depicted here. Whatever be the class, women have to fight the same prejudices. In that film, there was Aisha (Priyanka Chopra), a smart entrepreneur, who runs her own company but her mother-in-law is not happy that her daughter-in-law works instead of taking care of household duties. Aisha is on the pill, and does not want to have kids. There is Farah (Anushka Sharma), a dancer, who belongs to a conservative family, and was always told that she has to be a good housewife in life. So, she runs away to do what she wants. Shireen and Rehana from Lipstick Under My Burkha are very much like Aisha and Farah from Dil Dhadakne Do. Maybe Shireen, like Aisha, will someday come out of a loveless marriage, and Rehana, like Aisha, will rebel and run away, to do whatever she wants.
The character that got the most sympathy from me was Bua Ji. She is a widow. At some early stage, there is a scene where the electricity fuse goes off and she goes to fix it. She meets another widower. She tells him that when there is no light, our eyes get adjusted to darkness automatically. Humans get used to the darkness. The darkness that she talks about is her own life. She has got so used to living the life of everyone's bua ji that she has forgotten that she is Usha—a woman. At the swimming pool, she has to think for a few seconds when she is asked her name. She has forgotten her own name. She pretends to read a religious book of prayers, but underneath that, she secretly reads a Hindi Mills & Boon romantic novel. She craves for sex. She meets a swimming instructor, and has phone sex with him pretending to be Rosy. An aging widow indulging in such activities is ridiculed because as per the rules of the society, she cannot have any sexual thoughts. In a hilarious and a depressing contrast, the sister of the widower whom Bua Ji met tells her that she is looking for a girl for his brother. Even a young girl in her late thirties will be a good match for him. Every year, the Indian media reports the same templatized story of widows of Vrindavan celebrating Holi. As per tradition, they are not supposed to enjoy any worldly pleasures. The fact that this is news itself says a lot about the rules that the older women, especially the widows, have to live by. Having an active sex life is considered sacrilege. It is, then, heartening to see that the film treats Usha's desire with grace and dignity. There is never a cheap moment in the film, and Ratna Pathak Shah gets under the skin of the role beautifully. Though I must say, I kept thinking what if the roles were reversed. For instance, if a man in his fifties lied about his age, and did the same with a girl, as Bua Ji did to Jaspal, would the people have treated the man kindly without labeling him a creep?
Leela and Arshad have an idea of business in which they plan to go along with newly-married couples on their honeymoon to click their pictures. They want to go on a trip like the characters of Imtiaz Ali (Arshad's words, not mine), but using someone else's money. It is a bizarre and a silly idea, which can only work in a city where people are stupid and rich enough. Perhaps, that is why it makes sense for them to run away to Delhi. Shruti and Bittoo from Band Baaja Baaraat, who Leela and Arshad refer to while selling their idea, actually had much smarter ideas. I also understood the point of view of Leela's mother and will not judge her because she knows the importance of having a roof over head given her experience with Leela's father. It is kind of natural for her to be skeptical of Arshad's intentions over Manoj's who promises to buy a house for her. There is also a little bit of Delhi-6 in the film. Bittu (Sonam Kapoor) wants to be a singer (like Rehana) and plans to run away (like Leela) with a shady photographer. 
One other thing that struck me was the aspect of personal space and privacy in the film. Leela's home is essentially a single room where she and her mother stay together. When she visits the house of her fiancĂ© Manoj, there is absolutely no sense of privacy in that place. The house is filled with so many people, all the women in one room and all the men in one room. It must be suffocating for her to even think of living a life among them. She immediately goes to Arshad's place. But he also does not have his own room. He sleeps in a room with many other people. Leela and Arshad have sex sitting uncomfortably on a toilet seat. Film critic Meenakshi Shedde recently wrote a short article on furtive sex in India talking about the lack of privacy in India. Later, Manoj finds out about Leela and Arshad when he saw their sex video on Leela's phone, again, highlighting the lack of privacy in her life. She is furious at him and asks him whose permission he took to watch the contents of her phone. Bua Ji has to go to the toilet when she is speaking to Jaspal because some children are sleeping in her room. Rehana is lucky that she has her own room but still, she has to listen to the music on her headphones and be doubly sure to not make any noise. This lack of a secure private space is deeply saddening; which is why startups like this should be encouraged more. It is also entirely befitting that the film is set in Bhopal, a town located in central India, that is at the cusp of modernity and tradition.
Lipstick Under My Burkha has interesting women characters. But the portrayal of other men and women in the film makes us empathize with these women more. Of course, there is no denying the fact that men like as shown in the film do exist in real life but there is a thought-provoking article that Romit Chowdhury wrote which puts this in a better perspective. He writes, "If it [oppression] operated only through coercion and hurt, it would perhaps have been easier to reject domination. Patriarchy succeeds because it offers love and affection as rewards for subservience. This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to opt out of patriarchal scripts." It is, actually, quite true. The actions of some of these women range from illegal to unethical. Rehana steals expensive clothing and makeup items from a mall. Usha lies about her identity to Jaspal. Leela lies about her boyfriend to Manoj. The film does not condone these actions, and these women bear the consequences of their actions, but we are willing to forget these because the other people around them are just so insensitive. And, these women only have each other for help. There is a lovely moment in the film when Bua Ji goes to the mall, and a young girl helps her get on the escalator for the first time. When Bua Ji feels embarrassed purchasing a swimming suit, it is Shireen who helps her. When Rehana has to go to a party, it is Leela who drives her there. When all of Bua Ji's belongings are thrown by her nephews, no one comes for her help except these other three.
Additionally, the performances by everyone in the film are excellent; however, Ratna Pathak Shah and Konkona Sensharma are simply outstanding. Also, the film in a few scenes talked about safe sex practices. Shireen's doctor warned her about the effects of the i-pill. Sometimes, it is these little scenes that help educate and bring awareness to the public.
The film finds its closure in a burkha shop as if making a point that these women have to go back under the veil. There is a burkha-wearing mannequin head that falls from a table, and Rehana picks it up when the four of them are sitting together. Maybe the mannequin is Rosy. Maybe the mannequin is all of them. Rehana tells them that these stories are all lies. Usha counters her by saying that these stories might be a lie, but it is these stories only that give them the courage to dream these lipstick vale sapne. The women of Hawai Manzil will continue to dream but, like Rosy, they also have to find a way to step out of their cages to make these dreams a reality, and they have to do this on their own because the key for opening the cage lies nowhere but in their own hearts. Pinjare me band sapno ki chaabi aakhir Rosy ke dil ke andar hi thi. 

Books In Movies:
Chinta Haran Jantri
Lipstick Vale Sapne

Other Reading:
1. A One-Dimensional View of Masculinity in ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’Link
2. Suitcase sexLink

Dialogue of the Day:
"Pata hai, Di, hamari galti kya hai. Hum sapne bahut dekhte hain."
—Leela, Lipstick Under My Burkha

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Jhilmil Sitaron Ka Aangan Hoga

Jeevan Mrityu (1970), directed by Satyen Bose, is the story of Ashok (Dharmendra) who is falsely implicated for stealing money from a bank. He is sentenced to prison for a few years. After his release from prison, he learns that his own colleagues were the ones who conspired against him to send him to jail. Before his implication, Ashok was supposed to marry Deepa (Rakhee). He finds out that even Deepa left him and married someone else. He gets a new identity with the help of a good Samaritan and seeks revenge for the injustice done to him. The film's story is inspired by Alexander Dumas' novel The Count of Monte Cristo and is the remake of a Bengali film with the same title. One of the film's songs Jhilmil Sitaron Ka Aangan Hoga became quite popular. It is sung beautifully by Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar. In addition, the song is wonderfully choreographed.
Jhilmil Sitaron Ka Aangan Hoga is a dream sequence which appears when Deepa asks Ashok about how he sees their future as a couple. The song opens with Ashok making a small house with sand near the sea. His sand house is surrounded by a garden with a rivulet flowing by that has a boat as well. Deepa walks with a watering can and puts some water on Ashok. He, then, keeps small figurines of a man and a woman representing the two of them inside his sand house. This is their dream house in which both of them will live together as a married couple. We then move forward and see them in this dream home. Ashok is sleeping and Deepa brings tea from him. In a lovely moment, she goes near the mirror and tries to clean the smudge of her red bindi. This moment is pointing to sexual intercourse between them as the smudging of bindi has often been used to depict the same in films. They are a married couple and it is natural that sex is part of their marital bliss. They are happy together and enjoying every bit of it. Jhilmil sitaron ka aangan hoga, rimjhim barasta sawan hoga, aisa sunder sapna apna jevan hoga. There will be shining stars over a courtyard; there will be the season of rain; their life will be like a beautiful dream. 
They are, then, in a garden like the one that their sand house also had. The garden has the same umbrellas that were there when they were near the sea side, just that they are larger. Prem ki gali mein ek chhota sa ghar banayenge, kaliyaan na mile na sahi kaaton se sajayenge, bagiya se sunder woh ban hoga. They will make a small house in the street of love. If they don't get flower buds, it doesn't matter; they will adorn it with thorns and make it more beautiful. If they don't find happiness, they will still be together in difficulties (thorns) and make the most of their time. 
Then, the song goes back to the dream house. Ashok is going to work and Deepa gives him a lunchbox. He says goodbye to her and runs into a cow. In an earlier moment in the film, Deepa had mentioned to him that she wants to have her own school. If he goes to the office, she also wants to do something. She will teach school kids. We, actually, see in the song that she is also doing what she wanted. She is teaching a bunch of school children. In this dream world of theirs, her work also finds a place. Her dreams are as important as his.
What is also noteworthy about the song is that it tries to maintain continuity when there is a change of a scene. This happens almost in all scene changes in the song. For instance, early in one scene in the song, Ashok starts kissing Deepa in the bedroom, and when there is a change of scene from their bedroom to the garden, Ashok and Deepa are still kissing as if continuing the same act from before. This happens, again, when Deepa is running behind Ashok as a school teacher, and when the next scene appears in the garden, she is still running after him just like in the scene before. It becomes clearer when one actually sees the song. 

Phir to mast hawaon ke hum jhonke ban jayenge, naina sunder sapnon ke jharonkhe ban jayenge. Man aashaon ka darpan hoga. They say that they will become the gust of wind; they will become the eyes of a beautiful dream; the heart will become the mirror of desires. Perhaps, these lines are hinting at their eventual death. As we saw that there was a boat near the sand house in earlier scenes, a real boat comes up. Deepa and Ashok sit in the boat. Again, it is not only Ashok who rows the boat but Deepa, too. This boat is a symbol of the life itself, where they both are traveling together, each playing his/her part to move it forward. It is a symbol for their marital journey where they are the two travelers. As the film's title says, Jeevan Mrityu, they will be together in this boat of life till they reach the sunset. But as it happens, this is only a dream made of sand castles. Reality had different plans for Deepa and Ashok. 

Song: Jhilmil Sitaron Ka Aangan Hoga 
Movie: Jeevan Mrityu (1970) 
Singers: Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar 
Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal 
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi 
Cast: Dharmendra, Raakhee 
Director: Satyen Bose

Dialogue of the Day:
"Phir to mast hawaon ke hum jhonke ban jayenge, naina sunder sapnon ke jharonkhe ban jayenge. Man aashaon ka darpan hoga."
―Ashok and Deepa, Jeevan Mrityu

Monday, September 4, 2017

Diaries in Hindi Cinema

Franz Kafka once wrote, "One advantage in keeping a diary is that you become aware with reassuring clarity of the changes which you constantly suffer." A diary is a kind of a memoir where the writer records his experiences and significant events of life on a periodic basis. It is the most honest account of the writer's feelings about his/her life. Diaries in films have been as popular as letters. They have been often used as a tool for a flashback to a different story. If diaries did not exist, cinema would have to find other ways of time travel. It is a common saying that one should not read someone's diary; however, it is hardly followed, at least, in films. Diaries are also important for character development as they tell us more about the dreams and the aspirations of a character. And, sometimes, a diary is just a prop. Some films are also a kind of a diary in a way, where the storytellers show us some of the events that shaped them as an individual. However, that is a research topic for some other time. For now, I try to enlist some of the instances of the use of diaries in Hindi cinema. 
A British woman Sue wants to make a documentary film on the freedom fighters of the Indian independence movement in Rang De Basanti (2006). She is determined to make the film that is based on the diary entries of her grandfather who was posted as a jailor in Lahore for the British Indian police. The diary of her grandfather provided real conversations that he had with leaders, such as Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Ramprasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, and Rajguru.

In Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012), Akira gets to read the diary of Samar after he rescues her from the freezing waters of Pangong Lake. The diary is a flashback to the love story of Samar and Meera, and how Samar became The Man Who Cannot Die. Akira, who belongs to the generation of 'instant make out and instant break-up', is deeply moved by his story and hopes to get a similar kind of love in her life. Flashback to a different story was also seen in Humari Adhuri Kahaani (2015) where Hari leaves a diary for his son which details the story of his wife Vasudha. In Zubeidaa (2001), too, a son finds the journal of his dead mother where he learns about the life of his mother through her poetry and her words. Likewise, in Ankahee (2006), a father Shekhar gives a diary to his daughter Sheena in which he wrote about all the incidents that led him to break up with Sheena's mother. A police inspector finds two diaries, one for the year 2005 and another for the year 2006, when he visits Sanjay Singhania's home in Ghajini (2008). The diaries chronicle the events of the two years detailing the journey of Sanjay from a rich industrialist to a criminal seeking revenge for his dead girlfriend. 

In Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Rohit keeps a black diary with him; the contents of which Naina is intrigued to know about. The diary plays an important part in the film later when a furious Naina finds out that Aman helped Rohit in setting her and Rohit as a couple. To save the situation, Aman makes up the contents of the diary where he starts speaking about Naina as Rohit, though Rohit did not really write anything like. Through this, Aman expressed his own love for Naina by imagining himself as Rohit. Mere naina meri Naina ko dhoondhte hain. Even in the film's title song, for some moments, Aman pretends be Rohit; if only he could really exchange his places with him. Kaash main tumhari jagah pe hota. Kaash. 

In Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), a jovial Imran kept a diary with him, and his friends used to wonder about as to what was so secretive about it. It is later that he tells them he writes poetry in his diary, and just before they race with the bulls, he vows to get it published for everyone to read. The aspect of writing poetry was also seen in Udaan (2010) where a stifled Rohan wrote poetry in his diary but it was burnt by his autocratic father, who wanted Rohan to follow his footsteps instead of becoming a writer. Haider, a student of The Revolutionary Poets of British India writes his own poetry in his diary in Haider (2014). His girlfriend jokes with an army officer that he can check that he is engaged to her by reading Haider's diary; all his poetry is written for her. 

In Astitva (2000), Shrikant Pandit writes a daily diary entry. When his wife Aditi receives an inheritance from her dead teacher, who had taught her music decades ago, he becomes suspicious. He goes back to his old diaries, and figures out that he could not have been the father of Aditi's child, whom he raised as his own son. The diary gives him the proof that he was not in the country during the period Aditi could have become pregnant making him realize that Aditi and her teacher had an affair. A courtesan Sahibjaan, by some chance of fate, reaches the tent of forest ranger Salim Ahmed Khan in Pakeezah (1972). In his tent, she reads his diary and eventually finds out that he is the same man who had once met her in a train compartment and had written a couplet on her beautiful feet. Anand (1971) begins with a felicitation for Bhaskar, an oncologist, who has written a book titled Anand. Bhaskar tells everyone that the book is not a work of fiction but taken from his own diary and related to his experiences with a real person named Anand. 
Simran writes about her dream man in her diary in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995). The man is unseen, unknown―andekha, anjaana―yet she feels she knows him quite well. She starts tearing the pages of her diary, after she realizes that she is not even allowed to dream about someone as she is supposed to marry the son of her father's friend. In Europe, she meets a philandering Raj, who strangely uses the same words―andekha, anjaana―to describe the face of his dream girl, reminding Simran of her words in her diary. In Milenge Milenge (2010), Priya also writes in her diary about her dream man who has no bad habits. She goes to Bangkok and runs into Amit, a man who has the same bad habits that Priya hates. Amit steals the diary of Priya and pretends to become like the dream man about whom Priya had written in it. At some point, Priya finds out that he stole her diary and Amit is not really the man he pretends to be, and she breaks up with him. In Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), Nandini has three things in her room―yellow flowers, a chandelier, and her diary. An Italian student Sameer comes to learn music from her father and is put in Nandini's room where he reads her diary in which she wished that he gets lost before he reaches their place as she did not want to vacate her room for him.

The diary makes an appearance in the realms of law as evidence in Mera Saaya (1966). Thakur Rakesh Singh questions his wife's impostor Naina that if she is really his wife, where is the diary that his wife Geeta used to write every day. Naina fails to answer, and is, eventually, sent to a mental hospital. The diary is later found hidden in Naina's clothes that Geeta had kept in her cupboard. The diary plays a role in identifying Geeta. In Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh (2016), Vidya says that she loved to write on a variety of topics; after eight years, she felt like writing again. After her accident, Inspector Inderjeet Singh visits her home and finds her diary which he collects it as evidence. He reads her diary and learns about her past where she worked as a government clerk in Kalimpong. 
The first time Sid sees Aisha in Wake Up Sid (2009) is at a party where she is writing something in her diary. She likes to write, and later, her experiences in the city of Mumbai would go on to become a column New Girl In The City for a magazine. In Lootera (2013), Pakhi also wants to become a writer and keeps writing something in her diary. She also writes a heartbreaking letter to Varun about her life being tied to the last leaf of the tree outside her window. Rosie Noronha in Bombay Velvet (2015) writes quotes of Mark Twain and puts pictures of her loved ones in her diary. 
In Bodyguard (2011), a mother leaves behind a diary for her son in which she had written how she had betrayed her friend. Maya marries her friend Divya's lover Lovely who thought she is Chhaya, the girl who was in love with him. After being diagnosed with a health condition, Maya chronicles her betrayal in the diary and dies. Eventually, Lovely finds out Divya was Chhaya when he reads Maya's diary after his son throws it in the dustbin. In Phobia (2016), Mehak finds the diary of Jiah Khurana in an apartment where she temporarily moves after she is diagnosed with agoraphobia due to being sexually assaulted by a taxi driver. The diary entries make Mehak suspicious of her neighbor Mannu as she believes that he killed Jiah.

The diary has also occurred as a medium of identification of past life, as seen in Love Story 2050 (2008). Zeisha, a popular singer in the year 2050, is able to remember her past life by reading the diary of Sana. Zeisha was the reincarnation of Sana, and saw flashes of her past life when she met Sana's lover Karan.

In The Lunchbox (2013), Ila finds an old diary of her grandmother while going through some of the old items she had brought along with her during her wedding. She finds a recipe of tinde (spring apples) which she thinks Saajan will like and sends it to him in the lunchbox. A sensitive Shutu in A Death In The Gunj (2017) writes passages from his favorite books and his favorite words in his diary. He draws frogs in it, and also keeps dead moths in it. The diary becomes his way of sharing and remembering the things he likes, which others in his family don't understand.
A physical diary is usually the most popular form of writing a diary. However, there have been other interesting and non-conventional ways of documenting one's life. One of the most novel ways of chronicling diary entries was seen in Cocktail (2012) where Veronica used to record her feelings in front of a camera every night. She used to talk freely about how her day went and her state of mind at that particular moment. When her friend Meera goes to her room, she can see the projection of Veronica's recorded video entries on the walls. This format was also seen in Dhobi Ghat (2010), also titled as Mumbai Diaries. An artist Arun moves to a new apartment in Mumbai. While unpacking, he finds a small container belonging to the previous tenant. In that, he finds three video tapes, which are video diaries (technically letters; however, taking the liberty to call them as diaries as the film's title says such) of a girl named Yasmin. She has made them for her brother where she shows him her life in the city of Mumbai. Arun watches them and becomes deeply connected to Yasmin, eventually finding out that she committed suicide. In another unique diary format, a newly married wife Sharada enters a strange room where she reads the events of her husband Anand's life on its walls in Red Rose (1980). The room becomes a diary that documented the turning of her husband into a misogynist serial killer of women. Though there has been a proliferation of digital devices in the last decade, there have been only a few instances of digital diaries. In Dil Mange More!!! (2004), Nikhil reads his neighbour Shagun's diary on her computer where she had talked about his love for him. After reading it, he proposes to her. In Always Kabhi Kabhi (2011), a school girl Aishwarya used to write her diary on her cell phone. After an accident, she goes into a state of coma. Her friends receive a 'diary alert' on her cell phone. They figure it out that it was a diary that she used to keep writing on her cell phone all the time. They take a print out of it and read it where Aishwarya had talked about her feelings on her friends. 

Unlike all the other cases, where a diary is primarily the medium of expressing one's personal thoughts, diaries have also played a role in other situations as well. In Don (1978), a red diary of Don plays an important role throughout the film. This red diary contains the names and contacts of all of Don's associates. The diary is a crucial piece of evidence that helps in establishing the identity of the underworld kingpin Vardhan. In Don (2006), the red diary was replaced with a disc. In Gumnaam (1965), a group of people connected to a crime finds a diary while having dinner. In the diary, the writer sends a message to the people that he is going to kill all of them, one per day.
There have been quite a few other similar items that the characters have used to express their thoughts and document their life, though they cannot be called as diaries. In Taare Zameer Par (2007), an artistic Ishaan creates a beautiful flip book in which he draws himself along with his family. While flipping, he becomes slowly separated from them, just like in his life, where he is sent to a boarding school due to his poor grades in school. In Meri Pyaari Bindu (2017), Bubla and Bindu create a mix tape, not of their favorite songs, but of songs that played a significant role in their life, and that remind them of a momentous occasion of their life. In Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), Bunny records his travels in his memory book. He puts nuggets of information, and pictures of his trips in it, while living his dream of traveling the world. 

As always the usual caveats apply that the above is in no way an exhaustive list, and there are a large number of films that have a diary but are not covered here. These are only a few instances from the vast universe of films, with a bias towards more recent films. As the world adapts to newer technology and with people having shorter attention spans, diaries in the real world are changing to newer formats, such as tweets, blogs, and snaps. It will be interesting to note how our films adapt to these new formats in storytelling. As cinema lovers, we will be watching.

Dialogue of the Day:
"Koi apni diary me jhoot kyu likhega."
—Inderjeet, Kahaani 2

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Meri Pyaari Bindu—Mera Pyaara Bubla

To: muqaddarkasikandar1977@hotmail.com
Subject: Mera Pyaara Bubla

Bubble Wrap,

One of the many reasons we all love the movies is because they mirror some special moments of our life. Sometimes, we see ourselves in a character in a film as they are so relatable. Abhimanyu Roy, or Bubla, from Meri Pyaari Bindu, is one such character for me. In the last few weeks, I have watched Meri Pyaari Bindu, again and again, because watching the story of Bubla gives me a feeling of calmness and comfort. 
Abhimanyu is a writer of pulp fiction novels with titles, such as Guitarphobia, Chudail Ki Choli, Dracula's Lover, and Awaara Dhoban. His books contain ample amount of horror and sex, like the films of Ramsay Brothers. It has been three years since his last book and he is struggling to write his next one. He decides to write a love story, and finds inspiration in his childhood friend, his crush, his ex-girlfriend, his one and only pyaari Bindu. He travels to his home in Kolkata, where he sneaks into Bindu's house, and finds some old belongings of hers, and starts penning a story on her. 
There is an early point in the film when Abhi carries Bindu on his back. This literal aspect of carrying Bindu like a baggage portended the figurative aspect of Abhi carrying Bindu in different forms all his life. He remembers every little detail about her, not just because he is a writer as writers have to focus on the details for their characters, but also because he still has some feelings for her. It has been many years since he has heard anything from her, but he has still not completely moved on though he has been in relationships with other women. 
In the past, as it was in Rockstar, Jordan learnt that a broken heart is the inspiration for creating music. Toote hue dil se hi sangeet nikalta hai. In Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Ayan becomes a famous singer when he channels his pain of heartbreak of his unrequited love to creating music. Abhi's art creation feels different from Jordan's and Ayan's (or for that matter Noor's in Fitoor) in the way that though he might be heartbroken, too, there is no feeling of bitterness and pain in him. He might create women characters in his books that feminists would not approve of, but it does not feel that they are his way of getting back at Bindu. Also, as we often see, Bindu does not bring any major change in Abhi, and she really does not help him 'find himself'. He had always wanted to write, and he writes a story, perhaps, his best one, on and for Bindu. In this aspect, Abhi's art felt closer to Sid's from Dil Chahta Hai. After Tara reads Sid's closed personality so beautifully, she asks him about his favorite painting. He says he has not yet made one. Later, he creates his finest painting on and for Tara, which he later gives it to her. In that way, Sid expressed his love for the woman he dreams about, and gets the closest he could get to touch her. Abhi expressed his love for his pyaari Bindu by writing a story on the two of them, where the character Abhi gets to be with the character Bindu in the end, something that could not happen to him in his real life. He gets to create his own story and he shared it only with her, not with anybody else. 
Bindu is not really someone who is perfect. In fact, in her own assessment, she calls herself a disaster. Earlier, Abhi tells us that she has not completed anything in her life. When she was a school kid, she dressed as a bhanwra—a bumblebee—for seven days and then threw the costume away to move on to a new thing that excited her. She never held onto things for long. Fittingly, there is a tattoo on her leg of flying birds that could well explain her personality. She never settled on a thing, a place, or even a person. In a later scene, Abhi's mother gives her a piece of necklace after Abhi proposes to her, but she feels suffocated wearing it. She does not want to wear it and get caged by the responsibilities of life, at least, at that point of time in her life, and she will do so when she feels like it. There is a point in the film when she says to Abhi that whenever she felt happy or sad, she used to go and hide in her house attic. It was her area of comfort. Abhi is that attic for her. Chhat vala kamra. A place where one keeps all their old memories that are no longer needed. A place that is full of nostalgia. Abhi and Bindu's very first meeting is at that attic when they were kids where she gives him her earphones and tells him that this will change his life. Years later, they again meet at that same attic where Abhi meets Bindu's daughter, and he shares his story with her. The house with the attic is being sold and it is going to be their last meeting at this attic that holds a special moment in their lives.
Though the film is about Abhi's Bindu, one can't help but feel immensely for Abhi. He personifies what love feels like. He has been there with Bindu whenever she needed him. As a kid, he even gave his exam sheets to her. He feels jealous of her boyfriends but learns to live with it. When Bindu goes for an audition, he goes along with her, and offers her alcohol when she is feeling nervous. All his life he had this big crush on Bindu. Everyone around him knew; she also knew, but he never told her. When he finally convinced himself, he uses a silly crossword puzzle to tell her. He spent six months rehearsing for his perfect proposal. In a heartwarming scene, he closes his eyes when Bindu touches his face, and he just can't control himself after that, and starts dancing as if he is in some heavenly abode. The way he smiles, when he tells us about his Bindu is so infectious as if we can really feel what is happening to him. He even goes to extent of foregoing having sex with his current girlfriend to be with Bindu (really!). He knows that Bindu is kind of using him, but he does not mind it; actually, he can't do anything about it. Because to him, Bindu is better than everything in the world. I was smiling all the time when Abhi looks at Bindu, or talks about her. I would love to have a friend like Abhi. It was a poignant moment to see him dancing in the rain along with his Bindu, maybe, for the last time. 
Sometimes, I think it was only for the better that Abhi and Bindu did not end up together. Who knows if they would end up like Rishi and Maya from Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, or, like Kabir and Natasha from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara? In life, only a few people get to be with the person they love. We always don't get everything we want in life. There is this maturity in the film that it is alright to move on after trying your best to get something that you wanted. The relationship, even though incomplete, will always remain special. In this aspect, Abhi and Bindu were a lot like Rahul and Rianna from Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. I was also glad to see that Abhi makes other girlfriends. He does not become a Devdas and goes on to do the things that he always wanted to do. There is so much heartbreak for Abhi, but at the same time, it feels that he will be fine. I want to cry with him, but not for him. Ayushmann Khurrana is amazing in the film.
My favorite scene in Dil To Pagal Hai is the one where Pooja makes a recording for Ajay in which she pours her heart out for Rahul. Somewhere in the recording, she says, "Rahul ke baare me main tumhe kya bataun. Kahan se shuru karun. Bas itna samajh lo ke us jaisa maine aaj tak koi dekha hi nahi." Since cassettes play an important part in this film as well, I could hear Pooja's voice when I was thinking about this film. Meri Pyaari Bindu is Abhi's recording for Bindu. In Dil To Pagal Hai, Rahul changes the ending of his play to get the answer he wanted, and also Nisha had told him that a love story should always have a happy ending. Here, too, Abhi changes the ending of his story, to get the end that he wants, and also because happy endings sell better. 
There is a stage in the film where there is a problem in Abhi's cassette and he goes to Alok-Da get it repaired. Alok-Da tells him that there are certain combinations in life that are wonderful alone but miraculous together. RD Burman and Gulzar. OP Nayyar and Asha. Kishore Kumar and Rajesh Khanna. Abhi and Bindu were not destined to be miraculous together, but they both are wonderful in their own way. And, sometimes, that is more than enough. I really hope that Abhi finds the happiness he so deserves. Till then, I will make a mix-tape of my own having not my favorite songs but the songs that have played a special role in my life, and I am pretty sure that there will be one from Meri Pyaari Bindu as well.

Teri Pyaari Bindu


Books In Movies:
Abhi's father reads Leon Uris' Mila 18

Abhi's books—
Awaara Dhoban
Dracula's Lover
Guitarphobia
Das Kabin
 
Chudail Ki Choli
Dialogue of the Day:
"Pyaar karna bahut log sikhate hai, par afsos us pyaar ko bhulaate kaise hain, yeh koi nahi sikhata."
—Abhi, Meri Pyaari Bindu