Reviews, Vol. I, Issue III
George Sand, a nineteenth century French novelist asserted way back in 1872: “Art for art’s sake is an empty phrase. Art for the sake of truth, art for the sake of the good and the beautiful, that is the faith I am searching for.” Chinua Achebe, a postcolonial African writer in a trenchant way, goes to the extent of hailing ‘art for art’s sake’ as “just another piece of deodorised dog shit.”
Art demands a lot of ingenuity whilst being assertively alert to socio-cultural maladies. Truly it is an artiste’s prerogative to conceive cutting-edge expressions to voice it to as many souls as possible- a multitude of emotions that abode a human heart; and the prejudices of the degenerate society. A gargantuan task indeed- which engages the artists’ in commingling a variety of techniques : concocting newer crafts to laundry the system’s rot and affiliating it with aesthetically tailored recital of events, aimed at enchanting the senses of the viewers in sync.
The winning dialogue of The Dirty Picture (2011) – “Filmein sirf teen cheezo ke wajah se chalti hain... entertainment, entertainment ...” garnered a lot of applause in the contextual framework of the movie but falls deflated and dispirited when assessed scholastically beyond the precincts of the movie. Not only it puts at risk the wisdom of the cine-goers, who are no more infatuated with Bollywood masala movies but instead prefer to judiciously spend their time and money on issue based cinema. It also confines the critical acclaim and commercial success of a movie to its ‘entertainment quotient’ only brushing aside the thematic concerns and social relevance of ‘substance cinema.’
The Dirty Picture triumphed in ‘stirring the souls’ of its audiences by inviting them to view in all nakedness; and live outrightly through the oculus of cinema – an assortment of splendour and pathos in the lives of the so called ‘sex-symbols’ of the film industry, be it Silk Smitha of Kollywood – the Tamil language film industry or Marilyn Monroe of Hollywood. The fictionalised biopic initiated newer debates pivoted around many a feministic discourses. Borrowing words of Rajat Aroraa- the dialogue writer of the movie, the film dared to raise questions on how in a patriarchal society: “women are held up to judgement more easily in roles men have gotten away for ages.”
In the recent past Bollywood is engaged in churning out with élan and finesse, a banquet of issue based cinema. The list is long but a few references like Chak de India, Taare Zameen Par, 3 Idiots, Fashion, Queen, Mary Kom, Mardani, Haider and PK are suffice to define the canon. Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015) is the latest entrant to the bandwagon. The romantic comedy under the production aegis of Yash Raj Films and adroit and foxy direction of sophomore director, Sharat Kataria; zip codes a number of termini in one go, to name a few: the Indian obsession with English language, the topsyturviness of youth under overreaching patriarchal authority, and the issue of envisioning female bodies as erotic objects only.
The plot of the movie introduces us to Prem Prakash Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana) - as a 25 years old, school dropout, courtesy his disabling lack of talent to qualify his tenth-standard English exam. Viewed as a loser by his family especially his father, Prem is invariably exposed to his father’s ridicule and bullying. Marooned in his father’s audio cassette-repair shop, hearing to Kumar Sanu’s timeless melodies comes as a refreshing breather for Prem. A dialogue from the movie pertinently describes his state of mind and his status quo too:
“Teen Cheez hai koi kuch karle meri aankhon se assu tapakne se na rok sake. Ek to angrezi ka prashn patra, dusri Kumar Sanu ki awaaj, teesri papaji ki chappal.”
Undeterred by his dilapidated realities; Prem -doused and sodden in the film world, would not happily settle down with a bride, having even a speck less than the sculpted look of a cinestar- lithe, taut, and svelte. Film critic Laura Mulvey’s treatise of ‘cinematic spectatorship’ is quite plausible in stating ‘the standard operative procedures’ adopted by conventional film makers. Conventional cinema pitches men as ‘emissaries of voyeuristic gaze’ in both the story and the audience while the female characters hold an “appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact.”
Waylaid and entrapped in this psyche, Prem’s inflated male ego is shattered to smithereens when his family takes a utilitarian decision of marrying him off to the twenty -two years old, amply qualified, (aspiring teacher) plus- size but fun-loving and confident Sandhya Verma (Bhumi Penderkar).
After an inaugural pandemonium Prem and Sandhya’s ‘marriage of unequals’ mutates into a mushy, lovey-dovey affair. ‘Love comes in all sizes’ as the tagline of the movie comes alive when Prem gazes at the true worth of Sandhya. He starts taking pride in consorting- the educated and intelligent Sandhya. Not only the ‘couple compatible’ dares to participate in “Dum Laga Ke Haisha” contest which entails the male partner of the duo to shoulder his female chum and run a race. The joie de vivre of Sandhya goads Prem to backpack his 85 kilos damsel like a trophy. Celebrating his newly-found love, Prem stretches the race way beyond the winning post by blithely and buoyantly taking Sandhya around the entire town in the same posture.
The film manages to denounce and deconstruct unrealistic images of women’s beauty assuaging both men and women out of its constrictive tutelage to live wholesome lives. The movie echoes- bereft of all sermonising and in all subtlety, the eternal feminine tiding- “Look at us beyond our bodies.”