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Son of a soldier, I was born in Sultanganj in Bhagalpur district, Bihar. My childhood days were spent in an earthy rural life. I was deeply inspired by the rich folk culture of Buddha’s own land, Bihar. Right from the beginning, I Grew up with real images of Melas, Ramleelas, Bahuripiyas, incredible rituals, strong religious milieu and the vibrant Mithila Art. Natural calamities like flood and drought gifted unforgettable images. Changing seasons of rural life on the bank of river Ganga matured into a sense of poetry and language. Wonder years passed chasing steam trains that passed through the fields of my native village. Listening to radio programs made for defense personals was my only window to the outside world. With such a treasure of inspirational experiences a story teller evolved. I am a practicing film maker in Bombay today.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Chiffon dreams RIP

THIRD EYE/ Barkha Dutt
August 19, 2006

‘I can’t believe you liked that film.” Have you also had to hear that after watching Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna? Some people look at you with the disapproval that’s reserved for the depraved. Though I am allergic to gender generalisations, I have to concede that this outrage emanates mostly from women. These are the mothers and daughters who come to the movies to find the cinematic equivalent of their favourite Mills and Boon romance. Instead, they find that their chiffon dreams of love have been thrown into a washing machine, spun around in the roughness of real life, and then, hung out to dry. What they are left holding is not the soft, pastel pink of dream sequences, but the sturdy gray of everyday life.
Others, and these are mostly my friends, are caught up in the craft of the film. Too long, too tedious, too confused: that’s their verdict. When I tell them that I enjoyed the film, they look at me with the disdain reserved for girls who are first, ditzy enough to read Cosmopolitan and then, quote chapter and verse from ‘How to keep your Man’. In short, they think I’ve lost it.
But here’s the truth. Not only did I have fun watching KANK, I actually thought that for a mainstream film, it had at least a few moments that challenged convention; moments that cajoled us out of our comfort zones.
By now, even those of you who haven’t seen the film probably know the story. It’s a tale of two marriages gone wrong for no apparent reason — no abuse, no malevolent mother-in-law, and no infidelity (to begin with). Yet, one half of each couple feels an acute emotional alienation and a sharp sense of drift within their relationships; and they begin looking for love outside their marriages. Presiding over this universe of chaos is ‘Sexy Sam’, a philandering patriarch played by Amitabh Bachchan.
In many ways — and depending on your point of view, this can be good or bad — the film is still trademark Karan Johar. So, as always, it’s a world peopled only by the super-rich. The houses are palaces; the women are wrinkle-free; the car can only be a Ferrari. Central Park may as well be Lodhi Garden because, in Johar’s imagined New York, there are only Indians (and a few white blondes to drape themselves around the brown men). In this wonderland, women wear Versace to vacuum-clean their floors and lipstick to brush the lint off their sofas.
But remember, this is a filmmaker who virtually created the persona of the Urban Conservative. His earlier films have always glamorised tradition and chosen duty over desire. The entire plot of his second film revolved around an authoritarian father who stopped talking to his son for daring to marry the woman he loved.
It’s ironic that it was Amitabh Bachchan who played that dictatorial parent because, in this film, his is the voice of gentle tolerance. His character has the wistful wisdom of a man who has lived long enough to understand the innate complexity of human relationships. Amitabh’s Sam catches his daughter-in-law cheating on her husband. Yet, in the final moments before he dies, he gently encourages her to walk out on his son, her husband; otherwise, he says, she will be depriving them both of a chance of genuine fulfillment. There’s no judgment, no recrimination, just sadness at the inevitability of it all. That one scene, I thought, was pretty radical not just for Johar, but for popular cinema anywhere, anytime.
Sure, there are problems with many of the characterisations and plot resolutions. For a film that claims to be all about the conflict between passion and friendship, the director seems far too defensive about setting the stage for the adulterous affair. And eventually it’s not as if the grandeur of love obliterates the duties of domesticity — neither lover walks out of their marriages; instead they are thrown out and left with no option.
But, for God’s sake, it is a Hindi film, with its usual share of melodramatic absurdities. Why should it be otherwise?
If you don’t go looking for ponderous art, you may find yourself surprised by many of the moments. There’s the embittered darkness of the Shah Rukh Khan character who vents his anger on his child; there’s his feisty wife who is so consumed by her career that she forgets to show up for their son’s school functions; there’s the illicit relationship of the couple who check into a motel for sex; and at the end of it all, instead of judgment, there is forgiveness and friendship.
On a recording of We the People, Shah Rukh Khan made an interesting point: he said he had chased other men’s wives in more than 35 films, so he couldn’t understand why this film has evoked this kind of scrutiny. He wondered if it was because KANK isn’t just about the greedy, perennially hungry, male libido and the ever-suffering wife. Were we all so hot and bothered, he asked, because we weren’t quite ready to believe that the wife could be just as restless and dissatisfied?
Listening to the other panelists on the show, I wondered if the film was somewhat confused in its resolution, precisely because we too are confused. Writer Shobhaa De, for instance, argued that infidelity was a “non-issue” for today’s generation, but the institution of marriage was just as entrenched as it ever was. Others proclaimed on national television that “everybody cheats”. And then there were the husband and wife who said they still held hands after 25 years of marriage, and that was, quite simply, good enough for them. Needless to say, there was a collective sigh of envy and the show ended with only one conclusion — there is no singular truth that defines our relationships anymore.
Modernity has simultaneously created more freedom and more fear; we like the space to write our own rules, but sometimes wish we had a roadmap for life; we shun social norms but still look for security; and we like the adventure of a restless life but still want to be rooted.
One in every hundred marriages in India ends in divorce. But the search for a suitable boy is still a national pastime.
And somewhere in the conflict zone between the head and the heart lie all our lives.

The writer is Managing Editor, NDTV 24x7

Saturday, August 19, 200603:45 IST

HindustanTimes.com » Editorial » The Big Idea » Story

7 Comments:

Blogger Maja said...

Hi Sanjay,
I just read this article a few minutes before visiting your blog. It's really well-written and I'm definitely on the author's side, I enjoyed KANK, but as soon as it was over, I thought to myself that it's probably going to get a lot of negative reviews. I guess it's one of those love-it-or-hate-it movies.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Assorted Observations and Thoughts said...

Jhaji, sending you a link. See what you can do about it?
http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1774620,001100020016.htm

1:44 AM  
Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

sorry for intruding. Right at the onset, let me assure you I am no troll..

During the times of marco polo the chinese were an advanced civilisation. Among other things they had already been using kites, gunpowder etc.

One morning marco polo woke up and looked out of his window and saw a kite flying in the sky.


He stood astouned, created a hullabullo much to the anxiety of the chinese emporor. As the emperor gathered his wits to ask him what has shocked him so much ? Marco polo replied he saw a giant man flying in the sky. This obviously intrigued the emeror. Finally he was told it was a kite and the emperor laughed loudly.

KJ is being a marco polo telling in an over dramatised fashion what has been handled quiet normally by many movies.

I cant understand that over dramatisation, rona, dhona. Who cries so much in real life ? Even the most serious of stuff in real life is handled matter of factly. I dont like that genre of dramatisation of the mundane.

:) I am one of those guys who would ask "How can anyone like his movie". I am not saying that one should not like his movie.. But it comes to me as a shock that people like such sentimentality...

Vishal bharadwaj, prakash jha.. those are the film makers I really really dig. I think that is the real creative work. Not weather someone looks good, smiles perfectly and cries instantly.

I know all cinema is fiction, but an intelligent guy is one who doesent make it obvious. Its like seeing krish flying across the screen and someone in the theatre spotting the harness string across his waist. This excessive bullshit is that harness string a sign of bad film making, again my own opinion.

Vasu

2:48 AM  
Blogger V N said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:50 AM  
Blogger V N said...

SJ

Its my first time here, and I am here thx to technorati, that showed me that I was being linked to, from ur blog. Which is indeed an honour!! Thx a bunch!!

Like Maja, I had chanced across the article too before I came here. And I shud say that I have to agree absolutely with Vasu whos been here just before me, than Barkha who in my opinion does a Taran Adarsh, for a change! :) ;) Not that theres anythign wrong with it; its just my opinion.

But I have to point out that I am surpsied when she calls KANK depicting the 'sturdy gray of everyday life.' Everyday life that smells of gross inanities under the guise of a 'story', perfectly clad women who wear makeup even to bed, stellar rain sequences in which people get drenched on a park bench for no obvious reason at all, awesome film sets that resemble anything but a home, and what not. Some Everyday reality, this!! Come on, havent we seen better reality shows for Gawd's sake?

And I fail to understand the view that the ones who are speaking against the film are the moralists. No, they are not. They are people who have seen better take-offs on the theme of infidelity and who have been dead bored seeing this mishmash masala that serves no sense or purpose whatsoever. That it has been draped under a veil of awe and candygloss, doesnt make the least bit of difference, atleast to ordinary viewers like me!

I cant leave before saying that I love ur blog. And I am unhappy abt the fact that I havent been here before. Better late than never, I guess!! Shall be back for more!

2:08 AM  
Anonymous Filmiholic said...

On the subject of Sexy Sam, I have to say he's a character I wish to have seen more of.

I've never felt this way about any other Karan Johar film, but if there were ever to be a "spinoff", I'd love to see Sam back when he was married to the disciplinarian he describes in Kabhi Alvida and how he went from there, through losing her, through to the Sam he was when he died.

It's probably also that since AB left that awful '80s period behind and came back into his own with KBC, I can't get enough of him onscreen and hope for many more films like Black or Sarkar or Viruddh where he dominates the whole film and the story revolves around him.

2:06 PM  
Blogger dhevi77 said...

I liked KANK and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Sure it's mainstream, sure it's KJ and sure there's perfect crying and perfecter clothes.

But the "grayness of life" is about how nothing is black and white, how no one person can be blamed for certain disappointments in life, and how sometimes you just kinda make do with what you can.

And hope you can do it with dignity.

I believe that's what Karan tried to do ( amidst great rain and designer duds no doubt ) and I believe that's why this movie will be talked about, and polarising people, for a long time to come.

You can love or hate KANK, but you can't ignore it.

2:39 AM  

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