The ‘Lilly’ and the ‘Lily of the valley’ – two flowers with almost similar names. Do they belong to the same family? No. Lily is the true lily, whereas Lily-of-the-valley (let’s call it LOV) is the namesake. The ordinary similarity is that of the name, which starts and ends with their names, and once we are done ruminating over their names, we are left with these two majestic flowers to enjoy their enigmatic beauty. Both the flowers have their own unique identities – whereas Lily is a large and sturdy flower, LOV is a frail and tiny nodding-bell shaped flower’tin. But I will bait my ass over one thing – both darlings emit fragrances that hail directly from the Garden of Eden.
I will be damned if I go on talking about flowers. Let’s give these flowers a human form and see what happens. Should we?
Harry, wave your wand and… Transformosa…
Oh my! Look what the spell brought us! It transformed the lilies into the Hepburns – the Lily into Katherine and the LOV into Audrey. Classic Hollywood was the era of volatile passion, scandals, beauty, charm, and pure enigma. Things or people don’t get any more dramatic and awe-inspiring than they did back then. The Hepburns personify this era at its glorious best.
While Katherine – the unprecedented Hepburn – was known for her strong, fierce, and independent personality; Audrey – the follow-up Hepburn – was as delicate, gentle, and loving as the LOV. Whereas Katherine continuously refused to give interviews, talk to her fans, or reveal anything of her reclusive life; Audrey was pretty much a people’s person, so much so that her later life was dedicated to being the UNICEF goodwill ambassador. Where Katherine married just once but after divorce went on to have a 26 years long relationship with Spencer Tracy; Audrey married and divorced twice and went on to have a 13 years long relationship with Robert Walders. Katherine, in those days, was panned as well as noted for audaciously dressing up like a man with trousers and shirts; and Audrey was a universally celebrated fashion icon. Two great ladies of the classic Hollywood – similar yet different – let’s see what it means to be The Hepburns.
Katherine descended from a blue-blooded American family, as the daughter of a urologist father and a staunch feminist mother. She was raised in a progressive environment where she was taught to exercise freedom-of-speech, debate on issues she believed in, and was actively involved in the causes meant to bring social change. No wonder she grew up to posses anything and everything under the sun that would set her apart from everyone and make her an unconventional woman – the woman with her own independent spirit and her own mind.
This zeal and fearlessness was absolutely prevalent in her on-screen persona. She often appeared in screwball comedies – a genre that was most popular from early 30’s to the early 40’s, in which the female dominates the relationship with the male protagonist and challenges his masculinity thereby engaging into a humorous battle of the sexes. This theme is unmistakable in her films, such as The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen, Adam’s Rib, and Bringing Up Baby.
While visiting NYC in 1921, at the age of 14, Katharine found her older brother, Tom, mysteriously hanging on a beam. This event is said to have made this future legend very nervous, moody, and wary of people for the rest of her life. In 1928 she began her struggle as a theatre actress with this attitude, which, as you can guess, must not be easy – it wasn’t. She was endlessly panned for her lack of acting skills, stiff body, and shrill voice. It was not until the summer of 1931, when she landed the lead role in ‘The Warrior’s Husband’, she started receiving critical acclaim. It was this role that bagged her the first starring role of her silver-screen career in the film ‘A Bill of Divorcement’. The film was directed by George Cukor, who was to be her frequent collaborator and a lifelong friend.
The film stardom continued through two years – including her first (of total four) Oscars – before her films suddenly started bombing at the box office, earning her the nickname ‘Box Office Poison’. After four ‘poisonous’ years, she headed back to the stage and decided to act in a play called ‘The Philadelphia Story’ – the role that was specially written for her. Katharine’s then romantic partner, Howard Hughes, sensed the play could be turned into a successful movie and he bought Katharine the film rights of the play even before the play could debut. Katharine then masterminded her comeback. She desired to have Clark gable and Spencer Tracy as the male leads but since both were engaged in other projects, she chose Cary Grant (promising him the top billing) and James Stewart. The movie was a smashing hit, restoring Katharine to her glorious position that she would go on to chair for the long years to come.
Katharine starred in many films that are today considered classics, such as Little Women, Bringing Up Baby, Adam’s Rib, Woman of the Year, The African Queen, Suddenly, Last Summer; and won Oscars for Morning Glory, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Lion in Winter, and On Golden Pond. Despite bearing the crown of the highest Oscar-wins Katharine wasn’t an intuitive actor. She preferred to study her roles in depth, rehearsed as much as possible before the shots, and – as opposed to today’s One-Take actors – didn’t hesitate to take multiple takes for a single shot/scene. She insisted on performing her own stunts. Her swimming pool dive in The Philadelphia Story was the talk of the ‘Hollywood’ town. She was known to remember not only her dialogues but that of her costars’ as well. She actively involved herself in the production of her movies, she made script suggestions, stated her strong opinions on everything from costumes, casting, to lights and camera framing.
She often (almost always) played strong, intelligent, and rich characters that either humble down or reveal their hidden vulnerability toward the end. This very fact led her critics to slam her for lack of versatility. Katharine herself didn’t take objection to this criticism, claiming she often played herself on the screen.
No matter what, this, one of the most celebrated actors of Hollywood, lived her life in the way that was exceptionally ahead of its time – it’s no wonder she symbolized the modern woman. She can be credited for popularizing trousers among women. She is the first Oscar winning actor whose cinematic portrayal turned into an Oscar winning role – Cate Blanchett for The Aviator.
As I unsuccessfully struggle to list the unending legends of this phenomenal legend, another legend is already peeping through the windows of my curious Hollywood crazy mind – the little Hepburn, Audrey.
The legend goes something like this – the then young French fashion designer, Hubert de Givenchy, who was just starting his fashion house, was hired as a costume designer for a new film, Sabrina, and he was told that “Miss Hepburn” would be visiting him for the fittings. Excited to meet the legendary and one-and-only “Miss Katharine Hepburn”, Givenchy was absolutely disappointed to see some skinny unknown girl, who went by the name Audrey Hepburn, standing at his door. However, as this initial wave of disappointment subsided, this skinny girl, just like she did with the millions of people worldwide, went on to win Givenchy’s heart and became his, not only a lifelong friend but also his muse. Givenchy, in turn, played a key part in making Audrey the universally recognized fashion icon.
Audrey belonged to an aristocratic family of British-Austrian father and Dutch baroness mother – no wonder she looked like a princess. Her real name was Audrey Kathleen Ruston and it’s amusing to know the reason why she became a Hepburn – the reason was nothing but just a misunderstanding. Her father mistakenly thought he was the descendent of James Hepburn, the third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots (also a cousin of the Queen Elizabeth I), and he changed his name to Hepburn-Ruston, thus making Audrey the Hepburn.
Audrey spent most of her childhood in a Nazi occupied European countries, as her family kept moving from place to place to avoid the Third Reich monstrosity. When Audrey was living in the Hitler occupied Netherlands she often witnessed trainloads of Jews being transported to the concentration camps. She particularly remembered one incident when she was 13 and she witnessed a little boy – “…standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing an extremely oversized coat… and then he stepped on the train. I was a child observing a child.”
Could this – and probably many more like this – incident be the reason why Audrey’s heart was deeply instilled with compassion and she went on to dedicate her life for the betterment of unprivileged children in the developing countries? If the war had this endearing effect on Audrey, it also had a not-so-good effect on her – her famously thin and bony body frame is often attributed to her days during the Nazi Germany when she would go hungry for days at stretch, and, like many others, would survive on boiled grass, tulip bulbs, and water. She weighed on 39 kgs when she was 16. Her ballet dreams were crushed to the dust when her ballet trainer told her that despite her talent, her height and weak constitution (effect of war malnutrition) would make her dream to be a prima ballerina unattainable – also the reason why she thereafter chose to focus more on acting than on ballet.
After working as a chorus girl in West End musicals and doing small side roles – such as stewardess, cigarette girl, receptionist – in films, Audrey bagged her first starring role in ‘Roman Holiday’. Gregory Peck was a big star and at first it was decided that only his name would appear above the film title and Audrey’s name would appear in smaller fonts with “Introducing…” tag. However, at Gregory Peck’s insistence Audrey was given the equal billing and her name appeared alongside his. He later said, “She is going to be a huge star and when she does I will look like a fool for not giving her equal billing.” You see? Audrey was not born to be a star. She was born a star.
Later on she went on to star in many classics, such as Sabrina, War and Peace, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, My Fair Lady, Wait Until Dark, and many more. Audrey married twice, first to an American stage actor Mel Ferrer with whom she had a son Sean, and then married to an Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti with whom she had another son Luca. Previously she had short-lived relationships with James Hanson, Michael Butler, William Holden, and Ben Gazzara; however it was only when she started dating Robert Walders she was said to have found love and peace. This relationship lasted until her death in 1993.
Between the two of these magnificent lilies, it would be hard to say who was more charming and who had better acting skills or who was a better person. But we are diverse race of humans with different opinions and we can definitely compare them with varying conclusions. And yet the ultimate fact would always remain the same – they both were as wonderful as the flowers they represented.
An old cranky man reminiscent of ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’, with the characteristic side dish of misanthropy, misogyny, germophobia, and homophobia – the perfect eerie mishmash of human eccentricities, you would say, wouldn’t you? But this very same eerie mishmash was the luminary of the 70th Academy Awards. Wondering how? Let’s get the story straight.
Melvin Udall is a 60-year-old bestselling novelist from NYC. However, in his personal life he could possibly be perceived as the psycho-est person in the whole city – he has OCD, he avoids stepping on the sidewalk cracks, he avoids even the slightest passing brush-offs from the pedestrians, he is superstitious, eats breakfast in the same restaurant using his own use-n-throw plastic utensils, and he can react to a simple knock on the door by muttering angrily “Son-of-a-bitch, pansy assed stool-pusher”. The freaky thing is, the list doesn’t end.
The only thing that can still (although faintly) reflect his contact with his own humane self is probably the fact that he is much civil (and docile) toward Carol Connelly, the waitress in the restaurant. Also, Carol is perhaps the only person in NYC who can stomach his eccentricities.
Melvin’s gay and artist neighbor, Simon Bishop, is assaulted during a burglary and his agent intimidates Melvin into fostering Simon’s little dog, Verdell, until Simon is back on his foot. No brownie points for guessing Melvin isn’t comfortable with the ‘dog eared monkey’ or the ‘ugly smelly fuck’ loitering around his house. However, as the miracles do happen, Melvin inexplicably warms up to Verdell and becomes his lone companion for days to come.
Unfortunately (for Melvin), Verdell’s ‘fudge-packer’ parent is back on his foot and wants Verdell back. Melvin is unhappy, and so is Verdell, who is probably the second living being who has ‘warm’ feelings for Melvin. To make the grief caused by Verdell’s separation more severe, Carol decides to get a new job close to her house in Brooklyn to care for her severely asthmatic son, Spence.
This is too much for Melvin and he takes things in his hands – obviously such Melvins don’t consult with their Carols. Using his contacts Melvin arranges for Spence to receive the best treatment with all expenses paid and in return expects Carol to return to her old job so he can have his breakfast.
Disturbed with the assault and Verdell’s growing predisposition toward Melvin, Simon has lost his creative muse and is unable to make or sell art, which has effectively rendered him bankrupt. His agent advices him to borrow money from his parents in Baltimore – a trip that Melvin has to link up as the driver. To lessen the awkwardness Melvin invites Carol to tag along, and she reluctantly agrees.
The trip brings the three closer and the romantic sparks start to ignite between Melvin and Carol. However, it’s not so easy for Carol – because it’s Melvin. For example, on a romantic date Melvin refers to Carol’s dress as ‘house dress’ (not even knowing he insulted her) and Carol is forced to ‘demand’ a compliment from him. To settle the tension the writer in Melvin pays her a very thoughtful compliment by saying “You make me want to be a better man”. Enamored by his rare display of vulnerability Carol asks him why he brought her here and proceeds to unequivocally tell him that she will say yes to anything he says. Melvin, nervous with this rising romance between them, blurts out that he wasn’t comfortable leaving her at the hotel room with Simon thinking they might end up having sex – thereby BAMM’ing the whole romantic moment.
After this there are more ups and downs (except there are only downs), but in the end Melvin discovers the secret of staying fairly humane and Carol discovers the adorable loving man (the reason why I am crazy about Melvin) behind the man as the world knows and… well, you know how it would end.
Nominated for seven Oscars, ‘As Good As It Gets’ ended up winning the two crown-awards – best actor and best actress.
Jack Nicholson, the actor proved yet time and again one of the most versatile and powerful actors of all generations, surprises us – not really, but still – with this ingeniously power-packed performance. His craft has brought forth the ‘horror of a human’ and still made us fall in love with him – something only the Jack Nicholsons of Hollywood can do. His captivating flair has shone through many films, such as The Shining, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown, Terms of Endearment, and many more. I have fallen in love with this actor many times, and I still think this is NOT just as good as it gets. It gets even better every time.
Helen Hunt, previously known only for the TV series ‘Mad About You’ and a disaster film ‘Twister’, emerged as a sensitive actress and later went on to star in many critically acclaimed films, such as ‘What Women Want’ and ‘Cast Away’. Her portrayal of the bent-under-hardships waitress who is confused about her feelings for this ‘weird’ man – whether to stay away from him or to appreciate the periodically evolving goodness in him – won audiences’ hearts too. Making your presence felt under the huge shadow of a mighty actor playing a mighty character is a difficult task and Helen played her part most dexterously.
Jack and Helen were awesome – no doubt – but there was someone else whose presence could never be missed. In fact this presence enhanced Jack and Helen’s performance. That another someone was the screenplay.
The screenplay, unambiguously one of the most well written screenplays, had many memorable dialogues. Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks, the later also being the director, wrote this film after employing that part of the brain that controls the sarcasm, quit wit, and dry humor. And the result! Oh, I am too short a human to talk about the greatness of this writing. Let the script talk for itself.
A woman (Melvin’s fan): How do you write women so well?
Melvin: I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability.
Melvin: People who talk in metaphors oughta shampoo my crotch.
Melvin: (Introducing Carol and Simon) Carol the waitress, Simon the fag.
Carol: When you first entered the restaurant, I thought you were handsome… and then, of course, you spoke.
Melvin: Where do they teach you to talk like this? In some Panama City “Sailor wanna hump-hump” bar, or is it getaway day and your last shot at his whiskey? Sell crazy someplace else; we’re all stocked up here.
Melvin: If it’s election night and you’re excited because some fudge-packer you dated has been elected the first queer President of the United States… and he’s going to put you up in Camp David and you just want to share the moment with someone… don’t knock… not on this door. Not for anything. Got me? Sweetheart?
The list is beautifully endless. The movie is such a feast of wit and quirkiness that your soul feels like you just had the most delicious meal that there could be – and trust me, there seldom are such lip-smacking feasts.
Watching Sairat wasn’t an easy experience.
Now you can interpret above sentence the way you want, but if you want to decipher the essence of it you might want to go and watch the movie yourself. For those who still haven’t watched it, I would like to give them a…
CAUTIONARY WARNING: This article contains highly explosive spoilers that WILL devastate your extremely necessary ‘uneasy’ experience of watching Sairat.
It starts as a regular tale-of-fascination and during the second half of the pre-interval film it turns into a teenage love story, as beautiful as it can get. And no, if you are wondering, has the director depended on the exotic locations, exceptionally good looking and further beautified faces… then no. He hasn’t. The entire film smoothly floats on the sheer nostalgia of the teenage bliss that we all have experienced at some point of time. The beautiful things that literally come on to your face like a 3D effect are raised heartbeats, brightened eyes, frail smile, awkwardness, euphoria, the sudden drain of blood down your head, that awesome dizziness, that moment when you feel the world is the nicest place it could ever be, that extreme and insanely raw passion… you know the things that we feel when we are swept off our feet by the ever-awesome cupid for the very first time, during that tender age when our minds are still untouched by the atrocities of the cruel (real) world.
‘Sairat’ (literally meaning unrestrained, unleashed, wild) is the tale of that gigantic flood of boundless and uninhibited passion that hits us with the first love. It’s the tale of that craziness (literally articulated in a song ‘Yed laagla’) that proves to be the source of inexplicable happiness. This blissful heaven, in all its raw glory, floats on the screen throughout the pre-interval film.
As are most love-stories this one too is destined to be struck down by the most ridiculous factors. I wouldn’t have a to go into details as to which factors, because ideally that is irrelevant to me, but it would be tricky to explain the end without mentioning those, so… well the ridiculous factors are the girl’s powerful family that is hell bent on separating them. But honestly what truly mattered to me was the absolute pain to see something so pure getting polluted by these ‘unholy’ elements surrounding this love-story.
The couple runs away from their village to settle in a distant city with the help of a local protective and kind lady. At first the harsh reality makes them crawl on the path of ‘creating their own world’. We, as an audience, want them to avoid rookie mistakes, but their faces remind us they are still young and innocent and suddenly your heart is filled with compassion and that strong urge to ‘do something’ for them, a.k.a. audience’s complete emotional unification with the characters.
You start witnessing the downfall, and still you hold on to your optimistic spirit and keep hoping that the story will take a nice good turn and things will fall into their place; because by this time the innocent couple on the screen has made you as vulnerable and naïve as they are.
And things actually start to fall in place. The good fortune seems to come around and… it feels nice. Really nice! You have witnessed their innocent love, the struggle they were put through, and this is their time to enjoy the fruits of their hardships. That’s but fair! Isn’t it? I remember saying to my friend during the girl’s baby-shower photo-shoot scene, “I REALLY want the movie to end right now… on this frame.”
But the movie continues. And it continues with the careful steps. After some time you get used to its progression. Then you get relaxed. You get that grandmotherly satisfaction of seeing this young couple living their ‘not-so—perfect’ but blissful life. And at one such relaxed woolgathering moment the girl’s family reaches their house. You skip a heartbeat. You expect the worst. But the family seems to have softened up. I mean obviously, it’s been years. The couple has a cute little baby-boy (who a neighboring lady has taken out with her). Why wouldn’t a family soften up? Right? The skipped heartbeat is caught again and is taking its regular pace. You relax again. There is a happy moment.
Then the neighboring lady drops the kid home. Bliss, right? The kid, who has recently started walking, takes unstable steps toward the kitchen with a giggly smile on his face to greet his mother… and his point-of-view shot explores the culmination of this grand innocent love-story…
The couple, with their throats cut open, is lying on the floor in the puddle of their own blood. The heavenly smile on the boy’s face turns into confused-yet-scared contortion and he turns his unstable steps outside the house to the neighboring lady… his wobbly steps leaving behind the footprints of his parent’s blood. Black out. Complete silence.
At this moment, I had this argument of duel personalities inside me. The audience in me wanted to slap the writer/director across his face. I mean who does that? What is that… some sort of sadistic pleasure? Such pure innocence CANNOT result into something so ugly and so tragic.
But at the same time the writer/filmmaker in me wanted to kiss the writer/director (of the film) for this valuable ‘uneasy’ experience. I don’t get this usually. This uneasy experience reminds me of how powerful the medium of cinema actually is or can be. It unfolds the writer/director’s secret of engraving his story into our brains.
The movie is pretty long. Three hours. Some might think why is it so stretched? The last scene explains why.
All that three hours of build-up, that cheerful bliss of innocent love (I know I have been using this term again and again, but it’s a fact) is for us to fuse into their world, into their characters, and when we are at our most vulnerable fusion we are exposed to this climax – to the heartless reality of the harsh world.
This sadistic turn of events on the script is truly the pure cinematic genius on the screen!
The director, #NagarjManjule, has in my opinion, proved himself to be on par with the world directors, without loosing his cord with his roots. He is original, he is sensitive, and he is intense. Every single frame in Sairat talks to us, and that’s a combined effort of the writer and director in Mr. Manjule. Another praiseworthy directorial aspect is his complete defiance to the gender stereotype. In the film it’s the girl who protects her guy, it’s the girl who rides a Bullet, it’s the girl who goes on her first date driving a tractor, it’s the girl who fearlessly stares at her guy, it’s her who ‘takes’ the boy in the sugarcane fields to romance, it’s her who decides to elope… she drives everything, until she is taken out of her comfort zone and is left bewildered. Now the guy takes over. He cleans, he cooks, he understands, he holds on with patience. The teenage lovers unconsciously grow up. This beautiful montage of their journey comes alive on the screen with vivid colors of emotions and tells us what a marvelous job the director has done.
#RinkuRajguru and #AkashThosar, 14 and 18 respectively, are those small but mighty soldiers that made me doubt the necessity of having spent years into acting field to achieve the kind of intensity they have shown at this tender age and in their first attempt at acting. Rinku has already gotten recognition with a special mention at the National awards, and Akash, even without any such mortal honors, has proved himself to be just as much intense and effective as Rinku. I couldn’t help fall in love with both of them. There is absolutely no other option. Throughout the length of the film these two rule us!
And why only them? All the other actors have contributed equal to the build-up of this ill-fated story and the brilliant movie. Every single actor has done his/her job with optimum honesty. Of course the director is skilled, but it’s also the natural presence of every character that gives the film its authentic touch. Whether it’s a picturesque Bittergaon in Maharashtra or a big city slum in Hyderabad, with every frame we are transported into the world of Sairat.
Having said this (and hoping none of those who haven’t watched the film, also haven’t read this article) I suggest to watch the film and to suggest others to watch the film. This is truly the film that must not be missed.
We are different creatures today from what we were a few decades ago. We are more educated, more suave, more technologically sophisticated… in short more refined. We begin at an epicenter and start scattering in all directions – everyone has his/her own direction. We go away from each other but are still tied together at that epicenter. Then there comes a time that forces us to get sucked back into that point and reassess our dynamics with each other.
‘Kapoor & Sons’ explores the beauty in this perfectly imperfect process. The patriarch of the Kapoor family, a 90-years-old ailing but (typically Bollywood style) full of life, loving, and eccentric Dada ji has an heart episode and his two (sort of estranged) grandsons have to return to their family home to be with their parents who have their marital problems going on. All members of the family come together with their own beliefs, prejudices, and secrets. What happens then is the story.
Although, let me tell you, nothing ‘filmy’ happens. Yes, the family is dysfunctional at its best (or worst), but nothing that we haven’t seen before – happening in our own families. Every character is flawed – just like you and I. They react in the most instinctively earthy way possible – just like how you and I would. They have their secrets, they miscalculate, and they also take poor judgments/decisions – same as us. And this is what makes the movie highly relatable.
The one message I think we all should get out of this wonderfully directed and acted film is that our family is one place – that one epicenter – where we must return in our most original form (no doubt about that), but we must also make sure that this is where we ‘unite’ and we should ‘gather our shit together’ before this ‘epicenter’ falls apart. If we take too much time to realize this, we might be forced to complete the ‘happy family picture’ with an unfortunate patch.
The writer and director, Shakun Batra, proved himself earlier with a much-lauded film ‘Ek Main Aur Ek Tu’ and once again he has created the magic. The cinematically impeccable direction is one thing he can easily be associated with – something that I say is the best of both worlds, i.e. Hollywood and Bollywood. The writer duo, Batra and Ayesha Dhillon have (effortfully) managed to bring out the seemingly ‘effortless’ dialogues. It’s a triumph! It humongously contributes to the film’s relatable quality.
The actors’ brigade! Now that’s one strong army any film director should be (would be) envious of. Rishi Kapoor has always been one of the most natural actors and he has flourished as an awesome character actor through last few years. This film is one more jade in his sparkling crown. Despite having to bear the heavy prosthetic make-up of an old man closing in on his centenary (which can be a real trouble in the…) Mr. Chintoo has delivered the performance to be remembered. Ratna Pathak-Shah and Rajat Kapoor have always been the sensitive actors and they bring out the sensibilities of their respective characters with perfect honesty. The face of the star-cast – Siddharth Malhotra, Fawad Khan, and Alia Bhatt, give justice to their characters. Khan has emerged as the actor who is capable of delivering intense performance and is worth to keep serious expectations from. Alia has never seemed like a newcomer and here she sparkles as bright as an authentic jewel (that never really had to be polished) that she is. Siddharth may seem like an underdog (especially with such mighty people acting around him) but one thing we must agree – the boy is freaking trying hard, and it shows. He has come a long way from his ‘Student of the Year’ days and with every film he shows he has hidden spark too, which sparkles in films such as this one.
As a dedicated moviegoer I suggest one must not give a miss to this movie, and if possible should catch this one with the company of your own little weirdoes, a.k.a family members. This will save you a phone call, because after watching this movie you might not be able to wait to call them and say that you love them.
#71 #Scriptors100BestFilms #DilChahtaHai
Every now and then comes a movie that redefines the moviemaking standards. These movies are considered milestones. ‘Coming-of-age’ genre is something Indian filmgoers were not really aware of, until Dil Chahta Hai hit the screens.
I still remember my first impression after watching the movie 15 years ago – The film smelt like a freshly baked cookie. The freshness of this ‘cookie’ was so pleasant that it was impossible not to munch on it again and again. Freshness, in what terms, one might wonder. Let’s see.
The era that preceded ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ saw ‘urban’ film characters to be something like Suman and Prem, Nisha and Prem, Simran and Rahul, or Pooja and Rahul. They were, more or less, all the same – young, dreamy, believed in love, searching for ‘the one’, respectful of their parents, they even had typical names (I mean, come on, enough with the endless Rahuls and Prems and Nishas and Poojas.) Many of these films made a huge impact in their time and gave us great entertainment. However, the movie watching experience always felt like a ritual. As an audience we could predict a few things and we were seldom wrong.
Dil Chahta Hai had three protagonists, three friends – Aakash, Sameer, and Siddharth (Sid). They were, in my opinion, quite different from what I had seen so far. Aakash didn’t care a hoot about anything. He didn’t believe in love. He just fooled around. Sameer was different in a totally opposite way. He believed in love so much that he fell in love, let’s say ‘generously’. Something, that Indian filmgoers had seen only a heroine do, i.e. frantically search for ‘the one made in heaven’ – Remember Pooja from ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’? Then there was Sid, a surprisingly mature (for a Hindi film hero) and sorted artist, whose definition of love… Well, he didn’t have any definition. He didn’t believe in ‘searching’ for love. He believed in ‘being searched’ by love and he also believed the moment of love is most sudden and nothing of that moment may be what you expected.
Then there were heroines. Were they ‘typical’ heroines? May be. I mean a heroine has to be adorable, understanding, and pretty – this they all were. But Shalini, Pooja (Come on, one clichéd is allowed :-P), and Tara brought something extra, something individualistic to their personas. Shalini was a simple and naïve girl and despite being in a relationship out of obligation she found the strength to do the right thing. Pooja was as confused about love as Sameer was. Being a girl didn’t make her any more sorted than a boy. Tara… well, for one, she was older, two, she was a divorcee, and three, she was an alcoholic. Not a typical ‘girl’ to be paired with a hero in his 20’s, now was she?
But Farhan Akhtar, in his debut screenplay writing and directorial venture, brought these characters together and made it happen. Akhtar gets extra brownie points for being a fresher (this might be the quality that brought the ‘fresh cookie’ effect). Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy complimented the freshness of the movie with music that had something different, quite youthful (in a 21st century kindda way) to it.
The film didn’t require any ‘method acting’ worth of performances, but ‘staying true to the characters’ is a simple yet tricky thing that every actor in the film seemed to have achieved successfully. Aamir Khan (35), Saif Ali Khan (30), Akshay Khanna (25) – at that time – managed to get into the skins of the new college pass-outs in their early to mid twenties. Saif, in particular, was noted for resurrecting himself out of the hackneyed 90’s. He was such a good surprise!
Preity Zinta always looked interesting, and interesting she looked in this film as well. I personally remember her in this film for her amazingly fresh presence. In my opinion Shalini is one of the most desirable heroines of the Indian cinema. Sonali Kulkarni, a new find in the Hindi cinema but a well-known face in Marathi, was quite a refresher from the same old faces. With her darker complexion and (not exactly, but sort-of) geeky or intellectual style she made herself noticeable. Dimple Kapadia, a beautiful and talented actress, proved that she ‘experiments’ by doing a role opposite an actor 20 years her junior. Since then she has come a long way doing films such as ‘Being Cyrus’, ‘Luck By Chance’, ‘Finding Fanny’ (Thing to be noted – All young directors).
Now we see all such kind of things happening in Hollywood or many other world cinema. This ‘freshness’ in Dil Chahta Hai is worth a special appreciation because it happened in the mainstream Indian cinema that is, hate to admit, but is quite a clichéd. This freshness came at a prize – the movie was a success only in the metro cities and urban regions. The good thing is it didn’t affect its revenue despite the heavyweight competition from the films, such as Lagaan and Gadar.
Commercially and critically successful, Dil Chahta Hai is one of the must watch Indian films. It may never carry the grandeur of Mother India, Sholay, or DDLJ, but it has a lot of ‘original’ to offer and that we must not miss.