The problem with Kabir Singh (and it’s director)

Kabir singh

Kabir Singh has become a smashing success, owing to it’s insecure and misogynistic massive fans. People who derive great pleasure from watching a man toy with a woman like she is an object, and direct her life as per his wishes. What’s more, to watch the same woman actually dance to his tunes happily and then call it love, was the cherry on the cake. According to the director of the film, that’s true and passionate lowwee. Because afterall, if you cannot touch your woman wherever you want, slap each other casually – then is there something even there?

Any mentally healthy person will advise this guy to go get some help, and get his ideas about love straight. But then I went onto twitter and youtube and read some of the most vile comments I have read in my entire life. I realized then that this country is full of people like him, and actually consider this heroism and bravery.

What exactly is so wrong with Kabir Singh and Arjun Reddy? First of all, let me make one thing clear – there is absolutely nothing wrong with the portrayal of flawed characters. In fact it makes for a much more interesting viewing. What IS wrong though, is the validation and glorification of such characters. To depict these characters through the template of a “hero”, is a problem. When people clap at his assholery, bad decisions, wrong choices and horrible behavior – it IS a problem. And most people will take away validation from the film – not the fact that he is a flawed character whose traits are not to be emulated.

There are a few arguments in support of the film saying – What about films like Wolf of the wall street? There, too, the protagonist was an asshole and got away with his wrongdoings with minimal punishment. Well, quite honestly, I don’t know about others – but the way the film had been made, it made me absolutely hate the character. I didn’t think the gaze of the film glorified him or his actions. The film itself was good, but the character was deplorable and the film made sure he was hated, because that’s what he deserved. Most of the people who watched Kabir Singh absolutely loved his character and felt he was “ballsy”, “honest” and “brave”. In fact it’s the feminists who are now being abused and trolled (yet again) for having issues with the film. Not a single supporter of the film has a problem with the character of Kabir Singh. So how is it not problematic when a sexist, sadistic and mentally unhinged character is worshiped?

Another argument in favor of the film is – so what if Kabir slapped Preeti? Preeti slapped him a couple of times too! Well let me say this loud and clear – they’re BOTH wrong. Nobody in a relationship has the right to abuse the other. Even when you’re in an intimate relationship, there is a certain boundary that needs to be respected.

When I started watching this interview, I couldn’t watch it for more than 5 minutes. Seriously, what is this man on? This is an unhinged guy who casually justifies domestic violence and physical abuse and calls it “love”. This is a guy who has absolutely no regard for any critique of his work and calls everyone who has a different opinion than his own, ‘psuedo’. He body-shames people and attacks them personally simply because they didn’t like his film. I don’t think he even thinks that Kabir Singh is a flawed character – as per his ideas, he is the personification of the purest form of love! These are the kind of people who are going to make mainstream films now?

I don’t say such films or such characters should be depicted on-screen. That’s the whole point of freedom of expression – to be able to express one’s ideas without censorship. But I do think that glorification of such toxic masculinity is a problem, especially since Indian audiences are so impressionable. If there were ever a society that had difficulties in differentiating between cinema and reality, it would be ours. We are so heavily influenced by what we watch onscreen. We believe the character IS the actor and vice versa. If Kabir Singh hadn’t been depicted as the hero, or if he didn’t end up with the girl in the end, or if he actually faced the consequences of his actions in the end – it wouldn’t be such a bad film. The film essentially gave him the clean chit for everything he did PLUS a happily ever after too.

P.S – Is it true that this kind of toxic masculinity and warped sense of romance is commonplace in the south Indian film industry? Perhaps that is why Arjun Reddy wasn’t met with so much criticism? However I do remember watching OK Kanmani in 2015 and thinking that Bollywood has a long way to go!

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Aye Sinamika – New choreography (Updated link)

When I first heard this song, I didn’t like it much. Then I heard it again, and it seemed better. Before I knew, I was deeply in love and couldn’t let this song go. I’ve been obsessing over it for 6 months. I had planned to choreograph this at one point, but hoped it wasn’t one of my fleeting obsessions. The choreography didn’t actually start with this song; it started with a different song and ended up with this one because my instinct kept telling me to use it. Anyway, enough rambling…I think the video is decent. Critique and feedback is always welcome.

Aye Sinamika (Choreography) from Aparajita Burjwal on Vimeo.

Revisiting Saathiya

The phase from 2000-2005 was arguably one of the best phases Bollywood has seen; it’s just not given enough credit. The industry churned out some pretty amazing films before the mindless south-indian remakes and Rohit Shetty took over. Films like Hera Pheri, Mission Kashmir, Dil Chahta Hai, Lagaan, Kal Ho Na Ho, Munna Bhai MBBS, Swades, Yuva, Hum Tum – and many many more amazing films were made during these years. I think the above films pretty much sum up my favorite films of all time (minus the terrific 90s of course)

I will probably re-watch them all and dedicate one blog post to each film. This one is about Saathiya – one of a very, very, very few bollywood romantic films that I have loved. Bollywood has always been about formulaic stories when it comes to the romance genre with little variations and tweaks here and there. Up until now, which I consider to be bollywood’s transitional phase, we have hardly been served any truly moving romantic film. Saathiya, however, is a major exception to that norm and stands out in the past decade and a half as a game changer in it’s genre. Perhaps not to the same degree as DDLJ, but a strong voice nonetheless. Mani Ratnam, who is undoubtedly a genius when it comes to the romance genre, is not surprisingly the architect of the screenplay (the original Alaiyapayuthe was directed by him as well) and owing to his solid writing and the presence of a strong reference point, Shaad Ali pulled off a brilliant product.

Films that explore the dynamic of marriage fascinate me. It’s not an easy feat. I assume that’s the reason why bollywood has always chosen to drop the curtains when the hero and heroine are galloping away into the sunset. No one wants to talk about what happens after the grand finale; when the cheers die down and the celebration ends – that’s when the actual journey begins. Saathiya does exactly that. The romance is cute. The chase is fun. The chemistry is great. The passion is scorching. All of that adds up to rosy dreams about a gorgeous future filled with nothing but happiness and togetherness…but when those dreams start to become reality, the couple realize that it isn’t as rosy after all.

The beginning of every romance is exciting, it gives you a high like no other and makes you feel like you could conquer any problem. But the excitement can only get you so far. Real life isn’t exciting all the time. You can’t be romantic and passionate when there are bills to be paid and food to be cooked. Marriage is in the mundane things of life. It’s loving someone even when you don’t like them. It’s about seeing the same face for years and years and still finding some magic. It’s about fighting over issues like laundry and wall color and grocery lists. It’s about supporting each other through thick and thin because not supporting is simply not an option…and it’s not always a pleasant journey. It’s not always as appealing as popular culture would have you believe.

Saathiya is about a young couple who fall madly in love with each other and elope away after their families don’t accept their marriage. They make a vow to never turn back as they enter this exciting new phase of their lives. Afterall, what could be worse than being kicked out of your respective homes? The worst is already over, right? Apparently not. After the first few blissful months of matrimony, when the chase is over and there are other problems waiting to be addressed, cracks begin to appear in their relationship. The guy isn’t the romantic goofball the girl had fallen for. The girl isn’t just a challenge anymore. They aren’t always there for each other.

One of the important scenes in the film that highlights how much of a thin ice their marriage is on is when Suhani has had a bad day at work and hugs Aditya in the balcony of their house, not caring about all the eyes. But apparently Aditya does, and squirms as she clutches onto him. She realizes how emotionally distant they are from each other and that he cannot even understand her state of mind, leave alone being supportive. That is also the moment Aditya realizes – shit, I didn’t know I would have to be emotionally available as well. 

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Everything starts to spiral into a downward abyss after that. They can’t seem to put their marriage above their personal interests. A love that had survived the resistance of society begins to crumble under it’s own pressure. They reach the breaking point when Suhani’s father dies unexpectedly and their marriage is not able to take the strain of that setback. Suhani blames herself for his demise and Aditya feels resentful about his perennially sad wife who can’t seem to put her mind anywhere else. These are the times when a solid partnership, mutual understanding and maturity are the need of the day. One person needs to take a step back and allow the other person to take as much space as he/she wants, because he/she is the one going through a hard phase. Unfortunately, Aditya doesn’t put Suhani’s needs above his own and they reach a point where they can no longer stand each other.

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The film captures the failing marriage brilliantly. Their immaturity was one of the major reasons why their relationship was always on uneven grounds and that fact is highlighted many times. They were too young to be able to have a successful marriage. Like I said, love and passion can only get you so far. After that, it’s being selfless and truly wanting someone else’s happiness more than your own that matters.

Despite their immaturity though, they still try to hang onto small threads. Aditya’s attempt to reconcile Suhani’s sister and ex-fiance is endearing; more so because he knows it would mean something to Suhani. It is this event that both becomes a boon and a curse for them. It makes Suhani realize that Aditya isn’t a completely unsupportive husband afterall; but it also leads to her getting into a fatal accident, that puts her at the verge of losing her life.

The film is beautifully interspersed between the present and the past and slowly merges into one. The one thing we know about the present is that Aditya is looking around madly for Suhani. What we get to know from the flashbacks is that he is looking around madly for her despite all the problems in their marriage. Her absence makes him realize her worth and importance in his life; and how much he took her for granted. It is only when he is at the point of completely losing her that he tries to hold onto their relationship with his life. As he says at Suhani’s bedside – “Sach toh yeh hai ki, aaj samjha hoon main humara rishta. Ab tak to bas khud hi ko dhoond raha tha” – being with Suhani was also one of his attempts to find himself. It wasn’t selfless love until she was about to be snatched away. It always takes a life changing event to make us realize the most obvious things.

Another wonderful arc is the highlighted relationship between Yashwant Rao and his wife, Savitri (brilliant cameo appearances by SRK and Tabu). The way Yashwant supports his traumatized wife and acts as a strong anchor even in the most tense of times is heavily contrasted against Aditya’s casual approach to his own marriage, thereby also establishing the difference between the commitment of a man and the passion of a boy. He is there for his wife to fall back on when she is crumbling down in a way that Aditya never was.

In the end, a dialogue from Alaiyapayuthe sums up marriage perfectly – “A young tree might look beautiful with it’s lush green leaves and blooming flowers; but can’t sustain a storm because it’s roots aren’t thickly embedded into the ground..an old tree might look ugly and rusted, but it can sustain hurricanes because it’s roots are so firmly sewn within the earth. That’s what a strong marriage is”

Scenes that stay: Love Aaj Kal (Climax)

There are times you watch a film and one particular scene sticks with you for a very long time. It may be because it stumped you visually, had a catchy dialogue or moved you emotionally. With me, it’s mostly when a scene has emotional impact that it stays with me for years to come.

I am a movie buff. I love bollywood and I love watching films at any given point of time. I grew up on the cheesy 90’s flicks and unabashedly admit to watching films like Badshah, Yes boss, Biwi No.1 and even Ghar ho to aisa every single time they air on TV. I try not to miss a good release (and that excludes horrors like Happy New Year, Dilwale, Rowdy Rathore, Bodyguard etc) and catch every flick on the 70 mm screen. Even though I am not someone who cries during a film, I do feel moved or affected just as deeply and keep that emotion with me for a while.

Love Aaj Kal is a fairly good film. I liked it despite it’s flaws. I agreed with what it was trying to say – true love will find a way to come back to you; and once you have found your soulmate (for the lack of a better word) it is difficult to lead life with someone else or even alone; no matter how hard you try. Something will always be amiss. What takes the entire film a notch higher for me is the climax – Meera’s breakdown when Jai finally returns to her.

Pain, fear, relief, happiness – all rolled into one fine moment. I don’t know what it is about this 3 second scene that hits me hard every single time I watch it. It is deeply humanizing and shatters the glorified bollywood reunion of the hero-heroine where people clap as the heroine runs into the hero’s arms. You feel Meera’s pain as she tries to contain her emotions at his re-appearance. It is so brilliantly directed by Imtiaz Ali. It is these nuances that make him the master of the ‘romance’ genre. His films are more about discovering different facets of love than going through the motions of a formulaic film. Even though Socha Na Tha is his best film (After Tamasha, in my opinion) – this particular scene is somewhat of a masterstroke. The fact that she doesn’t breakdown in his arms like the typical heroine would is brilliant writing in it’s own right.

I didn’t look at Deepika the same way after this film. People usually credit the upswing in her career to Cocktail but this film showcased her talent long before. This scene and the one where Jai rants on her wedding day, while Meera stands there resolutely, are testament to her talent.

Special mention to Dooriyan – a song that never goes out of fashion for me. That song is magic.

Reasons why Indian men are pigs

..And the best players in the world. Really. If you can work your way through their web of emotional manipulation, you can pretty much earn a degree in corporate and war espionage. I don’t understand why scientists and researchers across the world are still in doubt whether Dissociative Identity Disorder is real or not; Indian men have thousands of personalities, each extremely distinct. The worst part probably is they use each identity to their advantage. A lot like Edward Norton’s character from Primal Fear.

Anyway, here is my list of the top 10 reasons why Indian men are pigs.

10) They use the victim card to hook you in emotionally – Oh yes, they’re artists when it comes to using the victim card. As human beings, it is our natural tendency to feel sympathy towards someone who we feel has been wronged in some way. So they come up with ingenious stories about how their previous girlfriend was horrible to them, how their parents don’t understand them and how lonely they are, etc etc. Now an interesting fact about women is that we’re nurturers by birth. We have a biological instinct to ‘care’ for someone. It is that instinct that gets activated when a man seeks sympathy. We feel sorry for him and think that in some way, we will be able to lessen their pain.

Pokeballs, that’s a sure shot winner move! It works every single time.

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9) …But they hate it when women mollycoddle too much: Hypocrisy at it’s best. Once the lady is reeled in, they hate it when she mollycoddles too much or feels entitled to his personal space. Well, the entire basis for your relationship with her is your emotional needs. Now she’s there for you, and you don’t want her anymore?

And they say women are crazy while PMSing.

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8) …And they don’t like it if you get too friendly with other men: If you start getting closer to your other male friends, they turn into the male counterparts of Komolika (ref: Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki) and consider it their birthright to violate your personal space like your phone, social media profiles etc. They don’t rest until you either stop talking to other men or pass a custom made agni-pareeksha. They also use tactics like manipulation to make you feel guilty. “You have no time for me anymore!”

Eh, I thought you were sick of me constantly fretting over you? Cunphuson, son! 

7) …They want a ‘modern’ girlfriend, but a domestic wife: Something that probably angers me more than Twilight and 50 shades of Grey put together. It’s hypocrisy in it’s purest form. Indian men love hanging out with so called ‘modern’ women who can smoke, drink, wear sexy clothes and have pre marital sex without any moral redflags. They go around claiming to be extremely open minded. But when it comes to getting married and settling down, they want a virgin, who is as pure as Ganga Maa, and will be adored by his mother. So the ‘modern’ woman is the test drive that never culminates in a concrete deal, while the wife is the family car who doesn’t even need to be tested.

Applause! Drinks all around!

6) They think every woman is available: Any woman who does not bear any suhaag ki nishani is open and available. They think it’s okay to hit on a woman in almost any situation. They would hit on their colleague, their boss, their friend, their teacher, their sister’s friend, their therapist – no one is out of bounds. Anyone who catches their eye in the unmarried category is fair game. Even if the conversation begins in a different space, it ends up with the man hitting on the woman in one way or the other. They have the talent to steer the conversation from aliens and crop circles to how beautiful the lady’s smile is within minutes (hours, at worst)

Tulent, man!

5) They don’t have the balls to admit that they’re not serious: They will keep you on tenterhooks until the very end, but will never admit that all they want is sex and a good time. They’ll keep you hooked with false promises and distant dreams, and then drop you like a sack of hot potatoes when they’re done.

Yeh hai #mardaangi!

4) They don’t have the balls to break up with dignity: They would prefer sending you a text saying, “hey jaan i thnk itz nt wrkng out btwn us nymore..we shud move on” or updating their facebook relationship status to ‘single’ rather than saying it on your face. Neat job, fella, really chic.

Yeh hai #mardaangi vol. 2!

3) They hate it when their partners earn more than they do: The ever expanding male ego doesn’t let them live with the fact that their partner earns more than they do. This pain is worse than the pain when kicked in the balls. It makes them less of a man, somehow. It makes them smaller in comparison to the woman. And how can they let that happen?

Kya kar raha hai yaar? Mard ban, be a man!”

2) They hate it when their partner disagrees with them publicly: They take everything personally, even a disagreement about Akbar’s hundred wives. They probably wouldn’t care if it were within the four walls of their house, but hell, if she disagrees openly and manages to make fair arguments, his brain catches fire like LPG gas. The pain is real, pokeballs!

“Khud ko kya samajhti hai? Itna akadti hai”

 

1) They make fun of their wives among friends: They think their wife is their personal property or trophy, something they can flash around unabashedly among their friends and pass comments openly. To be fair, it may not always be with an intention to cause hurt, but it still is an infringement of her personal space. She isn’t a page 3 celebrity to be discussed openly. It’s insulting and demeaning, whether intentional or not intentional.

Gifs from: https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/pokemon-gifs

Reasons why Kal Ho Na Ho rocks my socks. Everytime.

Kal Ho Na Ho is a masterpiece. If I had it my way I would put in it on the No.1 spot on the list of “Movies to watch before you die”. Every dialogue, every scene and every character in this film is genius. From the perpetually cranky Naina to the “she-wants-your-money” Chameli, uh, Camilla. From the forever-butting-into-other people’s-business Aman to the goofy flirt Rohit. From Naina’s “Maar-daala” Dadi to Sweetu’s horny sister. Rohit’s Gujju parents deserve a separate mention altogether. Coz they’re anything but “normal chhe”.

Let’s begin, shall we?

8) 6 Din, Ladki in – Only SRK, dude. Only SRK. Hell if Aman was the prospect I would say yes within 6 minutes. The whole sequence was a win. “Oopar dekho, neeche dekho, doosri taraf dekho, ab apni naak mein ungli daalo..haha! just joking jawaan”. The assumption behind this funda is true though. Girls tend to take it personally when a guy stops smothering them with attention. In Aman’s golden words, “Ladkiyon ke baare mein mera ek usool hai. Jitna tum ladki ke peeche bhagoge, utna woh tumse door bhagegi. Agar tum uske peeche nahi bhagoge toh woh confuse ho jayegi aur tumhare peeche bhagegi yeh jaan ne ke liye ki woh confused kyun hai. Aur isi confused ladki ki confusion ka humein fayda uthana hai” 

Aman’s swag – “Main sunday ko kaam nahi karta”

7) She wants your money! – So dejected Rohit gets attracted to Camilla, or maybe just her legs. They decide to go on a date and the omnipresent Aman decides to butt in. The sexy Camilla, however, is a con artist working with her mom who reels Rohit in by pretending to be in a Mandir while she’s taking a bath in a jacuzzi. Finally, Rohit delivers the smashing lines that make Camilla arrange a one way trip to Mr. India’s oblivion – “Camilla darling, mujhe apne daddy ke paise bilkul nahi chahiye. Main apni zindagi khud banana chahta hoon, aur apne pairon pe khud khada hona chahta hoon. Kya tum mera saath dogi?”

Yeah, I’ll join you when hell freezes over! (did you see what I did there?)

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6) Kantaben – Well this is one iconic character. The actor hardly delivered a total of 50 lines yet the character came very close to overshadowing the film itself. Hardly a single award show passed without making jabs at Kantaben and her homophobia. The exaggerated tremors, temporary speechlessness and the brilliant gujju background music made her one of the funniest characters ever.

“Aman bahar gaya hai! Ladki ke saath! Girl!”

5) Galat Ghar! – Well this scene sends me into a wild fit every time. You have a bunch of insane characters thrown in with another bunch of insane characters. Sweetu’s big sister J.Kapoor gets to put her jism ki bhookh on full display in this scene. Rajpal Yadav makes an entry as Guru who ends up being mistaken as the sardaar sent by a matrimonial agency. While Rohit is mistaken as Guru who was supposed to be Sweetu’s blind date. And when the real sardaar finally turns up, he is shooed away by the traumatized duo of both Rohit and Guru.

Meri aankhon mein dekho, tumhe kya dikhai deta hai?….BATHROOM!”

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4) Frankie Ramdayal – As you can see from the title of my blog, I’m a big fan of this guy. He may not have delivered too many lines, but his presence itself elicited some genius dialogues. The whole exchange between Sweetu, Aman and Naina was nothing short of epic. I won’t write the whole dialogue here, but am embedding this oscar worthy scene in this post.

“Mummy ko bhi saath leke aana!”

AND

The brilliant bhangra group – “Daler chhaddo saanu dekho” Well, lol.

3) Sweetu – AKA Jaspreet Kapoor. With 2 o’s. Iski life ki do problems hain – wazan hai, jo kam nahi hota aur is baat ka ise gham nahi hota. Sweetu, in my opinion, was a rockstar. She didn’t give a rat’s fart about what anyone thought of her figure and unabashedly continued to fawn over guys openly. She had one dialogue that teaches you not to take either yourself or life too seriously.

“Ladka, ladka, ladka! tumhe aur kuch nahi soojta na? Kya hoga, tum usse shaadi karogi bacche paida karogi aur phir? Phir ek din woh tum sab ko chhod ke chala jayega, phir kya karogi? What will you do then?”

“Doosri shaadi karungi, aur kya karungi”

LIKE A BAWS!

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2) Rohit’s introduction – Son of the owner of Dial-a-dhokla has to be a lava of coolness (um, well) He is a loser who still has swag. Poor guy got thwarted by almost every girl he hit on, but in Naina’s words, he never stopped trying! From Julia to the woman in the elevator to the divorcee Geeta to the old woman whom he takes out on a date – he has tried them all.

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1) G-U-J-J-U – This song should have been the song of the year. Even though it is a caricature of the Gujrati community, it does so in an endearing way and is a chart topper anyway! I loved all sequences with Rohit’s parents though. Including the first scene with Rohit’s mom welcoming him home with “Maaro Rohit ghar aaye ho o raam ji” dance and the scene when they go meet Naina’s family – “We have a very big hole” A winner parental unit, ladies and gentlemen.

If you haven’t watched this film yet, then kill yourself with an overdose of The Weasley’s U-No-Poo powder.