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 from a married life #1 – Dry Cleaning

Well this is mostly a drabble on the daily struggles of married life (As if I know anything about a successful married life) I find the dynamic of this relationship very interesting. After all, it’s the little things that fill life with joy. Also, I have been watching some amazing short films and I feel very inspired. Hope you enjoy this. I plan on writing many more situation-based sketches.

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Ragini rung the door bell and being the impatient person that she was, immediately started tapping her feet. With the weight of her laptop bag bogging her down emotionally just as much as physically, she waited for Akash to open the door and greet her with a welcoming smile. All she wanted to do was crash into bed and sleep.

After only a few seconds, the door opened and Akash stood before her wearing soiled clothes and a goofy smile on his face.

“Hey baby, why’re you so late?”, he asked jovially as he gave her a hug and a peck on her lips. Despite her exhaustion, Ragini gave him a smile and said, “Overload of work, as usual. There were too many deadlines that needed to be met and it seems as though none of my team members want to work in my absence. And that Trivedi – I don’t know what problem he has with female bosses. It takes all of my strength to get him to work and…” she cut off midway because Akash didn’t seem to be listening, “Why do you look so happy?”

He grinned and said, “You’ll see soon enough. Why don’t you go and change while I put dinner on the table?”

She nodded, dumped her laptop bag on the nearby sofa and said, “Let me just have a glass of water”

He nodded, kissed on her cheek and walked into the kitchen. She took out a bottle of water from the fridge and just as she was about to drink, she peeked into the kitchen to see what Akash was upto. What she saw completely horrified her. The kitchen was in a complete mess. The masala jars were all in a disarray and there were dirty utensils lying all over the place. There were half chopped vegetables on the slab and all the kitchen towels were soiled. As she kept the bottle back in the fridge, she noticed less than half of the quantity of milk in the big steel container that she usually kept on a daily basis. There was no dahi either.

With piling annoyance and resentment, she marched into the kitchen and said loudly, “What the hell are you upto?!”

He dropped the spoon he was holding in surprise and turned towards her, “Ragini why are you in here? I thought you were going to go freshen up! Please go, chalo leave”, he said as he started to usher her out.

Tch, I’m not going anywhere. What have you done to the kitchen? And why haven’t you bought milk and dahi? I had told you before leaving, hadn’t I?”

Arey I’ve made your favorite mattar paneer today! and you know the kitchen gets messy when I cook. I’ll clean it up na baby, why’re you getting so hyper?”

Ragini held up a hand and scowled, “I know how you clean the kitchen okay…don’t try to fool me. All you will do is dump the dishes in the sink and wipe the slab. I’ll have to reset the mismatched jar caps, throw the left-over vegetables, clean the stove and the microwave and keep those kitchen towels for laundry. And you will probably have used the same spoon for salt and haldi!”

Akash immediately lowered her gaze and peeked at her with guilty eyes. She let out an exasperated sigh and flung her arms, “I knew it”

“I cooked your favorite dish and that doesn’t mean anything to you, does it?”, he said in a hurt voice.

“It does, but does that mean you ignore all your responsibilities for it? When will you grow up Akash? Am I the only one responsible for keeping this house together? Will you only do as much as you’re instructed to do? Can’t you do things on your own, accept some responsibility on your own? Bolo?”

She was glaring at him with furious eyes and her face was lit up with one expression – ‘I-have-had-enough’. It was intimidating yet familiar at the same time. She had this habit of giving long furious pauses in between her outbursts during which she expected him to tell her what she wanted to hear, but on the contrary they always made Akash want to laugh. He always struggled with keeping his grin in check during one of those but it was really difficult to say the least. Unfortunately his self restraint cracked and he let one grin slip.

Nothing could have infuriated Ragini more. She hated it when he did that. She felt like she was raging at a wall and would only end up hurting herself if she tried anymore. Unable to find the right words to express her indignation, she flung her arms in the air once again and said, “That’s it. I don’t want to talk to you anymore. You think this is funny don’t you? Leave me alone and don’t you dare try to talk to me!

With that, she turned on her heel and made to march towards their room. Realizing that this would end up in silent treatment and passive aggressive behavior for days, Akash rushed towards her and held her arm, “Acha wait wait wait…I’m sorry, okay? I’m really sorry”

She jerked her arm out of his grasp and said, “What are you sorry for? For smiling or not taking up responsibility?”

“For both. I know I’m irresponsible and callous. I’m working on it, seriously”

“You just don’t get it Akash. I feel like I need to take care of everything in this house. You take me for granted. If I don’t pay attention to the bills, they don’t get paid. If I don’t give instructions to the maid, the house won’t get cleaned. If I don’t keep track of the groceries, there will be no food on the table. If I don’t make sure that everything broken gets fixed on time, you will probably not even notice a leaking tap…or, or a seepage in the plumbing. Do you ever notice anything?”

He pondered for a second and said, “I got the TV repaired last week”

“That was only because you turned it on to watch the match and it wasn’t working! You only notice things that affect you directly!”

“Alright, I accept that. But I will make a conscious effort to make changes, Ragini. Just give me some time. I’ll even maintain a to-do list from now on wards”

Once again, she slipped into one of her dramatic pauses but she seemed calmer this time. She unfolded her arms and her gaze softened a bit. A few seconds later, she said, “Do you mean it?”

“Yes, baby, absolutely”, he said earnestly.

“Okay. I’m telling you though, I’m going to stop taking care of everything if you keep this up. And you are going to clean the kitchen after dinner today. Completely”

“I promise”, he replied with a smile.

Reluctantly, she smiled and Akash let out a sigh of relief, “Can I get a hug?”, he asked.

With the smile still on her face, she walked into his open arms and felt him enclose her warmly. Snuggling her head in his shoulder, she asked, “Did you pick up the clothes from the dry cleaning? They were due today”

Akash’s smile melted away like ice-cream on a hot pan.

 

Arranged Marriage vs Love Marriage

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V/S

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This is an age-old debate, much like the tussle between men and women. However, with changing times perspectives change too, and so does the meaning of relationships. Back in the day, an arranged marriage was a pretty strict affair. It wasn’t a union of a man and a woman, it was a union of two families who were economically, socially and caste-wise matched. All the dendaari was discussed between the parents in the absence of the two people who were actually getting married. It was a business deal camouflaged as a wedding.

Love marriage, on the other hand, was not completely accepted because as they say, love is blind and does not see caste, economic or social status. The families were eternally torn between allowing their kids to have their way and log kya kahenge. Countless Bollywood movies have mirrored this situation. However, what they have also done is romanticize the idea of a love marriage and made it seem like saccha pyaar is everlasting and transcends all mortal boundaries. The ‘honeymoon phase’ of a relationship is the one that needs to be taken least seriously, but unfortunately, couples are blinded by their saccha pyaar to the extent that they take the plunge while their hormones are in an overdrive and decide to get married after only a few months of courtship.

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Guy says: “I love you!” Girl says: “Let’s get married!”

As times have progressed, the idea of ‘love’ has slowly been condensed to a few factors – the relationship status on facebook, not ignoring whatsapp texts, cheesy late night discussions about future plans (about a beach house, a dog named Rosy and kids called Shona and Shonu) and saying “I love you” to each other at every chance. This sentence is now being thrown around so casually then I fear very soon people will start greeting each other with “I love you” instead of “How are you?”. What is love? I don’t know yet, but I know that it’s none of the above either.

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Marriage is the ultimate commitment, and cannot be made on the basis of a few stray dreams sold to us by companies like Hallmark, Archies and Bollywood. It’s easy to stay together when the world is pink and emotions are raw, but the real test is when you hit a rough patch and still find the strength to be with each other. Everyone has a temperamental and weak side that they hide, especially in a relationship. Occasionally it does come to the surface, but the thing about being in “the romantic kind of” love is that people ignore each other’s faults. They keep telling themselves “Oh he’s not like that, he would never shout at me infront of everyone again” or “She won’t flirt with him again, it was only this one time..” But this can be ignored only for so long. Eventually it creates resentment and hurt. This is usually the time when most relationships fall apart, and partners claim that only recently saw each other’s “true self”. The truth is, it was always there, albeit hidden or ignored. The question that then arises is – Didn’t you know the person you loved and decided to get married to?

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Check: if you can hear violins playing each time you see your partner, then it’s not the right time to make important decisions. However, if this continues then you probably have schizophrenia.

Which is what brings me to the next part – why this generation needs arranged marriages. Arranged marriages are not what they used to be. Now they’re progressive. Although the family still looks for the potential partner, an individual has the right to say no if they don’t click. What happens here is, that people skip the honeymoon phase completely. They know they have been brought together by their family for marriage. They haven’t met each other before. They aren’t in love (as defined above) so they give each other a real chance. They don’t overlook each other’s faults because they aren’t blinded by saccha pyaar. If things work out, then the relationship follows the logical path and the two people fall in love after getting to know each other. If not, then they can amicably say goodbye.

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I’m not against love marriage. In fact, I used to be an ardent advocate of it. But then I realized that what’s important is free will and personal choice. Dowry deaths in arranged marriages are still happening and so are honour killings due to love marriages. One should have the freedom to choose. Of course, given the rate at which the meaning of love is being compressed to fit a Karan Johar song raises quite a few concerns about the sustainability of a love marriage in my mind, but there are people who do give their relationship enough time before making the commitment. They do spend years being in a relationship, gauging their compatibility, before getting married, which is something I respect and admire. As far as the concept of chat mangni, pat byah is concerned, I’d rather just watch a Bollywood film.