Small thrills

Should be ‘small joys’, but the list below sent a small thrill up my leg. I remembered the first when someone was bashing all mainstream Bollywood movies, including the ones made in the last ten years (many of which I love).

  1. Usually in any Hindi movie song, the hero plays an instrument and sings along. Magically, during the song when he gets up and walks around/jiggles/dances around a tree, the instument still keeps playing on. And he plays spectacularly well, even if every thing you’ve learnt about his history so far states he had a deprived childhood with no access to education, let alone musical training. But in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, a girl plays the guitar. And not even the heroine – this is a friend who plays the guitar, not the all-knowing all-accomplished hero.
  2. In Baabul, one of the worst movies of all time w.r.t entertainment value as well as values in entertainment [1], has a scene where Hema Malini (swoon) confronts her husband when she’s not allowed to attend her son’s funeral per Hindu (north Indian) customs. woot!
  3. Aishwarya’s million-dollar expression of unabashed lust in Jodha Akbar in that scene. I wonder if too much acting was required there, but that’s another story…
    The story itself was great in terms of class-and gender-equality, in allowing a Queen, who was pretty much her Lord’s property, to have the right of self-expression and be self-willed. Coming from a filmmaker like Gowarikar who’s made fantastic movies like Lagaan and Swades but where the women were just props, I loved him for making J-A so equal. woot!
  4. The last scene in Luck By Chance with Konkana’s character dumping Farhaan’s character – and with that, her meal ticket – since he was being self-centered.
  5. Priyanka Chopra’s character in Dostana crying – not for love, for relationships, for shame, for social approval, for fear – but for a career loss (!!) when she gets passed over for a promotion. This, when a leading lady with a career was rare in the 80’s and Madhuri’s ‘computer science student’ character in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun was such big news.
  6. Konkana’s character in Amu doing the ‘search for her roots’ that’s usually the reserve of men around the world, since it is usually the man’s right and duty to carry on filial obligations and maintain/trace paternity lines.
  7. Shah Rukh and Rani’s characters together wishing for a girl child in Paheli. The movie itself was very strongly feministic, and talked about a woman’s right to choose her life partner and her destiny. It also was the rare Bollywood movie that allowed its leading characters to pick love over some random concept of family duty. And, its execution remained true to its setting and context. Excellent.
  8. Salaam Namaste: I know so many people had so many valid issues with this movie, but again, I’m grateful for small mercies. A leading lady with a career that is important to the story, earning her own money, working hard & long hours, and unconcerned about cleanliness in the house vs. her neat-freak male partner (YAAAAAYYYY!!!)
  9. Chokher Bali. The book was depressing in the extreme, and so’s the movie, because it reinforces old tropes of all women being sexual rivals of each other, no woman being worthy of your trust, widows as sexual predators, men as easy, innocent victims to manipulative women’s wiles, etc. But I liked that the movie showed a woman with a spine, even if by the end her spine, spirit and self are all crushed, even if she’s ultimately a victim of social mores and her she’s shown to have no control over her life or her destiny. Gosh, that was depressing – not sure if this still should be in this list!
  10. Dor – Both Gul Panag’s character as well as Ayesha Takia’s were feminists in their own ways. Of course, this one followed regional stereotypes, movie-making stereotypes, and may not even be a mainstream, masala Bollywood movie by most standards. And sadly, the women were strong not by themselves or ‘just because’; they were strong in their search for lost husbands or in their escape from rape, both situations that ‘allow’ for strength in women in a patriarchal context (other traditionally approved situations include saving your child from hunger/horror, fighting for your nation, nurturing your mother/family, etc.). But it was a good movie because it attempted to tell a woman’s story, at least showcase her voice. Small thrills, indeed.
  11. Aaja Nachle: the whole darn movie! The fact that Madhuri was back, and looking better and acting better and dancing better than ever. God, peeps, give this woman more movies, was positively glowing in every frame of this one. The fact that she didn’t need Akshaye to step in and help her out. The fact that she was not just a spirited fighter, she was also a master diplomat (watch the scene when she deflates the local goons gunning for her show with ‘this is so bharatiya, as opposed to a shopping mall, ji). The fact that she and her friend make up with each other (does that help the movie pass the Bedchel test?). Sadly, her counsel to Konkana when the younger girl is failing in love, to act feminine and play hard to get, was so cliched and all Rules-ey. Take it from one who did the opposite – the Rules often fail miserably, especially when your guy has a brain!
  12. Swades: The heroine does math! Long division! The numerical kind, not the family-feud variety! She does it in her head!
    And, she’s the first to declare to her boyfriend that she loves him [2]. Blub.
  13. Chak De India. Despite the fact that the film used a male authority figure and therefore reinforced traditional lines of control and leadership, despite the fact that it reinforced regional stereotypes and prejudices, despite the fact that it was marginally homophobic, despite the fact that it didn’t even examine class barriers, and despite the fact that almost all the characters save Shah Rukh’s were uni-dimensional, Chak De nevertheless was a ground-breaking movie. It showed that women could legitimately have outside interests, that women didn’t need to be either doormats or angry mis-fits, that women could play sports, that women could compete and be petty but still make up and fight/play together for the team, that women could be stunningly pretty and feminine and still be good sportspersons, that women could be conventionally ugly and ‘masculine’ and still be good sportspersons, that women could be boring-looking and still be good sportspersons, that women could legitimately express themselves with violence in public, that the various mediums of physical expression were still available to women (see this post and this one). And of course, it showed us (after Swades) that Shah Rukh Khan can actually act. Which is a feat in itself.

So, anyway, there’s my starting list. I’m sure I’ll add to this in time, too. Yay for Bollywood!

[1] sorry! πŸ™‚

[2]Oh, and the best part – P openly gushed when her saw her do that. How I love my guy. πŸ™‚

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