Punjab of the Popular Imagination

There is a stereotype for the people of Punjab that is known across the country; perhaps no other stereotype is as stereotypical as this one. And so that stereotype has played a major role in depicting the entire state of Punjab in the popular imagination, as we know today. Most people know Punjab through the veil of that stereotype, thanks to how it influenced the popular imagination.

That Punjabis are loud-mouthed. That they have a tendency to utter and blabber what they actually feel, that they wear their heart on their sleeves. That they may say things that might not sound great, but they have their hearts in the right place.

The most famous symbol for Punjab is the Golden Temple, which stands for peace and serenity such as you might have never known before; the beautiful temple made of gold which stands shining as much in the night as in the day.

Punjab is also known for its food; oh, the food. The dollops and dollops of butter that they use, the scrumptious choley they cook, the beautiful way in which they cook their chicken, the makki ki roti and the sarson ka saag of course. More than the food, they are known for the generosity they extend with the food, the langars, with the belief that food is meant for everyone, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs.

Punjab, oh, if anyone were to ask me, Punjab is a riot, full of colours, and bhangra, and generous, kind souls, and delicious food, green fields, lots of sunshine, big houses, giggly girls, outspoken men, but a good place, overall a good place.

So I liked Udta Punjab- it swooped in and destroyed the Punjab of the popular imagination and replaced it with a much grueling reality, which hasn’t really been done properly before. We have Amrish Puri romanticizing Punjab as ‘home’ which is, although ever so humble, irreplaceable and Shah Rukh Khan coming in and sweeping away the bride in the mustard fields of dear Punjab in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge. Skip that, we have two of the actors in Udta Punjab, Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan, who when last worked in a movie together glorified the very stereotype we just spoke about.

The overbearing, kind-hearted, all-knowing patriarch who gives the way for love, giggly, supportive relatives who like to stuff guests with food, colorful clothes and bhangra sequences, the beat of the dhol which sets everyone in action- Punjab for beginners.

But I loved it how Udta Punjab brought about a new Punjab in the popular imagination, the Punjab of drugs. Corrupt policemen, dirty politicians who’d do anything to win elections, youth wasting away in syringes lying in abandoned fields, girls being forced to go on drugs, families which coalesce and support the men in their family to keep a girl locked up rape her turn by turn.

The people of Punjab here were cunning and sly, not loudmouthed and outspoken.

The picture painted was the opposite of serene; in fact, the only way Alia Bhatt could figure having some peace in her life was through staring at the board of Goa through her window and imagine diving into the ocean.

And the food? Udta Punjab broke all notions about Punjab’s food when they showed Alia Bhatt hungrily gnawing at the leftover chicken bone her captor left lying around.

Although I did feel that Abhishek Chaubey could have depicted the drug problem as a more generalized phenomenon, affecting people of Balli’s age, as opposed to concentrating on individual stories, for the problem affects people at large. It is a sociological ill, not an individual one, and hence, would have been much more appealing.

And yet I am happy to see a new Punjab, away from the Punjab of the Popular imagination, for we must know, and all the four actors’ performances show it as well as it could.


The Jungle Book: So What Makes You As You Are?

I watched The Jungle Book, and as is my habit, went on to read its reviews. Personally, I found the movie to be very interesting, but for its original story that hails from Rudyard Kipling, not because this particular adaptation was so great. The 3D effects were spectacular, but I was a bit surprised to note the lack of humor in the movie- I certainly felt that there was a lot more scope for a few jokes. Compared to the other animated greats like Tangled, How To Train Your Dragon, and The Incredibles, the Jungle Book fails quite sadly.

Of course, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book has been read, understood and interpreted widely in terms of postcolonial theory and imperialism, for Kipling was the unfortunate author of the poem The White Man’s Burden. But the aspect of the story that I found much more captivating were the results of the nature and nurture effects, which goes back to the old argument concerning the development and growth of any being- what is more influential, the genes or the environment?

In the figure of Mowgli, the debate is personified quite literally. Left in the jungle at a very tiny age when his father is killed by the tiger Shere Khan, Mowgli is almost adopted by the panther Bagheera and from then on, raised by a pack of wolves, and called a ‘man cub’. But Shere khan is determined to hunt Mowgli down and finish him off, for he is sure that the ‘man cub’ will grow up to be a man and be the natural enemy of animals as all humans are, for he believes that the true nature of a man cannot be taken away from him.

Shere Khan has a point-Mowgli might have been raised amongst wolves but he struggles to be one like them, lagging behind as his brother wolves sprint on and the wolf elders try again and again to teach him how to live and behave like a wolf. He is constantly reprimanded for using his ‘tricks’- using to his advantage his separated fingers and agile grip to move around and operate stuff that four- legged mammals possibly could not. He is regarded warily by everyone in the jungle, for quite obviously, he walks on twos instead of fours.

But on the other hand, Mowgli is more a creature of the jungle than he was ever of the human world- he speaks the language of the wolves, the panther, the bear, the tiger and the king of the Bander-log. He runs and climbs faster than any human is probably capable of, having been raised among animals. He’s uncannily adept at picking fruits, berries and honey off heights. But more importantly, he identifies himself with the world of the jungle, rather than the world of the humans, and so, is dismayed when he realizes that he will have to go to the human village in order to survive the menace of Shere Khan.

This, right here was, nature versus nurture, but with convincing arguments for both sides- this embodiment of the debate is precisely why I find Mowgli so fascinating.

Let’s go back to our general daily life to understand what can be regarded as a more influential factor. For Abhishek Bachhan, while having given a couple of stellar performances in Guru and Yuva, could not be said to have possessed the greatness and the larger-than-life aura of his father Amitabh Bachhan? Rahul Gandhi, with generations of political blood behind him, hasn’t really displayed the political cunning and ambition that was expected of him. Sunil Gavaskar, one of the greatest cricketers in the world, never could bring his son even close to the success in the cricketing world that he himself had achieved. These are the examples which not only had great, professional genes, but also bustling environs where their skills could flourish.

To the contrary, we have countless examples which defy odds- Shah Rukh Khan did not have the acting lineage and business acumen that many of his contemporaries did but yet he went on to become India’s star. We are all aware of Modi’s chaiwallah story, how he became the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy from being a mere chaiwallah at one point of time. J.K. Rowling’s is another rags to riches story, where she went on to write the world’s most popular and highest selling book series, while living on the state’s allowance, being as poor as one can be without being homeless, with a child to take care of? It was certainly not the conducive environment that resulted in their dazzling success- then were their parents hidden geniuses that managed to pass on their abilities? Perhaps not- perhaps there are other factors that are in play. Yet it cannot be denied that talent can rise in the unlikeliest of places.

Many years back, Virginia Woolf wrote of Shakespeare’s sister- a sister that he never had. She wrote about his hypothetical sister, who might have had Shakespeare’s genius, but would have died anonymous and unknown because her talents would never be allowed to flourish and develop in a world so stifling to women. She wrote that if a woman is to write, she must have a room of her own and adequate money that would provide her with the comfort to write. A room of her own, she said- the private space free of anybody to introspect and write.

Psychology partly made the answer for me, if not fully. From what I understood, the biological genes set the extreme limits, but the human will and determination is free to exercise within those limits. With a healthy and happy environment, the children do have higher odds of leading more satisfied lives. We cannot possibly overreach our genes, but the limits do give our environments enough scope to lead lives as we would. For not everybody had the comforts of a private room, yet great writing is known to have come up from the messiest of places. For people are known to have survived on lonely islands, swum great lengths and eaten fellow human beings if the time called for it- yet they couldn’t escape the confines of their own biology.

This is precisely where Mowgli becomes so relevant- Mowgli, as a human being, cannot help but use his fingers and limbs because he simply can. But he can easily climb trees and run extremely fast because he had been taught so; he can speak the language because he grew up conversing the language. In the end, he is the most content in the ‘Mowgli way’, his own way of living comprising a mix of both human and animal behaviors. And that is what we must strive for- limited as we are by our own generational advantages and disadvantages while becoming more and more like our parents every passing year, we can always learn from the past and forge a new to the future,  to be set as an example by others.

Fleeting Thoughts on Kapoor and Sons (Since 1921)

I saw Kapoor and Sons over the weekend and was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually a really heartwarming and insightful movie (I also watched Ki and Ka over the weekend but more on that in the next post). Much had been spoken about Rishi Kapoor’s makeup which was apparently done by the same people who did Brad Pitt’s in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and it really was quite brilliant.

I didn’t find Alia Bhatt’s role to be very significant, so I won’t be mentioning her much; Sidharth Malhotra and Fawad Khan were serious eye candy, and it’s worth going to the theatre just for them. In fact, I had a dream last night starring a very good looking guy bearing a striking resemblance to Fawad Khan. Ratna Pathak and Rajat Gupta were their usual genius selves, and everybody all together came out to form a very fun group.

It is the story of the Kapoor family when the dadu, Rishi Kapoor gets a heart attack, so Fawad Khan and Sidharth return from London and New Jersey respectively to the small town of Coonor in Kerala. Old family banter ensues as we observe a family that doesn’t seem very different than ours, and slowly secrets unfurl.

  1. The Portrayal of Family: All families fight. Even the ones containing two boys as good looking as Fawad and Sidharth. Nothing can change that. What you can change is your patience level- the movie helps us see ourselves in a critical light, and reminds us that it would all do us well to shut up once in a while and do things for the other person.
  1. The film sadly comes off as giving the message that you’ve got to love your family no matter what- that’s a bit problematic. By idolizing the unit of family to that extent, the movie sweeps over the murkier aspects of the individuals. Like seriously, the fact that Rajat Gupta had been cheating on Ratna Pathak for a long, long time is not okay, and definitely not something to be forgiven. It should have been shown that it is okay to walk out of a family as well, if the family cannot treat you right.
  1. But hey, they do show that all family members make well-meaning mistakes, that their intention was never to hurt, and intentions, however misguided, do count.
  1. The ending was remarkably good- there is no happy ending, and it isn’t shown as if anything is solved or sorted. There is, however, a step towards acceptance.
  1. In this film, as is done in many others, death is used. In art, the use of death to make people realize, to make them regret, to bring them together, to make them forgive- it is an easy way out. To do all this over a passage of time because you just come to accept a person, that is the more difficult path.

All in all, a very fun watch which raises enough larger questions on the nature of this life. I couldn’t stop crying in the second half; S. couldn’t stop laughing. At me, not at the movie.

You might also be interested in reading my thoughts on the movie Masaan.

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Why Anushka Sharma’s Revenge in NH10 is Totally Believable

NH10, Anushka Sharma’s production debut, has a lot up its sleeve, if only you’d care to look- perhaps I can go so far as to say that it is one of the best Hindi thrillers in recent years. An urban Gurgaon couple, headed for a romantic getaway further up in Haryana, witness an honor killing and are chased by the killers, across the barren fields on a fateful night. As has been noted by critics, Navdeep Singh borrows generously from British horror thriller Eden Lake yet makes it his own-the urban-rural divide, the misogyny and patriarchy prevalent in urban and rural India, the social commentary weaved through and through. Yet one aspect of the movie that wasn’t completely embraced by the audience was Anushka Sharma returning to finish off her husband’s killers after running from them all night- surely, any life-fearing person would run to family and friends and seek help from police in the comfort of daylight? Wrong. In any other situation, I wouldn’t have believed that the wronged wife comes back to kill five men- except for this one.

  1. Girl had sass

Anushka Sharma, playing the character of Meera, has been depicted as a very brave character right from the beginning. Returning late from a party one evening, she makes a lurch and escapes when faced with an extremely dangerous situation, when most of us would have been paralyzed by fear. At her office meeting when a male colleague remarks that she might be getting undue appreciation in lieu of being a woman, she calmly gives a fitting reply. While stuck in the fields and running for their lives, Meera never loses hope, not even when her husband is injured and she has to run not only to save herself but also to save her husband whose condition may have been getting worse by the minute. A brilliant scene shows her successfully outstripping Satbir and the gang for some time at least by climbing on top of a hill, and when they notice her there, she actually throws stones down at them, while hurling abuses!


  1. In a Volatile State

 The movie not only presents bad omens and builds up the storm for the context, it also does the same for Meera: she is already jolted into a volatile state when attacked while returning alone from her party. From then on, she has rising paranoia and is touchy, always ready for defense- the couple also get a gun license and purchase a gun after the first attack. No doubt that the presence of a gun always keeps you on the edge, ready to spring into action. It was her uneasiness that kicked her survival instincts into action, and therefore the first attack which created this uneasiness, is a genius addition to the story.


  1. Exceptional Survival Instincts

 No, Meera was not the one to cow down- in every instance of the movie, she has been shown to have killer survival instincts. In the first attack as she is cornered with two men on a bike in the front and a car on the back who then break her window, she makes a brilliant move, instantly reversing and speeding ahead. She stabs the senior police officer in the eye after realizing he too was harm in one swift move. At sarpanch Ammaji’s house when getting beaten by Ammaji, she again shows brilliant survival by grabbing the child by the neck and threatening to throw him in the well if they don’t leave her.


  1. No Exaggerated Killing

 She doesn’t kill any of the killers in a gory manner- except the last one, Satbir, who was already injured and not exactly a threat at the moment. She runs down most of the other killers, and her stabbing of the senior police officer too was quite natural.


  1. Nothing to Lose

 As the night progressed, she slowly became a woman with nothing to lose. Everything she had held dear in the world, her husband, was dead, killed in a horrible way by Satbir and his gang; she was prepared to stake whatever was left to her. She became a woman with nothing to lose and that fact empowered her.


  1. The Big Trigger

 What triggered her rage was not that they had killed her husband; no it was when she noticed the writing on the wall that she gave a scream of horror. The killers had written in blood, ‘raand saala’ on the wall- they had not only killed him but also defaced his body and the circumstances of his death. Meera couldn’t stand it, and that was what set her off.

One of the best female characters, Anushka Sharma has definitely paved the way for more female leads in this genre.

Masaan and the Many Faces of Love and Sex

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One of the best things I read in the reviews of Masaan after watching the movie is the underlying irony of the story: Varanasi, the city which is believed to be the gateway to ultimate liberation of the soul, can entrap the soul just as well. Masaan narrates two storylines depicting the lives of particular individuals who sought to break away from the lines of caste, class and gender that divided small-town Varanasi.

Except for a couple of aspects, I found the movie absolutely fascinating with subtle and insightful portrayals of new versus the old, illustrating the many ways in which technology is seeping into homes and families, lives and its loves, attempting to break age old barriers as traditional institutions battle it out against this unstoppable force whose victims are the people of this tragic generation, forever stuck in the middle.

But the facet of the movie that I wish to touch upon is Devi’s storyline, who checks into a hotel room along with her boyfriend and then proceeds to have sex out of curiosity. Trouble strikes as police barges into the room, intimidating the couple as a result of which Devi’s boyfriend locks himself into the bathroom and slits his wrists, as the police threatens to call his parents. The police also clicks a photograph of Devi while she is naked in bed, which they will later use to threaten and blackmail her- the Great Fear of the Scandal.

There are two striking features at this volcanic start: a woman in a small town watching porn on the internet, who then goes to have sex with her boyfriend, admitting that she didn’t want to do it under the so-called pressure to ‘put out’ but because she was also a human being who had sexual urges and a curious mind. What? A woman who wants to have sex?! Out of choice?! How blasphemous!

This is the reason why Masaan, despite its confused storyline and untapped potential, still managed to win my heart because it not just acknowledges female sexuality and natural carnal needs, but is also accepting and unapologetic of it. When her boyfriend commits suicide out of fear of his parents, she doesn’t die of despair- one could even say she was just plain disappointed. Despite the threats of ‘an MMS scandal’ that the cop blackmails her with, she goes back home to face her father, taking his anger, and telling him after a while that she did nothing wrong. Her eagerness to pay off the blackmail money is her desire to put this nasty episode behind herself and start anew not by marrying and settling, but by bravely visiting her deceased boyfriend’s family, in spite of knowing they would blame her for his death. She even moves out of her ageing, lonely father’s home in Varanasi to Allahabad, because, as she says, ‘jitni chhoti jagah, utni chhoti soch’, an action which is particularly laudable in the Indian setup.

Taking the issues that Masaan raised, we, as a society, need to ask ourselves why are we so uncomfortable with sexuality? Why are we so prepped up against any kind of sex that is not legitimized by a heterosexual marriage? What is so wrong with pre-marital sex, with marrying a person you love while disregarding his or her caste, that it drives parents to murder their own children, and children killing themselves out of terror of their parents’ wrath? Why is it a crime at all if a grown man or woman chooses to sexually engage with someone of their age in a private hotel room, a crime that a police can arrest you for, socially, if not legally? At a time when the Indian government decides to ban porn, this is certainly a very important question to ask. What is it that makes us so very, very afraid of the most biological eventuality in the world?

And when I say we, I do not just imply Indian society- most major societies in the world are intolerant of, or atleast once were, any sex outside of marriage. There are also many societies in the world which are even more intolerant than ours; but because I have grown up in this particular society and can form the most informed opinion on this one, I choose to question my Indian society.

Any discussion about ‘unnatural sex’ is always guised by two constructs: that it is a ‘western’ import and a development of these ‘modern’ times that does not understand culture or tradition. Both these arguments are doomed from the start, as neither of these have any concrete basis, and are actually themselves constructs created by certain groups. It would be foolhardy of me to cite history, for neither am I learned student of history, and nor are there enough resources even in the deepest recess of the web to capture the multitude of traditions and cultures that have existed in the world over the ages. So I decided to go over a couple of examples that general knowledge and the elusive ‘common sense’ provide us.

Everybody has heard about the Kama Sutra, the ancient Hindu treatise on sex, which describes the many ways of pleasuring your partner. We have even heard about the Khajuraho temples, and similar temples in the south, which show carvings of men and women engaging in all kinds of sex, be it homo or heterosexual, be it with a single partner or multiple. We know how Draupadi was forced to accept five husbands, and it is a known fact how the princely, dynastic families used to practice polyandry and polygamy to ensure succession. The ruling classes, just like the present times, were known to lead hedonistic lives which were quite different from the simple morality of the lower and middle classes, and again just like the present times, the lower and the middle classes allowed themselves certain freedoms and liberations of which the upper classes remained scathing.

The point is, ancient attitudes towards marriage-less sex were as ambivalent they are today; while there were communities who condoned it, there were groups who condemned it. While sex was considered the lawful dharma of any husband and wife, sex without a higher, righteous purpose was akin to sin. Such codes were respected by some and dismissed by the others- while the brahmanical classes maintained tight rules by the word of the Vedas and the Upnishads, there were many,many other whose lifestyles were quite different.

One good example for this is the Muria tribe, an adivasi tribe in the Bastar distric of Chhatisgarh. Muria are known for their open and embracing attitudes towards sexuality- from the onset of puberty as young teenagers, Muria girls and boys are sent to ghotuls, which are mixed-sex dormitories and are encouraged to make love to their partners. While some are told to go ahead with monogamous relationships, many of these teenagers are told to adopt multiple sexual partners in the course of their lifetime.

This is not an ideal, nor a debasement: it is simply an example of the variance in sexual practices not just all over the world which are many, but within India itself. The key here remains in sex education and acceptance, rather than imposition of one particular morality over others. We have a huge world with so many traditions and cultures that a lifetime is not enough to even study them- then how can we, insignificant, pathetic human beings that we are, living for a measly, little time period, even attempt to tell someone else that this is how it should because it is written in this book or because it’s done that way in one society, when we are nothing but dots in the cosmic infinity of space and time?

TITANIC: It’s Best That Jack Died

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Titanic truly is the greatest movie of our times: the beauty of the ship breaking the water apart and cruising the sea, the grandiose of the interior, the thrill in the direction, the embodiment of Jack Dawson in Leonardo DiCaprio, the people falling off the ship, the ship itself standing vertically about to sink in the water and the great love story of Rose and Jack are things that are hard to replicate even now, more than fifteen years later. Yet one can’t help but think why Jack had to die, for Rose had known him less than four days, and there was great scope to portray the Happily Ever After that goes down so well. I battled with this ending for years before I realized that it was indeed a better decision to let Jack die primarily for two reasons:

Rose’s core struggle as a character was her desire for freedom, which she would never have gotten had Jack been allowed to live, and secondly, Rose, as an aristocrat who had grown up in the lap of wealth would not have been able to adjust to Jack’s ways of living.

Rose DeWitt Bukater, seventeen years old from Philadelphia, has been engaged to Cal Hockley, son of Pittsburgh steel tycoon Nathan Hockley, to maintain their high society status after Rose’s father died and left them debt-ridden. The first time we see the seventeen year old Rose, she walks in, opulently dressed, as the fiancée of aristocrat Cal Hockley- and as an aristocrat herself. “I don’t see what the fuss is all about,” she comments about the Titanic, walking past the third class passengers queued up for health inspection , leading the trunks and trunks of her luggage, straight to the parlor suites, aboard the Ship of Dreams.

To me it was a slave ship,” she declares, “taking me back to America in chains. Inside I was screaming,” referring to her engagement to Hockley, articulating the first tenets of her desire for freedom.

One of the first things that we hear from twenty year old Jack Dawson is, “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” And indeed, Jack had nothing to lose: once his parents died when he was fifteen, Jack ‘worked from place to place, on tramp steamers and such’ managing to scrape together enough money to secure himself a meal and few blank sheets of paper to maintain his cheery disposition, and his will to take life as it comes. In the spur of the moment, at a lucky hand in poker, Jack along with his friend Fabrizio, wins two tickets on the RMS Titanic which will take him back home to America, as they run to get aboard, contending that they are the ‘luckiest sons of bitches alive’.

Conversely, as Jack jumps the lice inspections that other passengers of his class are subjected to, and gets straight to his third class bunker beds, Rose is busy arranging art of Pablo Picasso who was just ‘Picasso something’ at the time, and quoting Dr. Freud, hearing which Molly Brown addresses Hockley, “She’s a pistol Cal, I hope you can handle her.” We are shown, right from the beginning, that even at seventeen years of age, Rose has a strong voice of her own which will not be silenced.

Rose, forcibly engaged to Hockley, who makes sure that Rose that there is nothing he could not giver her, sought to escape this first class world in which she was unfortunately born. “I saw my whole life as if I already lived it. An endless parade of parties and cotillions, yachts and polo matches..”, the ‘inertia of her life’, thoughts which make her run to the deck and contemplate on whether she should throw herself into the icy waters of the Atlantic.

When Jack goes after a running Rose who is now hanging at the edge of the ship, we know that Rose would never have jumped. Maybe in a few years when she would have been driven crazy enough by Hockley, but not now- here she was just testing her guts. “Don’t presume to tell me what I will or will not do, you don’t know me”, one of the first things Rose says to Jack, reminding him of his class, as he attempts to dissuade her from jumping. She only warms up to him once Jack begins to narrate his story about the time he had gone ice fishing.

That is the point when her fascination with Jack begins- “You are rude and uncouth and presumptuous,” she tells him, a little before she sees his drawings, just a little before she’s intrigued by him because he can do anything and go anywhere he wants- within his limited economic means, of course. He tells her about the one-legged prostitute he meets in Paris, the naked women he draws, the portraits he does at a pier in Santa Monica and the squid boat he worked on in Monterey, as she falls in love with his freedom. “Why can’t I be like you, Jack?” Rose asks him, “just head out for the horizon whenever I feel like it.”

Once again, Rose pauses, thinking, daring, “Say we’ll go to that pier, even if we only talk about it..” she says, waiting out on his response. Jack shrugs like its no big deal, which in all honesty for him, was not-“No we’ll do it,” he says. “We’ll drink cheap beer, we’ll ride on the roller coaster till we throw up. Then we’ll ride horses on the beach, right in the surf”, he proposes, as Rose looks on at him in glee, for Jack promised her what Hockley never could, despite his claim. Restricted and constrained by being cultured into the high society since her birth, Jack lays bare a world in front of her which cannot be bought, a world where one does not need a first class status to live life- the cheap thrills which are more often than not, free. This contrast further acts itself out in the third class party that Rose goes to, ‘below the decks’, the first ‘real party’ that Rose has ever attended.

The next morning, Hockley confronts Rose about her night with Jack, instructing her to never act the same way ever again. “I’m not a foreman in one of your mills that you can command. I’m your fiancée.” Rose demands respect and authority, and in Hockley’s show of anger, she gets the opposite- subdued only for the moment, Rose’s desire to break free is ever so strong.

I’ve nothing to offer you, I know that” Jack says, but he’s never been more wrong- Jack offers her adventure, and Rose, young, naïve, impulsive jumps at that. In the famous ‘Titanic scene’, Jack gives her a glimpse of the life that she could have with him. It might have been a glimpse, but it was all she needed.

She takes Jack back to her suite, and shows him the Heart of the Ocean- the diamond of Louis the XVIth, bought by Hockleys, inherited by Rose’s fiancée Hockley, and given to Rose as their engagement gift, and is in fact, also the heart of the story. She tells Jack she would like him to draw her wearing only that necklace.  The scene particularly becomes the core of the entire story, as not only does it become a turning point in the movie, it is also the very thing that causes Rose to recollect this tale 84 years later.

As Jack draws Rose wearing the Heart of the Ocean, multiple things happen: not only does Rose become one of the subjects of Jack’s drawings, all of whom fascinate Rose, she gets herself immortalized wearing her own slave chain- the Heart of the Ocean, her engagement gift from Hockley. If she was so eager to break away from what confined her, why did she get herself drawn wearing the very emblem of that confinement? “We are royalty, Rose” Hockley had told her, while giving her the necklace- in a way, she immortalized herself as royalty.

Rose’s thirst for adventure and her wonder to escape to far away places is further articulated when in the next scene, Lovejoy, Hockley’s manservant, begins following Rose and Jack. As he walks behind them, Rose grabs Jack’s hand and yells ‘Run!’, in a wannabe police-thief chase. Why does she run? Lovejoy was just a sidekick, he wouldn’t possibly dare to drag her away forcibly, and he had already seen them together and would be reporting that to Hockley- Rose ran for the adventure of it, letting him chase them as they ran up and down the ship.

Additionally, once Rose and jack find the car in the famous scene, Rose sits at the back while Jack sits at the driver’s seat asking her, “Where to, miss?” to which Rose replies, “To the stars.”

The point where all these instances come together to furnish the final argument on why Jack had to die for Rose to be truly free comes once the shipwreck has happened, and Rose is standing on the deck with her mother and Hockley, waiting to get on a lifeboat, while Jack is locked at the bottom of a sinking ship for a crime he didn’t commit. “Will the lifeboats be seated according to class?” her mother asks out loud, turning to Rose and saying, “I hope they’re not too crowded.”

This proves to be the final straw as Rose refuses to get on the lifeboat and moves to rescue Jack. “Where are you going?” Hockley asks in anguish, “To him? To be a whore to a gutter rat?” Without a flinch, Rose answers, “I’d rather be his whore than your wife.”

I’d rather be his whore than your wife- that in itself is symbolic of the freedom Jack offered to Rose, which was only relative, and not absolute, and hence for Rose to be truly free, which I believe to be the core of the story, Jack needed to die. Passed from one man to the next, Rose’s independence would not come about, if Jack hadn’t died.

For if we suppose that Jack had survived, and the two of them reached New York City, harrowed and cold, but alive and intact, it is interesting to imagine what would have been. The appeal of cheap beer and roller coaster rides can only hold out till the day the vomit doesn’t drain every bit of energy out of you, and the hangovers don’t cripple you. Adventure remains adventure only till the time you have a stable centre to return to. Rose, growing up in luxuries and dressed by personal maids, obviously longed for ‘spitting like men’ and going to Paris with Jack, surviving on only ten cents a day, because it was romantic idea, and solely that.

Could Rose possibly know what paucity can truly entail? What would have happened when the seventh night in a row, Rose, along with Jack, would have to sleep under a bridge, on a stomach filled not with the sumptuous first class meals that she was used to, but with only promises of grand adventures. The adventure endures thrill when you are not running for your life, when every other day, you are not on the lookout for a temporary job for a loaf of bread.

This argument has a counter- for even when Jack died and Rose had a chance to return to Hockley, she did not. She still chose to struggle as an actress and start from scratch, refusing to back to her. However, the difference must be noted- if Jack had lived and they had to sleep under bridges and makeshift tents, Rose could have easily grumbled and fumbled and blamed Jack for leading her into a life of poverty. But when Rose refused to be a rich slave and instead chose to be a poor but free worker, she took her fate upon herself and geared herself for the consequences. We can’t speculate how her acting career went, but we do know that she married a certain Calvert and did not too badly for herself.

I’m a survivor, Rose” Jack tell her, and indeed he is- he would have survived had Rose not been with him at the time that the ship sank. “The ship is going to suck us down,“ he tells her, “Take a deep breath when I say. Kick for the surface and keep kicking. Do not let go off my hand.” But he forgets the primary difference between them- Rose is wearing a life jacket and Jack is not, and when you see the suction created by the sinking of the ship, you realize that it makes a hell of a difference.

While in the water, a jacket-less Jack holds on to Rose, hoping to get back to the surface on the force of her jacket. That doesn’t happen, as he sinks and she rises. Rose cannot sink, for she is wearing the jacket- flailing after drawing air, she looks for him. Jack finds a wooden plank and tells Rose to get on it, realizing that if the both of them try to get on the plank, it sinks. Rose gets the plank, and we see it in the briefest of looks, in the briefest nod of resignation, of ‘if this is how it must be’, Jack proves to be more of a gentleman than the entire first class put together.

Jack, white and hypothermic and drenched in freezing water, reassures Rose that the boats would come back and that she needs to hold on just a little bit longer, “You must do me this honor,” he asks of her, “You must promise me you’ll survive. You’ll never let go”, asserting  that never letting go implied precisely the opposite- for Rose to survive, she had to let go off Jack. Similarly, to be truly free, to truly be able to gain her independence, it was essential for Jack to not weigh her down.

Titanic was best left at this, as an unfulfilled love story, as is said in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, only unfulfilled love is romantic. “He saved me in all the ways that a person can be saved,” an old Rose recounted 84 years later. If Jack survived, who is to say the epic nature of the story would have survived- maybe it turned out that perhaps Rose did not find Jack’s rootless existence that charming. Throughout the movie, we see Jack leading Rose out of tricky situations which a courageous Rose managed quite effectively but at the end of the day, courage is one thing and slick is another.

How would Rose have ever found her own way if she always lived in Jack’s shadow?