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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Review

One of the better terms I had come across for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is ‘author sanctioned fan-fiction’. It’s true- the eighth story, nineteen years later is fan-fiction that has been blessed by J.K. Rowling. It has been written by Jack Thorne, but the story has been conceptualized by J.K. Rowling as well, including Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. It’s safe to assume then, that Rowling must have had the final veto as well, when it came to the play, for she is the ultimate authority.

The first thing to do when it comes to reading the play script is to not expect it to be a literal eighth story in the sense of hoping it to continue on that magical experience where the seventh book ended for the simple reason that it’s a play and not a book. If we are to believe that the medium is the message, as we discussed in our Harry Potter Workshops then it must be read differently; there will be no beautiful paragraphs describing the many eccentricities of the magical world, no third person voice to narrate what’s happening in the background, no descriptions of the body language of the characters.

As a play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was quite a disappointment- the characters, who I always held in the highest regard failed to move me; the dialogue lacked any kind of depth; the humor was lame and forced and the plot unnecessarily convoluted and relying on earlier troped of reinstating the Dark Lord.

Yes it is fan-fiction, but there is some really good fan-fiction out there, and this one was sanctioned by Rowling; yes it had a lot of standards to live up to, but even regardless of those, it fails to come off as an interesting read. I cannot say about the real, live play for I haven’t seen it; but the book was well, quite simply, a disappointment. It doesn’t read well, the actions and lines of the characters are only there for the plot to take shape, and none of it is natural enough to make us believe in that world.

The dialogues sound especially forced coming from the old characters; Ron is not funny, Hermione rather obnoxious and preachy, and Harry sounds as if he finally let the fame go to his head. The one person that sounded a bit okay was Ginny, and that was only because we didn’t see very much of her in the series, and she seems to have developed a personality in the play. Draco has none of his old flair, and McGonagall doesn’t inspire the same awe.

The new characters on the other hand came off slightly better, primarily because we didn’t know them already, which goes to show that we can’t help but compare it to the earlier books (which is only fair, considering they call it ‘the eighth story’)- Scorpius Malfoy is delightful, and even the growing pains of Albus Potter are understandable. Delphi, on the other hand, is downright comical.

The story’s premise takes off on a bad note- the dysfunctional relationship between Albus Potter and Harry Potter is not believable, and not because Harry can’t be  bad father (he totally can) but because the other two children of Harry’s do not suffer the same burden of their father’s fame as he does. That kind of baggage mostly always comes in lieu of being the only child/son. The few glimpses we have of James Potter show him as a merry little kid, and the same for Lily. James and Lily while mentioned at the beginning, disappear later on in the story- they too could have played important roles in the story.

The plot might have had potential but it was seriously badly built. While in the Harry Potter series each plot turn and twist is justified and later on tied up with overall story, the entire story in HPCC fights for plausibility. The time turned as the main plot device had too many problems- we really wonder how J.K. Rowling gave the go-ahead for this as it tends to rather trivialize the magical world created by her. Even if we were to take the story and attribute it to magic and take it as it is, there really was nothing very engaging about it.

A couple of good points though- the relationship between Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy was one fo the few believable things in the play. Additionally, Albus Potter being sorted in Slytherin too broke the traditional stereotype of Slytherin = bad and Gryffindor = good in the Harry Potter universe, and frankly, could have been the best moment of the play.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was like an old tape playing, the one you wish you hadn’t found; yet I’m surprised when I hear people of saying that it will ‘spoil their memories’ of Harry Potter.

Are you kidding me? Nothing can spoil the memory of Harry Potter and the depth and richness with which it was written, least of all a play which seems more like a stupid, alternate reality as opposed to the eighth story. Rowling may have given Jack Thorne the right to take the story in these weird directions, but the time has gone when Harry Potter was hers alone. Loved by millions of readers, Harry Potter has a life of its own, and as the message of the series clearly states, it’s up to us to see the magic and believe and not be bogged down by what has been shown and given.

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The Magic of Harry Potter: A Writing Workshop

PDF The Magic of Harry Potter Literature and Writing Workshop

The Magic of Harry Potter: A Literature and Writing Workshop

 Your Hogwarts letter has arrived.

A series of ten workshops in which we study a curated list of different themes and nuances in Harry Potter, followed by creative writing workshops- delivered by literary rockstars.

You’ve heard them at literary festivals, you’ve read their articles, and you’ve seen how their books become bestsellers- but did you ever imagine you could study Harry Potter from them? Did you think you could learn how to write from them?

Read on to understand our workshops.

What | A month long book and literature workshop, where twice a week we will discuss the nuances and themes, right from the universal themes like death, love and morality in the books, to various pointed discussions about specific characters. We will follow it up with a creative writing workshop with esteemed authors. The event is targeted at budding writers, literature junkies and Harry Potter fans, who want to improve their writing skills. On the last day, there will be a Yule Ball-styled after-party.

Where | Antisocial, Hauz Khas Village

When | 6th July-6th August, Wednesdays and Saturdays, 6-8 pm

Total Sessions | 10

Duration | 2 hours each

Total Course Hours | 20 hours

Workshop Curators and Facilitators | Srishti Chaudhary and Shreya Kalra

Workshop fee | Rs. 3500

 Teaching Mode | Handouts of critical material, a writing activity/assignment in every class, Group activities and debates in class (sorting people into houses in first class), Power Point Presentations, Video Clips

 Guest Speakers

  • Gurcharan Das- Author of the international bestsellers India Unbound and The Difficulty of Being Good, intellectual, public commentator,former CEO of Proctor & Gamble India, and a Harvard University graduate. He is a regular columnist for six Indian national dailies, and periodically writes for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and
  • Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan- Author of You Are Here, The Life and Times of Layla the Ordinary and Confessions of a Listmaniac, and writer of the ultra-cool blog http://www.compulsiveconfessions.com, Meeankshi’s books have been published by Penguin and Scholastic and she shuttles between Delhi and Mumbai.
  • Sanjoy Roy- Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, Sanjoy Roy is the man responsible for the Jaipur Literature Festival, one of the biggest literary feasts in the world. His company, under his guidance and mentorship, also organize other festivals related to the arts, across India and abroad.
  • Mihir S. Sharma- Opinion editor of the Business Standard, Mihir Sharma is an economist and political scientist and the author of Restart: The Last Chance for the Indian Economy.
  • Parul Tyagi- Author of Hurry Om Hari and Love Will Find A Way, and an active blogger and short story writer.

Goody Bag | Each participant will receive a goody bag at the end of the workshop, which will include a custom-made wand.

Course Schedule

Each session will have a creative writing skills discussion and assignment relating to

the relevant theme.

July 6, Wednesday

The Sorting Hat Ceremony

The Boy Who Lived: The Universal Appeal of Harry Potter- Magic, Reason and Reality

Writing workshop: Introducing universal themes, and Creating the Setting 

July 9, Saturday

Friendship in Harry Potter: “Then you should have died for your friends, as we would have for you!” The Trio and the Marauders- Life and Beyond

Writing Workshop: Friends as plot devices who take the story forward

July 13, Wednesday | Sanjoy Roy

On the Power of Literature and it’s Future Scope in India

Does Reading Harry Potter Make Us Better People?: Ethics and Morality in Harry Potter

Writing Workshop: The “Message” of a Story: Should we begin a story like that?

July 16, Saturday | Parul Tyagi

Love, A Magic Like No Other: Dissecting Love in Harry Potter

Writing Workshop: Love as a central theme to most art

July 20, Wednesday

Albus Dumbledore: The Figure of the Mentor

Writing Workshop: The Figure of the Mentor as a Leading Force of a Story

July 23, Saturday | Meenakashi Reddy Madhavan

A Certain Kind of Feminism: The Contribution and Character of Hermione Granger

Writing Workshop: Creating strong female characters

July 27, Wednesday

The Harry Potter Brand: A Cinematic Journey

Writing Workshop: The movie versus book debate- The Issue of the Adaptation

July 30, Saturday | Gurcharan Das

Learn How to Write from Gurcharan Das

Fan Fiction, Pottermore, and Do We Want an Eighth Harry Potter?

August 3, Wednesday

“Death is nothing but the next great adventure”: Death in Harry Potter

Writing Workshop: Death in Literature, and People’s Response to it

August 6, Saturday

Is It Time to Criticize Harry Potter? Problems Critics Have

The Weighing of the Wands

Hogwarts Diploma Distribution

The Yule Ball

 

CONTACT:

Srishti Chaudhary: +919818889031, srishti.chaudhary2@gmail.com

Shreya Kalra: +91 9910652523, shreya.kalra19@gmail.com

 

 

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.

Picture source: Koimoi.com

Simal Trail: These Gorgeous Pictures of Simal Trees Spotted all Over Delhi Will Make Your Heart Swoon

These days, I consider myself a safety hazard while driving- all because Simal trees line Delhi’s wide avenues, and I just cannot look away!

Simal Tree, or the Silk Cotton or Red Cotton tree, are native to our subcontinent and bloom and sprout flowers beginning the end of winter in January. But sadly, they shed too just as quickly- the still leafless tree in the winter and spring months loses all these gorgeous flowers by the end of March, and you will often find them lying on car bonnets and adorning the streets.

They are eye-poppingly red and I for one cannot get enough of them!

 

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The Simal and the Sun

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Frosty Reds

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Ready, Set, Simal

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Cherry pop

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Like Magic

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Look at the Reds!

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Red Velvet

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Breath of Fresh Air

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Come Alive

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Over here, please

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Like a Painting

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Red Devil

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Gorgeousness

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Leafless, Flowerful

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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.

Happy New Year, Said the Doorman

Suited up

He holds one hand in the other

Standing in attention

Instructions memorized

Professional attire

Surveying, judging

Who is for real

And who isn’t

Who has the money to enter

And who doesn’t

Cover charge, he says crisply

Six thousand.

He mocks those who exhibit outrage

And welcomes those who reach their wallets

Behind the grubby streets and the dirty walls

The shiny board rests

‘Rooftop Restaurant and Bar’

He looks up in pride

Thrilled to witness the party

Gleaming shoes and red lipsticks

Luxury bags and fitted clothes

Expensive cigarettes in the pocket

The moneybags behind the imported liquor

He smiles, warm and courteous

As the music blared

And the glasses clinked

As notes were counted

And cheers heard

So he looked onward with pride

Noticing an aberration

Something that didn’t quite fit

Gangly boys, with teeth so yellow

And faces so dirty

With feet so strong

That they never felt the midnight chill

Needed no fur or leather to keep warm

Just a patch of blanket

To hide their syringe

And the unkempt bellies

And oh the dirty hair

Which turned light brown

Similar to the people who could enter

And he looked at those two again

In annoyance

Shooing them away

As they poked those who went inside

Asking for money

Nothing less than ten

Mocking them if not obliged

And he shooed them away

Once more

Cursing under his breath

About irritants

And rodents

And pests

And filth

And spoiling the landscape

And troubling the good folk

With their poverty

And their degradation

And so

We say

Happy New Year.

 

Picture source: GB Times

The truth of Truth

The simple truth of Truth is that it is simply unavailable. There is no transcendental, ubiquitous, truth ‘out there’, waiting to be found, something towards which we are supposed to strive, something credible, something ideal. There is nothing universal about how it is, or how it is supposed to be. Moreover, there is nothing eternal about any truth.

So when somebody attempts to relate an opinion as a fact, or a way of life, or as this is how it is, you can be certain that it is not the truth. It may be true for one person, or a few people, or most people, or a majority of people but it is not the universal, eternal truth.

Moreover, I am increasingly convinced that it is not the thing itself, but one’s memory of the thing, which would include everything right from sensation and perception to reflection, that informs one’s knowledge, and a subsequent opinion. Food eaten in a good mood always tastes better, and songs tend to associate themselves with people because our memory enables so.

Hence, it is never what it is with a period at the end- it is forever dependent at our perception and our memory. Our perception and memory functions through a series of lived experiences that make us inclined and disinclined towards specific characteristics.

And hence, objectivity does not and can not exist. For we may strive towards neutrality and seek to be free from biases, it can never happen, and hence true objectivity, would lie in acknowledging your own subjectivity.

Any good piece of writing will not claim to have looked at all sides- it will attempt to put together the best possible while being limited by the constraints of subjectivity.

Loiter

She posed a question quite simple, in a lecture that digressed without meaning to as often lectures do, posing a question quite simple: can women loiter? Can women loiter, I thought to myself, and the very thought seemed strange- loiter? How? Do what in that? And why? What does ‘loitering’ even imply? A quick Google search will tell you that it means to ‘stand or wait around without apparent purpose’. To saunter, to dawdle, or as more commonly known in today’s time, to hang around. To loiter, at street corners and park corners, near the panwaadi or a metro station, at chaiwallahs and roadside parapets, to loiter near benches and taxi stands, bus stations and train stations, on motorbikes, terraces, and the liquor stores. Liquor stores- a different ball game altogether. A single woman, or two perhaps, hell three or four even

On dark wintry evenings enjoying a hot cup of chai.

Stopping by a paraanthewalla or the Maggi guy, after a late night movie.

Stepping out to 24/7, in case of midnight munchies.

Linger at the edge of a park, and gawk at guys as they walk by.

Stand and chat with a rickshaw puller.

Think of the last time you saw a woman/women doing that.

The next on my reading list is a book called Why Loiter, which theorizes the exclusion of women from public space. Much needed.

WHY PK’S PREMISE IS COMPLETELY ERRONEOUS

[Image source: http://www.santabanta.com/wallpapers/pk/]

*Spoilers ahead

The film has already broken all sorts of records at the box office, only behind Dhoom 3 perhaps, and has garnered more attention than it probably ever expected to- religious controversies and orders of banning the movie will get audience to the theatres faster than you can say PK. Rajkumar Hirani, after tackling the need for love and kindness in Munnabhai MBBS, and the Importance of Going After What Really Interests You in 3 Idiots has taken on a big issue this time: religion.

PK is an alien, abandoned on Earth by his mothership, where a smart-ass Rajasthani steals his only point of contact with his planet- PK’s blue coloured locket, which looks a lot like the Heart of the Ocean locket in Titanic. A complete stranger to the peculiar human culture, unsocialised by human behaviour, and not even born into any of the human languages, PK is a tabula rasa at its best. He quickly learns a Hindi version of Bhojpuri and seeks to understand this strangely complex world full of ‘dancing cars’, soon bumping into Jaggu, an annoyingly perky television reporter, recently returned after finishing a television production course in Belgium. He encounters the diversity of religions and mannerisms and is obviously confused, being told that only God can help him, but then there are so many Gods, and all of them quite ineffective.

Jaggu had fallen in love with the Pakistani Sarfaraz in Belgium, and sought to excitedly tell her parents about him over videochat. Didn’t she know all Indian parents were against a Pakistani groom? Appalled, her father quickly makes her videochat with his favourite godman Tapasviji, who immediately told her that since he is Muslim, he will use her body, refuse to marry her, and leave her in the worst possible condition: an Indian girl, not a virgin, and whose boyfriend refuses to marry her. Jaggu reacts in a manner which was deemed extremely logical by her: no, she says, I will disprove what Tapasviji said- I will disprove it by making Sarfaraz marry me tomorrow ITSELF! Will you marry me tomorrow, Jaggu asks him in a fiery tone, and Sarfaraz, taken aback as one would obviously be, utters a scared affirmation, and as always, the solution to everything becomes marriage. At the church however, Jaggu receives a note which says that marriage is a marriage of families, and hence he is not okay to marry in this manner, and asks Jaggu to not contact him ever again, and so Tapasviji’s prediction proves true, and heartbroken, Jaggu returns to India where even her parents won’t accept her, despoiled as she is.

If one were to think of PK as a clever satire on religion, the movie tends to lose a little bit of its ridiculousness- the alien form of PK becomes a vehicle, and a reflector, to expose the oddities and absurdities that religion has come to take in India. The setup may not be very realistic, but it does the job- we are forced to think why we believe in a lot of shams that operate in the name of religion. We are made to acknowledge that God is personal, and faith is more than a money making business. PK utters simple truths that we have always known, yet chose to suppress at the back of our minds, and in that lies the movie’s redemption, which otherwise functions on a completely erroneous premise.

In the big show-off between Tapasviji and PK on Jaggu’s talk show, the discussion starts with Tapasviji asking what is so bad in religion if it gives people a little bit of hope- and ends with a full-fledged discussion of Jaggu’s affair with Sarfaraz on national television. As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, Tapasviji uses his prediction of Sarfaraz’s betrayal as a defence of his powers, and consequently, a defence of the type of religion he propagates. As the whole country waits in bated breath, the entire production team attempts to contact Sarfaraz right there and then, as PK reveals that Sarfaraz, in fact, might not have betrayed Jaggu. Turned out that there was a huge misunderstanding and that the note in the church was meant for someone else, and that Sarfaraz was completely willing to marry Jaggu.

As I sat watching this ludicrous unfolding of events, I couldn’t help but wonder if nobody in the movie team found this stupid.

Tapasviji said that Sarfaraz is a Muslim and hence will betray Jaggu after using her body, and Jaggu decides to prove him wrong by asking him to marry her the very next day. Let me emphasize this- she asked Sarfaraz to prove his love by committing the rest of his life to her, because she wanted to prove a godman in India wrong, and also reassure herself that their love is true and pure. This point could have been reluctantly digested had it not been raised later in Jaggu’s talk show- if its true that Sarfaraz was willing to marry Jaggu, then PK’s questioning of religion receives a validation. On the other hand, if Sarfaraz was not that obedient a person, PK’s debates on the frauds relating to religion would be rendered lull and inadequate.

PK might have a good message at its core, but its way of sending the message across is fallacious on so many levels. It reinforces many stereotypes that people across the globe have been trying to battle for years, that a relationship necessitates marriage, that if someone refuses to marry you after having sex with you, you have been betrayed and abandoned. It posits a girl as someone who has been ‘exploited’ and ‘duped into’ a relationship by false promises of lifelong support.

Do you love me, Jaggu asks Sarfaraz to which he obviously says yes. Then marry me, she asks of him, and with a one day notice at that. What if Sarfaraz thought himself too young for marriage? What if Sarfaraz thought it too early in the relationship for marriage? What if Sarfaraz had mixed views about marriage, and just wasn’t sure yet? What if Sarfaraz thought that the best way to prove your love for someone is not immediate marriage? What if Sarfaraz wanted to consult his family before getting married like that? He didn’t have a quarrel with his family, unlike Jaggu- why was he needed to hurry into it!

As I mentioned, this ‘test of love’ preposterousness could have been overlooked had it not been used to validate PK’s concerns regarding religion- because Sarfaraz was not a bad, betraying boy who did not refuse to meet Jaggu’s marriage demands, Tapasviji was a liar and therefore, PK’s thoughts about religion were accepted and praised, by the audience of the talk show, and the audience of the real life. Bringing Sarfaraz in the debate between Tapasviji and PK messes up the politics of the movie- if it had turned out that Sarfaraz had refused to marry Jaggu as a result of a personal choice, would that make PK’s ideas about religious broad-mindedness and your faith being unique and personal, and not a site for exploitation, any less authentic?

The problem is not that Jaggu asks Sarfaraz to marry her, hell at even a day’s notice, whatever floats their boat.

The problem is that his misconstrued refusal is shown to us as ‘betrayal’, as guys being guys, and even more unpleasantly so, as ‘Muslims being Muslims’.

The problem is that it reinstates the idea that sex, unless it leads to marriage, is essentially meaningless.

The problem is that a matter as important as tolerance required in religion is reduced to the personal squabble of a couple.

The real problem is that instead of PK being condemned for its botched up gender politics and narrow mindedness on the issue of marriage, it is being banned for questioning religion and its tolerance.