Bollywood

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.

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

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.