Directed By: Sachin Kudalkar
Written By: Sachin Kudalkar
Rani Mukerji – Meenakshi
Prithviraj – Surya
Subodh Bhave – Maadhav
Nirmiti Sawant – Mother
Language: Hindi Genre: Romantic-Comedy
So I did it. I finally watched Aiyyaa. I had two friends bulldozing me into watching it, for entirely different reasons. One had been pleasantly surprised with the film, developed a new actor crush (Prithviraj) and felt the film was badly marketed and was actually a good film. The other, couldn’t even finish watching the film and wanted me to see it to prove her point that it was utterly crappy.
So I watched it, forget without expectations, instead a certain amount of reluctance to put myself through it. But before I get into how much I did agree with my friends (and which one) I should say that though I thought I was going to expire on the spot with all that melodrama, my attention was piqued and I wanted to know what the film was about and what could prompt two respected Indian actors to do a film written definitely under the influence of some highly illegal substance (incidentally there are frequent references to illegal substances).
While the 80s-90s melodrama within the film took a toll on my sensibilities and I felt most parts of the movie could be divided into hoot-worthy and cringe-worthy, there was something about the film that got me through it and set me thinking.
Then it hit me. It’s about living in a world of dreams and finding fulfilment in it. And how real life is so different and people are not what we assume them to be. Love is as much a product of imagination as it is of emotions. It also reminded me of the Norwegian film Turn Me On, Dammit! While that was the story of a teenage girl’s sexual awakening and hence was far open in expressions of sexuality, Aiyyaa was peppered with sexual innuendoes (one that stands very vividly in my mind is the petrol bunk sequence). Meenakshi (Rani Mukerji) is an inexperienced girl who’s only recourse to fulfilment (read: sexual, psychological, emotional…) is through films and playing out her favourite actors, in that perfect world she finds an escape from her drab life. Surya (Prithviraj) balances out the drama by playing the understated intense artist who is unapproachable, and very masculine.
The feminine and masculine is in fact played out variously within the film through all the couples and make for an interesting reading into gender roles. Each couple is an exercise into understanding romance through different lenses. The understated Chasme Budoor romance, the Mills and Boon storyline, an S&M relationship….
It’s definitely a badly marketed film. The hilarious and cheesy Dreamum Wakeuppam song coupled with dialogue promo – Mujhe gore log nahi kale log pasand hai (I don’t like white-skinned people but prefer dark-skinned people) made the film out to be a south bashing exercise and left many trailer viewers disgruntled. It resulted in a lot of flak for Prithviraj, a south star who according to them dared do such an insulting film. I rather see it as a sign of his self-deprecating humour. And the film isn’t really anti-south and I actually liked the song – eye-popping costumes, sexplicit lyrics and all. And kudos to Rani Mukerji for picking up Tamil lines for her role.
So the film can be a satire on the marriage market, on gender roles, on deceptive appearances, and in it’s over the top melodrama, a satire on films. It is most of all a film that doesn’t take itself seriously and seems to play on the ‘is this reality or a dream’ logic (there is in fact a dialogue about that – very Brechtian). A onetime watch (maybe), funny innuendo filled songs, catchy tunes, good choreography (Aga Bai) and yes, I loved the background music that plays when she’s thinking/in pursuit/dreaming of him. All in all, a garish and interesting surprise.