Zindagi Gulzar Hai – TV Series (2012) #SherylPuthur

Zindagi-Gulzar-Hai-COVER-PIC

Directed By: Sultana Siddiqui

Written By: Umera Ahmed

Cast:

Sanam Saeed – Kashaf Murtaza

Fawad Afzal Khan – Zaroon Junaid

Samina Peerzada – Rafia Murtaza

Waseem Abbas – Mohammad Murtaza

Ayesha Omer – Sara Junaid

Mehreen Raheel – Asmara Baseer

Mansha Pasha – Sidra Murtaza

Sheheryar Munawar Siddiqui – Osama Hassan

Hina Khwaja Bayat – Gazala Junaid

Shazia Afghan – Nighar

Behroze Sabzwari – Abrar Siddiqui “Sir Abrar”

Javed Shaikh – Junaid

Sana Sarfaraz – Shehnila Murtaza

Muhammad Asad – Hammad Murtaza

Language: Urdu                                         Genre: Romance; Social Drama

                       Number of Episodes: 26                                              Run Time: 40 – 45 minutes

After being bombarded with the assertions of various people that this TV series was incredible (the fact that the recommendations came from unexpected quarters was more incredible). I thought I’ll watch an episode till I realised days had passed and I was rabidly watching them in an urge to finish the series. The series really won my heart and for so many reasons.

The skeletal framework of Zindagi Gulzar Hai can be compared to Jane Austen’s famous novel Pride and Prejudice. But it is a story set in Pakistan. So while Mr. Bennet has to manfully swallow the idea of Mr. Collins becoming the owner of Longbourn manor, Mr. Murtaza (Waseem Abbas) can marry again and get a son from his second wife Nighar (Shazia Afghan). Interestingly, having multiple wives is looked down upon in Pakistani society.

Kashaf (Sanam Saeed) and Zaroon (Fawad Afzal Khan) are both very proud and driven individuals also rather prejudiced against each other, largely due to class differences. Kashaf is extraordinarily pessimistic, and questions Allah at every available opportunity; it gets tedious. Her second sister Sidra (Mansha Pasha) on the other hand, much like her mother Rafia (Samina Peerzada), is mature and hopeful and encourages Kashaf to have more faith.

Zaroon unlike Kashaf, believes zindagi gulzar hai (life is a rose garden). After all, as Kashaf puts it, he has been given unstintingly by God. Yet she cannot see his troubles. He feels his masculinity is threatened by the excessive independence and almost aggressive feminism of the women of his society including his own mother Gazala (Hina Khwaja Bayat), his sister Sara (Ayesha Omer) and friend Asmara (Mehreen Raheel).

In a patriarchal and conservative society, where women have either fought for their rights or been reluctantly given them because that is the expected global norm, tend to be aggressive about their freedom. This in turn makes the men more defensive and chauvinistic. But a woman who practises the fine art of compromise in a male dominated world might actually get her way more successfully.

Kashaf’s version of feminism was really an interesting viewpoint because she is a strong woman who knows her mind and is very driven. She also comprehends that the world is loaded in favour of men and believes that one shouldn’t oppose one’s husband in public but neither should the husband callously ignore the wife’s opinion. Also she states that any kind of disagreement is better expressed privately. She is no doormat.

Many characters could fit into the Austen mould but with some difference. Asmara is like Caroline Bingley but isn’t one-dimensional. For that matter none of the secondary characters can entirely be called one-dimensional. Some are stereotypical like the ‘scheming second wife’ Nighar (Shazia Afghan) but again the character is not reduced to a caricature the way they are in Indian soap operas. In fact, each sub-plot has an interesting story arc of its own, that melds beautifully into the larger framework and yet stands out as a strong narrative. As for Kashaf, she is an Elizabeth Bennet with Darcy’s taciturnity and Zaroon is a Darcy with Elizabeth’s vivacity and charm.

In comparison to an Indian soap, it ends with a definite conclusion in 26 episodes and it has no unnecessary melodramatic pauses or the infamous ‘flicking of the head’. Also it is a bit of an eye-opener into Pakistani society. True, India is a little more open-minded but some ideas seemed rather familiar.

Some things that Rafia mentions are according to me, very sagacious and insightful. It may seem like submissive behaviour but if you look closely you will see the spine made of steel and the eyes of resolve in the women.

So it’s a great tribute to women who rise despite constraints and an insight into men, who may seem chauvinistic but are actually just being defensive and may make good husbands if given some faith.

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Beginners (2010) #SherylPuthur

Beginners

Directed By: Mike Mills

Written By: Mike Mills

Cast:

Ewan McGregor – Oliver Fields

Christopher Plummer – Hal Fields

Melanie Laurent – Anna Wallace

Goran Visnjic – Andy

Mary Page Keller – Georgia Fields

Kai Lennox – Eliot

China Shavers – Shauna

Cosmo – Arthur

Language: English              Genre: Romance; Slice of life; Comedy

Oliver Fields (Ewan McGregor) plays it safe as far as relationships go because he felt his parents’ marriage was dead (just like how his mother used to make him play dead as realistically as possible). But after becoming a widower, when his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) reveals that he is gay; things change. Hal is terminally ill, but gets himself a boyfriend Andy (Goran Visnjic) by advertising and joins various associations/ groups including a gay pride group.

The film goes back and forth in time and constantly compares life in the 1950s with the 2000s. Sort of like if life was a little strict then, people still tried because there were gay prides marches even then. However, now people have the freedom to love and yet they seem to be using this luxury to express a “sadness that our parents didn’t have time for”.

It explores the relationship between Oliver and Hal – who get closer with the honesty that characterises their new relationship; Hal and Andy – Andy who prefers older men after his father rejected him for being gay. Oliver and Anna (Melanie Laurent), a French actress he meets in a party and falls in love with. They realise they are similar in many ways including their fear of commitment.

It also explores the relationship that Oliver shares with Arthur (Cosmos), his Jack Russell – with whom he actually communicates. And how everyone, including Arthur, wants stability and commitment because Arthur keeps checking the status of Oliver’s relationship with Anna – ‘are we married yet?’

Even Oliver’s relationship with his mother Georgia (Mary Page Keller) is insightful. One can understand Oliver better because you realise both parents have had a hand in making him the person he is. They are both artistically inclined so he is a graphic artist. Oliver seems shy and introverted but he has a dramatic side to him that comes from his mother. Interestingly, both parents show this need to ‘come out’ and be honest. If Hal felt he had to be more than theoretically gay, Georgia felt she needed to be part of a grand narrative. Yet they are stifled by societal demands. Like Georgia who gets politely asked to leave the museum because of her socially unacceptable dramatic behaviour.

Hal tries to live as much as possible and tries to keep learning. Whereas Oliver tries to live vicariously by watching other lives or by trying to be part of something bigger, by writing graffiti that proclaim historical consciousness. So Oliver wants a grand story but settles for subversive ways of expressing it. It is probably about how he tries to bridge the gap between his realism and his desires – creating a meeting point between his parents’ personal ideologies.

The title is interesting because we are all beginners in love and we come armed with preconceived notions that do not necessarily turn out to be true. Also, we never see the title of the movie till the end of the film.

Highlights of the film for me, Christopher Plummer – there isn’t any self-consciousness or a half-joking approach in his portrayal of Hal Fields. He went on to receive the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this role. The relationship between Oliver and Arthur is also truly adorable because Oliver treats him as a thinking entity.

The film is based on the true story of director Mike Mills’ father who came out of the closet after the death of his wife. It is a sensitively handled story of something that is deeply personal. A special mention, the cinematography – it has a staccato quality that does not jar and melds so beautifully with the narrative.

 

The Girl Next Door (2004) #SherylPuthur

the-girl-next-door-5223587544f2f

Directed By: Luke Greenfield

Written By: Stuart Blumberg; David T. Wagner; Brent Goldberg

Cast:

Emile Hirsch – Matthew Kidman

Elisha Cuthbert – Danielle

Timothy Olyphant – Kelly

James Remar – Hugo Posh

Chris Marquette – Eli

Paul Dano – Klitz

Language: English                                Genre: Teen comedy; coming of age

 

The Girl Next Door is sort of a coming-of-age story of a high school senior Matthew (Emile Hirsch) who is a top student and seemingly has his life sorted but feels that he has made no impact or that it is actually very drab. That is until a beautiful girl Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) moves next door and she changes things for him. He has to question his hypocrisies and the stereotypes he holds about the world around him because the girl next door is an ex- porn star.

The film has a lot of conflict. Be it internal (moralistic society-influenced opinions vs. ‘what the heart wants/believes’) or external (the director Kelly (Timothy Olyphant) who refuses to let Danielle quit because she is good and popular). Matthew’s two friends Eli (Chris Marquette) and Klitz (Paul Dano) also haven’t experienced anything of life except for what they have read or watched (porn videos). So when three so-called geeks get involved in the world of adult cinema and theft – it leads to hilarious results.

The film explores the idea of moral judgement. Maybe as humans we are far too quick to judge and label people especially because of sexuality. And just because someone acts holier than thou or is an ‘upstanding’ member of society does not mean in the recesses of their heart they do not contradict what they ostensibly seen to stand for.

It is refreshing to see a film that portrays porn stars as people especially when social media has been unable to comprehend Sunny Leone as any other woman but as a porn star and so the comments range from moralistic tut-tutting to aww come on baby. Of course, the film is not entirely without judgement because – Danielle deserves ‘better’ but then chalk it up to the fact that she does want to study and not do this all her life.

The Girl Next Door is not your average American teen movie. It’s quirky, mad and slightly explicit and it is definitely not about the ‘geek’ getting into the cool clique. So watch it for its different take on teens and porn stars. How maybe porn can be something more?