Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) #SherylPuthur

ae-dil-hai-mushkilDirected By: Karan Johar

Written By: Karan Johar

Cast:

Ranbir Kapoor – Ayan Sangar

Anushka Sharma – Alizeh Khan

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan – Saba Taliyar Khan

Fawad Khan – DJ Ali

Lisa Haydon – Lisa D’souza

Imran Abbas – Dr. Faisal

Shahrukh Khan – Tahir Taliyah Khan

Alia Bhatt – DJ Alia

Language: Hindi; Urdu                                                    Genre: Drama; Romance

 

Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is a story about relationships and heartbreak. The film opens with an interview of Ayan Sangar (Ranbir Kapoor), a London-based singer who has gone from being a YouTube sensation to a popular singer whose music intrigues his audience for its poetry and pathos.

Ayan opens up about the relationships that made him and probably broke him. Alizeh Khan (Anushka Sharma) is a girl he meets at a bar. After a failed hook-up, they become good friends. It is a friendship characterised by straight talking and witty one-liners. They also bond on their shared love for Bollywood which is something that connects them to the subcontinent. They are two people who have learnt to deal with loneliness and distant parents in their own ‘carpe diem’ fashion. Their friendly chemistry leads Ayan to assume that there is more to their relationship. He falls in love with her and she loves him too, but platonically.

Alizeh is wary of relationships because of her previous turbulent relationship with the popular DJ Ali (Fawad Khan), whom she met at Lucknow while she was a student. She is not over him and his return into her life cause cracks to appear in her friendship with Ayan because he cannot take the rejection.

Ayan, in his desperation to forget or deal with his heartbreak becomes involved with an intelligent, sensual older woman Saba Taliyar Khan (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). She is a shayara (poet) and she is as intrigued by him as he is by her. Ayan has a pattern to his relationships which are largely about sexual satisfaction. If his earlier relationship with Lisa (Lisa Haydon) was marked by shallow physical needs on his side and gold-digging on hers, his relationship with Saba is on a more equal footing.

Conceptually, the film is great. It is about being ‘friendzoned’ by a lover. Literally every character in the film is friendzoned at some point or other. The film explores the complexity of modern relationships and points out the flaws in relationships that don’t have very solid grounding. It speaks about falling out of love with someone and growing steadily intolerant about certain aspects of your partner’s personality. And how, conversely, to protect a valued connection, one would turn the proverbially Nelson’s eye to the true dynamics of the alliance.

But, the treatment of the narrative is poorly handled. It abounds in clichés which get a tad bit irritating. Even the fact that the movie is narrated through an interview is implausible. That is an overlong interview and if it was reality, one could empathise with the plight of the interviewer.

That the screenwriting is lazy is obvious in the manner in which the denouement was reached. Another film that pretty much handled the same theme but in a far more mature fashion was Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. Ironically, it is a Dharma Production.

Even the lead actors, who have obviously performed brilliantly, have taken recourse in roles they have essayed before. There is then nothing to look forward in their interpretation. Kapoor has reprised the pathos and confusion of his movies Rockstar and Tamasha (in fact, even the narrative borrows heavily from these two features). Anushka Sharma is mature in how she plays Alizeh but it’s still nothing new. However, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has truly pushed herself out of a performative comfort zone. Even Lisa Haydon is hilarious.

Now the elephant in the room is the political controversy that this motion picture got embroiled in because it cast a Pakistani actor. Fawad Khan is barely there in the movie and it might make an audience member feel ‘oh a storm in a teapot’ but it is my assumption that the film may have been re-edited post controversy and would have chopped out much of his role. It is rather sad that he leaves Indian cinema not with a bang but a fizzle.

Also, I suspect all the characters, except for Ayan, were Pakistani in origin. Even the scenes that were later dubbed as Lucknow may have originally been Lahore. This is more plausible because the punjabiness of the wedding preparation and music would be out of place in a Lucknowi wedding. This may have then implied that the narrative was heading towards the idea that we are so much more similar than we give credit for. It also did not seem a narrative that harped on the India-Pakistan past but side-stepped it and moved into a ‘this is how South Asians are’. It would have challenged the viewpoint that Indians in India have about Pakistanis when contrasted with that of Indians abroad. This very fact would have made this a mature take on the tense kinship we share.

Even the fact that Sangars are supposed to Brahmin, Ayan however, plays a very un-Brahmin role. If the above was how Karan Johar intended it, it is truly unfortunate that he had to pare down and remove all those subtle nuances that may have made the clichés more bearable.

So he has broken or tried to break community and nation stereotypes. But he hasn’t stepped out of the traditional Bollywood ending of tragic catharsis or truly reconciled himself to ambiguous or incomplete endings. The ending, therefore, is unexpected, incredulous and unintentionally funny.

On a side note, the cinematography and art design were aesthetic. The music of the film is brilliant. Moving, poetic and catchy – a double thumbs up.

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Kapoor and Sons (2016) #SherylPuthur

kapoor-sons

Directed By : Shakun Batra

Written By: Shakun Batra and Ayesha Devitre Dhillon

Cast:

Rishi Kapoor – Amarjeet Kapoor (Dadu)

Fawad Khan – Rahul Kapoor

Siddharth Malhotra – Arjun Kapoor

Ratna Pathak Shah – Sunita Kapoor

Rajat Kapoor – Harsh Kapoor

Alia Bhatt – Tia Malik

Sukant Goel – Wasim

Amarjeet – Plumber

Language: Hindi                                        Genre: Drama; Comedy; Romance

 

At the heart of Kapoor and Sons is the idea of family. The need for acceptance, validation and consolation, you require from your immediate family members. The Kapoor family is certainly dysfunctional but then every family is. It’s just a question of degree.

The characters may seem callous but it is the kind of indifference that sets into any kind of long-term relationship. Which is why when the characters see themselves at the receiving end of such indifference, they act out to gain attention. Be it Dadu (Rishi Kapoor) playing dead, Sunita (Ratna Pathak Shah) throwing tantrums because she feels rejected or Arjun (Siddharth Malhotra) storming out after a family feud.

Harsh (Rajat Kapoor) feels persecuted by his wife’s demands and alienates her even more – adding to her need to act out. However, it is Rahul (Fawad Khan) who tries to keep the family together. He acts the responsible adult when everyone else seems to be giving in to their infantile side. But he may be the one most splintered on the inside because of the secrets he has to keep.

In fact, as the story progresses, the characters get more and more unhinged, till the lines between their public appearances and private selves come dangerously close.

What keeps the film from becoming an absurdist, dark Pinteresque drama is the humour, warmth and the Indian melodrama. Honestly, the latter isn’t a Bollywoodisation rather an inherently cultural pattern, albeit sometimes exaggerated in cinema.

The catalyst of the film’s action is Dadu, whose heart attack brings the estranged sons – Rahul and Arjun home to Coonor. The two siblings have a complex relationship. Rahul is the successful novelist while Arjun is struggling to find his space as a writer while doing odd jobs. He is jealous of Rahul’s success and the obvious preference his parents seem to have for Rahul.

There are characters who try vainly to hold on to their safety cloaks of upright behaviour. In fact, the younger characters seem to shield their inner selves more than the older ones. Sunita and Harsh openly argue, even in front of the plumber (Amarjeet) who thinks it’s perfectly alright to comment on their argument. Dadu is too old to care about public opinions and sees no point in it. Which is why, he openly expresses his displeasure, inappropriate humour and so on.

Maybe, it’s because with your family you should be able to express the unsavoury aspects of your personality. There is also an interesting cast of side characters like Tia (Alia Bhatt), Wasim (Sukant Goel), his brother and others. Tia for instance is this bubbly girl who is fond of both brothers which considering their uneasy relationship is worrisome. She however, just like the other characters has another side to her personality that is not easily apparent.

The central motif of the film is the family photo that Dadu wants to take. He wants it be titled ‘Kapoor and Sons since 1921’ probably as a reminder that the family is still together. He wants everyone to be together, to be happy and to be present. However, when all players come together for the photo, things fall apart.

Obviously watch it for the performances by seasoned actors like Rishi Kapoor, Ratna Pathak Shah and Rajat Kapoor. Yet, the performance that stands out is Fawad Khan’s sensitively handled performance of the “perfect bachcha”. He carries the film and could very well find another nomination coming his way, preferably in the Best Actor category. The sibling dynamics are well-portrayed by the lead actors. They are convincing in how they fit into the moulds of older and younger siblings.

Therefore, one could say the psychological detailing of the script and the masterful direction keeps the narrative tight.

 

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.