The Lunchbox: Bollywood Movie Leaves A Lasting Impression

A woman and a man. They both want to take leave from loneliness. While the woman wants to retire from the role of an unloved wife, the widower plans an early retirement from his professional responsibilities. In the midst of all these, the aroma of love promises a change in the course of life.

Lunchbox is the journey of two individuals on the same track of consciousness. The contentment of being heard, anticipation of getting an answer, and the hope of being understood is what propels them to carry on with their communications. As letter-exchanging exercise turned into a habit, the sense of belonging started to surface.

The screenwriter needs a pat at the back for a wonderfully touching narrative. The chiseled words of Sajan (Irfan Khan) seemed so unlike, yet familiar with the vernacular of vacuity found in Ila’s (Nimrat Kaur) notes. Their exchanges were interplay of recollections, regrets, and moment of revelries. Every time Sajan opens the lunchbox, the fragrance of affection and bonding between the two comes alive. Although the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but in this case, it’s the mutual desire to row over to the other side of boredom that gave this story a stimulating facet.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui, an erring apprentice under Sajan is another delicious item on the menu. He cajoles, he pleads, demands forgiveness, and encroaches privacy – all with an artistic ease. Nirmat Kaur nailed it with her unpretentious portrayal of a character trying to wade through stifling domesticity. Watching her stand by the French window and contemplate what future has in store is like reliving the metropolitan dilemma of where are we heading? Lilette Dubey’s cameo seemed to say, “I have not lost my mojo.”

Mumbaikars would find this journey even more real as the city is not just a backdrop of the movie – it’s a strong character that binds its inhabitants to rigmarole and restlessness. And yes, this epistolary masterpiece creates a strong case for the hand-written letters to be back in vogue.


In Defense of ‘Overt’ Sexuality

How would you react on watching a blood smudged girl running for a safe hideout after being raped several times? Do you see her circumstantial nudity or is it her terrible ordeal that makes your heart heavy? Now replicate that situation in a film. You may go one step ahead and say, “I condemn forced sex”, but that does not answer my question. You may condemn the act but make lot of noise about the ‘gross’ depiction of the act in a movie. But my dear critic, why should an honest artist (film director, in this case) prevent oneself from portraying savage acts the way they actually happen.

Meir Zarchi film ‘I spit on your grave’ (1978) had to face rough weather due to ‘overt sexuality’. After an uninterrupted watching, I can assure my readers that the director has deliberately chosen to expose the American way in late 1970s – few unemployed sex maniacs feasting on a girl as vultures do on carcass.

It was a long 18-minute scene where the camera zooms in on the pervert masochism of those men who wanted “total submission” from the girl. The men slapped and brutally thrashed the young girl at every hint of resistance. Violent physical abuse along with deafening groans of the girl can shake many a stone-hearted.

If you have qualms about the explicit rape scenes, think about the purpose, find out the connotation. Don’t just see what is being shown; try to visualize the overtone of the scene. Instead of making a fuss about prolonged nudity; be a vigilant watcher and respect the thoughts behind every single scene. Here, Zarchi dealt with small town guys  who didn’t know how to utilize their piled up energy and needed an outlet for their repressed sexual desire.  It is a long vicious chain with one leading to the other. The barbarism and chauvinistic beating throughout the film indicated an element of decadence in social fabric.

Unemployment in the US was forcing youth to go berserk and befriending anything that is inhuman and immoral. The movie dealt on the disease in the US society. The frequent shooting incidents in the US that we hear are modern day manifestations of the muddle that stains pluralistic and tolerant culture of the country.

You must give it to Camille Keaton, the victim, who took the hunter’s whip and dared those who had hounded her. A girl taking on 4 men one after the other is a strong statement the film makes. She was down but not out, wounded but not won over. Unlike many Hollywood horror movies, where priests and Holy Cross come as saviors against demons, the victim in the movie slays real-life demons – and all with the help of will power. No mediator, no blood pounding sermons and no Good-Evil skirmish. She has taught every guy a lesson – not every bikini woman lying in a canoe is bait.

Remove the grey areas in thought process. Remind yourself every time that art and life are Siamese twins. If one is hurt, the wounds are bound to develop as scars on the other. If life is jubilant in patches, the art has to be cheerful at times. While “I Spit on your Grave” can be deservingly interpreted as explicit and truthful, antagonists think of it as one unabashedly made movie.

Barfi: Sweet & Sour Bollywood Broth

Charm gets universal acclaim and so does its owner. But the acclaim comes at a great price.

What I found in Anurag Basu’s Barfi is an empathetic tale of a Darjeeling boy whose life is full of exclamations.  Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor), a speechless guy, is endowed with the gift of gab (through expressions) and he is convincingly charismatic. Sharp turns, narrow escapes, night-time adventures, and stolen romance were his close buddies.

The movie took flight when Shruti (Ileana D’cruz) arrived in Darjeeling and the beautiful hill-station could do nothing but watch Barfi in motion. And when he is in motion there is no stopping him – not even his cycle. Shruti, fell for his racy moves and tireless wooing. Trains, forests, horse, mall road and every single entity had soaked in his flamboyance. Call it destiny or ill-gotten fate, the two lovely souls ended up in a cauldron of despair. Rain, tears and more tears summed up the parting.

Barfi’s sound-proof existence sensed sonata after Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra) returned to her mother and resumed neighborly ties with him. Her autistic idiosyncrasies had no takers except Barfi’s comforting presence and his spirited sashaying around life’s troubles. While Jhilmil hated being touched, Barfi detested being alone. Together they created jingle and spoke through mirror reflections. Jhilmil needed a finger to hold for life-time and Barfi was in search of someone who would not leave him even when a tree falls precariously close to them.

Digressions build the subplot in the movie as Barfi resorted to amateurish miscreancy. Money was something he never had, but he was aware of his wealth.  In a turn of events Barfi took to residing in the city of Joy. A joyous beginning in an attic was meant to sustain. Barfi’s Chaplinesque acrobats and laughter-evoking gestures made Jhilmil sparkle.

In Barfi, past was glorious except with a touch of sad rigmaroles. The movie ties present to past making the former look ugly. By showing a life-long union of two differently abled people, the movie took it upon itself to sensitize those who look down on them. Barfi and Jhilmil get the space in the biopic that they deserved. I reckon the director wished to see society making space for such characters who may not speak or be ‘normal’ but they add zing to our lives and leave indelible happiness through their randomness.

Witty script and well thought over tricks went into making Barfi a hearty dish. The music director had his thinking cap on as he touched upon mouth organ, accordion and others to ensure western tenor where needed. Rekha Baradwaj with Phir le aaya dil majboor kya keeje and the juvenile touch in the title song by Mohit Chauhan are few instances where music played a wonderful cameo.

You can’t thank the cinematographer enough for the artistry you find in depicting dusk, night, water bodies, hills and everything that catalyzed dark-and -light game.

Coming back to the story, Barfi puts happiness, sacrifice, loneliness and regret in a string and leaves it to us to separate one from the other. While Shruti couldn’t stay loyal to her feelings, Barfi poured his heart out (not only on plate) in vain. He appeared to be saying “Nazar ki syaahi se likhenge Tujhe hazaar chitthiyaa”. Jhilmil made a choice and she was glad that she did. Shruti was nurturing vacuity and Barfi knew how incomplete he was. But then Kismat ko hai yeh manzoor, kya keeje.

A Movie and A Tale of Turbulence

One generation of hot-blooded and cold-hearted clan leaves behind its legacy for successors to dust it and keep it shinning. Hence, the pandemonium refuses to take a break. Gangs of Wassseypur 2 deals with preponderance of hooliganism turning it into a vivid biopic of betrayal, goriness, love, fear and death. 

Stretching the line that part 1 had drawn, its sequel harps on the theme of revenge, counter-revenge and the fatality of it. Afzal Khan (Nawazuddin Siddique), the eldest son of Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpai), learns about his father’s death and plunges into bloodfest.  After making a belated debut in the business of bloody hands, sounds of bullets and red smudged clothes, Afzal makes a rapid rise, almost to the level of stardom.  He was on the wrong side of law, but on the right side of love. His tenure as a love-stricken lampooner ended with a wedlock with Mohsina (Huma Qureshi).

The breezy romance between them was sidelined by the overbearing presence of factional hostilities. The film asserts what is considered as an open secret – smaller players decide the fate of crime syndicates. Ganglords are but ceremonial heads who can be toppled if men around them start showing their fangs. Trust deficit and easy virtue make the foundation of entire criminal brotherhood flimsy. Every member of the gang (at least as narrated about Dhanbad) fans self-interest and quick to seize opportunity to elevate.  

Afzal is a ganglord who loves his wife, hugs his mother in resolute affection and decides death of every ‘chu####’. The first step to become a remorseless shooter is to imbibe the quality of selective sympathy. The plot reeks of irony. Those who dole out terror, remain under the shadow of fear. You can expect them to empty entire magazine on a ‘mada#####’, but not to safeguard lives of their close ones.

Gangs of Wasseypur 2 is full of symbols for the viewers to identify. The movie represents a society ready to be devoured by the mad hunger for power, for becoming the object of terror, the hunger for seeing others in submission. The story is an unequivocal essay of how society fans the idea of avenging death and how the entire herd perceives it as life’s greatest errand.

The film, in the process of catching up with the past of Dhanbad, has reinstated the fact that backbone of law and order is not as strong as it appears. System of policing cries for help and greed soils the social fabric.

When most of the characters mostly divide their time between doing crass and chasing nautch girls, you can expect some titillating folk songs. Piyush Mishra’s well-etched lyrics coupled with powerful singing bring out the other facet of Dhanbad. The songs are a happy digression from regular dose of gun shots and grenade blasts.

Prolific cinematography is evident in the form of rustic frame that fits the film so very well. The fire pot on the backdrop of blue evening sky and dimly lit alleys on wintry nights add to the aesthetic appeal of this 160-minute film.

Each character had a dream – the dream to become the ruler. However, their hidden craving was to arrive at a juncture when “Ik bagal mein chand hoga” and “Ik bagal mein rotiyan”. Their errand was not spiteful altogether, but the path they chose was beset with viciousness. Untimely end of their lives makes the case for universal prudence and balanced morality.

Guerilla: A Film on War Well Fought

Director Nasiruddin Yousuff’s film Guerilla is a detailed study on patriotism and jingoism and how both have been at loggerheads since time immemorial. If one seeks sovereign Pakistan and drags people to extremes of sufferings to make them serve Islam the other hails ‘Joy Bangla’ (Hail Bangladesh) in chorus and pounces on oppressors at every opportunity. With West Pakistan’s forced attempt to suppress freedom movement in East Pakistan as the backdrop, the film looks out for pathos and rage as the outcome of long standing battle between two warring factions.

Gory is the depiction of barbarities under the pretext of wiping out gaddars (traitors).
Bilkis (Joya Ahsan), a gritty woman is the protagonist whose pain seems overbearing. The misery keeps mounting as she loses her husband (mukti joddha or freedom fighter) and continues to tread on path fraught with dangers. Her loneliness as an individual who is being looked up to and not looked after is felt all along.

The film projects erstwhile Pakistani Army’s audacity and modus operandi to silence a revolution. It also goes on to draw a struggling humanity trying to preserve its quality when beastly rule is devouring every virtue.

Looking deep into the plot opens before us a gamut of themes. It’s a love story amidst turbulent times, a subjective presentation of victimization of Bangladesh in 1971, and a travelogue that takes you to the alleys of malicious machination and secret rooms of revolutionary decisions.

Sensible work with camera, relentlessly good juggling with snippets from past and present and well-etched symbolisms made the narrative more poignant. High-handedness was deftly put before audience and the diligently building up of struggle was given due respect. Flute in the background was more than heartwarming as well as unnerving.

Use of Kazi Nazrul Islam’s verse, songs and memories of peaceful past got their acts together. Music Director Shimul Yousuf needs to be given his share of credit for offering some moving scores.