Thuppaki – shot dead

Please read disclaimer before reading this post – if you haven’t already.

Thuppaakki is the story of a Tamil speaking army man on a holiday saving Mumbai from Islamic terrorists from the north west of India (while he also is looking to be married).

Army > Police

For comic value or otherwise, the film talks more times than can be ignored about the greatness of the army over the police. In jest by Sathyan or in all seriousness by the villain who says ‘the only place we don’t have a sleeper cell in the country is the Indian army’. Subtly too, the 12 men on a holiday from the army, shoot out 12 sleeper cell terrorists in some of the most popular places in Mumbai. The state police are able to only find out that all the men shot are terrorists (because they all had explosives) and have no clue who shot them. The film ends with “army thaan da perusu” like that was meant to be the moral of the story.

Army can do whatever they want

Some army men come into the city, possess guns, torture people (terrorists apparently) by chopping off their fingers, shoot people down in some of the most crowded areas, make plastic bombs with the explosives admittedly brought to the city through influence, attempt to conduct suicide missions, blow up ships and all sorts of such things. The point here is not the logic of any of this, mind you, but the blind portrayal of almost criminal activity by military men as acceptable – in fact sacrificial. That whole sequence with Jayaram in it: The lesser said about it, the better.

Modern, physically strong, outspoken women are now desirable

There is a love track – the hero chasing the heroine and her chasing him in return. She is first seen as the ideal Tamil girl – long hair, short smile, politeness and all that. The hero ‘rejects’ her because he wants a modern, outspoken girl. Turns out she is a boxer (who is hurt punching a two-wheeler mirror – but that’s a different story), wears micro minis, goes partying and slaps her father (since when is the opposite of ‘adakkam’?). When the hero finds her out, he falls in love.

Now she ‘rejects’ him. Then she looks at her very-good-looking-during-college-days-friend marry a bald man and decides that she should cling on to Jagadish (Vijay of course) because he is both handsome and successful – because that’s how love happens for women? Anyway, when they do go out, none of her modern-ness or boxing skills help save the city from terrorism. So basically, she could have been done away with.

In essence

As @rathna_k was saying on Twitter, this is just 7 Aum Arivu with terrorists from the north west wearing scarves around their heads, reading urdu scripts, praying before killing, have names such a Mohammad/ Arif/ Ali etc. The same rhetoric of sacrifice, fighting (violently) for the country (which is now India because the hero lives in Mumbai), black and white of right and wrong etc. There is also nokkuvarmam – if only as a mention in a song.

Reservation in the bus and peripheral problems!

Over the last two days, I was part of a conversation that can be seen as a metaphor for the way ‘the privileged’ look at reservation. (Read this one about privilege – some interesting points made). I’ll leave the metaphorical interpretations to you and make a few points that I wish to strictly about reserving seats for women in buses.

When are reservations needed (or administered) 

My personal experience tells me that reservations are needed (or administered) in situations where there is a one has been historically marginalised (or even is being marginalised).

All reservations – based on caste/ creed/ race/ gender – are aimed at lending a helping hand to a group that has been marginalised and need help to reach even moderate levels of equality and acceptability. How this reservation is handed out is perhaps a topic of debate but you cannot argue generally that reservation is bad. Again I am digressing. This is about BMTC alone.

Now then, there is a reservation of seats in buses (16 out of about 64 seats in Bangalore and 50% in Chennai – as some Chennai folks tell me) to ensure women are given equal (or near equal) opportunity to avail facilities. Reservation, by definition, is a claim to something. If 50% seats are reserved for women, it’s understood that a woman is entitled to it and can be used by others in case there is no woman to claim it – same goes for seats reserved for the elderly and disabled as well. Given that, a man is expected to get up from his seat and give way to a woman who is entitled to it, by law.

If that is clear, here are some scenarios.

Scenario 1: If a man is seated on a women’s seat and a woman is standing. He is expected to give it up for a woman who claims it – social protocol says he must volunteer, but then who cares, right? So, when the seat is unclaimed, he can stay seated there as long as he wishes.

Scenario 2: If a man is using a seat reserved for a woman and a woman claims it, he has to give it up. Legally, it is her seat. Now, all you standing on your moral high grounds can argue about the right-ness of a woman to claim it. But she is entitled to it. She claims it.

Scenario 3: This is the interesting part. If a woman is seated in what is not reserved for women, she may not be legally asked to give up her seat simply because it is not reserved for a man. It is simply not reserved for a woman/ transgender/ elderly/ physically challenged or whoever else. That seat is available on first-come-first-served basis. If you have problems with that law, go fight in the court. DO NOT go around breaking the law. That is like saying – “I don’t think a licence is a fair way to judge my driving skills. So, I will drive around without it.” Absurd, to say the least.

In this context, let me bring in all the relevant and irrelevant points.

The relevant ones:

The point about women given the reservation of seats because they are often sexually harassed by men is greatly valid. More often than not, it is the men that harass the women. One of the reasons the law of reservation exists is to protect women from such situations.

The point about giving the marginalised an opportunity to speak up for themselves is very valid. In this case, women are often victims of patriarchy. 50 years ago, a woman would have been petrified of asking a man to give her a seat – mostly even standing out of respect to men, stranger or otherwise. So, a reservation gave them claim to it. This is greatly relevant even today.

The irrelevant ones

Chennai is more cultured than Bangalore – Great! Keep the change! (Oh yes. I am feminist you see? I have no sense of humour. Sorry).

About sexual harassment – if your point is that there are assholes among women and therefore they should not be entitled to reservation, it is irrelevant. All men in the world did not get murdered because some are rapists. So, sorry.

If it outrages you that all women are playing victims because they are even now being deprived of what is rightfully theirs, you are irrelevant. No you are not. You are actually harmful to the idealistic aim of equality in society.

Reservation will not save women from gropers. #ok

Anyway, the point is irrelevant arguments like these are the reason anti-dowry law is lobbied to be withdrawn (look at points 12 & 13). You may also look here and here.

And in the end, if you have half a thing to say, please type it out in the comments section. I am not an expert in reservation and I’d like to hear from you if I’ve been mistaken. Try and keep it relevant though! :)

Barfi

I keep saying this. The point of this blog is not to see how technically advanced a film is or how it flows into the artistic style of the director’s past work. I abstain from writing about these things perhaps because I don’t know enough. What I aim to do is bring to your notice what I see as clandestine rhetoric that perpetuates status quo and oppresses any new line of thought.

In that context, Barfi must have been one of those films that shatters status quo and introduces the viewer to alternate perspectives about disability and relationships. I am not sure it succeeds though.

Barfi can neither hear nor speak. He is a small town simpleton with not-so-materialistic ambitions and an understanding of happiness that comes from within. He is all pranks and is said to be loved by all of Darjeeling. He falls in love (at first sight) with Shruti and woos her – apparently showing her freedom and unconditional love (which she did not see where she is from). Shruti’s mother enacts a scene from ‘The Notebook’ and convinces her not to marry Barfi. Shruti goes to to become Mrs. Sengupta – later to realise that she is in a relationship that has words but no meaning or soul (as against the one with meaning but no words – she could have had with Barfi).

Jhilmil Chatterjee is an autistic young girl living in Muskaan (what looks like a home for the disabled). She doesn’t speak much either; she makes beautiful birds from paper, does not like people touching her and most importantly (for the story to go forward) inherits all of her family’s wealth.

While one is savouring the joy that the innocence of Barfi and Jhilmil shower on us, there is a plot of kidnap and ransom-demanding that pokes itself in. Barfi kidnaps Jhilmil (among other people), writes a ransom note, takes the money from Jhilmil’s father all in an attempt to save his own father who is suffering from a kidney disease. But you see – someone who is supposed to be innocent and joyful getting himself tangled into kidnap does not seem cute to me anymore.

Entangled in this mess is also Jhilmil who can hardly understand what’s going on around her. She trusts her long-time friend Barfi who has in fact kidnapped her for money. They both grow fond of each other that Barfi perceives as love. I say “Barfi perceives” because I am not convinced Jhilmil understands this completely. They run away to Kolkata and seek to live normal lives. Shruti returns to Barfi’s life as Mrs. Sengupta ending up making Jhilmil jealous who goes back to Muskaan (for security/ peace/ familiarity?).

Is the kidnap, alcoholic mother, drowning-in-debt father written as a contrast for the innocent, harmless, genuine, child-like Jhilmil? Is the rich, hard working, urban, Mr. Sengupta a contrast for Barfi? Why couldn’t Shruti have married a rich, hard working, urban man who is also loving, caring, romantic, compassionate and considerate? Aren’t the same problems of black and white characters continuing here? As Shruti’s mother also asks in this film – who says love only happens once? It happened twice to Barfi!

I am still confused about the marriage of the autistic Jhilmil. When she could not comprehend kidnap, how does she comprehend marriage, wedding ceremonies and the relationship (albeit platonic)? What is the love based on?

If the film is to present to the audiences a new perspective on love, happiness, joy, relationships, trust and marriage – well, there is of course merit to the attempt. But it is far from convincing. There is a strange sense of disconnect – from the narrative, the characters, the message we are meant to perceive.

Mugamoodi

When a film is bad, I generally have a *lot* to say about it, this that and the other complaint I come up with. About Mugamoodi though, I have very little to say.

Where is the inspiration?

The most important aspect of a superhero film is (arguably) the inspiration. What makes one a superhero? Why does one choose to wear a mask? Why would one go through the trouble of solving crime? Why is one willing to take the risk that one does?

Bruce Lee (Anand his real name) starts wearing blue tights with red underwear on top of it to impress the female lead. He urinates in public, rolls down stairs, trips and falls. When this funny guy gets caught in a shoot out and loses his friend, he becomes Mugamoodi to avenge the killers and prove himself innocent in the eyes of the women he is wooing. Until this point, there is nothing that makes the audience hoot for a common man turning into a superhero. In fact, there is nothing even further from here.

Why stick to the clichéd?

The dhandasoru hero, ever-cursing father, the pretty heroine with a pepper spray, an emotion-less love story (dear heroine, he is a superhero and all fine, but who is going to put food once the villain is caught?), crime-buster Gaurav (a strange name for a man of Nasser’s age, without a last name or a real designation), the helpful grandfathers – one after the other, we see boat loads of clichés, awful ones at that.

What is with the villain?

The characterisation of Anguswamy (a memorable name, I must grant) is rather grainy. He is younger than the story suggests he must be, develops a mannerism that he did not have in the beginning of the film, wears a mask only to take it off quite often, fights (Kung Fu) in what seems like a really uncomfortable posture, kills himself without a real fight. Considering how Mugamoodi’s character isn’t very strongly portrayed, the villain needn’t be glorified either. But that only defeats the point of this encounter, doesn’t it?

Who is the heroine?

It’s a superhero film and there is no place for a female lead. In this film though there is one – eye candy, uses pepper spray to capture the most notorious Kung Fu fighter in the neighbourhood, hits the hero with what looks like a wooden tube while he falls in love with her…erm..hair(?).

For the cinema that has made Kandasamy and Muppozhudhum un karpanaigal, Mugamoodi is probably forgivable. But that doesn’t make Mugamoodi a good film at any rate.

Ayyo, feminist!

I’ve been a lot of things in the last 25 years I’ve spent on the planet – a daughter, a sister, a friend, a dude, an enemy, and a fool among other things. The one thing that was most troublesome of them all is being a feminist.

Being a feminist is obviously not like being a woman – you can’t look down my neck and see that I am a feminist, right? I have to go out of my way and say it – talk about it, hang out with other feminists, read a book that’s called ‘feminist film theory’ or at least shout out on my blog header. The moment someone spots I am a *feminist*, the conversation travels through a whole new tangent. Some apologise, some cringe, some turn away and some others try to talk me out of it. The most common reactions to me being feminist had to be televised…err, written about.

Have I offended you?

The most common reaction to my being a feminist is apology. I’ve known people all my (feminist) life being sorry for my being feminist. Most people begin conversations saying, “I hope you don’t get offended by my saying this, but I think…” When any sentence begins this way, I want to sigh, bite my fist, drop a little tear and run dramatically into my room weeping my heart out like Saroja Devi in Anbe Vaa. NOT.

Do you really have a boyfriend?

This is an extension of people thinking that all feminists are women and most of them are single (or l3sbian), have *bob cut*, burn bras as a hobby, smoke incessantly, are extremely unsatisfied and abnormal. Some people have gone so far as to ask ‘what kind of a man is in love with a feminist?’ and asked *me* that question for good measure. Here, I shall let you in on a little secret. My boyfriend is imaginary – there is no real person I can call a boyfriend and I live happily in my imaginary (feminist) relationship! Peace?

Now you are overdoing it!

This is every sociologist’s nightmare. When I watch movies I observe hidden meanings that have been passed on over generations to indicate (and perpetuate) a particular idea. When Rajinikanth says “adhigama aasapadra aambalayum, adhigama kovapadra pombalayum…” you do realise that he is saying it is all right for men to get angry (which in turn leads to physical/ s3xual abuse)? No? I am overdoing it? Okay.

Come on. Take a joke.

“Chris Gayle *raped* the Delhi Daredevils bowlers” was taught to me one evening as funny usage. I’ve been led to believe that saying one person outperformed another is the same as raping the other person. When I refused to believe it, I am generally asked to come on and take a joke!

I am not much of a feminist

This is what I hear from the ladies. This is the female apology to mean that they are sorry they are not as much feminists as I am. They don’t mind men opening their car doors, carrying their heavy luggage, fixing their *technology* problems or making their travel plans as long as the men are willing to do dishes, change their children’s diapers and earn for the family.

My dream reaction

You know all said and done; I don’t think I have seen the worst yet. I am waiting for the day when a child will look at me and say, “Ayyo, feminist” (like Ayyo, bootham) only to run and hide in the dupatta of his/ her mother. That day will also come and bring along with it tranquillity and peace to my feminist mind!

Mazhaikaadhali!

It is one of those days when you had an avalanche of emotions and feel drained even before the workday ends. From happiness to pride, satisfaction, love, freedom, revenge, anger, disgust, pain, insult, you’ve experienced a range of emotions that half the human population hasn’t even begun to feel. At 6 PM, you grab your handbag and leave for the day. You find that one colleague you don’t mind spending time with at the end of such a day and go for coffee to a comforting café. Sipping (a rather strong) coffee, through some nice conversations and comfortable silences, you see a strange calm dawning on you when it starts drizzling outside and you decide to walk home.

You zip up your overcoat and start walking in the drizzle (secretly thanking that colleague of yours who didn’t insist on being chivalrous and drop you home). It is still drizzling. You plug your earphones and switch on a playlist of melancholy love songs on shuffle (to be surprised) and start walking – a smile intact on your lips.

You walk a few steps and the auto rickshaws start slowing down near you (the helpful Bangalorean gentlemen that they are). You give them a condescending smile and look away with a heightened sense of self. The mighty rain washes Indiranagar down and you see people slowly move to the sides of the road. The world opens up for you and you feel like the brave one surviving the vengeful rain. When the first drop of rain reaches your lips and you slowly swallow that drop, the sense of bravery vanishes and all you feel is noble love for the rain that has now enveloped you – in your entirety, just the way you are, the shape, the size and the personality. The rain envelopes the car that just passed by, the buffalo that refuses to move, the umbrella that the school girl is hiding under and every person else – the same way it embraces you. You can’t resist being jealous – jealous of all the other people it is raining on – even worse when they don’t even love it back like you do. You smile knowing yourself all too well.

You’ve walked quite a distance and you want to know what time it is but the smartphone you trust for everything is not rainproof. You look up the night sky and continue walking. The stupid shuffle on your android phone plays Adhiradi Kaaran after Anal mela paniththuli – you can’t resist singing ‘jakkal jackal dammaal dummeel’ and admiring the genius that is vaali!

While passing through that one-way street that has colourful shops lining up either side, there is a power cut. That sense of divine reassurance that (you are the only one walking on the road while everyone else is waiting for the rain to stop) you will not get groped in the dark. That sense of fear that you might fall into a ditch and therefore move to the middle of the road. That joy of walking in the middle of the road in Bangalore and not get yelled at.

You don’t feel thirsty because you know you’ve been drinking rainwater. But you are finding it increasingly difficult to walk. You look down to see dripping wet pants and you thank rain gods that it isn’t Friday else you’ll be in jeans and it would have been heavier.

You wait to cross the road and a gentleman in a black VW Polo stops and waves for you to go. You give him a thumbs-up and thank him. You climb on to the footpath (you finally find after several minutes of walking) and a van splashes muddy water on you. You smile back at him thinking ‘this too shall get rain-washed’. Nothing really seems like a problem anymore. Not the pair of earphones that are also drenching in the rain, not the handbag that has a kindle that is getting wet, not the cold and a fever you may catch tomorrow, not all the worldly problems that bothered you during the day.

You know you will write this post and publish it. You think about calling it ‘a walk to remember’ and then think about how inappropriate it would be in an otherwise film-review blog. You decide to call it ‘mazhai kaadhali’ and you take mental note of giving title-credit to @codenameashtray.

You get home and open the door. The power is still *cut*. You light a small candle lying on the teapoy and inhale the smell of home. Nothing seems like a problem anymore. This too shall be washed.

Footnote

Direction: Joseph Cedar

Featuring: Shlomo Bar-Aba and Lior Ashkenazi

Footnote is an Israeli film about a father and a son – both in the Talmud department of the Hebrew University. The father is a researcher following traditional research methods – hard-working, meticulous and perseverant. The son, on the other hand, is modern, publishes without being entirely sure, is sociable and highly appreciated. The father doesn’t take his son’s successes too well.

To understand the film in its entirety, one must have some knowledge about Talmud research or at least Judaism and its texts. When you don’t understand the literature, the film is a blindfolded ride through complex dynamics of this father-son relationship of envy, rage, sympathy, irreverence, fear and love (that is much considering the father is said to be autistic).

The father is proud and the son is sacrificial (more out of the fear of breaking the family). The father is contemptuous of his son’s research but the son is sympathetic of his father’s work. The father publicly calls his son an empty vessel but the son attributes all his successes to the father. In spite of the father being portrayed as the pompous guy, I felt for the father more than the son – almost as if he was wronged by the world (of research and rivalry).

The women characters in the film are very interesting. There is the typical mother – hosting guests, folding up the newspaper, protecting the son and spreading love. There is the son’s wife – whose job is to be a mother (for the grandson) and she even refuses to do it right. Then there is this girl who submits a research paper that is beyond bad and a journalist who is said to be amateurish.

The film’s ending haunts you with its openness leaving you contemplating for a long while after the film what the father will do with the prize (knowing fully well he was awarded it at the mercy of his son). You are wondering if you know the father well enough to conclude that he will arrogantly refuse acceptance – or bury his wisdom and take the prize he waited decades for.

In essence, footnote is the story of a bunch of convoluted relationships that the director leaves you to untangle in your own time. Well played, indeed.