Jaa Simran Jaa, Jee Ley Apni Zindagi

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Praf, short for Praful Patel, is a 30 year old divorcee, living in Atlanta, US, only child of Gujarati parents who have owned a general store all their lives. She’s holding down a job as a housekeeping staff in a hotel. She not only has a past but a post-past as well – her ex-boyfriend happens to be her boss at the hotel.

Praf wants to make money, create financial security for herself, a craft almost perfected by Gujjus in general, but Praf is different – her aims are the same but her means are not. Self-control is not her thing. This Gujju gal has the balls – or shall we say vagina – to take risks. Okay, playing Baccarat (without knowing anything about the game) just to pursue a guy you’ve spotted inside a Las Vegas casino cannot be called guts. But then, the Gujju gal doesn’t even have the $25 she needs to enter the game at the table. Our lady does a James Bond, like it or not. She also gets the guy.

That’s where all the trouble begins. The addiction to gambling, losing money, trouble. Wanting to win it all back but no money to stake. Trouble. Using up all her savings just to play a few more hands, no luck. Trouble. Losing all money, landing in the hands of a loan shark, Trouble. That’s what Praf is. She doesn’t hedge her bets, doesn’t listen to her parents, doesn’t settle down with a boy to make sev-tameta nu shaak for the rest of her life, no wisdom coming with age. Instead, she goes on to single-handedly rob a few banks to earn the nickname Lipstick Bandit.

The character of Praful Patel is inspired by the story of the ‘Bombshell bandit’, Sandeep Kaur, who went on a 5-week long bank robbing spree because she was pushed to the brink to pay off loan sharks she had used to fuel her gambling addiction. One has to say, the story is interesting. Has it been executed well? Yes, mostly.

Kangana is the queen of nuance. She’s as usual, great. The performances are good. The story has its dense details – a close-knit but unhappy family. A difficult, tension-filled father-daughter relationship. Sweet moments with the boy Praf’s parents are trying to set her up. All good. But the film lacks the aha moment – when you experience the character so strongly you identify with her emotions. ‘English Vinglish‘ was full of such moments, so was ‘Queen’, to name a few. They had a very strong screenplay. Also, Simran felt a tad bit longer than it absolutely needed to be.

Now for the ham scenes: Luckily in the case of Simran, all the ham scenes happened outside of  and after the movie. I say luckily because otherwise, the film would have been that much longer and would have had to somehow feature Barkha Dutt and Rajat Sharma. That was me popping the lighter vein. One thing though: In terms of matter and gravity, I daresay the ham scenes overshadowed the movie itself. Kangana is an unbelievably strong contender for the solid ‘hero’ crown and she doesn’t even need to earn it. She has proved she has a vagina, and her films are the least of it. And as far as item numbers go, why can’t they be more like the AIB video/song?

In that sense, I’m rooting for every Praf, Tanu, Datto, and Rani that Kangana plays.

Now for a miss: There was much talk of Kangana adding this ‘sexual’ ‘edge’ to her character. That Praf actually likes sex. I would have thought that puts her in the ‘human’ category but in the Indian film industry and the larger Indian society, this is what makes news. You can probably hear a dilliwali aunty (no offence meant to Dilli, Dilliwalas, and aunties – it’s the combination here) scoffing a “Haw!! This girl likes sex!”

If you’re going to the hall thinking you’ll see some exciting moment there, say hello to disappointment. It’s a bit scene where Praf likes a guy, pursues him quite decently, I’d say ladylike manner but that would run afoul of the definition of ladylike. Ladylike and sex don’t mix. To be a lady, step 1: you shun your human nature for the divine. Anyway, Praf takes the guy to bed. No great shakes there, as you will find out. But, this ‘controversy’ is also why Simran is larger than life as a movie. It has set a lot of people talking. And some people squirming after being kneed in the nuts.

That this sort of thing is one of the firsts in the industry is probably why I’d give kudos to Simran. Thank you Praf, for being there. And thank you Simran, for being there.

Simran

 

Our heroes and heroines

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‘Human beings have neither kindness, nor faith, nor charity, beyond what serves to increase the pleasure of the moment.’ – Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)

A very bold, unconventional, beautiful, talented, and of course brainy career-minded girl meets a typical Indian man of pedigree and strong career distinguished by his six-pack, macho, handsome looks… ooh grey eyes. He’s married to a gorgeous woman from an equally powerful background, and has two young kids with her.

Hrithik, your world had to explode. Kangana, you should have known better. Sussanne, kudos to you!

You know why I loved having this conversation recently with friend of mine? – besides the fact that everyone is tired of discussing Kanhaiya Kumar and Anupam Kher. Because we both find ourselves on similarly feminist wavelengths.

Once in a while, you’ve gotta let your hair down. ‘Coz, look even Shobha De has put in her two-bit on this affair, saying Let’s hear it for Kangana. Interestingly, the affair itself didn’t make such waves as has its fallout.

I’ve still gotta hand it to Shobha De, who has rightly spotted the ‘heroism’ in Kangana, with the step she took after Hrithik sent her a legal notice. Kangana has put her career at stake. She’s an outsider. But more importantly, she’s outspoken. The domino effect on her career will be telling. And this is after she had supposedly hit her highest high with her performance in ‘Queen’. Kangana a risk-taker? Check! Oh yes. Track record? Check.

‘Coz… Hrithik. Check again.

Can you believe the girl who filled reams of newsprint with her interviews about how she couldn’t do conventional roles requiring her to run around trees was actually a real-life Cinderella, being chased by this married guy – however hot – who’s ‘no-no’ actually transformed into a ‘yes-yes’ in due course of time? It’s not like she was being offered an extra golgappa, was she?

Totally creepy, especially given the mud-slinging during Hrithik’s Barbara Mori affair while they were shooting for the film Kites.

I’d love to read out aloud the Virginia Woolf quote I’ve started my post with. Loudly. And slowly. Letting it sink in.

Moving on, Hrithik. Dude, you’ve come out looking like the typical Indian male – no hero goals from you! Just got no game. Indian men have never learnt to give, having learnt only to take. Adulation, praise, power, property, pleasure, happiness. They earn money and they brag. They ‘score’ and they brag. They cook once in a blue moon for their partner and they brag. They change a diaper and they brag. Bragging rights is all they’re after. This megalomania is culturally transmitted. But this is water under the bridge, sister!

I wanna say kudos to Sussanne. Got her own business going, got her own place, got two beautiful boys, her own friends, her life. Walked out in a glamorous haze, looking like a million bucks. Free. Any woman in her position ought to know that if it weren’t Kangana or Barbara Mori it would have been someone else. Isn’t it ironic then, that it’s ‘strong’, ‘feminist’ girls like Kangana who get caught in the net?

I see Sussanne as the real heroine in here. And I believe we’re banking on the wrong heroes and heroines. Sussanne, take a bow!

I remember a conversation – long, long back – with a sculptor with whom I’ve lost touch, on feminism. He was telling me the story of his old house-help who was still going on working, happily too, despite her advanced age. She hails from the Adivasi community back in North Gujarat, and years back, her husband had brought in another woman to live with him into the same house. She decided to look for work (or was she already working in homes, I don’t clearly remember now) and has since never stopped. When asked about what would have to be perceived as a humiliating situation back home, she replied matter-of-factly: I’m actually free now. With the second one coming in, I’m free of all expectations – of ‘satisfying him’, of bearing his children, of looking after the home; I can work, come and go as I please, make my own money. What more could I have asked for. Listening to her story became a defining moment in my life.

This woman doesn’t know the term ‘feminism’. But she knows freedom.