Bala: Par Badalna Kyun Hai?

I had watched Udja Chaman couple of weeks back.  I was wondering why there are two movies with the same concept releasing around the same time. Of course, Ayushman Khurana being more popular, his movie was more awaited.

Both movies have a different story though based on the same theme.

There has been a trend in Bollywood where small town movies have become very likable.  The makers of the movie catch the small town feel perfectly with the language, clothes and the little nuances.  Bala is no exception.  There are three main characters:

Bala

A bald man who is otherwise good-looking, and was good-looking growing up but now has a complex about his receding hairline. He would do anything to get the hair back and tries all kinds of remedies. He is a salesman by profession and conducts seminars to sell fairness creams by making dark-skinned women realize how inadequate and undesirable they are.

‘Kanpur ki sari ladkiyon ko unki badsoorati ka ehsaas dilao’

Yes ladies. This is what all beauty products, fashion magazines, cosmetic advertisements, beauty parlours do – Make us feel ugly, reinforce our “flaws” so they can earn money.

Latika

A dark-skinned woman who grew up playing the repulsive Kubja in school.  She has spent most of her life being called dark and ugly.  She has learnt to accept herself for who she is, and she rebels against the societal norms.

‘Who gets to decide what I should look like!’ She growls.

She is intelligent, confident and a practicing lawyer.

Pari

A fair skinned, beautiful girl who has become a Tik Tok sensation overnight. She has gained fame because of her beauty and she is aware that the only thing she has is her looks.

‘Looks mein no compromise!’ She believes.

‘Dikhawa hi meri zindagi hai’.

What makes this movie stand out for me, is the fact that it remained honest to its characters.

How important is looks?

I guess this question in answered differently by those who have it and those who don’t. Of course, everybody has their own definition of what they find attractive but there are some universally acceptable standards of beauty.  Being short, fat, dark-skinned, bald may not be considered attractive. There is the pain of dealing with your own insecurities and complex. Very few people in the world are flawless.  Most people will have something to cry about – a fat nose,  acne,  weight, height, skin colour. Something that was told to them from their very childhood. Something that held them back from being good-looking. Bala obsessed about growing his hair back. He covers his mirror in a way that he cannot see the baldness. He wears a cap. He does not hate everything about himself. If only he could change that one thing…

I remember a friend from my school, who was conscious of her big nose. She used to tell me that as a kid she was afraid her nose would get so big it would cover her entire face. Every time she saw her photos all she could see was her nose. We all have that one thing we wish we could change…

You have such a sweet face, if only you could lose the body weight..

She has such nice features, but rang se maat kha jati hai…

He is so cute..Poor guy.. If only he had some height..

Face is pretty! But the pimples..

Click my side profile, from the front my face is too chubby.

But does anybody get to design their face and body on Paint Brush that it would be perfect?

We struggle with with our own complexes with our appearance.  To add to that, we have to find a partner who we have to look at every day, sleep with, make babies with, and grow old with.  How important is that person’s looks?

The arranged marriage

Few years ago, a bunch of my friends in late 20s were discussing the rishtas we were getting.

A friend of mine rejected a guy who she didn’t find good-looking. The guy had a good job, good family, everything else was a plus.

“Aap  khud kya Aishwarya Rai hain?”. Her father demanded.

The generation that met on the day of the marriage, accepted the spouse as Bhagwan ki marzi and shadi to nibhana hai may not understand.

Wise cousins of her the girl who were married to not so good-looking but good, caring, men were trying to tell her that looks is secondary.   The girl said asked how could she marry someone who she doesn’t even like to look at. How will she ever feel attracted to him? Won’t that cause problems in the marriage? What if she does not fall in love with his good qualities after marriage? Or worse… He does not even have any, and he is not even someone she liked in the first place!!

Another guy said he has rejected girls he didn’t find attractive because otherwise the marriage would not work.  It would not be fair to him. It would not be fair to the girl.

A short girl wants a tall husband because she has been told with her height she would not get one, and she wants to prove people wrong…

A dark-skinned man wants a fair-skinned girl because he has carried the shame all his life. He wants his wife to redeem himself..

Is it wrong to reject someone based on looks? Is it right to marry someone you don’t find attractive?  Doesn’t everybody deserve to be with someone they find at least decent looking? Are we even comfortable with our own looks before we get to decide how acceptable somebody else looks?

What works in the movie

Spoiler alert

The pretty girl will not see the hero’s heart. She will see his bald head.

Yami Gautam is brilliant as the small-town girl whose life revolves around looking pretty and getting likes on social media.  Whatever she has achieved in life is because of her looks. She does not change. Call her shallow if you want. But this is what happens in real life.

The not so pretty girl refuses to be a second choice

Latika is no Anjali from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai who will remember her barso purana pyaar and reject a man who loves her in the present for some idiot who she loved and got rejected by in the past.   When I saw Bhumi’s black, painted face I was annoyed. She looked so unnatural. I was angry that they could not find one dark-skinned woman in India for this role. But when she acts,  she has so much spunk that it is always a joy to watch her, despite the painted face.

The hero will learn to love himself

Mard ko dard hota hai. Men get rejected. Men are also treated badly for the way they look. The love of Bala’s life says Eww to him and leaves him. How will he live with himself knowing that?

He will.  For you cannot make someone love you forcibly. You cannot make a Pari like you.  But a Latika may be able to appreciate you. But irrespective of the Paris, and the Latikas, you need to learn to love yourself first.

And once you do, you automatically become attractive to others.

 

Kabir Singh! Why I found The Women In The Movie More Problematic

I had decided not to watch this movie.  In fact, my husband wanted to watch it but I told him I will not be able to show my face to the feminist community! So we did not watch in theatre. I sometimes watch a movie just to make fun of it (read this!) but I did not have the energy to do it for this one.

Even before watching it I shared all reviews that accused the movie of being problematic, misogynist and glorifying toxic masculinity. I was sure I would hate it.

But I decided to watch it once it was available on Netflix. Finished it in two parts because it was too long for me to sit through.

While everybody has written everything that is wrong with Kabir Singh,  I wonder why nobody wrote what was wrong with Priti Sikka, and the other women in the movie.  Spoiler alert.

Most dumb character. Female. Nominee 1

Preeti Sikka is a pretty, delicate little thing who opens her mouth more for kissing than speaking.  She does not resist when a man she barely knows  kisses her on her cheek. Why? Probably because he is handsome or maybe because she is enjoying the attention of being the love interest of this popular guy.  Now, I thought that Priti may be quiet but she is still an assertive person and does what she wants. She likes Kabir Singh enough to shift to his hostel and have sex with him regularly.  She even travels to another city where he is studying and forces him to kiss her publicly.  Well,  I guess birds of the same feather flock together!  Seems she does not care about what people think after all! So far so good. Enter the parents of the girl and the drama of caste and ‘honor’ begins. Kabir and her father have a fight.  Kabir gives her an ultimatum of six hours to convince her father that this is not a lust story but true love. She goes to meet him but he is drugged and unconscious and she is not able to meet him.  Now this woman who seems quite bold so far,  MARRIES another man the very NEXT day!  Why! Even if they had locked her up (I do not think so), why did she MARRY him? Adults can choose who they like, who they have sex with and who they marry. I do not think she had sought her parents’ approval before doing any of that. So why could she not take a stand now? She was angry with Kabir Singh for giving her an ultimatum for six hours and then not being available when she went to meet him. Fine. She could have just stayed home and not married anyone else! Kabir Singh is shocked that she is married and turns into a self-destruction mode in the second half.

In the end we find out that Priti Sikka is pregnant. But this being a purane zamane ka love story, it is revealed that our pregnant heroine is ganga ki tarah pawitra because the baby is of the good old college boyfriend and not of her husband who left her three days after the wedding! She did not let him touch her at all!  Why did she marry him and ruin his life?  Also the husband was aware of everything and still married her.  “Doesn’t he have any self-respect?” Kabir Singh asked. I would ask the same thing. He was just horny and was happy to marry a beautiful girl who he would not have access to otherwise, Kabir Singh thinks.  I don’t care. What good reason did she have for marrying him!

Most dumb character. Female. Nominee 2

Jia Sharma is an actress. A celebrity. Not a struggling actress. Rich. Famous. Beautiful.  She injures her leg and meets doctor Kabir Singh. She is already smiling mysteriously even in the very first scene when he is treating her. Does she find him very attractive? She asks for his number. Kabir Singh tells her about Preeti. He asks her if she could help him physically. Like no strings attached. He tells her she can think about it.  They keep meeting for the next few days.  I don’t even think it would be a month.  She irons his clothes. Kabir’s friend tell him she must love him because she is ironing his clothes.  I was thinking should I agree with him? Ironing is one of the worst chores and I never iron my clothes!! Moving on, Jia decides to make out with Kabir Singh in her car because her secretary / PA waiting outside will make sure nobody watches.  She is a 26 year old celebrity I would think she could have found a place but anyway….  Right before the makeout session, she tells him she loves him!! What! Why! When! How!

Most dumb character. Female. Nominee 3

This would be a joint nomination. There are two nurses who are forever protective and supportive of Kabir Singh. They look up to him because he is an excellent surgeon. It is almost like they worship him.

Kabir Singh

Now coming to our hero.   He has anger issues.  He is an alcoholic. He is entitled. ‘Yeh meri bandi hai!’. He says ‘Healthy chicks and good-looking chicks are a good combination’. He makes a woman undress by threatening her with a knife. He runs after a maid to hit her.

But…

I do not think Kabir Singh’s behavior is glorified in the movie.  In fact, his downfall is shown in the second half. Everybody tells him that he has anger issues, alcohol issues, lack of patience. Everybody except the women…

Our hero has a lot of issues. But he is also very handsome.  He is brilliant.  He is an excellent surgeon.   Bad boy. Good looks. Money. Intelligence. All the women in the movie are shown to find him irresistible! Preeti Sikka.  Jia Sharma.  His friend Shiva’s sister who is never shown but we hear that she likes him and would be happy to marry him, knowing everything about him! There is another woman who is again not shown but interested in him (she is referred through his friend’s clinic or something like that).

And so, my problem is not with the portrayal of Kabir Singh. It is about the portrayal of women in the movie. It is not his anger that is glorified. It is the impact he has on women that is romanticized. A lot of women loved the movie and wished that a guy would love them as much as Kabir Singh and would be willing to do anything for them.  If they feel so, so be it.  The boundaries in love are fluid.  Obsessiveness. Possessiveness. Control. How much of it is fair in love? How much is excessive? I don’t know.  But if Kabir Singh had women falling for him in the movie and in the theatres then the problem is not limited to toxic masculinity or rage or misogyny but also hopelessly romantic women falling in love with the potential for thrill (read disaster)!

 

 

Section 375: Law Vs Justice: An Engaging Court Room Battle

A middle-class woman, a junior costume designer goes to the house of a rich director, with whom she works to show him some designs. He asks her to sit next to him.  She complies. He asks the maid to leave.  Next thing we know, the woman files rape charges against him.

His wife, approaches a competent lawyer, played by Akshay Khanna to defend him. The prosecutor is played by Richha Chaddha. What follows is a courtroom battle on the law of rape in India.

Important issues the movie raises:

  • Law does not equal to justice

 

  • As per the section, if it is established that a man has sexual intercourse with a woman with whom he is in a position of power, and the woman alleges that the intercourse is not consensual, then the onus is on the man to prove himself innocent. In other words, guilty until proven innocent. Lawyer friends, please discuss this aspect. I am aware of the law of POSH but not too sure of the sections of IPC

 

  • Social media is a double-edged sword. It is a privilege that today we have the voice to raise concern against anyone and within seconds the world gets to know.  Only two people know what happened between them.   But with social media, the public gives a verdict without knowing the facts.  It is also relevant for the Metoo movement.

 

  • Women who misuse the law are the biggest disgrace to the women who actually need the law

Rahul Bhatt plays the role of the accused rapist.  I remember him from a television show, Heena. In that serial also he played a spineless character. He  does such roles very well.  Meera Chopra plays the woman accusing him of rape. I have never seen her before. It was a delight to watch Sandhya Mridul as Akshay Khanna’s wife. Shriswara as the wife of the accused rapist is very convincing.  Kishore Kadam as one of the judges is a natural actor and his annoyance at the whole situation has a good comic timing. This would not be Richa Chadhha’s best performance, I would say.  Akshay Khanna is brilliant.  It is again a reminder what an underrated actor he is. And how Bollywood has not done justice to him.

The movie is very engaging and crisp.  I would not like to give away more as the movie has just released. Most feminists have written against the movie that it dismisses Metoo.  I do not think so. Let us be objective. There are all kinds of cases. Filmmakers have the creative liberty to tell any story they wish to tell. Watch it and decide for yourself what is your takeaway.

Mission Mangal: Entertaining, Inspiring and Feel Good

This review has spoilers.  So, if you have not watched yet, please come back.  Not that it is a murder mystery and I will reveal anything suspenseful. Just a warning for  people who do not like to know much about the movie before watching it.

Mission Mangal is a complete entertainer.  It has emotions, comedy, patriotism, and knowledge!  The film works because it is about achieving a dream by overcoming struggles, with limited resources, and limited money. Something all of us can relate to.

Simplification of facts.

India’s Mars mission is something too technical for a lay man / woman to understand. In the movie, they have given simple examples to explain the concept.  I found it nice because otherwise I would not have understood anything.  Don’t know how scientists would feel about it.  I guess those who wanted a more scientific, technical understanding should watch a documentary.

Portrayal of women

The movie shows us the personal lives of the women and how they are managing their home and work.  The characters are shown a little unsure of themselves in the beginning, and even disinterested but later they become dedicated and smart.

I read a book about women in workforce. It was written that women hesitate to take up new responsibilities for which they may not have the skill-set experience. For the same kind of an opportunity, a man who has 30 percent skill-set will project himself to have 70 % skill-set, appear confident and take it up.  The woman may have 50 percent skill-set but she will say she has limited experience and may turn it down.  So I am not surprised that the women (exept Vidya Balan) were shown to have self-doubt in the beginning. It is not unheard of.

The movie starts with Vidya Balan doing household work and managing her kids.  Her maid has not showed up.  She is doing everything.

What is wrong in showing reality?

For most of us women, the day starts with household work. Then we get ready and go to work. Is she saying ‘Wow! Chulha Chauka yay! I am a superwoman’!  No she is not glorifying it. But she is still doing it.  Because she has no choice.

Vidya Balan gets the idea of saving fuel while her cook is frying pooris. She talks about using resources allocated from another project to which Akshay Kumar says that women do not waste anything – “Raat ka khana breakfast mein doosre form mein”.  I did not find  the remark sexist. Rather it made me smile. I had just reused leftover steamed rice to make schezwan fried rice that day!

At some point Vidya decided to resign from her job,  feeling guilty for her past failure and doubtful about future capabilities.  At another point, she tells her husband that she loves her job and he better not try to make her feel guilty about neglecting home and kids.

She is not confused. She is real. Sometimes she is confident. Sometimes assertive. And sometimes, sad and ready to give up.  These little things made the character human.

Sanjay Kapoor’ character is permanently cribbing. He is always making his wife feel guilty for neglecting her house and kids and giving importance to the job. But the husbands of other two women have been shown as supportive.

The way they are dressed

I have seen women from ISRO in saris. I have seen lawyers wear saris in courts.  I have seen doctors wear saris in hospitals.  I have seen women wear saris in MNCs.  We live in India. What is the surprise about!

A lot of us wear bindi and salwar kamiz / sari to office.  With pride.  Doesn’t make us anything less. We are proud of the sari.

Why Akshay Kumar is there in the movie

Writers have objected as to why Akshay Kumar was necessary in the movie. Why not just a female team.  I did not like this objection. There were men in the original team. Obviously. His character does not take any credit from the women characters. In fact, he does not have any ideas at all!! It is the women who give the ideas. For a commercial movie, stardom matters and his fan following has definitely helped.

Acting

Vidya Balan was brilliant. I liked Dilip Tahil too as the NRI NASA snob and Nithya Menon.  Kirti Kulhari seemed to be carrying on her role from Pink. No novelty. But the last time I saw her was in Four more shots so this was still way better! Sharman Joshi’s character was too stupid to be believable. Sonakshi Sinha got an opportunity to be the ‘modern’ one here, a change from her other movies.  I felt like Tapsee towards the second half of the movie had forgotten that she is supposed to be a timid, traditional, fragile little thing and was acting completely ‘normal’.

In her opening scene, Tapsee accidentally grabs the crotch of the male driver teaching her how to drive. This scene was supposed to be funny. It was gross and I wish they realized this.

Portrayal of religion

I had read posts about how the movie mocks Hindu rituals and astrology. I did not feel so.  The ‘Mangal bhari hai’ angle of Sharman Joshi was just a pun. They were trying to be clever and funny.  I was not offended.  It had context. What did not have any context was the sub-plot of Vidya Balan’s son trying to convert’ something  her husband objects to strongly. How was this relevant to the story? Also, Neha Siddiqui not being able to get a house on rent?  Why bring unnecessary angles of discrimination which add no value to the plot!

Patriotism

The photos of Late Shri Abdul Kalam in the movie and his story, the photos of the real Mangalyaan team at the end of the movie,  Modi ji’s speech and the clapping in the theatre made me feel joy. The last time I felt so was after watching Uri. Before that Airlift.

For this reason,  I would give rate this movie a really high rating.  Watch it to know what India is capable of. Limited budget. Limited time.  But we did it!  We made it!

Judgemental Hai Kya – Enjoyable and Fun Watch

The name of the movie originally was ‘Mental hai kya’ until the  Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) made them change it, since they received complaints that it was too harsh.

The term ‘mental’ was used to describe people who were believed to have some mental issues.  When I was growing up, we heard it and used it too.  I did too, because there was no awareness back then. We did not know that using such terms was insensitive, and wrong.

People had objected to the title of the movie – writers, psychologists.  Without watching the movie. Without knowing anything about the intent of the makers of the movie.  Having a title that is a stereotype,  and contradicting it with the plot to reach a conclusion is a common technique used in movies, stories and even articles.

‘Judgmental hai kya’ sounded stupid in the context.  The original title would have been good.

Moving on,  Kangana plays Bobby, a woman who has been through traumatic events in her childhood, so much that it has affected her. Understandably. We are given enough reasons to empathize with her. So we are not judging her anyway.

As per the published Global Study on Homicide: Gender-related Killing of Women and Girls released by The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) a total of 87,000 women were intentionally killed in 2017. More than half of them (58 per cent) ̶ 50,000 ̶ were killed by intimate partners or family members.

The idea of a husband murdering his wife is beyond horrifying. But it happens. A lot. Is it funny when a paranoid person keeps accusing an innocent man of being interested in killing his wife. But who is innocent? Who is paranoid? We know that one of the two, Keshav (Rajkumar Rao) or Bobby (Kangana) is the “psycho” one. But who is it?

This is a cleverly made movie, with elements of humour, especially with Bobby’s wannabe boyfriend  who never gets laid and her Photoshop obsessions.  I loved how they used Bobby’s job of a dubbing artist to move the story forward.

Rajkumar Rao is very good, as usual. Amyra Dastur (Reema) did not have much to do, except look pretty.  Amrita Puri as Megha needs to improve on her dialogue delivery. It is annoying to hear her speak. She brought a certain gullibility and lack of intelligence to her character, as someone who could be easily fooled, giving away the suspense! Jimmy Shergil, one of the most underrated actors has a small role, but nonetheless it is nice to see him.

Kangana Ranaut has unconventional looks. She refuses to straighten her wild curls. She talks differently.  She is original! Unlike the other actresses who just look like a clone of each other! This distinct style of hers make it easy for her to slip into the ‘Bollywood mad’ character as a lot of people find her ‘crazy’. Remember Tanu Weds Manu part 2 –  hospital / asylum scene in the beginning(Again not me. I love her!).  All of this works well for her in the movie. The casting is therefor apt.   She is brilliant as Bobby! I cannot think of any other actress who can pull this off.

Kangana haters have been active lately.  She is a good example of how you should be honest to yourself and do what you believe in. Haters keep hating. But if you are good at what you do,  people know that you matter.

It is definitely not a boring movie. It will hold your attention. Kangana haters better to avoid or wait till it is on AltBalaji!

Author’s Note: The words ‘crazy’, ‘mad’ ‘psycho’ and ‘mental’ used in the article are not meant to offend anybody but to make a point.  These are not nice words and let us not use them for anyone.

When They See Us: The Latest Show On Netflix Will Break Your Heart

After a long time,  I felt so angry watching something on TV.   The new series on Netflix, ‘When They See Us’ is a true story of five boys who got wrongly convicted for a brutal crime they did not commit.

Some things are painful to watch because we do not want to accept that something like this could happen.  We would like to believe in justice. We would like to believe that the legal system works. That there should be evidence to prove a crime.   That if you are innocent, you cannot be put in jail for years. But anything can happen… as we see.  Do search for the true story, after watching the show.

This show is very sensitively made.   It is a mini series – four episodes.  The five kids have done a brilliant job. Your heart will break for them.  And for the helplessness of their parents who watched their kids lose their respect, freedom, youth, dreams and life.  The grown up actors have also done a great job.   A side plot of a transgender character is also very touching.

Some characters I recognized from other shows:

Felicity Huffman

She is Lynette from Desperate Housewives .  She plays the head of the sex crime unit. This character is so convinced of her wrongdoing.   No sign of regret. No empathy. No conscience whatsoever.  It is said that if you say a lie often enough it become the truth. I read the person on whom this character is based has written crime novels that became bestsellers. Such is the unfairness of life.

At one point the character says:

“It is no longer about justice but politics. Politics is about survival. And there is nothing fair about survival.” 

Powerful. Sums is up

Vera Farmiga

She plays the Assistant DA.  This is the first time that my husband recognized someone and I did not! She portrayed Lorraine Warren in the Conjuring series. It seems this character is aware that the charges are false, but she goes ahead with it anyway.

The actual person is this case is now a law lecturer. It seems she would not seek reappointment in her position, owing to her portrayal in the whose and the consequent outrage.

These characters are not said to be ‘racist’  on the show explicitly.  There are mentions of Donald Trump though who had spent on advertisements demanding the death penalty following the boys’ arrest.

Dascha Polanco

It is interesting that she played Dayanara in the famous prison series ‘Orange is The New Black’. Here, she is very mean to one of the boys  to whom she plays a step mom.  She is so spontaneous with her dialogues, hurling one insult after another another to him for being an ex-convict!  It made me smile because I remember her as Daya in jail!

At the end of the show, they tell us where Kevin, Antron, Yusef, Raymond and Korey are now, and what they did once they got out of prison.  The episode of Korey is the most heart-wrenching to watch. How these men managed to keep their sanity intact and build up their lives is commendable.

‘You are not who they said you are! Do not become that.’  says Raymond’s father.  To be a good person despite hating the world for what they did to you is not easy.

Another dialogue that touched me was when a girl said to one of the guys that if she got out of prison, she would want to go out and do things. He tells her ‘You would not know what you would want’.

So true.  We always like to put ourselves in other people shoes and decide what we would do in their place. But we are not in their shoes. We would not know…

There is so much more I want to write but since this show is a week old, I do not want to spoil it for others.

Watch it and let me know your views.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Metro Rides For Women! What Do You Think

Shri Arvind Kejriwal proposed free metro rides for women in Delhi.

A lot of women have raised a concern that this was not required.  Gender should not have been the determining factor.  It could have been income but not gender.  We are fighting for equality. This is unfair.  I agree completely. We have worked hard to come so far. I feel this is a regressive move.

I fail to understand how this would help in security. More women, so more security?

Some women are saying that the ones who have money could always pay.  At least the ones who don’t could benefit from this.   I do not think it will happen practically. Once the benefit is given, everybody (all women) will take it. But fine.

Some other women have written posts accusing fellow women of being too ‘elite’ and ‘privileged’ to not support this proposal, without understanding the plight of poor women.

This seems to be the latest trend on social media.  Women putting down other women on how their ‘feminism’ in superior. Instead of discussing an issue, women are making personal attacks on other women on how they are not good to their maids, how their maids should just walk instead of taking the metro.

If you care about low income group women, please go ahead and be kind to your maid, other underprivileged woman you know.   Nobody is stopping you.   Please contribute and make the difference in the way you can.  When we are talking about policies concerning the nation, people will have different views.  There are many factors – politics, economy, gender.   Not everybody will agree with you.

Please do not DECIDE what other PRIVILEGED, ELITE, FEMINIST women should THINK and EXPRESS.  It is great that you are sharing your opinion. Respect others’ too.

If you are spending your energy in putting down other women’s views, good luck with another 500 years of patriarchy.   It does not make you a superior, intellectual feminist. It makes you narrow-minded.

Who Killed Shastri? The Tashkent Files Raises The Question Yet Again

‘If your family member goes to a foreign country, and dies there, and you receive his  lifeless body, swollen, with blue and white spots, with marks and cuts, do you not even deserve a post mortem?

This ‘family member’ referred to in the movie was the second Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri.  It is unthinkable that a post mortem would not be conducted after the death of a Prime Minister, that too when he dies few hours after signing such an important agreement deciding the fate of two countries.

The movie is like a real life Twitter or Facebook or Whatsapp debate.  We don’t even have to go as far as social media, we have these discussions in our living room.  Both parties feel the other party is completely blinded.  Is it just a matter or perception or more?  Is lack of evidence an evidence of hidden evidence?

The movie cites enough reasons for us to believe that Shastri ji’s death was a murder.  Even if we google on the subject, we will find conspiracy theories. There are books which make compelling references to the alleged murder and cover-up. The movie has collated it all together, and presented in along with the counter arguments. Without giving any spoilers, let me make some quick points.

  • 2nd October  – Selective History?

A character in the movie says that her child does not even know that Lal Bahadur Shastri Ji was born on 2nd October.   The day is known as Gandhi Jayanti.  I am sure kids today have no idea that Shastri ji even existed.  Our text books growing up were all about Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi. There are so many other great people who deserve to be known and applauded.

  • International political dynamics

Watch it to know what was happening at that time in the world. Where did India stand in all of this? What if Lal Bahadur Shastri ji was still alive?  How corrupt were certain leaders? What if certain people had not been in power? Could things have been different today?

  • Performances

Shweta Basu was very good as the lead journalist. This is her best performance till date. I liked her voice, and found her very pretty also.  As soon as I saw her, I told my husband:

Yeh to Parwati ki beti hai!

Who? What!

Parvati! Kahaani Ghar Ghar ki!

Interestingly,  I have seen Shweta Basu in other movies as an adult.  But the first thing that came to my mind when I saw her was the child artist Shruti from the TV serial.  Some things never change! Embedded in our memory!

Honestly, I felt other actors, Naseeruddin Shah, Pallavi Joshi, Mandira Bedi, Pankaj Tripathi, Vinay Pathak were just about okay.  I also felt that Mithun Chakraborty was a let down.  He gave a comic, insincere, shady, uneasy kind of feel to the character. For me, he took away from the credibility of the character.  I would have been happy to see Paresh Rawal in this role.  The speech he gave on ‘social terrorist’, ‘racist’ was a low point of the movie and lost the intended impact. Achint Kaur had no role.

Overall, despite the flaws, this movie deserves to be watched for the question it raises.  Think of it as a research paper that will open a floodgate.  People from my parents’ generation may have already known a lot if it.  But for those who don’t, it is rather unsettling.

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Recent Shows About Women

This is going to be a long post! Without wasting any time, and words, here it goes:

Delhi Crime – Netflix

This is one of the most brilliant shows I have ever seen.  I remember watching Dil Dhadakne Do and thinking that Shefali Shah is such a competent actress.  I wish she had  mainstream roles. Bollywood has never valued female actors above a certain age. Thankfully, Netflix knows better. Other than Shefali, Adil Hussain who played the Commissioner was too good. Special mention for Rajesh Tailang as Bhupendra Singh. Shefalis Shah’s expression every time someone mentioned the rod was so effective – her eyes get filled with tears, but she does not actually cry. She tries to keep herself composed to do her job.

Now, since this is a show based on Nirbhaya, it is impossible to ignore that happened to her, and treat this as just a show.

  • People are complaining that police has been showed in good light. What about the times they have completely sabotaged the investigation (Arushi’ Talwar’s case for example). I would like to say that amidst all that is wrong, at least let us give them credit for what they are doing right. They did catch the killers soon.
  • One of the most controversial parts of the show is the portrayal of Nirbhaya’s male companion. Akash is supposed to come from a shady background, allegedly has another girlfriend, fooled around in the bus with the girl, did not do enough to protect her, and gave an interview to media despite being told not to. Out of all of this, the only thing I (or anyone else) would know is that he did actually give an interview few days after the attack because we watched it.In the show, Bhupendra Singh who mistrusts Akash the most, says that he would have done anything to protect his girl, had he been in the same situation. I have over the years heard some other men say the same thing.

The thought that a man must / can protect a woman from attackers is very disturbing.

How would a man protect a woman from six men with a rod? Are we living in a Bollywood movie ? Girl gets attacked, screams bachao , cross arms her bosom.. The hero jumps and flies over buildings beating up every man. Hero and heroine sing and dance happily ever after!

Few years back I had attended a safety training for women. The instructor made a reference to Nirbhaya’s case and said that women are cautious when they are alone. However, with a male companion they are less guarded and they do things which they would not have done had they been alone. Would Nirbhaya have boarded that bus late at night had she been alone?  Probably not. Contrary to the popular belief, that women are safer with male companions,  women actually do get attacked even when they are with men. Women have been kidnapped, with the male companions beaten up.  Women have been raped in front of their husbands and fathers.  A friend of mine, and her husband got beaten up by some goons, when they were walking their friends home after dinner, who lived nearby.

It is a no brainer that an attacker with or without weapons is better prepared than an unsuspecting person (male). So as a thumb rule, the trainer told us that we should follow the same caution with a man, as we would when we are alone.

When a woman expresses to her husband / boyfriend / friend / brother that she does not feel safe getting into an auto at such a time, or taking a particularly isolated route, or walking on a certain road, the response she usually gets is:

Don’t think too much..

Don’t be paranoid.

Nothing will happen, I am there.

 Since we always expect men to protect women, men may take it as a direct blow to their ego. This woman does not trust me. She does not have confidence in me.

I remember an incident where in a discussion among a group of friends, one guy (who secretly liked a girl) asked her why she was such a big fan of a certain actor.  She replied that the main thing a girl looks for in a guy is how well he can protect her!  And this actor was so tall and well-built that he would be able to!  The guy who asked her this question was very lean, and shorter than average. Needless to say, his self esteem was shattered by her response!

This kind of mentality is unhealthy for girls and boys. Yes, we should look out for our friends and loved ones.  Girls look out for girls too – sharing Uber details, tracking the ride, etc. And certainly, we should never leave our friends alone in danger.

But the expectation that the guy should be able to protect the woman with him, and should have died doing that is unreasonable. It is also extremely unfair that a ‘hatta katta’ looking guy is better suited to meet this expectation. 

Recently, a woman in the United States got into the wrong car, mistaking it for an Uber. Hours later, they found her body. People were saying she should have checked the licence, driver details before entering blah blah!  It was ridiculous!

Let us stop scrutinizing the choices made by victims. We like to believe that we are so perfect that nothing like this could ever happen to us!  The thought that something so horrific could happen to anyone so randomly is hard for people to accept. Even if the guy was touching the girl in he bus (I don’t support it, but it happens), had another girlfriend (also happens), so what!!  What does not happen is inserting a rod inside a woman’s rectum and vagina and pulling out her intestines.  

Made in Heaven – Amazon Prime

This is a very entertaining show, following the lives of Tara and Karan, who are wedding planners. Each episode tackles one marriage, one social evil at a time while Tara and Karan’s personal stories run in parallel. The problems are nothing new – dowry, being Manglik as a hindrance in marriage , inter-religion love story etc. But these have been shown in a very clever way, making it refreshing to watch. The show is very good at contrasting the economic inequality and socio-economic transition in India. Rituals are customized.  The ‘modern outlook with traditional values’ is basically about retaining the (bad) parts of our culture as long as it is convenient, and copying from the West, to suit ourselves. Hypocrisy as best!

Arjun Mathur as Karan was brilliant.  Sobhita Dhulipala’s acting was average but she had a sense of charm and restraint that suited her character. Kalki was brilliant.

In one of the episodes, the parents of a groom (who pretends to be a very scrupulous IAS officer) demand dowry right before the baraat arrives. The bride and the family want to know if the groom is aware of this.

For the benefit of unmarried women:

The groom is aware of what his parents demand. Always.

Four More Shots Please – Amazon Prime

My apologies for putting this show in the same page with two good shows.   I have watched four episodes I think.  So again, my apologies if it gets better. I did not feel like watching any further.

Storyline? Four women in this show drink, have sex, and abuse.  And then they drink some more, have sex and abuse a little more!  Don’t get me wrong.  I am all for women’s rights to do whatsoever they choose.  Tara smokes in Made in Heaven.  Vartika abuses in Delhi Crime. I have no problem with that. We are all humans and flawed.  I have a problem when a show makes it a statement to do this and markets it as a ‘feminist’ show.

Let’s not get into the whole logic of why we don’t object to movies like Masti and target women centric shows. I hated Masti too!   

The characters are stupid and annoying. It is tough to choose the most annoying one, but Bani wins.  The dialogues are disgusting such as ‘Mere vagina ki jai’. In another scene, Bani hurls horrible abuses to Lisa Ray to motivate her to work out!!  Siddhi refers to her mother by her first name. These women walk up to men in bars and say things like ‘How do you do it?’  ‘No anal! ’

I don’t know any people who behave this way!  Talking about size of male genitals is not empowering. If the lead protagonists of this show were male and said the same things about / to women, there would have been an outrage by now to boycott this objectification of women!

Also, what is with the obsession in Bollywood and Indian television with divorced couples trying to get back together? A divorce involves a lot of money, pain, time and litigation. In real life, when people get divorced, they are done. In stupid shows like this, it is so reversible that they may get back together any moment!

The show seems to be inspired by ‘Sex and the City’ one of my all time favourites. SATC was entertaining, fun and emotional in parts.  The difference between such shows and shows like Four more shots, or the Veere di wedding types is that while in the former, the characters  are just being themselves, in the latter they are desperately trying to impose their definition of ‘modern’ in our face!

PS. If anyone knows of any arrests made under section 377, please drop me a note.

Drug Inspector Murdered In Her Office

Neha Shoree was shot dead by an armed man in her office on Friday. Neha was a an officer of the Punjab government’s Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) wing. She was posted with the Drug and Food Chemical Laboratory in Kharar and dealt with licensing in Mohali and Ropar districts of Punjab.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the accused was running a chemist shop in Morinda. In 2009, Shoree, who was then posted as District Drugs Inspector in Ropar, had raided his store and had reportedly recovered intoxicant drugs from there, following which she had cancelled his drugs licence.  – The Quint

The assailant was holding a grudge against her. He allegedly took revenge. He  killed himself once he realized that he would get caught.

Nishant Shoree, Neha’s elder brother, told The Sunday Express, “The drug mafia active in Punjab is behind the murder of my sister who was an honest officer and never gave in to pressure while discharging her official duties. Balwinder Singh’s drugs license was cancelled because he was selling unauthorized drugs at his chemist shop. This means he was linked with the drug mafia. The circumstances in which my sister was murdered suggest a deep-rooted conspiracy, beginning with the way in which Balwinder managed to procure an arms license and purchased a revolver — all this when the Model Code of Conduct was in place.”Indian Express

“Why was my daughter shot dead? It proves she was performing her duty with utmost honesty and did not succumb to any pressure. I participated in the Indo-Pakistan War in 1971 for my country. And today, the drug mafia of this country snatched my daughter from me.” Said Neha’s father Captain Shoree who served in the Indian Army. – Indian Express

Neha is survived by her husband and her two-year-old daughter.   What is even more disturbing is that Neha’s niece (six-year-old child) had gone with to her office that day, as she had vacation. The child witnessed the murder.  The assailant killed Neha in cold blood, in her office, in front of her niece. According to some reports, he screamed “Happy Holi” after shooting her.

Here is a woman who was honest and hard-working. She got shot at work! Imagine the nerve of this beast. It is unbelievable a man would have the guts to walk into a government office with a weapon and shoot a woman at 11: 45 am in the morning.

This is horrific. I cannot begin to imagine what her family is going through. What is even more shocking is that I have not seen the necessary outrage in media that a gruesome murder such as this should trigger.

I will not say may her soul rest in peace because I don’t think a woman who went to work as a regular day, and got shot, leaving behind a family will get “peace”. I can’t say hang the murderer because he is already dead.  According to her family, there was a bigger conspiracy and it could not be just the one person involved in it.

Read another interview of Neha’s aunt where she said that what is the point of educating a daughter, and her getting a job when her life will be snatched away for doing the same work honestly.  We see these things on television. Honest officers getting killed for doing their job. Well meaning family and friends reminding these officers to think of themselves first and not mess with the bad guys.  The price is paid.  A heart-wrenching reminder of the world we are living in, and that some people are pure evil.

Neha Shoree.. Warrior.  Role model. Brave woman. Scrupulous woman.  You are loved and missed.  We are ashamed that you had to go this way.

Prayers and strength to the family.