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.

Image source

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Gully Boy: Intelligent, Fun And Endearing

There is the regular life. Where we study. We work. We take exams. We prepare for a livelihood.  We then earn from that livelihood. And then there is another life that we dream of. Where we don’t just earn. We live. Something nice. Something which makes us feel, Hum bhi kuchh hain..

Gully Boy is a movie in which a boy from a humble background, is told to dream, keeping in mind his ‘reality’. He however, brings his reality close to the dream. (This is a dialogue in the movie in Hindi, and I just realized I ruined it by trying to translate).

I know the movie released yesterday, so without giving too many spoilers, here is what worked for me:

1. As a writer, I could relate to how Murad (Ranveer Singh) found poetry in every day things. My friends often tease me how I find the potential for an article in everything. Little moments and observations create the best work. It reminded me of my story, Must You Finish Your Rotten Tea which I thought of  when I accidently put green tea leaves when trying to make regular tea.

2. Safeena (Alia) tells her mother that all she does is go to college, and study to become a doctor. Her mother asks what else could she possibly  want.

I want to go out, party, meet friends, talk to boys, put on lipstick, and do all of this, without having to hide it from you.

Story of every girl. We do not just want to study and be financially independent. We want fun and romance too. Without apologies.

3. Murad’s parents want him to study and do a day job. They do not want him to get distracted by passions that may not sustain him. This is what most parents would say right?  Makes sense. The hungry artists on the other hand would like to believe that Passion follow karo. Paisa ayega! But is this necessarily true? Does everybody become successful following their passion? But if no one follows their passion early on in life, how will there be a Sachin Tendulkar or Lata Mangeshkar?

4. “I got so many likes on my song. So many people watched it. And liked it”

 “So?”

“An artist creates something that makes someone feel good. Even after the artist dies, the work lives. It means something”.

I loved this dialogue.

5. I liked the ending. I hate the elaborate 45 minute  musical competitions in Bollywood movies which I do not have patience for. It was a bit abrupt but I liked it that way.  It was better than overdoing it.

6. The acting is brilliant. The last time I saw Ranveer Singh was in Simmba, a complete waste of his potential. More than Ranveer, I liked Siddhant Chaturvedi as MC Sher. Did a little research and found on that he was pursuing chartered accountancy!! Amruta Subhash as Ranveer’s mother is perfect for the character. Loved her expressions. Kalki seems to be playing the same type of roles again and again. Nevertheless, I like her a lot.

Now coming to Alia. She is a very good actress but I did not like the character of Safeena.  I feel a jealous, possessive, manipulative girlfriend should not be someone the hero should end up with.  Somehow, I felt that had it been a male character,  it would not have been portrayed as cool. Rather, a villain who the heroine would have rejected by the end.   The audience seemed to have loved her though.

Why did I think this way?

On my recent articles I have been receiving comments on how there are double standards in the way we perceive behavior of men and women.

If Priyanka Chopra says she needs a man only for children she is applauded, but imagine if a man said the same thing.

I guess the trolls have affected the way I see things now.   If anybody else feels this way, after watching the movie, do leave me a note.

Overall, go for it. It is fun for a one-time watch.

P.S.

Special thanks to my sister-in-law who gifted us the tickets for our first Valentine’s day after marriage. Hubby and I have been rapping ‘Apna time ayega… Kya Ghanta le ke jayega’.. since yesterday.

 

 

Manikarnika: When The Best Portrays The Best

The earliest memory I have of watching a  war in Indian history would probably have to be Mahabharata. Invariably, there would be what seemed like a sea of people for as far as I could look – on horses with a sword and shield. It looked too scary to be real. I would convince myself that it must be made up.

I have grown up. I have a better knowledge of history now. Still I cannot  imagine what it would be  like to get on a horse, with a sword and shield, out there for an attack, and get cut!  Then there was a lady who fought with a child tied to her back!

Sometimes, I try to place myself in that era. Would I have been brave enough? Would I have thought,

‘Sar kata sakte hain lekin sar jhuka sakte nahi’?

I don’t have an answer.  I am a very darpok person.  But I am also someone who values freedom more than anything else. Would I have given up my life for the sake of freedom of myself and my people? I guess I will never find out…

Rani Lakshmibai was a peace-loving woman.  She had principles. She did not believe in harming the innocent. But she had the responsibility of protecting her land, her home, and people.

‘Meri Jhansi nahi doongi!’

She fought bravely. She was fearless. She was a woman who stood by her principles, and fought for it, literally.

Khoob ladi mardaani, wot to Jhaansi wali Rani thi..

I was mesmerized by the movie. I love watching period films in theatre. It takes us to a different era altogether. The sets, the screenplay was very impactful. I certainly liked it better than Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movies which get so silly, tampering with history and making unnecessary love angles, two women in love with the same man, dancing together! Manikarnika has stayed quite honest to the plot. The costumes worn by Kangana were also very beautiful.  She looked absolutely majestic. In the first half though, the songs could have been reduced.

In more than one scene, the mother-in-law of Manikarnika warns her that she is too free-spirited. She must remember her ‘maryada’. She recommends her to confine herself to cooking and household.  Thankfully, Manikarnika did what she liked anyway. It made me smile.

Women who remember the maryada – Well,  they are not liked anyway no matter how much they try!

Women who violate the maryaada – have the potential of becoming great!!

Veteran actor Manoj Kumar has said after watching the movie that ‘Kangana was born to play Rani Lakshmibai’.  I could not agree more.  It is evident, she has lived and breathed every ounce of the character, since the making of the film.

Kangana has  been involved in the direction of the movie, in addition to playing the lead role.

Here is the problem:

Kangana is immensely talented. She can put most actresses of her generation to shame.  She is also very beautiful. Her skin, her features, her figure everything is perfect. Now, add to that she does not follow the rules of the industry. She does not care about being in the good books of the biggies. She speaks up against nepotism. She acts in videos mocking the industry. She says industry parties are as boring as her Dilli wali bua’s talks. She is her own person. Unapologetic.  She also is vocal about her political views.

Most countries take pride in patriotism. But our country doesn’t. Anything patriotic, is considered too ‘nationalist’ for people to support.  A brilliant movie, about a brilliant person, played by a brilliant actor should have been appreciated to say the least.

But as I read the reviews, I realized that people’s personal dislike for Kangana, and their political views have made them reach unprecedented levels of ignorance.

Quoting some lines for famous publications:

  1. “The full name of the Queen of Jhansi was Manikarnika Tambe, but the film informs us she was nicknamed Manu, like the hero of the Tanu Weds Manu movies where Ranaut found such success as Tanu”

Seriously? The movie made up the name Manu because Tanu weds Manu was successful? I have read that Manikarnika was called Manu, and no she lived long before Tanu weds Manu was released!! At least come up with better criticism!!

  1. “A little later, she saves a calf from ending up as lunch for British officers. Can a film about nationalism be complete today without an act of gauraksha?”

The liberals love animals. All animals except cows!! Of all the things in the movie, this is what they choose to comment on!

  1. “Kangana Ranaut’s Soulless Film Reduces Laxmi Bai To A Stunt Queen”

Well, sitting in AC offices, people cannot imagine what life was like then.  What did they expect in a movie about war? Yes. There was dramatization. It is cinema. Cinema that offers entertainment, as opposed to a documentary.

I would say for people who do not like Kangana Ranaut, please skip this one. Please watch Simmba. Appreciate Sara Ali Khan – who had a 10 minute role in which she played a Masterchef Bimbo.  Then go on a rant on how ‘talented’ she is, and how there is no such thing as nepotism.

Fellow Kangana fans – This is a treat to watch!

For the people who are proud of Indian history, go for it. Not for Kangana, but to watch the story of this great warrior. The woman who was fierce and fearless. We have read about her in school. But her story deserves to be seen on the big screen.

Har Har Mahadev!!

Image source

 

 

Everything Wrong With Simmba!

Sangram Bhalerao (Ranveer Singh) is a corrupt cop. You see, he was an orphan. There was no one to teach him right or wrong.  ‘Pet paalne ke liye’ paisa chahiye.  There is a justification for why our hero turned out bad. He is also one of the most annoying characters I have seen in recent times.

Then  there is Shagun (Sara Ali Khan). She talks sweetly and serves food to the entire police station. She keeps track of which uncle has diabetes and forbids them from having sweets. No wonder our hero falls in love with this Mother India! What does a man look for in a woman after all – the ability to feed him!

Our hero is very jealous of a male friend of Shagun.  Shagun barely knows him, and it seems she has known her male friend for years. But when our hero objects to her hugging her male friend, she does not find this man creepy, jealous, possessive, and controlling. Instead, she falls in love with him!

Anyway, moving on, since our hero has no conscience, something drastic had to happen for him to change. When he was young, a noble  Didi used to teach him at night free of cost. Similarly, there is a kind-hearted young girl in the neighborhood who teaches poor kids. Our hero finds this girl respect worthy and she becomes his chhoti behen.  This behen gets gangraped and our hero avenges her death.

The only thing that I agree with in this movie was that rapists should be killed right away.  Justice delayed is justice denied. And these beasts should not end up getting away because of money and power.  I appreciate this thought. However, there is so much wrong with Simmba:

  1. Men like Simmba respect a certain type of woman. Someone they consider ‘clean and pure’. Simmba cared about a woman because she became his sister, because she reminded him of the Didi who taught him.  Would he have respected a woman in the pub, who drank and smoked and had boyfriends, and wore a mini skirt? Probably not. He would not have been able to relate to her.

 

2. Simmba helps people once they become his mother, father, sister. Why can’t this adult respect people for just being people? Why do they have to be related to him for him to have compassion for them?

3.In a bizarre scene, Simmba and his troop try to provoke the accused rapists by calling them ‘Naamard’ ‘Napunsak’ and suggest that a fertility test would have proven otherwise. This was extremely shameful and insensitive. Do they realize there are people actually suffering from physical problems and to challenge someone to prove their ‘masculinity’ is not cool?

4.The female judge blames the rapist’s mother. Why? Had the mother asked the sons to rape? Adults cannot take responsibility for their actions? In another stupid scene, the judge wakes up when Simmba tells her what if her daughter got raped? All characters in this movie are so devoid of empathy, sensitivity, and humanity that they cannot feel for another human being unless it is their own family!

 

Acting wise, this is easily Ranveer’s Singh’s most forgettable performance. An actor of his caliber was wasted. Sara Ali Khan has probably 10-15 minutes of role.  I heard someone in the audience say, ‘She is better than Sridevi’s daughter’.  In our sad nepotism struck Bollywood, where hero ka beta hero, and heroine ki beti heroine, there is no point having a discussion on talent when it comes to star kids.

Simmba is the flagbearer of toxic masculinity. Just because the topic of women safety is in, does not mean people who have not got their thoughts right can go ahead and attempt their shot at capitalizing on it. While a movie like Pink, tried to address the mentality behind crime against women, Simmba is just a masala movie desperately trying to impose a social message. Except it has no clue, what is the problem in the first place.

 

Beauty And The Beast Within

The cute child

“Bachche Chacha Nehru se pyaar karte the! Chacha Nehru khoobsurat the. Bachche har khoobsurat cheez se pyaar karte hain!”

I listened, admiring my beautiful Hindi teacher reading out a chapter on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.  The teacher was very fond of me. “You look like a doll!” She would say. I would blush.

An attractive teacher talking about a charismatic personality.  A reasonably cute looking child listening intently.  The beautiful atmosphere was interrupted as a girl in shabby clothes and slippers walked in along with our class teacher.  Her hair was brown, with knots, lacking any kind of nourishment.  Her complexion was dull.  She looked dazed as if she woke up on another planet. Her skirt looked more like a lehenga reaching her calf, matched with a miserable, baggy, shirt. It must be her father’s, I thought.

“This is Champa. She would be joining your class today.” The teacher said hurriedly. “Let her sit next to the class monitor for few weeks till we assign her another place. Meghna, you sit next to Komal for now.  Tanvi, Champa will be sitting next to you.  Please help her with the books, uniform etc.”

I was horrified! Champa’s admission was part of a reach out program, wherein a child from a nearby slum would be selected for education free of cost.  Some of us had heard about this proposal. We had no idea it would be implemented. I had no idea it would affect me. Directly!

The next few days were difficult for me.  But how difficult was it for Champa to fit in? Kids made fun of her brutally.  They asked her if she ever showered.   There was an outbreak of lice soon after she joined. She was alleged to be the origin. Guilty until proven innocent. She bought chapati or chuda for lunch.  She ate alone. She was different.

I was conscious of my behavior at school. I was never mean to her. But deep down I found her repulsive. I hated sitting next to her.

One day, after lunch I was playing with friends. Tag. Then on the Merry Go Around. The first bell rang as an indication to us to go back to our classrooms. As I was running, I felt a weird sensation. Within a few seconds even before I realized, I had vomited. In front of everyone.

There was some vomit on my perfectly ironed white shirt. And probably some drool on my face.

One teacher commented, “Such a big girl! Cannot even control herself!! Don’t you know there is a toilet?”

Some kids laughed. Others said “Ewww” and moved away in disgust.

I had tears in my eyes.  As I made the walk of shame towards the washroom, someone held my hand.  I turned in surprise.

There she was. Champa.  As expressionless as ever.  But holding me tight and safe. She held my hand and helped me clean up. She did not say a word. But stayed with me throughout.

Few days later, she stopped coming to school.  She disappeared as abruptly as she had appeared. Some people said that parents had complained about the reach out program. Others said the management felt it was not working out. Some said her parents had decided that studies would not do her any good. Nobody knew for sure.  I never saw her again.

The ugly duckling

Few years later, my father got transferred to the United States. I was a teenager by now studying in a junior high school at New York City. One of the poshest cities in the world. With people from all over the world.  All races.  There were blonde beauties. And Hispanic beauties. And Asian beauties. Girls my age had voluptuous bodies.  My breasts had refused to show up. My buttocks were also equally flat. I wore glasses. And braces.  I had round chipmunk cheeks. I was one of the shortest people in the class.

Kids were at the age where they bully. My school was no exception.  Some desi kids like me who did not fit in were told ‘You stink’  to our faces.  Some would express reluctance to sit next to us. While walking home, there was this once particularly big guy from a senior grade who would scream at me every day, ‘You are UGLY!!!’  just in case I had forgotten.

For the first time in life I felt what it feels like to feel inferior. In every way. I felt like I was at the absolute lowest strata of society.  Being popular, being liked by the opposite sex, getting proposals on Valentine’s Day could only be a dream. I would be grateful if the day passed without any major humiliation.

Is this how Champa felt..?

I became quiet.  I was still a very good student. Being intelligent was my pride.  The few people who got to know me said I was a ‘very nice girl’.  I had few friends.  But they would all vouch for me.

A transformation

Another few years passed.  I was back in India.  I blossomed late. But I finally blossomed. I looked much better in college and in my 20’s. I was now on the better-looking side. This ‘above average’ spectrum had its own set of issues. Women felt jealous and made mean comments, totally unwarranted.  Random people thought that if a girl  is  into her looks and puts on makeup it means she is dumb and shallow. I got attention from boys who were not at all serious and I had to deal with their obnoxious attitude at feeling rejected.  Some people found me arrogant when it fact I was just an introvert.

Was this still better than being on the other side of beauty…?

I have been on different sides of ‘beauty’ at different phases of life. Here are my thoughts:

Lessons learnt

Beauty is never isolated. It is not just about the shape of your eyes or the symmetry of your face. It is about what is considered acceptable.  It is a combination of other related factors such as social, financial, racial privileges. Someone who has features from another part of the world may be different therefore considered not good looking. People who have more money have access to fashion and cosmetology and end up looking the best possible versions of themselves.

When you HATE what you see in the mirror, nothing else matters much.  Most of the times you do not see what is truly there, but what others have told you about yourself.  You see your insecurities. For someone it is a big nose.  For someone it could a dark skin-tone.  For someone it is the weight. And it takes years, and years to become comfortable with it.  I used to pray regularly as a child, having studied in a convent school. The last wish in my prayers (after well-being and health of parents and sibling) was ‘God, please make me pretty!’ Like most kids, my prayer was memorized.   Even today, at 31, when I am distressed and start praying, this ‘wish’ repeats in my mind involuntarily in the sequence.

 When a lot of people find many different ways of telling you that you do not look good, you give up on your looks completely. You deliberately decide not to put in any effort.  Loose clothes, pony tail, no make-up- Beauty becomes a game one that we choose not to play. You cannot lose when you are not playing, can you?

Champa’s face haunts me still

We may have been treated badly. But that is no excuse for how we treat others. A lesson I learnt from Champa.  A lesson I would like to convey to young people. Hang in there. There are people who will see you for your inner beauty.  But first you need to see it.  Be kind to others. And yourself.  The people we like to talk to, hold on to ultimately are the ones who are pleasant and positive. We also need to become that person first.

A happy face looks beautiful and is a culmination of peace with self and others.

Author’s Note

This article has been written for a contest organized by Women’s Web for the Naturals Salon.

I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.

Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.

Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY… http://bit.ly/naturalsOF