Two good films
This Friday afternoon, I drove 20km in the sun to PVR, probably the only commercial cinema theatre in Pune that shows documentaries. My target was the much acclaimed ‘The World Before Her’, produced by Anurag Kashyap and directed by Nisha Pahuja.
Women aspiring to freedom and to an identity, the route they take to get there, the sacrifices they make – are the ingredients of this no-frills portrayal. Whether they achieve the quality in their lives is left to the audience to decide.
The roughly two hour film constantly criss-crosses between the tough-as nails Durga Vahini training/indoctrination on the one hand and the Femina Miss India Contest,2011 on the other.
The protagonist in the first story is the feisty Prachi who rules her teenage wards with an iron fist sans the velvet glove in the Durga Vahini summer training camp. Her insouciant claim of herself as both boy and girl is as naïve as her reasons for heading the camp (“It’s nice when people are scared of you”). She is vocal about her passion for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its ways. Equally passionate is Ruhi Singh, a contender for the Miss India World crown. She hails from Jaipur and enjoys the encouragement of her supportive middle-class parent. She has never been ‘first’ in her life, although she has participated in several pageants and this time she is sure she will make it.
The film moves on to compare the hard regimes in both camps. At the Durga Vahini camp, there is a spate of what seem to be guest speakers whose themes range from advocacy of early marriage to fostering anti-Muslim and anti-Christian values to the devil that is vanity. I was confused at how this blended with their training in the martial arts , but strangely it enthused the young girls, who simply went on to parrot what they heard. This complete domination of emotion and spirit is echoed in the Femina Miss World training where a cosmetologist expertly dismisses the feeble protests of a contestant to proceed with Botox aid so her chin may appear a fraction of a centimeter longer. The girls are made fairer, waxed and trimmed within an inch of their lives and made into gorgeous Barbies, all clones, all under the pretext of finding their identity and expression.
The film also brings us other endearing and honest characters in both stories. Chinmayee, a bright and earnest trainee at Durga Vahini broke my heart with her proud acknowledgement of having no Muslim friends and her joyful endorsement of the ‘brainprint’ that the Durga Vahini Camp left on her mind. Her nonchalant “ If I forget what I learn here, I will come back again and again” chilled me. Ankita Shorey’s practical approach to the whole business of winning the crown was an eye opener.
The film has a lot more nuances, which the director delicately unfolds, never offering her own commentary and thus forcing the audience to arrive at their own conclusion. I came away somewhat shocked and wiser.
The other film, Club 60,was an unashamed feel good film with a simple message that we grow old, we all have sorrows and to live life is to leave the past behind and enjoy the present.
To this end, Sanjay Tripathy and team invested in talented actors Farooque Sheikh, Sarika, Raghubir Yadav, Satish Shah, Tinnu Anand and Sarat Saxena. Farooque Shelkh and Sarika, a successful doctor couple, have recently lost their grown up son and have moved to Mumbai to start afresh. The clinically depressed Farooque tried to take his life and therefore his wife starts pushing him towards a social group – Club 60 . Initially reluctant, the reticent man gradually warms to the groups as he learns more and more about them.
We learn of neglect by children, of bereavements and so on. There is laughter and there are tears. Club 60 released last year, but I only got to watch it now.The film ends when Raghubir Yadav, the glue that holds the group has to be operated on and Farooque the neurosurgeon rises to the occasion.
The characters are consistently loud, not what we see in real life, but I guess that is what it takes to drive home the point, the point being ‘live the present fully’.
With increasing lifespans, and large numbers of seniors looking to age productively and with dignity, this movie is a shot in the arm to those who may be hovering over despair.
It is gentle and predictable, but I still wanted to see it to the end. Not recommended for hard core adventure-seekers.
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