Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bheegi Raat (1965)

Bheegi Raat is perfect for one of two crowds: hopeless romantics, or Meena Kumari fans. Actually, that might be the same group, now that I think of it.


The plot is a precarious scaffolding constructed from old Hollywood, Victorian governess novels, and hill station vacation dramas. 


Despite this questionable mixture of tropes, you can't help but care a little. It manipulates *almost* artfully with duty vs. love dilemmas, heart-rending missed connections, and simmering "will they/won't they/did they?" between the leads. Pradeep Kumar and chemistry?! It surprised me, too. 

Universal-esque horror jumpstarts the film. It's a fact universally acknowledged that all Victorian governesses are secretly Gothic heroines, and lend themselves equally to tales from the nursery and tales from the crypt. 


All three of the main characters are running away from something, and of course, end up in Nainital, ready to lead a tormented yet exotic existence. Neelima (Meena Kumari) falls afoul of a greedy uncle, who wants to make a quick lakh by selling her to the highest bidder. After a stormy escape, she's found in a ditch by Pushpa (Kamini Kaushal), an invalid and guardian to absent brother's (Ashok Kumar) daughter. Neelima sticks around and soon has charge of the household and the kid. 



Back in Bombay, Ajay (Pradeep Kumar) is the artistic layabout son of a wealthy industrialist, and is targeted for marriage by a scheming socialite. 


After rebuffing her, he earns the wrath of her father, and his own. Ajay decides to run from it all, presumably with the help of his secret trust fund, off to paint in Nainital.


He immediately becomes enamored of the stately governess, and their low-profile courtship fills most of the first half of the film. Personally, I loved watching the growth of their relationship, especially since Neelima holds her own, and rarely plays coy or feigns disinterest. Rather than hillside frolics, the two make eyes at one another across cozy fires and front seats.



This all culminates in THAT SONG IN THE CAVE, which I must confess is the entire reason I knew of the film in the first place.


However, watching the song divorced from the film, you may not realize how (A) sex-positive it is, (B) non-tragic, (C) female driven. The couple has just visited a mountain shrine, and are caught in a storm. No symbolic marriage vows hang between the couple, just mature adoration. It's Neelima who insists Ajay stop hanging around the cave entrance and warm himself by the fire. If this description seems more D.H. Lawrence than Bronte, well, I think the director knew exactly what he was doing. And so does Neelima. 










Anu included it on her "Sensuous Songs" list for a reason. This is no adolescent hormone fest; these folks are taking their time and enjoying the heck out of it. The film also never refers to this night (as far as I can tell) with any verbal judgment, remorse, or moral punishment. The struggles the two go through later are [mostly] not of their own making. 



Unfortunately, the second half of the film struggles to find a happy medium between maturity and sensationalism. Jealousy and femme fatales jump in to complicate matters. Anand Babu (Ashok Kumar) returns home to find a woman who looks uncannily like his dead wife taking care of his child. Brief madness sets in when he realizes that Neelima is already attached to Ajay. 


Evil socialite discovers the whereabouts of Ajay, and wreaks havoc. Pushpa falls ill. Someone gets in a near fatal accident. The two lovers are separated. If you've seen An Affair to Remember, you might think you know how all this ends, but you might also be wrong.


Despite a lot of improbabilities (which you sign up for the minute you start ANY melodrama), I do really like the film's explorations of interpersonal ethics, female agency, and different kinds of love. 



With two men vying for her affection, manipulating with their claims to family loyalty (Anand), and passion (Ajay), Neelima fights to maintain her own timetable. When a family member tries to extract a deathbed promise, she DOESN'T give in under the pressure. (I don't know if I've ever seen this in a Hindi film before.) And when Ajay resorts to fixing an engagement party date as an ultimatum, Neelima resists his methods. Caught in the middle of a circle of people with conflicting "claims" upon her person, she does her best to honor the separate commitments she's made, and tries (the attempt is the important thing here) not to lose herself in their whims. 

That said, I don't particularly love Neelima's relative helplessness in the last third. Given certain events, however, it's realistic. It also gives the men a chance to resist both their own selfish instincts and social conformism in meaningful ways.  




















Ajay's problems are pretty rich boy problems, and therefore, a proper humbling is in the works. 



As much as it's hard to watch, Neelima's circumstantial disadvantages may just be necessary to the moral arcs of multiple characters. Kind of like a grown-up Pollyanna effect. Nobody has to own their own shortcomings until a pillar of the community is removed. Even during sunnier days, the men were already tripped up by "baser" interests and unfinished business from their past. Like in a lot of Victorian novels, these suitors need to face their personal flaws before they can hope to get the girl.

I really like that in an industry that usually turns a blind eye to selfish male behavior, this film aims toward a slightly higher standard. 



Confession:
I have a weakness for films that use color filters extensively, for hill station adventures, and for romantic Rafi songs circa 1965. A film with at least two of these elements may prove satisfactory, even if it lacks MANY other merits. So, while I want to recommend this film, I think I may have to say, proceed with caution, unless meri majboori hai, aapki bhi majboori hain. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Himmat (1970): Starring Mumtaz, Jeetendra, Aruna Irani and PAAGAL STUNTS

In terms of '70s Hindi-film watching, if last year was the year of Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra ... this year just might belong to Ravikant Nagaich.

Having seen one of his films (Mere Jeevan Saathi) during the Rajesh binge last year, I had no idea what other delights lay in store. Dec/January brought The Train (1970); in March/April came Kaala Sona (1975), Surakksha (1979), and Wardaat (1981) with varying degrees of satisfaction; October brought a failed [for now] try of Raksha (1981); and this week ... Himmat (1970).

Watching every Nagaich film is a dubious goal, to be sure, but I can't help wondering if I *can* actually do it. *Should* is perhaps not relevant. I mean, why do people climb Everest? Because it's there. (Also because by the time you get high enough to regret your choice, the air's too thin to allow good decision-making.) Though both released in 1970, The Train "looks" better than Himmat, seems less rushed, and has Helen in an amazing femme-fatale role. What Himmat does have more of, semi-appropriately, is heart. [Ok, and the aformentioned crazy stuntwork.]



Note: I did not see this with subtitles, but the dialogue was simple and the action plentiful, so, I don't think I missed too much.

In pleasant Nagaich style, the film cuts immediately to the action, leaving the hero's backstory for flashbacks. [Translation: no masala childhood prologue]. Raghu (Jeetendra) is just getting out of good ol' Central Jail, and is immediately brought forcibly to his old crime boss (Prem Chopra). Boss wants Raghu's cat burglar talents, but Raghu gets in his face and tells him he's on naya raasta, going straight.



Note #2: One thing I do like about Prem Chopra (even if I'd rather have Pran) is how inept he is willing to look. In this scene, in probably an ad libbed diologue, he screams a series of louder and louder statements in Jeetendra's face, which Jeetendra mirrors back to him. "Yeh tumhara challenge hai?" "Ha! Yeh mera challenge hai!

Raghu gets a truck driving position from his best friend (Jagdeep--not completely awful role, surprisingly). But on the first long trip, he discovers he has a stowaway ... a "boy" who claims to be running away from a girl he doesn't want to marry.



Of course, the boy soon turns out to be a girl, Malti (Mumtaz). [Props: She manages to stow away on Jeetendra's truck before Asha!]

Note #3: Is it just me or is this whole truck driver masala romance a sub-genre? And what should we call this category? Lorry Lurv? I've seen it enough to think it has to be (actually, I've seen Jeetendra in this genre at least 3 x already).

In a high-strung hill chase, Raghu taunts Malti with "Agar Tu Ladki Hoti ..." giving Mumtaz and Jeetendra a chance to use their talents for humorous physicality. In keeping with its middle-school flavor, the song ends in tears and remonstrations when Raghu takes the playfulness a step too far ... pushing Malti into the pond.

But an apology from him and a change of clothes from her instantly alters the dynamic.



Raghu, in a It Happened One Night-fashion, tries to return Malti for a reward against her will. But this plan quickly fizzles when he sees for himself what kind of lecherous person has advertised for her. [In perhaps an untintentionally hilarious sequence, they open the door to see her brother or maybe uncle on the couch with three floozies and lots of liquor.]

 This prompts Raghu to stop being a douche and do right by Malti. Embarrassed by her thanks, he decides to put all his cards on the table and tell her about his past.

We learn that Raghu's mother died when he was falsely arrested for stealing as a child. He is found by his Fagin (Prem Chopra) and grows up to be an accomplished con-man/thief, with a charmed, decadent existence ...


... complete with fun heist sequences and stunts.



The end of the line comes when Raghu is ordered to kidnap a child [for ransom, maybe?]. The mother's horrified reaction prompts an almost instant change of heart, and he quickly tries to return the kid. But it's too late. The mother has died of shock [too many fragile mothers in this film] and the ghost of his mother rises from her dead body to scold him. Raghu turns himself into the police.



Malti isn't much worried by Raghu's confession, and well, she has no one else ... and they soon get married. Clearly inspired by the exploits of Inspector Javert, police inspector Mathur (K.N. Singh) leaks that whole "former-convict" thing, and they are driven out of their home on their wedding night. It doesn't bother them for too long.

Now in the running for best honeymoon location ever: Mumtaz and Jeetendra In the park under this family planning poster that reads, "Do ya teen bacche, bas." (Two or three children, only.)

A flirtatious song takes us through the next several years and the growth of their baby daughter, all while the pair continues to try to steal romantic moments. They finally are stopped/caught by their six or seven year old daughter (who acts more sensible than they do for the second half of the film).














Unfortunately, the opposing forces of greedy boss and suspicious policeman eventually begin to tear the family's world apart. Think shades of Les Miserables plus maybe North by Northwest. Right, yes, he becomes a murder suspect because of Former Boss's Evil Plan to win him back to the life of crime. Because of annoying inspector, Raghu also loses his lorry job and starts to work himself into the grave.





To feed her family, Malti has to nautch-herself out ... which doesn't go over well with feverish hubby. However, I'm ok with it, considering it means an "I'm forced to dance to save someone else" song from Mumtaz.



The answer to all Raghu's problems just might be a sting operation against the Boss ... both to end the harassment and to clear his own name.



But can Raghu manage to take down his former employer, reconcile with his wife, and stay out of prison for good?



Note #4: Though she doesn't have any lines to speak of, there are TWO excellent Aruna Irani dance sequences in this film, complete with choruses of nautch girls, slanted Nagaich camera-angles, debauched revelers, and a fabulously decorated villain lair.


I'll admit, there's a lot of borderline weepy/heartrending stuff here for a Nagaich film, but I didn't mind. He makes up for it with a profusion of his usual bells and whistles, if not quite as much trippy camera-work as I've come to expect. Along with a certain brevity in the moralizing material, you can count on the film building towards a non-stop, suspenseful climax ... complete with tremendous stunt work by Jeetendra and company. In terms of impressive action sequences (and I'm surprised to be saying this), Himmat actually gives Surakksha a run for its money.



[This long sequence on the moving train is terrifying, mostly because you know it's all Jeetendra, not doubles.]



















Mumtaz and Jeetendra (Jeetendraz?) are one of my favorite pairings. As such, I'm kind of surprised that their films together weren't considered hits at the time, and still haven't graduated to classic status. They both have a naive, cheerful flavor that errs on the side of ADORABLE. Jeetendra in this particular period of time has SO much energy, I think he's best with women of comparable good humor, playfulness, and restlessness ... people like Mumtaz, Asha, Hema.



Himmat can't beat Roop Tera Mastana's (1972) marks for chemistry or fantasy, but the duo still seem like such a natural team at this earlier stage ... an essential element in all these masala melodramas where the marriage plot is also supposed to be the symbol of a beleaguered path towards righteousness. Himmat's general arc resembles Rajesh/Sharmila's Raja Rani (a thief trying to go straight with former nautch-girl girlfriend is persecuted by the law & community) but Himmat is far more interested in action sequences than social statements.

By way of that, look! Famous tower-I-don't-know-the-name-of-from Surakksha!


If you can't already tell, Himmat is a very-watchable B film, with characters you can love--not just root for--and some fabulous stunt-film cred.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fourths: Language, Moondram Pirai, Rushdie, Ram-Lakhan

                                                                                                         ONE

Hannah Arendt (German television interview, 1964)
It's been a few weeks since I've been here, mostly because a ticking clock (my classes) required me to very quickly acquire a solid understanding of the Vietnam war, Hannah Arendt and theories of power, South American and African geography, and Watergate. Also, after two weeks of in-class study, I'm THIS close to being able to read Urdu (Nastaliq)--I can read quite a few words but I still have a few character variations to get down and need a lot of practice writing. I dunno, but after a few go rounds with this sort of process, I've realized that during the initial stages of learning a writing script/alphabet I should hire someone should follow me around and make sure I don't forget basic life skills. "Don't mind the ever-present Do Not Disturb sign, barge in and make sure I'm still sleeping, drinking, bathing, etc. I really am an adult, I just forget it when I'm learning how to WRITE "BACKWARDS" IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE while simultaneously trying to teach in another language and take exams in yet another. Where I shall find the time for a beloved fourth (Bengali), you tell me." Seriously, though, trilingual immigrants are superheroes and my problems are cosmetic in comparison.

                     ***
                    TWO

This topic reminds me that I have yet to see English Vinglish and some self-appointed internet ref is surely going to call me on that soon. In defense of my membership to Sridevi-Fandom, I DID just see one of Sridevi's big Tamil hits of the early 1980s, Moondram Pirai. The synopsis *spoilers*, if not the name, may ring a bell: Woman (Sridevi) gets head injury and regresses to childhood state, girl-woman is kidnapped and sold to brothel, man Cheenu (Kamal Hassan) finds girl, falls in repressed love with woman inside girl, helps girl recover, but probably doesn't get to keep girl.

I can't say exactly why I got the itch to watch this particular version of the tale. If you're not South Indian, you probably know this story as mega-Hindi-hit Sadma. But Moondram Pirai came first, and as Sridevi apparently said, the Hindi remake (Sadma) never could match [for her] the improvisational magic of the original.

"Raw" is certainly the first descriptive word that comes to mind. Many moments are powerful almost by accident ... because they seem unrehearsed, uncertain, unsafe. Even the central antagonist is nebulous. Are we held in suspense because of curiosity? Mixed feelings about Viji's impossible "love" story with Cheenu? Our worry for Viji's safety? While violent male appetites and the threat of rape lurk in the background, from the moment Cheenu finds Vjiji in the brothel, to the creepy woodcutter in the woods near his home, to the  old lecherous landlord married to a bombshell (Silk Smitha) ... all these are more symbol than substance. We know we've seen these sleezy characters before, and we also know they are unlikely to figure into the climax.

Personally, I love that this film lends itself to afterthought, mostly because one is not initially sure of what it's attempting to say. For example, there's a pretty clear presentation of various female stereotypes: the girl and the vamp, the asexual saint and the hypersexual whore. But since the hero chooses ... or perhaps is compelled by circumstance... to put aside his assumptions, we also take a step back and wonder if these women are worth a different level of consideration.

[Side note: Cheenu's personal motivations are murky, but his actions toward the childlike Viji are at least superficially that of a parent or childhood friend. He immerses himself in her welfare, and although there are small upsets (mostly because Viji DOES act like a small child and can't be trusted with adult tasks), his daily routine is centered around making her feel safe ... and around making her laugh. One has to wonder what this man did as a teacher in the middle of nowhere BEFORE Viji came to stay. Don't get me wrong, on a certain level, Cheenu's actions are quite noble and unselfish. But he's also no angel. He's a bachelor teacher with no prospects, and he does attend the brothel at the beginning with his friend (perhaps out of peer pressure and boredom). And although he champions Viji's cause from there forward, there's clearly a gain for him: he finally has a companion, no questions asked.]

"Simple" Viji is actually quite complicated, both inherently (her condition), and subjectively (in the imagination of Cheenu). We feel keenly the hero's cognitive dissonance; he tries to protect her from exploitation as a de-facto child, all the while knowing full well that if she was "just" a woman, he would want more from her. The overall effect of this secondary dissonance is that it forces the viewer to examine his or her own assumptions. Not only does it make you look for similar motivations driving everyday romantic relationships--including messiah complexes, the tendency for some romantic relationships to have at least one man-child or woman-child, the tendency for some partners to try to keep their spouse in a place of ignorance and helplessness--but the film also challenges the usual boundaries between social roles. Here, once the interpersonal road map is erased, it is up to the characters to navigate according to their own conscience. Beyond the novelty factor--it's certainly gratifying to see gender reversal onscreen (the man has to clean up after the woman, for once), we probably keep watching because we need to know if such an endeavor can actually succeed.


                                                                                 ***
                                                                              THREE

Talking about improvisation and experimentation, my book club read Midnight's Children this month. Wait, correction, after our meeting today it turns out that exactly one (out of 10) read it in full. The rest of us battled with varying degrees of hatred, apathy, or confusion towards it. I am well on my way to finishing, after much struggle. Most people didn't get past the first 25 pages. No one else in the group had tried to read Rushdie before, and unfortunately they picked one of his most daunting works over the short story I recommended. [Not saying I told them so, but ok, I am.] Personally, I have few good things to say about Rushdie's adult fiction, but I quite enjoy his nonfiction essays and interviews, and his children's fiction. I've been ranting here about it, and ultimately, I have to ask:

Is it is possible, dear postmodern, postcolonial writers, that in writing about everything—in breaking the laws of space and time and weaving a six dimensional verbal tapestry—you are really writing about nothing? That you have perhaps spent a million hours and painstakingly manipulated a thousand puppets to tell a six hundred page riddle about absurdity and identity? Unfortunately, you forgot to make us feel something. So anyone looking for an answer to your riddle is left with nothing of consequence, and those who don’t understand the question will care little that you asked it.

I'm not the only one, thought it sometimes feels that way, who dares to criticize Rushdie. [Not that anyone cares what I think, but it's odd how he seems nearly universally adored by the reigning Western critics.] James Woods, in a much circulated article for New Republic, compares postmodern novelists--especially "faux-dickensians," and "hysterical realists," and mostly Sir Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith.  He compares tendencies towards circularity, an oversupply of imagination over humanity, and a tendency towards manipulating protagonists into implausible choices for the sake of superimposing a point:  

"Irie Jones is pregnant, and for a while we inhabit her mind, and her drifting thoughts. She looks from Millat to Magid, and cannot decide which twin is the father of her child. But she stops worrying, because Smith breaks in, excitedly, to tell us that 'Irie's child can never be mapped exactly nor spoken of with any certainty. Some secrets are permanent. In a vision, Irie has seen a time, a time not far from now, when roots won't matter any more because they can't because they mustn't because they're too long and they're too tortuous and they're just buried too damn deep. She looks forward to it.' Yet it is Smith who made Irie, most improbably, have sex with both brothers, and it is Smith who decided that Irie, most improbably, has stopped caring who is the father. It is quite clear that a general message about the need to escape roots is more important than Irie’s reality, what she might actually think, her consciousness. A character has been sacrificed for what Smith called, in that interview, 'ideas and themes that I can tie together—problem-solving from other places and worlds.' This is problem-solving, all right. But at what cost?" (Woods, James. New Republic: 24 July, 2000.) 

If only all of Rushdie was Haroun. 
Ok, Ok, it's easy to be a critic, and I am well aware that I have little patience for flaws in modern novels. Narrative writing (in English) has a terrible power over me ... it's both my temptation and my kryptonite. I have yet to meet another person who feels this way, but even a vaguely mediocre book will ruin my day or week. Not because of the content, but because the sentences Just. Lacked. Something. Whether that's because my semantic and rhythm memory is the bully on the playground, or whether I'm just a snob, time will tell. Sentences stick in my brain, if not whole passages, and a good or bad phrase sticking around after hours can change my entire mental outlook. Perhaps that's why I choose to watch films over reading for leisure. Books are dangerous. Not in a Fahrenheit 451 society way, but in a Girl Interrupted way. 

Still, I stick to my guns on this Rushdie thing. His books are often needlessly bloated* and display a nauseating tendency to re-converge on themselves, until you are sucked into his whirlwind of circular ideas, far from solid ground. Some people might find meaning in being carried away by a force of nature, but as far as I can tell, there's nothing in the exact middle of a cyclone, just air.

Source: Byliner on Pinterest
He's surely a great mind, but his fiction defeats itself. Just when you think, "Yes, this fellow is about to come to his point," he expands his vision to include everything and your kitchen sink. He knows this, and yet he chooses to indulge, betting himself how much of the reader's time he can commandeer. He seeks to overstimulate and to dilute your perception with extraneous detail, all in the name of creating a grand experience, maybe even The Great Subcontinental Experience.

But in trying to be about everything, Rushdie obscures that great "Something" that, if we are honest, we really would prefer to read about. He doesn't reach for an impossible ideal, he bends down and tramples on small "goods," until all that is left is petty "bads." And don't even get me started on the constant and interminable phallic symbols.

I'm curious to see if the film is better than the book. I suspect that it has to be. Anything to get away from effing Saleem Sinai's voice.

 ***

  FOUR

Perhaps it is hard to make us believe in myths, we who have cut them out of our lives to make room for New York Times bestsellers and airport novels. The beauty of a myth is that it brings god or the gods a little closer to earth. The beauty of literature is that it pushes men toward heaven. As far as I can tell, stories that elevate trivialities to the level of legend don't serve either purpose. Realism (even magical realism) in art inhabits this middle ground ... a place I have little use for in film or literature. The believable is not always worth believing IN, you know?

A modern approach to myth or mythic archetypes can be done. It's not easy, but insert "you know it when you see it" joke here. And sometimes (because it's film and I feel inclined to be more forgiving in visual mediums) I can just appreciate the effort. In fact, often watching films from the 80s, I sit back and say, "Hmm. That almost works, and I feel something, and therefore I'm impressed." Lower your standards, ready the mute button for those endless dishoom scenes, and get ready for some blood-soaked heroism. Maybe it's B.R. Chopra's fault, but I'm more inclined to see mythic attempts in 80's cinema than cinema of other decades. Shades of an ethic behind the violence points to a desire for the days of epic battles, blood feuds, and territorial disputes. Mahabharata much?

Lakhan explains why the Ram Lakshman myth doesn't matter anymore. Meta-chuckle.


I don't know the Ram Lakshman story well enough to comment on specifics, but it seems to me that Subhash Ghai unapologetically reached for the mythic in Ram Lakhan (1989). First off, there aren't expendable characters here, or many expendable scenes. The villains get just enough screen time to make their destruction inevitable. The *ahem* irritating parent dies early on, leaving Rakhee, in a strikingly aggressive role as the mother to two disinherited sons.



She is a mythic figure by definition ... apparently manipulating the heavens with the force of her emotions. She raises her sons without the usual filmi indulgence, and they actually turn out all right. Ram (Jackie Schroff) is a textbook oldest child [represent, Ram!], a policeman and an instrument of tradition and order. But he also treats the women in his life with deference; his mother with near worship, his fiancee (Dimple Kapadia) with playful respect. [Mature relationship alert?!]



 Lakhan (Anil Kapoor) is sort of the opposite, but he means well, and that good intention is clear from start to finish. Unfortunately, he seems to have gotten the brunt of the childhood trauma and carries the greatest will toward violence. Actually, no. His mother might have him beat, there.



Ram Lakhan harnesses this instinct towards hatred and vengeance better than any 80's film I've seen; unless you dial back to 1982 and ring up Disco Dancer. But why? It's not THAT different on paper.

Barring choreography concerns, in any scene of "battle" or a fistfight, I mostly just want there to be something at stake. That the hero might lose something, even if he wins. It's hard to get this in Bollywood--where heroes might as well be Bruce Willis in the Die Hard films or the superhuman from Unbreakable. If they can't be seriously hurt, why should I look anywhere but at my watch? It's only a matter of time before "victory."

And I mostly want Rakhee


I admit readily that Disco Dancer's last fight scene is just GOOD. I don't have the right vocabulary to describe it, nor can I measure the success of Ram Lakhan's march of inexorability, the rush the audience feels when more and more pieces steadily fall into place, building a track leading towards justice. [You can't talk about this film without using a train metaphor.] Almost as if everything had been long planned by a higher power. [Good job screenwriters!]

However, both climaxes stand on the shoulders of an earlier plot point--a section of the film where the heroes (Jimmy and Lakhan) are outnumbered and seriously injured after a psychological shock. Shaken by a loss, the heroes feel they have failed, and on some level "give up." Villains move in and take advantage, dealing near fatal blows. It is only when a respected figure returns to give them back their mission, or their inner resolve, that the heroes find the will to fight.



Nothing gets the house out of their seats like a "Do you believe in fairies?" moment. The end of Ram Lakhan works because we had a moment where we (the audience) and the hero lost faith. Even real stunts by a lead actor (such as Kamal Hassan pulls off in Moondram Pirai) can't achieve the emotional effect of this relatively simple plot choice. Once again, it's a reminder to me that reaching for a myth is better than endlessly deconstructing it. You can erase familiar archetypes and social roles in your story, but we the audience only care as long as the absence of those ideals glows in our memory. With all due respect to Smith's conclusions in "White Teeth" or maybe even Rushdie's switched at birth metaphor in "Midnight's Children," origins do matter. They aren't to be dismissed irrationally (Smith) or fabricated into absurdity (Rushdie). Who your parents are (even if they are gone, even if they are your enemies), what myths you believe in, what you believe in about yourself and your loved ones matters. That's where your strength comes from. Bollywood knows this, even on its most un-watchable day.

*One is also free to say that this post is needlessly bloated and circular. I'm not stopping you.