Two Neglected Characters…

September 14, 2011 at 9:15 AMSep (Cinema, Musings, Soliloquy)

This is the second time in the recent past that Naseruddin Shah’s short role in much awaited films has caught me deeply. The first one was his role in Zindagi Na Milegi Doabara as Salman Habib, an artist. The second role of his which caught me deeply was in That Girl In Yellow Boots. I watched the TGIYB twice to analyze it but still am not able to come to a conclusion about the film. It has happened always with every film of Anurag Kashyap, for me at least. My views about the film have changed, slightly, after the second view. But what has remained the same is my view and thoughts on the character Diwakar, played by Naseruddin Shah.

While in ZNMD he is a father who has left and neglected his own son in TGIYB he is a sort of father figure to Ruth, played by Kalki, the central character in the film, who is in search of her real father. But overall, to me, it appears like, both these characters, Salman Habib and Diwakar, has been neglected by the filmmakers and also by the characters within the film.

In ZNMD, I thought, his relationship with his son, Imraan played by Farhan Akhtar, had depth into it unlike the other relationships portrayed in the film. There was warmth, there was anger, there was affection and there was tension. But the filmmaker just touched on the relationship at the surface level and left it there. Yes, I understand that the focus and interest of the filmmaker was on other stories but I felt upset that a story which was more intense was sacrificed to tell a story, that of friends and the fun they have, which has been narrated many a times on the Indian silver screen. With the focus on friendship and their fun what the Indian audience lost was a human story of human relationships and the tension within human relationships.

The character of Imraan too neglects this character. While he himself expects to be forgiven by his friend Arjun, played by Hrithik, for having been a spoil-sport in the love affair of Arjun, he can’t forgive his father Salman Habib, who left him and his mother many years ago, for he wanted to be a free bird. While Imraan takes the help of Salman Habib to get out of the prison he doesn’t try to understand the desire of Salman Habib to be free of family burden/ responsibility and not wanting to have a child. But at the same time very well understands his friend Kabir who is engaged but is not ready for marriage. What Salman Habib did might have been extremely wrong and inhumane, to look through the eyes of Imraan. But Imraan as an artist, who manages to understand the plight of Kabir doesn’t try to understand the position and situation of Salman Habib. And when he seeks forgiveness from Arjun and cleanses his mistake by playing the cupid between Arjun and Laila he doesn’t give Salman Habib a second chance to rectify his mistakes. With this the character of Salman Habib remains neglected and ignored even within the film and not just in the film.

As the name That Girl In Yellow Boots suggests the film is about Ruth, the girl who wearing yellow boots is searching for her father in India. During her search for her father she comes across the inhumane sides of society and inhumane people. In between all these people she also meets Diwakar, an old man who comes to Ruth for massage and exercise. There is a warm relationship between Diwakar and Ruth which gets expressed through him referring to her as “beta” (my child), she enquiring him whether he did the exercises at home or not, he enquiring if she could find her father and more importantly he taking the liberty to be angry at Ruth and also shout at her while realizing that she does “hand shake” for a lot of customers who come for massage. His words, “Everybody that I care for, is my business” stemming out of love and anger, when told by a friend of Ruth that what she does is none of his business, mirrors the relationship between him and Ruth. There is so much of warmth in the relationship between the two that the audience, till the shocking and chocking end, keep suspecting, if not believing, that Diwakar must be the father of Ruth. But nevertheless it becomes very evident that the relationship between the two is of a father-daughter kind. In spite of having such an intense relationship with Diwakar, the central character Ruth doesn’t, stop the owner of the massage centre, while Diwakar is being thrown out of the massage centre. When reality slaps hardly on her face she moves away from everything and everyone and also leaves behind Diwakar, the man who loved and cared her like a father.

Why Ruth was looking for, comes across in the film. Why Diwakar felt so affectionately for Ruth remains unknown. What happened to him, when we know that he felt affectionately for Ruth, when Ruth remained silent while being chased away, also remains unknown. A story remains untold. Though a passing character he is someone who is close to the central character and the filmmaker doesn’t speak much of Diwakar while the filmmaker gives some space to the personal stories of Prashanth, played by Prashanth Prakash, about his connection with Chittiappa, played by Gulshan Devaiah and also shows him running behind Ruth which makes the audience feel bad for him. But the filmmaker doesn’t follow Diwakar when he is thrown out of the massage centre and keeps the audience in the dark about his state of mind after being thrown out. Though the character of Diwakar is the most humane character that comes in the dark film TGIYB it remains neglected to a certain extent by the filmmaker and also by the character within the film.

Though slightly neglected the two characters, Salman Habib and Diwakar, both played very well by Naserudding Shah, are two memorable characters, for me at least, in the recent times in Bollywood cinema.

1 Comment

  1. mahima bhat said,

    As I watched only ZNMD, i can comment only on that. The way you said when you look at the aspect of Imran able to understand the relationship that goes through his and his friends relationship but not when it comes to his father neglecting him. I feel that is what the film is highlighting on. It is easy for a person to expect (as in expectation from his friend to forgive and also expect from his father not to neglect him). When it comes to commenting on what the filmmaker could have done,i.e, the focus and highlight of the story is what the filmmaker is keen to do. I think we should comment on what is done and not what could have been done, because it can be a different script and a film altogether.

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