When the news broke on 16 March about the mysterious death of the IAS officer D.K. Ravi in his Bangalore residence there was a sudden outburst of anger among the public as, to many, it appeared like a murder which the media also endorsed it.
The demand came from the public and the opposition to hand over the case to CBI and Karnataka state Government having a CID probe made the matter look very suspicious to the public belief that the able and courageous officer was murdered.
To the surprise and shock of the public the authorities stated the possibility of it being a suicide which angered the public and the opposition parties even the more. The last few messages sent by D.K. Ravi to a batch mate of his came out as a proof in support of the theory of it being a suicide caused by a sense of dejection in unrequited love.
These speculations of the mysterious death being suicide due to unrequited love made the public and the opposition go furious because according to them it was not just “misleading” but also an attempt to “tarnish the image” of an able and courageous officer who “was not a coward.”
It may or may not be a suicide. Similarly it may or may not be a murder. Only thorough investigation can reveal it and investigation should be conducted strictly for D.K. Ravi had taken on many strong and influential people though his final messages have another story to say.
But what is saddening to realize is that the dismissal of the possibility of suicide holds within itself a belief of suicide being an act of cowardice and feelings outside the institution of marriage immoral.
Dismissal is a defense mechanism.
Within the dismissal is also the desire to not just have a just and able person as our leader or role model but also a ‘courageous’ ‘strong’ person as the same. And also an expectation of conforming to a certain emotional and sexual behavior.
Suicide in the public perception is an act of cowardice and we don’t want our leaders our role models to be coward. They have to be strong. They have to be courageous. A person who has weaker side to his personality who can be vulnerable cannot be our role model our leader and worthy of our respect. Such people are unacceptable to us as leaders, role models.
The dismissal of the possibility of suicide is also a secret fancy for martyrdom which is a certain kind of heroic act. We fancy our heroes our role models being a super hero.
At the risk of stretching it too far I say: Deep down in our hearts somewhere we fancy a 56-inch chest leader!!!
The possibility of romantic feelings outside marriage not being digestible shows our want to control human emotions and also sexuality. We fancy a leader a role model who is a sincere loyal wife/husband. Monogamy, heterosexuality is a must. Bachelorhood even the better.
In the fear/ accusation of ‘am image’ being ‘tarnished’ and in the dismissal of a possibility [of it being suicide] our fancies and our ideals are being displayed. In that fancy smiles a bearded face with spectacles, even if the face is not ideologically in tune with that of many who are dismissing the possibility and fearing/ accusing of an image being tarnished.
Yesterday was World Poetry Day and a friend reminded me of a paragraph I had written, last year, to another friend in response to his wishes to me. Just sharing those few lines:
“Did you watch the film HER? Its about this man who falls in love with an operating system and has a relationship with the OS which/ who calls itself/ herself Samantha. This OS converses with the man, helps him in his work, decision making and also has sex with him. At one point when asked to proofread some letters Samantha says, “I am not a poet.” She can have a conversation, has a relationship and also has sex but cant write poetry.
I found this very interesting. Today when technology has taken over our lives and dominates in our lives to the extent of it hijacking the idea of ‘touch’ too, if there is something that makes humans, humans and keeps them human from becoming machine like, then its poetry! May be it looks like i am extending the ‘observation’ and its ‘interpretation’ too far, but i would like to believe so because poetry is my first love.
Happy world poetry day to you too.”
Wahab Riaz’s spell on 20 March 2015 at Adeledie during the World Cup quarter finals against the host Australia and the things which lead to it is are expressions beyond the game and reflection of things beyond sports.
Shane Watson deserved the response he got.
Here is what lead to the fiery spell by Wahab:
Wahab Riaz had all the reasons to walk into the field furstrated as the batting line of Pakistan had collapsed in a crucial game of the tournmanet. As Wahab was struggling to make some scores, within his limits, Shane Watson from the slips asked, “Are you holding a bat?” What followed was even the more humiliating. Mitchell Starc walked two steps twoards Wahab after the latter had missed the ball while attempting to hit it and said, “Its the white thing. You have to hit it.”
When mockery in the name of sledging by a strong team in their homeland on a bowler when he is batting is nothing but display of arrogance and using humiliation as a tool to break the fighting spirit of the underdog.
What all the privileged and those who think mockery and humiliation of the underdog in their weak moments is fine and being just sporty need to know is that when the underdog plays like a “wounded tiger” it can become impossible to face them.
Words were answered by action.
Wahab when had the white thing in his hand, he had the game in his hand. Wahab was not just fighting for the world cup but also fighting for the self-respect of the underdog and also to create a dent in the arrogance of the superior who lacked the dignity of the superior.
Australia might have won, due to the flaws of Pakistan only, but what history will remember always is that one Watson had to literally bend repeatedly, in his homeland, while facing a Wahab after an unnecessary comment he made from a point of privilege.
Take a bow Wahab Riaz.
[Warning: This write up reveals the story line.]
When you see the Yash Raj banner appearing with a different background voice [Kumar Sanu] it is just an indicator of how this film is unlike all other Yash Raj banner films.
The film Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha is not just different because a over-weight heroine has replaced an hourglass shaped heroines or because the heroine does not know wearing a saree properly unlike the other YRF banner heroines who flaunt their chiffon sari.
The film is different for its gaze and also for its perspective.
Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha is about Prem who is forcibly married to Sandhya who he thinks is disgusting because of her size. Sandhya who loves Prem is insulted by Prem in the presence of his friends and as a result of this Sandhya decides to call it quits with Prem and leaves the house of Prem and sends a divorce petition. The court gives the two a time of six months to live together and see if things can be resolved between the two. During this period both, under circumstances, have to take part in the dum lagaa ke haisha competition where the husband has to run a race carrying his wife. In the process of this race, also because of the individual journey that leads up to the race, Prem and Sandhya get along well and decide to hang on to each other.
The first thing that strikes to the viewers of this film is the gaze of the film which doesn’t belittle or mock the weight of Sandhya. But what is, equally if not more, commendable is the way Sandhya is not made to prove herself to become acceptable. In films like say Taare Zameen Par which are also about people who are discriminated the different and discriminated have to prove themselves to become accepted and approved. Even in films like Rab Ney Bana Di Jodi, which bears some similarity to this film, the person who is different in a larger way has to change himself to become accepted and to gain some approval. But in DLKH the heroine is discriminated against and she need not prove herself to be good THOUGH she is over-weight or she need not go a character transformation to be become accepted. It is the one who discriminates her humiliates her who has to undergo a character transformation and become accepted. It’s the perpetrator who has to BECOME and PROVE more human and not the victim or the one who is othered. The one who is different and othered has the steering in her hand and has to finally approve and accept the one who has been mean to her.
The hero of the film Prem has to BECOME accepted. Though he is loved even from the beginning he has to BECOME lovable. This growth of the character can be traced with two instances of confession and submission. The first time where we see Prem playing a slightly submissive role is when he has to bring the fallen footwear of Sandhya and the second time when he has to get the forgotten file of Sandhya to her. The first time he brings the fallen footwear quite reluctantly and the second time he brings the forgotten file quite willingly. While the first time Sandhya has to hint to him about the fallen footwear the second time there is nobody to remind him or hint him about forgotten file. The difference between these two acts is not just an indicator of Prem becoming more receptive and responsible but also of his involvement in the relationship.
Just before the fall of the footwear Prem has stopped the scooter for a bite. While taking a bite he and Sandhya have a conversation where Prem confesses to Sandhya about his smoking habit and also about him eating onions which his family members don’t. Later when Sandhya returns home following the instruction of the court Sandhya cooks for the family which the family members appreciate and while appreciating also try convincing her about taking part in the race along with Prem. In the next moment we see Prem confessing to Sandhya about why his family is welcoming her back to the family.
The first confession is followed by an order sorts asking Sandhya to not inform his father about the cigarette. The second confession is preceded by him exposing the hypocrisy of his father and family. The first confession is loaded with ego and the second one is devoid of ego. The first confession is concerned about himself and in the second confession the concern is about her and not him. The first instance is about frankness and openness the second instance if of honesty.
For this transformation to happen for this growth to happen Prem has to outgrow. It is in showing the outgrowing that Prem has to make, the film’s sensitive gaze makes even Prem who is harsh on Sandhya also appear not just human but also victim.
The pressure of masculinity and patriarchy on men is a very under explored issue in Bombay cinema. To begin with, Prem is an unlikely hero who in his wanting to become a hero kind material and also because of the pressure on him to become a hero like material almost loses the battle. He succeeds only when he sheds of that manufactured desire to become a hero material and outgrows the imposed demands of masculinity and patriarchy on him.
Prem is forced into the wedding by his family, especially by his father. The shadow of the father casts majorly on the son. When going to “see” Sandhya for the first time the father occupies the front seat in the car. Later when going to the court Prem stops his father from occupying the front seat in the car and occupies that seat. As mentioned earlier when confessing to Sandhya about cigarette and onions he asks her not to tell it to her father but later exposes the hypocrisy of the father. He has to outgrow from the shadow of his father.
The kind of pressure created by disciplinarian organizations in the name of patriotism [hinted at RSS?] also expects men to become more manly and have control over their natural urges. The growth of Prem happens only when he, though unwillingly and forcibly, moves out of the organization which is high on sperm.
Prem is also crippled by his academic underperformance. This is not a matter of shame or complex for him till he feels so in the presence of Sandhya who is more qualified than him. His male ego doesn’t let him be any lesser than his wife. So at an unusual age he decides to give his 10th board exams. The bond with Sandhya starts becoming possible only when he lets go off his ego, by accepting his failure in a moving monologue on the answer sheet, and telling her that she can leave home whenever she would want to and asking her to take up the job in a far off place.
Acceptance of failure is a key factor in the film which becomes the pathway to making relationships successful. One of the key turning points is when Prem accepts his failure not just in the exam but also as a son and a husband. That is when the transformation within him shifts gear. It is only by coming to a point of zero that he can reinvent himself.
The other key turning point comes when the aunt accepts her failure as a wife and her failed marital life. Its only then she is able to convince Prem and Sandhya to take part in the race which makes way for things to be resolved between the young couple.
What is close to this acceptance of failure is accepting oneself as one is.
There is no need for Prem to crack the board exams or to prove his manliness to the shaakha or prove his worth to his father. All it requires is for him to not burden himself with pressure to meet the expectations of others and accept himself as he is with his limitations and failures. Its only when he becomes comfortable under his skin that he is able to achieve comfort ability with Sandhya.
The reason Sandhya is able to feel for Prem even while knowing his family is lying to her family and that Prem is socially awkward, because she is comfortable with herself and has accepted herself as she is.
She is aware of her size and weight. But that doesn’t stop her from dancing. She is also open to jokes around her size and weight- the aunt comments on her size twice once while discussing yoga and once while discussing food habits. The brother also makes fun of her size. She is fine with it and take jokes around that. But she cannot take insult on her being by pinning her to her size alone.
She finally accepts Prem not because he accepts her with her size but because Prem is now a changed person and his gaze has changed and also has become at ease with himself and his limitations and failure.
Through cassettes, table lamp, bajaj chetak scooter which demands to be pushed to start, references to PCO, group photographs, Sandhya’s mother asking her relatives to give one ring- two rings once reaching home to signal they have reached the film creates a sense of nostalgia. It is created also majorly because of the voice of Kumar Sanu which like air is invisibly present in the 90s.
Along with this, I guess, the premise of the story itself has something rooted in the 90s decade. Size of the women started becoming a matter to be ‘addressed’ and not acceptable, I guess, majorly in the 90s with the bombardment of images in still and in advertisements, of slim girls that equated slimness with beauty and also more with sex appeal. The idea of sex appeal also becomes important to win the man and hence Sandhya tries the lingerie. The idea of beauty and sexiness underwent a change in the 90s decade making the image of beauty and sexiness standardized. This damaged not just the girls who did not fall under the same category but also damaged human relationships. Sandhya realizes the futility of the sex appeal through costumes very early. But it takes time for Prem to realize that standardized image of the body itself doesn’t make sex appeal.
To extend the argument of ‘accepting failure’ and ‘accepting self’ further, the film possibly works to the mass because in the last decade or so the nation has witnessed innumerable failed relationships and deep down, probably, there is some fear about the same and there is also search for solution. So when a film as this says things can be made to work out it kind of gives comfort and assurance to the anxious unspoken anxiety of people.
But in making the relationship work the film doesn’t make the institution of marriage a matter of sanctity and asks women to conform to traditional roles. It demands men to accept the more superior, not just equal, role which women have taken in the past two decades or so in terms of earthly practicality. In the past two decades or so, Indian women have actually overtaken men in all worldly ways. The men seem unable to accept this. It is only by accepting this truth about the changed women and letting off the male-ego men can make a relationship work. Like the cassette shop owner has to make a shift to the new digital system the men also have to reinvent themselves. This is a liberating experience for men too and a process of becoming more humane.
This is what the film seems to be saying, knowingly or unknowing, intentionally or unintentionally.