30 Comments

SRK WALA DAY!! Get On The Train Baby! Chennai Express Hits IPL, Is DDLJ Socially Regressive?, D-Day + MORE!!

GET ON THE TRAIN JUST DO IT

So basically this morning I was completely convinced I lived in some parallel universe of my own because everybody was like “how AWESOME is the Chennai Express song teaser?” and I was like “wait, what?”

But you listen please. GET ON THE TRAIN BABY, do not invoke the Wrath Of Khan Trolls and just STFU in your sane universe that nobody wants to be a part of.

And now, let the dimples do what they always do which is wipe out your memory of bad things about getting on trains and stuff.

Is DDLJ socially regressive?

So there’s been an interesting discussion going on twitter because of film critic Anna Vetticad’s kind of hila dene wala (translation: earthshaking) tweet/opinion that she couldn’t understand why DDLJ would be on anyone’s Top 5 Films list because it is so socially regressive.

True to form, KJo was all “for serious, whaddayamean? no I really wanna know coz I’m a smartypants”

And this was her response.

I wasn’t as instantly defensive as many DDLJ fans were because I found her take (and many who agreed with her) to be interesting and it made me see the film in a light that I had never considered before.

My own two cents worth is that it isn’t socially regressive (ie glorifying patriarchy) – it was pretty much reflecting my reality. Okay so my Dad isn’t standing at the edge of a railway platform refusing to let go of my hand, literally – but figuratively? Kind of, I hate to break it to you. It took him a long, long, LONG time to get to the “ja, jee le apni zindagi” (go, live your life) phase, and trust me, it didn’t happen when I was 17.

So does that make him “regressive & despotic” ? Maybe. But he’s my dad. My sister fought tooth and nails with him, I treated him more the way the film treats Amrish Puri’s character – with love, patience and holding out hope that some day he would understand my needs, ambitions, opinions and life goals and we could get to that equilibrium without me having to yell at him for being “regressive”. Because that would hurt his feelings and because the culture he was brought up in was the only culture he knew. And when he gets upset I cry even if it’s completely his fault. Full filmy desi I am.

And you know what? In the end, I had my happy ending too because he finally did let go of my hand *sob*.

For me, this is just my culture. It’s flawed, sure, but I don’t think that “HOW DARE YOU TELL ME WHAT TO DO YOU DISGUSTING MALE PERSON” is the only way to deal with things. That you had to give up your dreams for your parents dreams was very ingrained in us and we (NRIs as depicted in the film or diplobrats/third culture kids like myself) had to find our own ways of dealing with our resentments even as we adapted to cultures other than our own (US, UK, Australia or simply “globalization” if you lived in the subcontinent).

DDLJ mirrored that conflict for me. It captured that generational and cultural gap really well and I was so thankful for it back in the 90s. Yeah, I’m still torn between the traditions my parents hold on to which can admittedly be suffocating versus the freedom &  independence that have been the hallmarks of my life abroad. But I also think there is a certain sweetness in sacrifice, in placing others’ needs before your own. I know that’s not a popular opinion especially with desis ironically enough… but well, it’s my opinion.

I don’t think DLLJ “glorified” patriarchy in any way. After all, Thakur Baldev Singh was the antagonist in that film, not the protagonist. And we were all rooting for Raj & Simran and in the end, they made him yield through love, understanding & self-sacrifice, not war. To win over a despotic father through love rather than rebellion was the whole point of DDLJ in an era where most films adopted the “running away from home” theme . That’s what made and makes DDLJ an enduring classic. IMO of course.

And opinions are welcome. I’m really not defensive about this so if there are opposing opinions I would really love to hear them.

D-Day Trailer aka More BadAss Rishi Kapoor Awesomeness

So I don’t know how controversial this thing is gonna be but purely from a filmmaking perspective, it looks pretty exciting.

It’s hard to believe that this is a Nikhil Advani film. All his director frenemies are saying that this is Nikhil’s true genre so let’s see how he does because we all know the history with Frenemy #1’s Kal Ho Na Ho and then there’s Chandni Chowk To China and Salaam-e-Ishq…where the canvas & spectacle were so large that the films were completely bloated out of their own existence. Patiala House had its heart in the right place but again…everything was just so overwrought.

Amazing cast (Irrfan!), once again (give or take an Arjun whose hotness always makes up for his “acting”).

Ameesha @ Cannes

#TeamAmy #TeamClothes

teamamy

#TeamGoat (copyright @anishok) #TeamWTFoundation

amycannes

Ambarsariya (to help you recover from previous photo)

Ram Sampath is becoming my new favorite music director. This is just lovely and of course we already know that Sona Mohapatra’s voice is to die for.

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30 comments on “SRK WALA DAY!! Get On The Train Baby! Chennai Express Hits IPL, Is DDLJ Socially Regressive?, D-Day + MORE!!

  1. I loved your take on DDLJ. I think all of us NRI children can relate with what everything you said…
    “And when he gets upset I cry even if it’s completely his fault” hehe
    BTW, Anna V. = missed the whole point of the film.
    And if she thinks DDLJ is regressive, taubaa I wonder what she’d think about HAHK! :p

    Keep it up with the posts!

  2. I agree with your points on DDLJ being regressive but then again weren’t most films of the nineties so? In fact, can it really count as regressive when at the time of its release, despot fathers were all the rage in every film? I’m not an Indian & I saw DDLJ in 2012 for the first time, a good 17 years after its release. And I’m going to be honest. I hated it. The acting, story, costumes, you name it. A lot of Hindi film lovers that I know feel the same way, even those who grew up with the film so I’ve never really met a DDLJ-die hard. But at the same time, I understand exactly what people see in it & why they might think DDLJ is kinda progressive instead, what with the dad accepting his daughter’s choice & the guy doing the honourable thing.
    Also, I was finally erasing the image of Ameesha’s terrifying clown make up out of my head. Thanks for bringing the nightmares back :)

    • Hannah,

      You’re right despot fathers WERE all the rage in the 90s which is why the criticism came as a surprise. DDLJ treated that despot in a different way which again, *at the time* made a huge impact. I think we loved it so much because really, how many of us have the inclination to run away from home anyway? Wouldn’t we rather make peace?

      You never met a DDLJ die hard say whaaaaa? LOL ;)

  3. I really appreciate your take on this “regressive” issue that I see in many Bollyblogs when they review Indian films. I want to highlight the point you made about whether the film is *promoting* patriarchy/regressiveness or *reflecting* what is there in society. One of the most misinterpreted examples I can cite is the scene from Enthiran/Robot where the robot rescues a girl from a burning building — but she happens to be taking a bath and it carries her out nude. When she’s put down outside, she’s pounced on by not only the media people, but everyone with a camera phone as well. Now she’s doubly traumatized by the horror of this exploitation as well as her earlier danger, and, in high distraction, runs off randomly into traffic, and gets hit by a car and is killed. I could not believe how many of the nondesi bloggers pounced on this as the film “punishing” her, to convey the “regressive” message that a girl who dares to show her body, even accidentally and involuntarily, must die to preserve the societal norms — when in reality the scene depicted the situation as it really is –i.e., how many voyeurs there were in society who would take advantage of a girl’s misfortune — and was giving a pointed commentary on what tragedies that kind of insensitivity could lead to.

    Anyway, bringing it back to DDLJ, I think your interpretation is very interesting, and one that I hadn’t thought of before, but it works. Besides, I never did think the father was all that regressive or tyrannical. It was made amply clear that his primary concern was his daughter’s happiness, and the reason he was opposed to Raj was that his previous encounters with him convinced him (the father) that Raj was a no good wastrel who wouldn’t take care of his daughter properly. So he was completely justified in opposing the marriage. He was also shown to be a loving husband as well. So really, except for the fact the role was played by Amrish Puri, there was nothing there to show him as a tyrant. :)

    I think this word “regressive” gets thrown around in all kinds of contexts where it really doesn’t fit — like HAHK. What exactly is regressive there? I can think of only one incident that should not have been there — the slap of Bindu’s character — but that was a sideplot w/ a minor character, and didn’t reflect on the main story in any way.

    I do think it’s funny that Karan is the one asking for this explanation, because K3G was a very regressive story, in the father-sons, father-in-law vs. daughter-n-law, and the husband-wife relationships. I was cringing all the way through.

    I’m so happy to see you blogging regularly again! I was wondering when a second post would follow.

    • As you know, I LOVE Salman but am one of those few fans of his who isn’t enthralled by HAHK (though the soundtrack and picturizations will always be close to my heart).

      When I call that movie regressive, it’s because of how Madhuri’s character is just expected to marry her brother-in-law. Her loving and caring (positive characters) parents do not even see it necessary to ask her about her feeling. They just “sacrifice” her for the sake of the grandchild. While in DDLJ, the father is at least depicted as an antagonist, the parents in HAHK are made out to be the opposite.

      Meanwhile, Salman doesn’t even voice his feelings for Madhuri and simply “sacrifices” her for his brother. It’s as if Madhuri’s character is property, which can be sacrificed, used and given to others. If that’s not regressive, what is?

      • Moi & Kavs,

        You know I think the problem really is the difference between *reflecting* versus *glorifying*. Our culture might be flawed but to depict those flaws in a movie doesn’t, in my opinion, make the movie itself regressive, right?

        In HAHK, the thing with the brother in law, stuff like that does happen in our culture. I wish Barjatya would’ve had an angle on how messed up that is (i can’t remember if he did, correct me if I’m wrong) instead of just letting it be the conflict that separates the lovers.

        Moi, I haven’t seen Enthiran so can’t comment on that. I agree that K3G, especially the relationship between Big B & Jaya was appallingly regressive, in the right context of that word. I also agree the word “regressive” gets thrown around a lot more than it should because a lot of what people think of as “regressive”, to me, is just “traditional”.

        So again I think it boils down to the difference between reflecting and glorifying, regressive and traditional….maybe we need to sort out the difference between them.

        • GF, see my reply to Kavs on how the BIL issue was handled in HAHK. It’s not messed up if the girl agrees, right? It’s a little like arranged marriage. For the people who like that system, what’s wrong with doing it that way?

          On “reflecting” reality, another issue that seems to get a lot of people’s goat is to show the heroine (or any girl) being threatened in a sexual way by the bad guys, and then being rescued by the good guy. Perhaps in the wake of the Delhi rape case, and the plethora of news reports on rape that followed, they might just realize this is just “reflecting” reality, not “glorifying” it? After all, no film says it’s a good thing to sexually harass a woman. It’s always been used as a shorthand for conveying just how awful and depraved some male character is.

      • Kavs, they spent so much time in HAHK making sure that Nisha was OK with marrying her former jiju. How did you miss it? True, she thinks her parents are asking if she wants to marry Prem when she agrees, but, even though that might be a clumsy plot device, they still got her consent. When she found out the truth via the wedding invitation, her jiju was actually there to hear from her own lips that she was OK with the marriage, and even telling her that she can back out at any time if she’s not comfortable. How much more can anyone ask? I’ll get back to the rest of your post after Monday, as I’m tied up over the weekend.

  4. Since my painfully typed out on the phone comment got eaten, here goes again. First things first, #TeamAmy won. Secondly, Ambersariya has been on loop since yesterday and I am in LOVE with Sona’s voice.

    Now DDLJ. Let me explain why I think it IS regressive. To people of my age and background (urban S.Indian, grew up in India in the 70s/80s) the attitude of the father in not allowing the womenfolk in his house ANY agency in their own lives is problematic. Forget marriage or a trip around Europe (that I may balk at myself!) – there was no concern shown for their feelings in his arbitrary decision to move the family back to India. The younger girl was shown as bookish – was there scope for her to pursue what she wanted? The overarching theme in their dealings with him is fear: they are even afraid to sing and dance before him, until he condescends to join them.

    With respect to the marriage thing: Sure, most desi parents still have a strong say in who their children marry – but Simran’s entire future hinged on her father saying yes – what was her option if he couldn’t bring himself to do so? Raj is equally culpable in this – her father’s opinion and approval was more important than her mother’s? Despite her mother ASKING her to run away?

    There are other things that hit my regressive button too – but are common to most KJo movies – like the Karva Chauth thing and the glorification of the joint family (which in reality made life hell for most women). But the love-story part itself IS sweet, in a teen romance kind of way – but my view of the movie may be clouded by the fact that I saw it as an adult :)

    Also, the person above asked how HAHK could be considered regressive – the whole glorification of the joint family and the sister marrying the BIL angle?

    • M,

      You’re right the overarching dealings with him IS fear, but wasn’t that the reality for a lot of us? Do you think the film was condoning that or simply reflecting it? See, when I saw it in the 90s, it provided relief for me – i didn’t come away feeling that the film was preaching “You must listen to your father and do everything he says”. Rather I thought it said, “Your father may be wrong but you can win him over without rebelling.”

      As far as glorification of Karva Chauth & joint family, I agree that the film (and Kjo’s films in general) is utterly naive in its depiction of these traditions. No joint family is as happy happy as all that, but then neither is any nuclear family. I could give these a pass and say, that’s just Bollywood doing its Bollywood thing – I’m not sure that it’s exactly *harmful* to depict these things. We all know its not reality, its just escapism.

      As far as Karva Chauth, most of the more romantic films will show that if she’s fasting, then he’s fasting too – that sort of thing, it was there in Maine Pyar Kiya too, so there is that filmy kind of tip of the hat to “equality” – as far as any commercial Bollywood film can really get into that issue.

      Of course I wish there were films that tackled these themes at a more serious level. But as far as bubble gum filmy dreamy romances, I still don’t agree with the assessment that they were promoting anything that was truly harmful for society.

      • There was a Karva Chauth scene in MPK? Where? Agree that in DDLJ it was there to point out that Raj was fasting on Simran’s behalf, too, and she wasn’t doing it willingly, anyway, but under force from “elders.” So the heroine didn’t buy into it, either.

        • Moi – my bad it wasn’t Karva Chauth, it was that she didn’t eat all day because Prem was mad at her, and later Manohar says that Prem hadn’t eaten all day either because she hadn’t…so not the traditional ritual, but same concept of “sacrifice”…

  5. While DDLJ is far from my favorite film, I am very wary of throwing around the “regressive” tag. I think my discomfort with it comes more from the association of a certain kind of romantic love with freedom/independence – but then that’s something I dislike in a lot of modern films. (*is not a romantic*)

    I’ll have to think about it some more and come back. Great discussion, though! I loved reading your thoughts… and the other commenters! WELCOME BACK, GF!!! <3

    • FG,

      Haha, you know I’m not a romantic either but this problem for a desi kid just being allowed to marry whoever the hell he or she wants to marry is such a big bloody issue that it totally took over the 90s! But yeah, totally agree that freedom/independence has nothing to do with romance SINGLE PEOPLE FTW BABY.

      Thanks! <3 <3

  6. Great write-up as usual, keep posting regularly.

    Have you read this interview of Aditya Chopra? http://www.yashrajfilms.com/AboutUs/YRFTeam.aspx?SectionCode=PRO003ai13
    It covers some of the points in discussion here.

    And also from your last blog where you building Adi-trolls will love to join :-) I certainly believe now that DDLJ controversy about story credit to Hnoey Irani was true. In above interview Adi said in reply to controversy that his future work will speak for itself of what is true in case of credit controversy. It has spoken loud & clearly as he failed to recreate the same magic in story hence it was Honey’s story in DDLJ.

    • Shal,

      Ooh thanks for that link, I hadn’t read it actually. I’ve totally concluded that DDLJ was Honey Irani’s because as you said, we’ve all seen what Adi came up with afterwards.

      Interesting what he’s saying about the family unit in that interview. IDK, it’s a touchy issue. All I can say is that if the joint family has its problems, so does the nuclear family model here in the US. I don’t think the quality of life for families here is ideal. There are problems in both cultures, so I don’t like it when our own traditions are automatically dismissed as regressive and the Western model is always hailed as ideal.

  7. I wanna get ON THE TRAIN BABY to find my own PREM/RAJ :)

    #TeamAMY FTW!! It surprises me actually to see her actually looking nice and then came #TeamGoat ruining it all :p

    Coming to the serious issue here. DDLJ regressive? I don’t think so. I am no desi girl but coming from an Asian perspective I see only one thing. The father’s love and concern for his daughter made him do what what he did. Raj was to be blamed too for that headache/lying thing. If you are a father/mother and you encounter/experienced Raj lying episode and the next thing you know your daughter wants to marry Raj, would you agree just like that? Of course not!

    I always believe in every film, be it serious, horror, comedy etc there is always a message be it underlying or right there in your face. It’s up to the audience to catch the message and of course the message you get would depend from which angle you’re watching the film.

    Anyway, I LOVE YOU Getfilmy for writing frequently now.. Keep it up girl! :)

    I’m listening to Dhadkan song now btw.. In welcoming and celebrating Dhadkan 2 appearance soon.. Hahaha!

    • Diwaniladki,

      It’s interesting that you see the father’s love because in the end, what drives all the strictness for most fathers is that love – it might be misguided but it has its heart in the right place.

      I think Moimeme also said the same thing, super interesting that you guys didn’t see him as a tyrant when so many people did. i really do think cultural perspectives make a lot of difference, but then that’s what makes films so great and why I’m always after Bollywood to make films that actually reflect the culture rather than ape Hollywood all the time.

      Hahahah OH GOD you and Dhadkan 2, can’t wait to see what they make of it now!

  8. Love this post! I’m in hibernation, but wanted to say something about DDLJ. I never read it as regressive, except for that unfortunate “I’m gonna trick you into thinking we had sex last night- haha” scene. Re Anna Veticad’s arguments:
    (a) it glorified a despotic father curtailing his child’s freedom to make her own decisions about her life – ok, reiterating your point, it NEVER glorifies Bauji in any way. His decision to marry off Simran to a guy she never heard of is portrayed as ridiculous. His extreme Hindustani-ness is portrayed as funny. Also, Raj’s struggle to “win Bauji’s approval” is not really about approval at all, it’s more about Simran not having to leave her family behind just for the sake of being with Raj.
    (b) it romanticized patriarchy in the guise of upholding tradition – Err…again, not really. Where is patriarchy romanticized? Simran’s Mom explicitly blames patriarchy for the unhappiness of women and wants her to run away. Bauji is almost always shown in a negative light. Again, to stress my point, it never comes across to me that Raj is “upholding tradition” by trying to blend in with Simran’s family.
    Maybe it’s SRK and Kajol being adorable that is clouding my judgement (AHEM), but DDLJ never seemed regressive to me.

    • Ani! So glad to hear from you. Agree with your points. Farida Jalal’s monologue is one of my favorite parts of the movie, and yup it was there explicitly to point out the injustice of her husband’s ways. And Raj’s whole mission was to win him over via love, because as he says, how happy could they be if they ran away from their family? Again, people miss out that many of the big romantic films of that era, like Dil, etc, were about “we’ll be happy if we run away from home” and DDLJ was a direct commentary on films like that.

  9. I do find DDLJ regressive but not in the way Anna M says at all. As getfilmy and Anishok said, Bauji is not glorified in any way. He is wrong but he is still her father whom she loves and would rather not cut ties with. As a 90’s kid myself, I identify with this. My father may have been considered regressive/traditional also, he insisted that my mother not work when they married, however he pushed both his daughters to excel academically, supported and cheered for our careers and completely agreed when I rejected a couple of suitors who insisted that I quit my job. He never saw the contradiction in his own behavior. But he is still my Dad and I love him.
    My biggest problem with the film is how much of a pawn Simran is in her own life. If Bauji makes the ludicrous decision to marry off his educated, progressive daughter to an oaf (Kuldip) based on nothing but his supposed “Indianness”, Raj is no better. The whole “Hindustani ladki ke liye Izzat” bit makes me cringe now. What if poor Simran had not been a virgin, that would have been an awesome gulit trip to take :).
    But to me, the crucial scene which shows Raj out to be just as regressive as Bauji was the scene where Her Mother insists that they run away, Simran appears to be changing her mind, being swayed by her mothers arguments, but Raj makes the decision for her, decides he will marry her with her Dad’s approval or not at all … her own wishes be damned. :). To me that just shows that the movie is an ego clash between Raj and Bauji, Simran’s wishes, hopes and dreams are completely incidental.

    • DJ — What “traditional” men expect from their wives is very different from what they want for their daughters. :)

      One point that I want to make here is that Simran’s dad didn’t pick a random dude for her to marry because he’s “Indian” (like in Namaste London, for instance). Kuldip was the son of his lifelong close friend, and the fathers made this “engagement” when the kids were small. Once they get to India and Bauji starts to find out that Kuldip isn’t the paragon he thought, he starts having second thoughts (note the pigeon killing scene). If he didn’t discover that Raj was a fraud and an impostor (not trivial offenses), he might even have come around to wanting him for a son-in-law all on his own.

  10. DJ – everything about your first paragraph, agree to the T <3 <3

    And i agree with Simran being a pawn in her own life – and if not Bau Ji then Raj ends up making all the decisions for mother and daughter. In that light I agree that the film didn't do much for showing a strong, independent Simran but given that this was 1995, for purely commercial reasons, women characters like that were pretty rare anyway. Not condoning it, just saying I think that was the reality of the era. Of course, there were much stronger women characters in films of the 50s and 60s, but the 90s were all about the leading man finding various methods to take his usually simpering dulhania away, so I think singling DDLJ out for that particular criticism is placing the film out of context from its genre and era.

    • You are right, it was a bit too much to expect Simran to take matters into her own hands in a 90’s film.
      In all honesty I loved the film and the message it was sending when I first saw it in my early teens. Back in the late 90’s, early 00’s plenty of my friends were falling in love with “unsuitable” boys and I was being an annoying git, turning my nose up at them for breaking their parent’s hearts over infatuations. Looking back I see what an insufferable prude I was, and that kids should be allowed to make their own mistakes to a certain extent. But I still think that judging your parents on failing to live up to modern standards and rejecting them, is being unnecessarily cruel. Dil ab bhi hai Hindustani.
      The film however, just does not do it for me on recent rewatches. Raj just comes across as a dbag :)

  11. DDLJ is the complete opposite of regressive. Raj and Simran come across as a team of equals who complement, respect and enjoy each other. The film highlights the downsides of Indian patriarchy: without demonizing the patriarch himself. It touches upon real issues that daunt modern Indians, like generation gaps and fickle relationships, whilst giving us a hopeful, happy, balanced version of ‘what could be’. It spoke not only to the NRI tween waiting for her Raj but to everyone in the Desi middle class that was struggling with tradition but was wary of westernization. Indeed, DDLJ is one of my dad’s favourite films because it reflects his own struggle to ensure his NRI kids are happy and also in touch with their Indian roots.

    1. The despotic father is shown as a despot. The film’s happy ending is when he stops curtailing his daughter’s freedom. So Anna’s idea that he is ‘glorified’ is absolutely wrong. Yes, the film treats him as a human coloured by traditional values and experience, rather than a horrible MCP. But isn’t such balance exactly what we expect from a progressive film? He may want to protect Simran by restricting her, but whenever he sees that this limits her happiness, he lets her go. First to Europe, then to Raj.

    2. Patriarchy is not romanticized – rather, Simran’s mum has two whole monologues about its problems. Patriarchy is accepted and criticized. So Anna is completely wrong on that front as well. But the leading pair’s solution is not Romeo-Juliet style revolt, but conciliation. This might be seen as ‘not far enough’ or, as many girls here have pointed out, just a reflection of reality. Kids don’t want to upset their parents and a film that shows them a ‘middle path’ between doomed love and loveless doom is progressive, not regressive.

    You may dislike the film on a number of grounds (acting, SRK’s banality, the overused Swiss-Punjabi format) but not on it being regressive.

  12. That Chennai Express song sounds awful. AWFUL. Like, something that could have been good if they’d let S.P.’s wonderful voice be, but Vishal-Shekhar (like Pritam) have a tendency to totally overcook their songs with super-generic EDM sounds. I’d actually argue that V-S’s bad songs are worse than Pritam’s, because their crappy music is actually embarrassing to listen to (*cough*Criminal*cough*).

  13. All I can say is that not only we share the same passion for SRK and DDLJ, I, too am stuck in that rut where I’m waiting for the “ja jee ley” moment and it doesn’t seem likely to happen but I totally get what you are saying about the upset-father-your-tears story. Its the same!

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