Feminism

Feminism

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people , said someone famous. That sums up feminism better than any long winded defin...

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Film Review : Two Cheers For Baar Baar Dekho

If you live in urban India and manage to avoid the media saturation of an upcoming Bollywood movie, you probably live under a rock. Said rock is my roof. I went to watch Baar Baar Dekho oblivious to the fact that  it has a reprise of the 90s hit number kaala chashma.

 I did hope for some semblance of sanity only because I discovered that the director is Nitya Mehra whose bio says she had been the assistant director of movies like Life of Pi and Don.

To be sure, this is no gritty drama. It has its share of cheesy comedy and cheesier romance at the outset, helped along by typical romantic numbers. And come on! Dharma Productions and fluff go together like bheegi saree me hot nari under barsaat ka pani! 

Between the pretty faces and the beaches and bikinis, you're thrown the mandatory band, baaja and shaadi- obviously! The leads characters are Diya and Jai played by Katrina Kaif and Siddhartha Malhotra, so there's plenty of gorgeousness to gawk at.

A movie about inter-personal relationships, which doesn't let your attention flag, has got to be a winner in my book. It portrays the angst of the woman who alone must do the emotional and caregiving labour to hold her family together, while her husband is busy chasing his career. His singular contribution to family building seems to be donation of sperm. No surprises there! 

While she moves countries and continents so he may pursue his dream career, he couldn't be bothered to make the time to be at the opening of her art exhibition - so real, so predictable! I only wish they hadn't chosen such stereotypical professions for the two protagonists- he's a mathematician and she's a painter. 

There are jarring bits. Hugely uncomfortable making is the sequence when a person with an apparent mental disability is mocked and used as a prop for producing some staged laughs: so unfunny! And when the female protagonist Diya asks her boyfriend/ husband Jai why he loves her, his answers made me cringe each time. Stuff along the lines of "you're my wife" or "you're the mother of my children".   
Way to define a partner in strictly selfish, self-centered terms! I inserted a reminder to self: this is Bollywood and they can deliver only so much with one movie, let's not get ahead of ourselves in the hopes department, please!

 It does dawn upon Jai that relationships have to be built with loving attention and care and that nurturing one's loved ones leads to a more fulfilling existence. The soft, gentle man who is a nurturer, is upheld as the ideal us and it gladdened every pore of my feminist heart! When Jai picks up his daughter and swirls her around while she looks adoringly at him, in a scene crafted to pull at your heartstrings, it manages to do just that.

The movie has a clutch of creditable performances, from the actors playing the smaller roles, like Sarika, who plays Jai's mom and the guy who plays the art gallery owner (whose name I couldn't locate)  Ram Kapoor as Diya's dad tends to ham just the tad bit. Rajit Kapoor as the pandit with the mysterious link to Jai's future seems wasted.

The biggest surprise of the movie: Katrina Kaif has finally learnt to emote in front of the camera-to an extent. Siddharth Malhotra manages to hold his own, though at times the lack of depth in his performance shows.

With all the modern tech available and presumably a big budget, the make-up for aging is surprisingly tacky. The portrayal of the future is meh; it shows absolutely no imagination at all. A little effort in that department would have gone a long way in making this a memorable movie. 

Does the movie pass the bechdel test? Probably not. Yet, even though it's far from perfect I sent up two cheers for this movie's attempts at a feminist tone. It looks to a world centred on loving, fulfilling relationships, where jobs and careers-including men's- take a backseat and nurturance is given primacy. All hail Nitya Mehra!  Hope to see more feminism friendly cinema from her in future!

A version of this film review appeared on the Feminism In India website here here                                                                   

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