Rebels without a cause

Saw ‘Tanu weds Manu returns’ yesterday.
Excellent movie after a long time. 🙂 (apart from one dimensional Manu and the Haryanvi family as prop.)

I – Restless = humans
It made me think about the trend of lead characters in bollywood movies – men/ women. (Raj in countless SRK films or Kangana in most of her films). They are all spontaneous, restless, rebels (often without a cause). They are also someone who people graciously put up with for the sake of movie’s plot.
This is in contrast to lead characters from earlier days. (80s – macho, 70s – angry against system, 60s – stoic silent, graceful). The grace is gone from modern world and modern cinema.

With rise of corporate careers and desk-bound audiences, the lead characters are increasingly ‘bubbly’ (females leads), ‘spunky’ (male lead) and are infantile and narcissistic. The more inconsequential and replaceable lives become (of white collar audience), the more spunky and bubbly the characters become in films.

The office goer audience has no real purpose, have no real challenges and benefit a lot from status-quo. That reflects in the content they consume – self help books, identity anxiety soaps, mindless comedies as blockbusters (to avoid critical analysis of their own lives), support to the powerful bhai (“We can be irresponsible and successful too.”) and so on.
These office going drones face tremendous existential angst as a result of their digital and desk bound existence.
And when such drones are ripe for pairing, they desire life through their mates. They want life partners who ‘do things’, who ‘are fun’, who ‘travel’, who are ‘foodies’ and so on.

The reason a drone (Manu) chooses a rebel without a cause (Tanu) in the movie, is to ensure that he is marrying a human being. It doesn’t matter that she has some serious psychological issues. Her incongruence to societal expectations prove that at least she is a human being, not a drone like him.

People get married in search of life.

II Rebel without a cause
It is essential that there be no cause. A cause will make things too real too quick. The audience of white collar drones ‘can’t handle the truth.’
All lead characters try to show the middle finger to their immediate environment, but they are always lacking in ambition.
Indians are so scared to identify the elephants in the room that there can be no revolutionary cinema in India. Existential angst is profitable and it doesn’t point fingers. The angst is impotent. Speaking of which…

III – Threat to Masculinity 
The film subverts masculinity in a way not seen in hindi movies before.  All male characters in the film are impotent. All they can do is – ‘manage’. (Manu is a loser who never acts or reacts. His sardar friend is literally impotent. Jimmy Shergill has no agency of his own – he flexes his muscles, but all he does is to obey Kangana. The advocate who falls for Kangana, tries to make a scene but is ineffectual.)
When the traditional actors in the theatre of society (patriarchy) stops answering to new realities, new actors (anarchy) will rise to shape the new society.
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Originally published at Rebels without a cause.

The puny Ungli

The trailer doesn’t do justice to the film. The film is much more entertaining… until the climax.
Well paced, right insights, right punches… and then the movie ends much before it should have. The movie has an ‘adarsh baccha’ climax. ( I can visualise ‘the system’ petting the film makers for towing the line.)
The movie makers took the insight and then stripped it off its ambition, its angst.At the end all that remains is a sense of disappointment.

The movie is about a few youngsters who show the middle finger to the system to protest against their powerlessness. Now,  I love stories of subversion –  V for Vendetta,  Fight Club or even the Dead Poets Society.  There is a certain ambition in subversion. Fight club destroys credit card companies. V blows up the symbols of power centers. Even the students in the dead poets society stand on the desk in defiance to the head master. These movies identify the power center and subvert it.

 Ungli makers didn’t even have the gumption to identify the power centers. They merely listed out petty corruption peddlers that the middle class encounters. And then merely punish a “bad apple” in the media gaze. The effect is for the benefit of upper middle class that feels a temporary sense of being avenged. (the petty vengefools)
(Take for example the case of auto rikshaw drivers who refuse fairs that are not economically feasible to them. The movie portrayed the drivers as uni dimensional minor villains who need disciplining. why should a driver cart you around if it is not profitable for him? From the auto driver’s perspective, I imagine, the middle class is a villain that collectively bargains down unfair rates for their services keeping in check their upward mobility.)

Essentially,  the ungli gang just gives up when a supposedly non-corrupt police office takes over one of the corrupt sub systems. (the police force) The movie ends there.
They just give up.
The system prevails.
Why do Indian film makers are such wussies? Movie after movie tells the sorry story of good apples versus bad apples.  This theory is not only wrong, it is also dangerous.  Is absolves the system. It never identifies the real source of power and corrupting forces.  The under class and a few individuals are made the scapegoat.  We are sterilised to the thoughts of revolution. 
How is it that a county so fucked up doesn’t have a single decent and successful movie about true revolution?  At most we have tragedies where the first small act of subversion ends up killing the very afraid perpetrators. (Rang De Basanti)
What does this say about us?  Our generation?
Why are we so myopic in our ambition?  Do we have an utopia to fight for? Why are we so afraid that we can’t even articulate a fantasy of change,  of a utopia to fight for?
The yes men do more audacious stunts in real life than the heroes in this movie did.
Can we atleast be audacious in our imagination?
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Originally published at The puny ungli.