Monday, August 22, 2011

'Bol' - Open you mouth ... and speak up!

I am giving myself ( and you!) a much needed 'Anna Break.' But this much i can't resist adding: bring media into the Bill, as well. If the P.M. is to be included, why not the media? Media must be accountable, too.

This appeared in Bombay Times today...

For God’s sake – open your mouth. Bol!

Something wonderful is going on in Pakistan’s ( Pollywood?) movie industry. There is a name attached to this phenomenon – Director Shoaib Mansoor. Yes, the same man who gave international audiences the much-discussed, much-awarded ‘Khuda Ke Liye’ ( a far, far superior take on terrorism than our own super-hyped but essentially shallow efforts). His latest film ‘Bol’ speaks about the unspeakable ( the birth of a eunuch in a traditional Hakim’s female dominated family) and raises several touchy, super sensitive social issues without turning preachy. It’s really pretty remarkable how Mansoor manages to negotiate political and cultural barriers in his country and tackle such bold themes which expose the terrifyingly regressive attitude towards women that still pulverises society. He does so within the framework of a poor family struggling to hang in there, emotionally and physically , unable to come to terms with the ‘indignity’ of producing a string of daughters who are virtual prisoners inside a joyless, dark hovel. The oppressive atmosphere is heightened by the presence of a powerless mother made to feel guilty by her autocratic husband ( Manzer Sehbai) for not giving birth to a son. The women cower inside the bare walls of the shabby home, living from one meal to the next, while the world outside is throbbing with opportunity and adventure. Saifi (Amr Kashmiri), plays the last child, born with ambiguous genitals and a simple, trusting mind. Afraid that this terrible secret will be discovered by neighbours, Saifi leads a sheltered , claustrophobic existence within the four walls of his home, playing with his sisters and being molly coddled by his mother. It is the father who cruelly shuns him even at meal times.
The tragedy that unfolds once Saifi is smuggled out of his home and exposed to the savage world outside, defines the rest of the film ( Shoaib has written the story and screenplay as well). It’s a relentlessly grim narrative, plus, a tad too extended ( over 2 hours), but it had me riveted, more for the searing, brutal glimpses it offered into the ‘ordinary’ lives of our neighbours. The scenes of mundane domesticity involving the lovely young girls of the family dreaming of a world they may never experience, were very poignant. The fiery portrayal of the rebellious daughter ( tv star Humaima Malick ) who takes on her sadistic father and pays a huge price for her daring, was nuanced, convincing and astonishingly moving. As for Iman Ali ( the heroine of ‘Khuda….’) as the courtesan from Lahore’s notorious Heera Mandi, with a touching Meena Kumari fixation ( She constantly quotes ‘Pakeezah’ dialogues), her fine featured, luminous beauty would make anybody go weak in the knees ( who can blame the Hakim for succumbing?). Definitely worth a watch. And Shoaib’s message about the pathetic state of women who are denied an education gets through loud and clear – it detonates as powerfully as kilos of rdx. Let’s call ‘Bol’ a cinematic exploration of another form of terrorism – against women in ultra conservative societies.
Compare the powerful telling of ‘Bol’ to the disappointingly tepid narrative of ‘Aarakshan’. Both can be called ‘message’ films. ‘Bol’ gets it across forcefully, while ‘Aarakshan’ flounders and flops with its heavy handed treatment and clumsy approach. Amitabh, Saif and Manoj soldier on… but even these three seasoned actors couldn’t save the film.And hello! The Nawab playing an oppressed Dalit? You got to be kidding!


Dr. Nancy Malik said...

If corruption is a virus, then anna hazare's proposed jan lok pal bill is an anti-virus

Chintan said...

I am yet to watch both the movies but as far ad trailors go, Saif seem to do justice to the role...

Divya Virmani said...

Deepika looks ugly and needs to retire from the industry! Sorry, she was good only for Om Shanti Om.

चंद्रमौलेश्वर प्रसाद said...

I have none of these films but looks like good comparison between bollywood and pollywood.

பூங்கோதை said...

// The Nawab playing an oppressed Dalit? You got to be kidding! //


- Should the Nawab be ashamed to play a Dalit?
* hmm... that would be racist.

- Do Dalits "always" look so different from Saif - and how would that be ?
* This would be definitely racist.

- should there be an actual connection between the actor and role - like same caste etc.?
* That would be plain stupid.

Whatever...but the definite article in the sentence before the word Nawab, gives an accent to the sentence- which really makes me wonder - you got to be kidding!

goodluck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
goodluck said...

Must be a beautiful movie, bol.
Your narration itself is quite engrossing.

Cheryllyne said...

Amr Kashmiri is truly very talented. We need more movies like this.

There is an awesome documentary on Netflix called SHAME about a woman form Pakistan.

Here's a brief synopsis:
In 2002, the tribal council of a remote village in Pakistan sentenced resident Mukhtaran Mai to be publicly gang-raped as punishment for a crime her younger brother allegedly perpetrated. Instead of committing suicide as expected, Mai decides to fight back and files a police report in another town. This powerful documentary from filmmaker Mohammed Naqvi traces Mai's plight, her search for justice and the surprising results of her efforts.

What is appalling is that this goes on even in India with full compliance from the police and village panchayats.

kakaka said...

what do you mean by NAWAB playing a dalit!

haha and you represent the broad minded, sophisticated class of India

Rajesh said...

Can't agree more on this... A BIG YES to include media into the gamut....

Anonymous said...

Raise the FINE amount to 1000%.

manu said...

Even before reading this post any further... With due respect to you ma'am, what do you mean by saying an 'Anna Break'??? It is okay to talk about hundred other topics amid the ongoing movement... but you cannot ridicule it (at least it sounds so when you say 'Anna Break') because maybe you feel YOU need it! People have risen from the deep sleep and have realized the power of their voice, risen from the guilt of having been part of some wrong-doings in their life, risen to be heard, and risen for and to be a change! Today we see the tri-colour in every Indian's hand and heart! A Anna Hazare banner in their hands, on their vehicles, as a wallpaper, profile picture.. slogans that are born with the onset of his protest, or to better mention it as a 'satyagraha'! The ongoing protest is like another freedom movement! The ease with which you mention of taking an 'Anna Break' is testimony enough that people like you or me can no-where stand close to him with the amount of dedication, determination and will power that he holds, because he needs no break and no one can break him either! So, if you do / do not support him or his methods, it is your choice. At least do not come up with such absurd and untimely terminologies like an 'Anna Break'! For me, it is going to be a Shobha De 'break' for now! 'Coz this break will matter neither to you nor me; but the 'break' you feel you want and even felt that it is much needed for others, will definitely affect this Now Or Never sentiment! Period

शिखा कौशिक said...

i have not seen 'aarakshan 'till now .great article .thanks .


anish said...

Next time ..god forbid there is a man inflicted tragedy and you are invited on any of the shows - dont dare say " enough is enough " & blame govts. becoz you have lost ur right & credibility .forever!, no ..not becoz ur not supporting anna but bcoz of the indifference you have shown to the movement, at a time when we the people are trying to make a change and you are not being a part of it !

Tsomo85 said...

Kudha ki leyai is famous paki film! After reading your review looking forward to see Bol. Yeah Arakshan was not that good & I stopped watching after interval! Got bored but liked MB as always!!

Desi Babu said...

Dear Mrs. De,

Since you are on your "Anna break", you might like to think about the alternative to Anna's peaceful movement. Not that it hasn't happened once in India's past, when, in a very public split with Gandhiji, a man called Subhash Bose, walked away, to form an army...The Young Guns

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jhu_grad said...

Sounds like an interesting movie. I'll definitely check out Bol. Have you ever seen the French movie "The diving bell and the butterfly?" Or the Turkish movie "The edge of heavan?" I'd highly recommend those.

By the way, we briefly met at the BMM convention in Chicago. I'm a friend of Aparna's and gave you a book about my 5000-mile motorcycle trip through south America. Wondering whether you've had a chance to read it.

Vie said...

Worst dialogue from the movie BOL "Jab paal nahin sakte toh paida kyun karte ho? " this is exactly the argument people use to justify female sex selection foeticide

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Nakul said...

Hi Shobhaa,
This is Nakul Kamani and we last met at Rashmi and Shekhar Mehta's.
I have never left a blog / message before and hence do not know the rules, so kindly excuse me for not following the regs.
I got into London last night and saw your article this morning in the Asian Age titled " A Bleeding Nation".
It seemed like you had said similar things, and about the usual suspects after the Bombay seige, but had veered to more topical stuff in a couple of weeks.
I feel that maybe we need another "Anna" or someone like you, who is going to carry on with this crusade about this "Sharam", since you sound so worked up in this article.
Unless there is a concerted effort, this Government like it's earlier avatars is not going to do anything about these "terrorists" as they are the ones who have sponsored and nurtured them over time.
If someone has been sentenced to death by no less than the Supreme Court, why or how can the Govt. justify to the nation by keeping him in a comfortable surrounding for 9 years, and then justify that it is because the requisition for a pardon was pending before the President. Does the Govt feel that the citizens are stupid enough to buy that argument anymore? Every one knows that the President is obliged to follow the "advise" of the Council of ministers. So why do they keep these terrorists alive? So that another plane will get hijacked to Kandahar and another bunch of 14 terrorists will be released from Indian prisons? Why keep them alive to begin with and have situations like this from recurring?
I write to you, as I, like most Indians am angry with our politicians and even more so our present government.
I do hope that you or someone of your ilk will eventually have the courage to drop the weekly 'trp" issues and carry on with this major issue till the government actually does something to ensure that the 20th blast does not take place next week / month.

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