Thursday, February 23, 2012
'Cuban Countdown' begins....
This is a picture of my friend's chauffeur and bodyguard with me. Check out the weapon!!
Why 'Cuban Countdown'??? Because this time tomorrow I shall be on a jetplane headed for Cuba. I am thrilled! Havana has remained a dream destination for the longest time. I was afraid there it would stay forever - in my dreams! But, some dreams do come true. And am I glad this one is obliging! I'll be MIA for two weeks. May blog and connect from Havana . Or Capri. Or London. Or Naples. Kuch bhi ho sakta hai. Perhaps, by the time I get back, Saif will be.... no,no,no. Let me not say it!!!
This appeared in The Week' ....
Will Meryl make it even though Maggie doesn't....??
The ‘Iron(ic) Lady’
I am writing this on what smart Sweetheart Sellers of the world have declared as the ‘most romantic day of the year’ - Valentine’s Day. On the personal front, I am feeling reasonably romantic ( I have a movie-dinner date with my husband), but I so wish I had not watched ‘The Iron Lady’ last night. It is an intensely sad and cruel film. And for those of us from ‘that’ generation, who grew up on images of Maggie Thatcher decimating adversaries (mainly male colleagues), it was disillusioning and tragic to sit through this particular portrayal of a once great woman. Meryl Streep is the most extraordinary actress of our times. No doubt she will win several awards for her supremely intelligent interpretation of an outstanding political leader. But for viewers who may base their assessment of Baroness Thatcher on nothing more substantial than a Hollywood bio-pic, this version of a steely, courageous woman, will certainly be grossly misleading. After a point, I couldn’t bear to watch. And here’s why: Maggie Thatcher is still alive.At 95, she’s a frail old, sick lady suffering from Dementia. This is a movie that starts and ends with a sadistic chronicling of Maggie’s fragile mental condition, occasionally taking in other aspects of her dramatic rise to becoming the most powerful woman on earth (post-Falklands’ war). Nearly everything else is converted into a footnote, as the camera remains cold and steady watching Maggie as she pathetically attempts to remember tiny details of her life, frequently lapsing into a hallucinatory state. Even if all the incidents shown with such a painful attention to detail, are accurate and can be corroborated, isn’t it awfully hurtful to concentrate on such a delicate condition, almost to the exclusion of all else? What about Maggie’s dignity? And the dignity of countless other sufferers?
Maggie’s relationship with her husband of 50 years,Sir Denis, is recreated from the time they met to Denis’ death in 2003 at the age of 88. It may well have been a complex and troubled marriage. But the later scenes of Denis mocking Maggie for not recalling which day of the week it is, comes across as being particularly harsh. Perhaps, Maggie’s most difficult relationship ( as projected in the award winning movie) is with Carol, her daughter, who is the only loving figure in an otherwise grim narrative. Maggie is shown humiliating her time and again, even as the poor woman struggles to help her mum hang on to remnants of her tattered life. In a concluding scene, her daughter asks whether she should call a hair dresser to fix Maggie’s coiffeur before an important event. Maggie declines. The daughter repeats innocently, “So, who’ll fix your hair , mummy?” Maggie snaps imperiously, “You do it!” before dismissing her. Carol got her own back by penning a memoir in 2008, that offered telling details of Mum’s slide into dementia. Exploitative and brutal?
I’d reacted the same way to the portrayal of Phoolan Devi as ‘The Bandit Queen’. Poor Phoolan may have needed the money, and was an illiterate woman when the movie was launched internationally. In the case of Maggie, had the filmmakers touched on her health condition and not made it the centerpiece of the movie, it would have been a more honorable way to showcase the Thatcher era. Well, that’s showbiz for you. Zero in on the subject’s biggest vulnerability and milk it to death. Maggie was a world leader with several achievements to her credit. Here , she is shown as an insecure bitch, a selfish, screechy harridan, constantly tormenting those who love her the most – Denis and Carol - when she isn’t berating her party men (there are no women in Maggie’s team). It is a one- sided, nasty depiction that would make most viewers squirm and believe Maggie did not possess a single redeeming quality.
For a ‘Grocer’s daughter’ ( as she was dubbed by upper crust Conservatives), Maggie proved it was possible to achieve the impossible. Her sharp, two words’ command to the Navy chief (“Sink it!”) during the Falklands’ crisis with Argentina, won the war for Britain. But it may have sunk Maggie, despite the short spell of hero worship that followed the victory. This movie underlines the iron content of this amazing woman in ways that are hostile and negative. It’s back to the old stereotype of women politicians who are expected to solve global issues in parliament, but must toe the predictable line at home by washing tea cups and cooking hot meals for the family.
Yes, Meryl Streep ( Bafta winner) scores big with yet another acquired accent. But my heart bleeds for Maggie, whose life has been reduced to a pathetic struggle trying to recall whether Denis is still alive or dead.