Stalking and stalker anthems in Indian cinema

Love has been around ever since the times of Adam’s testicles and pheromones. Starting carnally in its primal form- lust; it underwent an arc of evolution that moved in tandem with man stepping out of the wild, into civilization and his old habits getting chipped in their edges. Religion was sieved from collective superstition; instruments from blunt objects, agriculture from earth coincidences, vegetarianism from compassion and love from lust. All of this was born from his yearning to put a euphemistic label on everything around, to touch his culture with sophistication. And more importantly to distance himself from his neanderthal self from a past, not long before.

Though love dates back to a time much before marriage, it took up to the beginning of the 19th century for it marry it. And in India, it was not until the 1970s that it really came out in the open. So well intentioned men lurking by the street corners for months and even years in well ironed clothes, with or without vanilla lined “love-letters”, at a cordial-calling distance from the object of their love was the baby step in romance. Conversations were hard to come by between the opposite sexes in a hyper conservative parent-run society, so such bold display of fondness had to accrue in visual plateus and written correspondences. Then times changed, people became progressive. Or pretended to, at least. Phones came in. Restaurants with “family rooms” happened. But still popular culture(read movies) continued to romanticize a man tailing a woman of his interest with dogged devotion to an extent of idealism.
These were movies in which men didn’t bother making conversations, leave alone be chivalrous. They would just follow the woman to an extent she almost felt violated, then levitate to a dream sequence when their eyes met and eventually propose. Often than not these misguided sequences were set to the tune of chartbuster songs that made the hero, an instant alter ego of many a youth who thought from between their legs. And like that, stalking was born again as an art form, which would in a matter of time turn into a modus operandi in many a crime scenes and an eternal seed capital of the pepper spray industry.

Here are some of my favourite stalker anthems, that did their part in furthering this noble cause.

Jaadu Teri Nazar

This was the song, that gave wings to a hitherto frowned upon social activity and almost managed to put it in Naukri’s listing. This was from a time when SRK was a passive stalker, before he would go on to become a household name who playfully threw brassiere at women as an ice breaker, as hordes and hordes of families cheered for him.
Anyways, coming back to the song. This song has got the novelty of the stalkee constantly being on the pursuit of her stalker as he hides and hits on her through the song. Please note the excitment with which Juhi Chawla jumps from one corridor to another of her campus, as the song moves from one suggestive metaphor to another; with little inkling about the fact that substandard poetry doesn’t necessarily ratify psychotic behaviour. The song ends with the evasive stalker finally turning up at her window from behind, to sneak a peak at her changing clothes. Classy stuff!
Had she paid close attention to the words of the song, instead of waltzing around like a bunny on steroids the whole time, she would’ve known that the singer wasn’t exactly the candlelight dinner kinda guy. Next time anonymous poetry makes your way in musical form, keep the pepper spray ready.

Khalibali

This has got to be the most imaginative stalker anthem that there is. A busy tyrant king, just based on the hearsay description of a perverted priest, Raghav Chetan(That name alone is a redflag), decides to wage a war on a kingdom to hit on its queen, who he hasn’t seen. Purely based on the credibility of the said priest who was ousted from the very kingdom for peaking into the royal bedroom to get his late night jolly. Sounds like the prologue of a medieval porn movie right? No. This shit did happen apparently. So this tyrant king becomes so preoccupied in the priest’s fantasy of this queen, that he breaks into a neurotic song and dance routine, to celebrate his yearning…scratch that..craving for this woman he’s never ever seen the silhouette of, with his entire army of soldiers who seem to share his sentiment, given their fervor. From stalking neighborhood women, to stalking imaginary beauties in neighbourhood kingdoms to having an entire army dance to your tune, quite literally, this is stalking Sultanate style.


Do DIl Mil Rahe Hain

This is probably the most decent entry to this list. But only relatively, still creepy as fuck. This song gives a refreshing spin to the stalking paradigm with the guy’s friend diligently stalking the couple from one shrub to another, one dark haveli corner to another as they struggle to find privacy as he relentlessly channels his inner Kumar Sanu. The entire setting is so wrong, not to mention super weird, as each of the couple’s activities(eye contact, hand holding, sneezing, burping, farting etc) are underscored by their friend’s painfully descriptive rendition from an arm’s length distance. Unable to get past him in reality, they finally escape into a dream sequence to hit base one, to only solicitously be followed by the friend’s voice in the dream realm as well. Poor them!

Be careful about the third nipples, eleventh toes, fifth wheels during dates. Especially the ones with a guitar habit and good hair.

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Deconstruction of Baahubali 2’s movie review by Anna MM Vetticad

Anna MM Vetticad launching into her diatribes a.k.a reviews against movies that dare to have sequences autonomous to her value systems has been a regular Friday matinee feature for a while now. If an actor is much elder to an actress or even worse, if an actress’s character arc shapes up on screen in a certain way distant from what Anna had in mind, she would jump in to the rescue of woman fraternity at large. Cry out foul. Condescend the director’s audacity and even question the collective intent of men to wolf whistle for such violation. One might then ask as to what happened at all to the original purpose of reviewing the movie with objectivity. Answer is, it becomes incidental. A Trojan horse to ethical police; to euphemise predispositions which would’ve been plain rants of a woman with misplaced self righteousness without the scaffolding of cinema. So if the anti romeo squads have taken over UP to take the country to a dark age, people like Anna have taken over social media to precipitate prejudice with giant magnifying glasses in their hands to pin point fault lines in mainstream narratives, that are made largely without malice, to play to the gallery.

If a lead man does a shirtless sequence- a song or a stunt -she’ll go on about it in painful detail like an European traveller about Taj Mahal. Poor woman’s just articulating her attraction to a desirable man, right. But if the same movie has an actress performing a sexy song, all hell will break loose. She’ll pounce on it, call it downright sexist and distasteful from the vantage of her high horse of feminism. Anyone calling out the obvious double standards would be rounded off as a troll or its closest interchangeable form now, a bhakt. And just like that, from being a deconstruction of the movie alone, it would become about the intention of the director, whether he is a safe person for a girl to go on a date in the evening and which party might be vote for, given his affiliation.

The idea of women promiscuity is a thing of a progressive-feminist world, agreed. But then why name call the male promiscuity, that too in its most passive vicarious manifestation of ogling at actresses in well choreographed hot songs? If someone ogled at Vidya Balan in Kahaani, then it’s an issue. But if they didn’t in a Dirty Picture, then it’s unnatural. It all comes down to presentation. Different films present different characters, differently, as simple as that.

You can’t go into a Sultan or a Bahubali with the expectation found after a bout of Angry Indian Goddesses, the previous day. The former movies have a different agenda, a different story to tell, a different ecosystem and an entirely different(rather huge) demography to cater to. They can’t have women empowerment in the top of their manifesto as you would’ve liked and they shouldn’t, to be honest.

So after Baahubali-The Beginning you made a huge fuss about the sequence involving Avantika and Shivudu, so much that you went on even call it ” The rape of Avantika” in an award winning piece.
Let me ask you this, in a movie based in a time, thousands of years from now in Ancient India how did you expect a guy to approach a woman he liked? How is a tribal guy who climbs mountains in spare time supposed to display chivalry: Quote Shelley? Open doors for her or foot bills? Flaunt knowledge during quantum physics class in college or power dress to work? Ask her out on a date and then wait for her to make her move?
Let me tell you this, leave thousand years back. This finesse to approaching a woman wasn’t there a few generations back in India when courtship was a mockery before the “first night” of wedding. Taking all of this into account, the era the movie is set in and the primary designations of the protagonists, that sequences involving Shivudu and Avantika are not just tastefully written, but imaginatively conceived as well. First he risks his life and climbs a mountain in search of her. Next, he deftly paints on her arm  from under water while she’s asleep and continues to paint the same art on her shoulder from above a tree .And lastly when she finds out and comes charging at him, he waltzes around every sword wield to deflect her aggression to only confront her with the beauty she was denying to be, with every iteration of escape. She glances at her new self, falls in love with it and the man before, after coming to know the distance he had gone to find her. They break into a song, which ends with their consummation. Love is made. And he goes on take up her life’s purpose to be his. Their relation is so much more passionate, organic and romantic than the courtships that come out of matrimonial sites or Bollywood. Why this had to be equated to an act of rape is beyond me.

Irony died twice when I read these nuggets of insight from your recent review which was yet another chest thumping piece of feminism and radicalism, where you had written and I quote-

“As is always the case, each viewer’s response to the film depends on her/his priorities. My priority, I admit, is not #WKKB but #DRTOHS: does Rana take off his shirt (in the film, as he has for the posters)? Answer: yes he does. For good measure, so does Prabhas.
In the way it is told, #WKKB is not as dramatic a revelation as expected. #DRTOHS, on the other hand, is absolute paisa vasool.”

Read the full article here- http://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/bahubali-2-hindi-movie-review-baahubali-2-rating-cocktail-of-visuals-terrible-acting-closeted-conservatism-3411488.html

While you cried out foul on the objectification of women in the first part, you’ve done nothing but that in your review of the second part. At least that movie was not made with this as the single point agenda, unlike your review. But who cares, as far as a crusader of feminism is at the helm and the target is a bunch of men, right?

Film critic that you claim to be, try telling yourself this, every time you walk into a theatre –

“I see my god in the temple if I’m a believer or in the mirror(or nowhere at all) if I’m an atheist. Where I don’t definitely expect to see him is in the movies. When I don’t expect English movies to be a microcosm of my belief system, it makes little sense for me to expect representation in movies made in my backyard. The characters in the movies can behave in a way I would never in a similar situation, but that would not weigh on my movie watching objectivity. I would compare movies with movies in similar genre and not with parallel thoughts in my head or a news making national headline. Last of all I would try and be the Utopian version of myself with all the virtues I expect the world to possess, not try and inculcate the same into the vision of a creator who’s put his heart and soul into it or a hapless movie buff who might read my review.”

Kaabil- The drudgery of Hrithik’s acting

Moments into Kaabil I was distracted. Not by the little kids in the row before, having popcorn wars. Not by the bright display from the mobile, next seat. Not even by the incessant banter of a marwadi contingent looking for F row in the middle of B row. It was the sight of Hrithik playing a blind man.

His face encapsulates Michelangelo’s intensity half way into Sistine Chapel. Brows arced, it is a picture of focus. What is he doing? Making omelette.Nah….creating fresco with broken eggs on a pan. He’s got this industrious look plastered on his face whilst at even the most common of things, that it lends some unintentional curiosity to the activity. We begin to wonder when he opens a tap so emphatically, if he’s there for just the water or releasing its hidden potential as well. Or the time when he’s dicing vegetables purposefully,  if he’s sculpting them for a higher cause or just cooking.
Most emotions he doles out in the movie fall in the range contained between Akbar’s royal grimace to Krish’s righteous chin quiver. The ones which don’t fall in this space, fall under the I-blush-excessively-when-I-get-horny platter from Koi Mil Gaya.

The template of the story is older than a few mountains, alright. But where did the thumb rule of character establishment go? Appu Raja(Aboorva Sagotharargal) pitted a dwarf against a bunch of evil men, all bigger than him in stature and status. We were introduced to the dwarf’s vulnerability, his fragility earlier in the film; that we became invested and went on to root in his lopsided battle.

The fun of watching a protagonist with a disability lock horns with a mighty antagonist comes from his helplessness and the dexterity he brings in to make up for it. He has to be the mouse for most parts in the cat and mouse game they play. Which is one of the many places Kaabil falters. Its hero is a blind man with 18 inch biceps and a blonde streaked mane. He sports colour coordinated designer clothes and never puts a wrong foot down on the dance floor. Instead of leveraging his blindness as a bottleneck, it’s treated like a insignificant kitchen scar. I know the title means capable, but this is over-capable with a few exclamation marks.

And the aspiration to have these things scattered in a masala flick that intends to play to the gallery isn’t a crime. Just that their existence could’ve been ratified. Like showing him live with his granny who picks up his clothes. Have a few montages of him sweating it in the gym or even learning dance. These things lend credibility to the proceedings. Just stray shots of him sniffing a smell from a far away neighbour or that of mimicking Amitabh over phone only does as much as Deepika Padukone does to a deodorant in a commercial, as far as authenticity goes.

It’s not like Hrithik isn’t earnest. In fact if acting was measured by earnestness alone, he would probably be an acting demigod. And it doesn’t help that the director isn’t any visionary himself to make up for the lacunae with a taut screenplay or a novel story. He infuses the film with a distinct 80s sensibility and tropes.From raped heroine, vowing hero, political villain to fat landlines with circular dial; it’s all there. Just that it doesn’t have the old school charm of the era. Dabbang was stitched out of the same cloth, but Salman played Chulbul Pandey with such unabashed conviction, that a rusted script became rustic.

Kaabil needed its hero to be fluid, to have a blast like he did in his extremely popular debut vehicle. Instead he tries too hard and the symbiotic spontaneity goes amiss from the viewing experience. If the meticulous posturing during stunt sequences or the asthmatic enunciation of dialogues are anything to go by, Hrithik’s in his own avant garde project. And even beyond all this, every time I managed to con myself of the film being in this era by the constant sight of slim fit jeans, a hideous Baba bhajanesque track would come up to remind me of its expiry date.  .