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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The idiot before the box

Feet pointing ceiling wards, I’m tucked in a warm corner of a sofa in my hotel room in Bangalore. Warmth caused from my absolute deposition in similar position without a limb movement since the past one hour. So there’s this Kannada film-Kirik Party that I wanted to check out and as a result of which been in moot with my body; protesting its inertness and it, my audacity to get off the ass. However, with a little assistance from the balmy weather outside, the body wins and I’m left to turn to an old habit for solace-swapping channels.

The television comes alive the image of Rajini in a graceful bell bottom trouser. He’s slapping around his sister, who’s apparently lied to him about her romantic life, that he had come to know about. The scene’s reeking of chauvinism, but the man’s grace more than covers it up. His hair isn’t the messy pigeon nest it came to be a few years later with the superstar moniker, it’s parted from the side gracefully. Arulirunthu Aruvathu Varai is a movie for all seasons. It continues to remain so.

Probably one among either the movie or Rajini cause a sandwich craving.The hand meddles with the Swiggy app and moments later there’s a club sandwich that is room bound from a joint few kilometres apart. The mood changes. So does the channel.

Shahrukh is a bloody heap, yet he’s pummeling an army of blazer clad henchmen with conspicuous looking punks, that almost descend on their collars like hibernating rodents . All of them despite being the “bad” entourage, are thorough gentlemen. They patiently wait for their turns to get at our hero, ensuring he at no point does he have beyond one person to sink his fists into. And our hero gamingly hams along, with an eternal chin quiver. Baazigar is one of those delightful masala movies, where the hero’s moving in slow motion in a scene that is already shot in slow motion. An 8 metre rusted iron rod gets planted into his solar plexus, yet after a brief pause he manages to not only kill the villain with it; but limp a few miles to die on his widowed mother’s chiffon; leaving her with a corpse and a stained sari. The woman’s old, dependent, mentally unstable and now orphaned. But who cares about all that.All that matters is,she’s been avenged by her serial killer deceased son. “THE END” the screen screams before our mind begins to ponder further.

The sandwich makes its appearance and craving settles. Mood changes. So does the channel.

Aamir Khan’s deconstructing the definition of “book” to a painful detail to get back at a professor. He’s supposed to be a geek, but he plays it with the gawkiness of an alien that belonged in PK, nevertheless endearingly. Rancho is one of the most celebrated character of this generation and not without a reason. Watch him spiritedly explain the anecdote behind how the “Aal izz well” phase came into vogue, you know the stuff cult classics are made of.

I’ve watched 3 Idiots a million times like anyone else. So the channel changes before I begin to get sucked in once again.

A septuagenarian is frolicking with a certain sense of authority and a wig, heavier than it; with a girl younger than his molar tooth. The gentleman in point being Rajkumar, who’s apparently got his regime for diabetes mixed up with the choreographer’s vision, to come with something that looks like a form of non verbal exorcism.
I felt violated by the shenanigans. Thankfully most of the sandwich had made it past the digestive system. At least I had the luxury of changing the channel, my heart went out to the poor girl onscreen who was subjected to child abuse.

I get up to make myself a nice drink. Hmmm..the pleasure of solitude, fermented liquid on rocks and the company of a box with infinite entertainment.Channel changes.

Bhai’s bed bound, reeling from some pain. Something we’ve not seen in any of his several court appearances. What’s moved the mountain…rather who?
It’s not the blurry image of the deceased from Bandra pavement nor the blackbuck. It’s his muse, a lanky Anushka who’s apparently confronting the man about their skirmish from sometime back. He’s in tears. She’s gotten to him. It’s a beautiful scene from Sultan where he breaks down before his estranged wife in the most vulnerable point in life. The pain that separated them once, gets them back together.

Too mushy for a Bhai movie. Drink’s hit bottom. The limbs have become pleasantly lethargic. Eyes are in search of sleep. Mood changes. Channel changes.

“If the homo sapiens were in fact homo sapiens…is that why they’re extinct?”
“Joey, homo sapiens are people!”
“Hey, I’m not judging!”
I cracked up like I did the first time. Joey’s dumbness is addictive. To me, David Crane and Marta Kauffman, writers of Friends are demigods, much bigger in stature than Tolkiens and Rowling. While LOTR and Harry Potter had to resort to magic and an alternate world set in fantasy to capture the imagination of their subscribers, Friends mined its epicness from commonplace. There’s no gibberish, no scale and no convoluted subplots and backstories. Just a bunch of friends who live their lives with us. Or atleast made us feel that way. None of them are path-breaking actors by any standards. But tell you what, they needn’t be. Because we don’t know them, as much as the characters they’ve dissolved into before our eyes. So Ross doesn’t behave like Michael Schwimmer. Maybe Schwimmer is a lot like Ross.
That’s the thing about Friends, it gives you a sense that life would be great with every iteration. The dark corner in the bedroom wasn’t eerie anymore. No one was looking back at me from there. It was just my over imaginative head. I needed to rest, a early morning train awaits. The TV needed to as well.

Power off.

A night well spent.
.

Swades- A journey through self and beyond

Early on we find Mohan addressing the press in NASA about cities his initiative would have an impact on. He goes about, “ San Francisco, Latin Mexico, New Delhi…” , dispassionately. Delhi doesn’t resonate ethnic familiarity. It’s another piece of geography. A mere statistic. He’s as Indian as a Mira Nair movie.
The very mention of India in a press conference- after returning from a trip there – towards the film’s closure, unsettles him. It’s no mere “another” country anymore. It’s his; he its. It’s the pin that made contact with his carefully cultivated American bubble. Swades is bookended by these two press conferences. It’s the story of a man’s search for his mother, that ends in his motherland. It traces an individual’s metamorphosis from being a condescending first world citizen to someone crushed by the stench of third world reality, which was easier to digest as editorial observations over English breakfast.

Where do I start? Do I talk about the audacity of the role reversal employed, where the leading lady is chivalrously let to tie dhoti to an almost emasculated hero; who’s regarded as a deity of fluffy romance in the country’s heartlands. Or do I talk about the spectacle, simple thoughts are translated into onscreen like the “Yeh Tara, Woh Tara” song sequence. Just a few nimble limb movements here, a few facial sparkles there. A song with stars as metaphors under a night sky sprinkled with glittering stars, rendered by a nimbus star in an ominous form. It’s as transcendental as poetry gets on the big screen.

Neither the obscene budgets nor the more obscene promotions(hawking) of these days were there to flex, but he was nonchalantly wearing his superstardom like a good perfume. His charm was organic, not laboured. If Khan’s the film’s face and heart, Rahman’s music is the pulse and soul. Rarely do we get a musical score that follows the story like a solicitous shadow, never once intending to precede or side step for attention. It grows with the protagonist; melting with him; simmering with him; hoping with him and hurting with him. It fashions the western finesse to the eastern sensibilities of the film’s milieu. Swades is a fine example of what happens in a legitimate marriage between the song and dance trope and narrative dexterity.

And a special mention, actually a very special mention to Gayatri Joshi. The deadpan way in which she competes with SRK’s calculator, her implosive consent to his boisterous overtures, her outbursts of child ego while being possessive of Kaveriamma or the dollops of grace she adds to the chiffon saris. She brings so much dignity to Geeta, doing more to the role than it does to her. Not often do we get an actress who makes us feel guilty in a wet dream.

Mohan’s starting to scratch beyond the surface of paper patriotism, when Kaveriamma sends him to collect rent arrears from a farmer. To him it’s just an expedition, another rustic journey to a rudimentary hamlet . But she knows more. She knows it would make him go off the deep end on a journey of self discovery. On his way there he travels on a boat, standing with a glint of amusement in his eyes, distant from the other modest passengers. He doesn’t disrespect them. He just doesn’t belong.

He meets the farmer, through him meets with every ugly truth inundating a nation-  poverty, casteism, apathy – he only knew of at an ethnicity and number-of-rivers basis till now.He came to India with first world problems like guilt from not being able to stay in touch with his foster mother. His project in NASA addressing the issue of global water scarcity that hitherto swelled his chest slowly fades away to inprominence as he gazes skywards, from the ground reality of a third world peasant’s backyard. A young boy sprinting helter skelter, to sell water for 25 paise adds further salt to his wounded soul.
On his way back, he returns a different man on the same boat. He’s humbled by the guilt of ignorance about a country he claimed to be a part of; humbled by the knowledge that the “humble” lives led in its heartlands was in fact euphemism to the collective sufferings. Legs folded, he’s seated among the other modest beings on the boat. The distance between them had crumbled. In fact it now feels like a crime. “They” becomes “we”, as he becomes Indian.