So, I did part 1 yesterday, and boy was that cathartic! I thought I would hate spending so much time with a movie I disliked, turns out I was able to get all the venom out of my system. Well, most of it, there are still 2 parts to go. So really, just a 3rd of the venom. If you also feel venomous towards this film, or if you really really loved it and want to know why I didn’t, read on! If you loved it and don’t want it ruined, don’t! I am quite nasty.
So, right, Dips and Ranveer were just married in the eyes of the elements (ooooo, so much more meaningful than in the eyes of society and their loved ones!) Cut to, Ranveer gathering forces outside of Hyderabad. Oh boy, more interactions with the Muslim community! This will be fun!
So Ranveer’s war-time assistant guy is all “They have so many more men than us! Because Muslims have more children than Hindus! Which is not actually true but is accepted as a cultural truism leading to dangerous assumptions and actions like the forced sterilization of Muslim men!” (he may have just said that first bit, but the rest of it felt implied. To me). And Ranveer is all “Ah, but they don’t know we are outnumbered! As a Hindu, I shall use my intellect rather than just brute force, plus I am obviously outnumbered in my own country, which is a shame.” (again, I may have been the only person who heard that last bit)
Cut to, meeting with Nizam of Hyderabad! In cool room with a water pool in the center. Which probably also makes it literally cool. So, Nizam is petting the head of his pet tiger. Is this actually Tipu Sultan or just a reference to him? One sec, let me check. Hey! This isn’t Tipu Sultan, but it is the first Nizam! Like, ever! That’s cool. Apparently, the family was put in place by the Mughals and was subservient to them, but right around the time this film is set, the Mughals lost control and the family remained in Hyderabad and declared themselves an independent kingship. Like Alexander the Great and the Egyptian royal family. But I am glad I mentioned Tipu Sultan, because it gives me an excuse to use a picture of his amazing life-size wind-up toy.
(It plays music, and the clockworks inside make the tiger move like he is eating the British soldier. Tipu Sultan really didn’t like the British, which some would argue makes him an Indian hero, and others would argue doesn’t matter because if he is Muslim he can’t be really Indian)
Anyway, Nizam sits on one end of the room, looking all bearded and stroking his huge cat. Ranveer sits on the other and looks all upright and manly and prepared. First, Nizam makes nice small talk, saying how all the women of Hyderabad are jealous of him entertaining Ranveer, because obviously they are all sexually attracted to him! Now, Ranveer is a nice looking man, especially in this, but I am pretty sure the underlying message is, the women of Hyderabad are tired of the attentions of inferior Muslim men and wish they could get their hands on a good Hindu guy. And also, a bit of a Surpanakha reference, with the uncontrolled sexual desire for those beyond their touch.
Niceties over, Nizam threatens, saying his men surround Ranveer’s. Ranveer responds, saying he has even more men, and his men are surrounding the Nizam’s men! Nizam immediately quails (sp? Is the adjective really spelled exactly the same as the bird?) in terror! He agrees to all of Ranveer’s requests. But Ranveer isn’t done! He wants to humiliate him totally, so he stands up out of his Nobility Pose in the chair and walks through the pool of water in the center of the room until he is face to face with the Nizam. Okay, that’s a cool image. Very “I don’t care about your fancy palace and temperature controlling water features! I see every space as a battlefield!”
So, yeah, Nizam gives in even more, and Ranveer is satisfied. Celebration song! But, you know, manly! Ranveer and his war buddies celebrate in a tent with a lot of macho hand and feet gestures. It’s actually really well done, in terms of maintaining their masculinity while they leap about for our amusement. Especially, there’s this one moment where like 4 guys form a tower and lift Ranveer on their shoulders. Only he’s in a sitting posture, so it looks more like he is on a throne made of men, than that he’s a cheerleader. Woo, yay Maharasthra!
(so, even more manly than these guys)
So, dance over, I guess he suddenly thought “oh right, I have a family! I should let them know I’m not dead!” So we see his mother and Priyanka getting word that his negotiations went well. They are dee-lighted! And, to celebrate, decide to invite all the local Brahmin’s over for a free meal. Okay, there’s more stuff that’s going to happen with this storyline, but before we get there, can we deal with the fact that the first reaction to successful negotiations with the Nizam is to invite over the Brahmins? Isn’t there a strong implication there that the negotiations were a religious action, not a political one? And isn’t that kind of a sucky attitude to have? Sucky not from our characters but from our writer, Sanjay. I know you need to bring in the Brahmins somehow, but take a moment and try to come up with a better way!
Meanwhile, over at Dips’ place, the handmaiden is still there! Why?!? Surely she can get a better job! Heck, I’ll hire her! And I’d actually give her a place to sleep with a roof! Anyway, handmaiden wishes Dips Eid Mubarak (I am resisting the urge to look up the timing of Holi and Eid in 1730 to see if this tracks). Oh, also, they now have their own house, away from the courtesans, but it looks pretty falling apart. Personally, I would rather keep hanging out with the courtesans and actually have furniture!
As I re-watch in my head, I think their house may actually be fine, it is just that everything is shot in that depressing grey last-twenty-minutes-of-Agneepath filter which makes it look cold wet and decrepit. Is it possible this is all in their minds? Are they secretly poor villagers trapped on Manwa who have created a mass hallucination that they are ancient rulers? I would watch that movie! (actually, is that the twist in Shutter Island? I’ve only seen the last five minutes over and over again when I had to open the doors as an usher at a movie theater, but it seems like maybe that was the plot. Oh! And Shutter Island also uses the horribly depressing filter!)
(could that be Dips in the crowd? Looking sort of space-y like she is living in a fantasy world?)
Anyway, Dips has no patience for discussion of the biggest religious holiday of the Muslim calendar, or their lousy living situation, she thinks she hears Ranveer! Her True Love and Purpose on this Earth! Handmaiden is clearly rolling her eyes in the background. Handmaiden is my spirit animal.
And what do you know, Ranveer actually is there! He came straight to her from Hyderabad. And he is standing in the middle of what is really a pretty nice fountain. Maybe they could have put some of that fountain money towards, like, furniture? And lamps? So we could get rid of this depressing grey shadow over everything?
So, yeah, Dips climbs into the fountain with him, so they can both get soaked, because that’s the kind of logical self-respecting decision she makes. Oh, and she’s pregnant.
And guess what! So’s Piggy Chops! Thank goodness there was a purpose to all that sex. Oh, but before we find out that, he gets yelled at by his scary evil-y unfeminine mother. See, when the Brahmin’s found out that he wasn’t coming because he was celebrating Eid with a dancing girl, they all left. To which, as my bullet point says, he goes “snap to the Mom!” Because, see, she sent a message demanding that Dips come dance for the entertainment of the Brahmins (wait, so Brahmins enjoy watching dancing girls too? Why is it supposed to bad to be a dancing girl again?). The message arrived while Ranveer was hanging out in the fountain, and he was all mad that she was still being a dancing girl instead of his wife. Which apparently reminded him that he still had to tell people she was his wife. Which he does now, to his mother, in a total “take that Mom!” kind of way. And then he fwips his shawl and strides off to talk to Piggy Chops and tell her he doesn’t love her any more because he stuck his dagger in Priyanka’s wound, and then made a vow in the rain. It’s beyond his control!
So, Piggy is stretched out in some sort of fountain garden thing with swings? Yet another one of those sets that are pretty, but probably cost thousands of rupees and delayed filming a month for a five minute scene. Anyway, Ranveer starts all awkwardly to tell her “yeah, I don’t so much love you any more, and I know you will be Shocked! Even though plural marriage has always been a common part of our culture.” But before he can get it out, she stops him by walking through yet another water feature (are all their feet really dirty? Is that why? Do they suddenly think “no one will respect me in this serious conversation if my feet stink! Quick, I’ll pretend to be walking across the room, but actually slosh through a puddly fountain!”). So yeah, she’s pregnant, and he’s a coward and doesn’t tell her anything.
Instead he writes a letter to Dips saying “woops, sorry, can’t hang after all, my wife needs me. Well, my other wife. Because she’s pregnant. I mean, you are too, but she’s, like ooooooooooold. So I’m going to stick with her for now.” And of course, evil widow mother intercepts the letter. And it is at this point that my complaints against Ranveer become evenly split between “communalist” “misogynist” and “terrible at doing anything!” He can’t even get a letter sent between two neighboring estates! Or figure out how to accurately confirm that it arrived! Just let your mother get out of purdah and run your kingdom for you! She’s the only person who seems capable of looking beyond her own bedroom needs.
Anyway, Dips and poor handmaiden are hanging, wondering why he never visits, when they get word that he is deathly ill and calling for her! Dips immediately declares that she has to go to his side. Handmaiden puts up a token argument, but is beyond much hope at this point. And, yep, Dips makes the stupid and self-destructive choice once again. Poor handmaiden. At least since her life went to heck, she doesn’t have to giggle as much.
So, Dips’ closed palanquin goes over to Ranveer’s main palace place, where they lie to the guards that it is a different woman arriving. Once inside, they talk to a trusted guard who tells her to wait in the SHEESH MAHAL!!!! To which I say SHEESH (the exclamation, not the Hindi word). I just don’t know what could possibly happen! It’s not like we had a lengthy scene setting up this EXACT SITUATION only an hour ago!!!!
And guess what! It happens! Dips and Ranveer happen to embrace in the exact spot where the magic reflecting mirrors will show them to Piggy Chops! Oh boy, who’d a thunk it? So then Piggy Chops sets the magic reflecting curtain on fire. Yeah, that seems like a safe choice. It’s not like you are wearing an outfit with a lot of loose long trailing bits, or like you live in a palace that is covered in wall hangings. Go ahead and set fire to a big piece of fabric that hangs in the exact middle of your chambers, blowing freely in the breeze!
(did no one learn their lesson from Vivah? Made me afraid of fire in traditional old houses for life!)
Oh, and then interval. I briefly consider just leaving now, but eventually decide to be strong and tough it out. Who knows what hatefulness may await to delight me in the second half!
So, we open with Piggy Chops returning from her family home with a new baby. She is not too thrilled to be back. Ranveer is not to sensitive to her situation, a little too “hey! a boy baby! awesome! oh, and you’re there too.” Of course, the audience is expected to be sensitive to him, because what could be better than boy baby! Of course he is distracted. Not by the baby, you understand, but by it being a boy. The good kind of baby.
Oh hey, it’s handmaiden! She’s come running over to the other half of the palace to let him know that Dips is in labor and no one is willing to come help her because they are all too afraid of Evil Widow. Oh man, handmaiden! Update your resume! Now you have to be a midwife too? Or maybe she actually does have midwifery experience and is just holding out on Dips for pure spite for ruining both their lives. I would.
So, yeah, Ranveer dumps baby boy number one on a random extra and goes rushing off to Dips’ birthing chamber. Where he helps by loving her a lot? Personally, I would rather have had a trained midwife, but then it wouldn’t have been born of True Love instead of Practical Trained Medical Care. By the way, did you know more women die in childbirth in India than any other place on earth? But that’s probably just because they don’t love their husband enough and vice versa. Oh, and Dips has a boy too! So there is a reason to celebrate.
Which leads to a scene that infuriated me SO MUCH! So much that I will actually use real actress names instead of nicknames. Priyanka is celebrating with all the other good Hindu women of the household her son’s naming ceremony. When suddenly Deepika arrives, having brought a tray of blessings. Like the first thing someone points out is that the blessing tray is covered with a green cloth, because she is one of those yucky dirty green cloth people, yuch yuch, throw her out! But that’s not the part that bugs me.
No, the part that bugs me is after that, when Dips has a whole defense of the green. And it rests on the fact that “Hindus use green too! And Muslims use saffron!” I mean, I get the bigger idea, that we have more in common than what separates us. The problem is, this isn’t addressing the real problem, or even acknowledging it as a problem. I don’t care how much you have or don’t have in common, you can’t discriminate (or kill or torture or banish) people because of their religion! Deepika shouldn’t even be accepting the premise of the argument and trying to prove their commonalities.
More importantly, and this is really my biggest problem with the film as a whole, we are expected to sympathize with and understand the perspective of those who are only mildly anti-Muslim versus those who are super anti-Muslim. And there is no option (except maybe Deepika’s father) that is straight up “religious prejudice of all kinds is just wrong and we shouldn’t pander to those who believe in it, even our own family.” It feels like, when I was in elementary school (in a town right on the border of being in the American south), and we learned about slavery in America as “there were good people who had just been trained to think this way and we should understand them.” And then I got to college and took an American history class where we were taught “this was a crime against humanity, and all who took part, on any level, were complicit, and history condemns them. And there were plenty who stood up against it and declared it to be wrong and they should be recognized!” Teaching history as “oh, they couldn’t help themselves! It was the times they lived in!” also teaches that you are allowed to make any mistakes you want in your own life because “it is in the times you live in.” I don’t mean people have to be perfect, but if the world moves on and something I accept as common knowledge is later revealed to be wrong, I hope I will regret what I have done in the past, acknowledge my guilt, and strive all the harder to be better in future. Not say “well, I won’t do that any more, now that I know it is bad, but I also won’t feel guilty about doing it before when I didn’t know.”
So, because Priyanka’s character was raised in a very traditional Hindu household, and this woman has stolen her husband, we should understand her using hate speech and condoning by silence vicious attacks and murders? No! There are certain moral absolutes, and one of them is that you can’t hurt people just because they are different than you.
And this is a flaw not with the actors, or the characters, or the historical figures, but with the film. Fine, make me sympathize with Piggy Chops’ perspective, but don’t set me up to take her side. Don’t expect me to cheer when I watch Ranveer massacre Muslims. And don’t expect me to be shocked and a little titillated by Deepika insisting on practicing her religion, at least in some small way, even after marrying a Hindu.
Ooo, I’m all rumpled now! I may need to go back to Karan-Arjun and SRKajol for a bit!