Thank goodness I am not alone in this, on my Readers Choice post, I have already gotten a few comments voting for this as the least favorite film of the year. (Don’t forget to VOTE HERE if you haven’t already!) This is one of those “personal feeling” categories, not objective quality, so everyone has a different reason for hating it. Read on if you want to know my reasons!
This is just a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad movie. But that’s not why it is my least favorite, there were plenty of bad movies this year (tomorrow I get to pick what I think was the absolute worst!). No, it is my least favorite for two reasons:
- Insulting backward out of touch gender dynamics, with a strong helping of class privilege.
2. Wasted potential.
For Reason 1, it’s more than just what is in the film, it’s in how the film was produced and promoted and everything else. Guari Shinde and R. Balki are married. They both started out as ad filmmakers. R. Balki came up with a really unique script idea in Cheeni Kum and managed to convince Amitabh Bachchan (who he knew through ads) to star in it, everything kind of fell in to place, and it turned into a sleeper hit. He then came up with a more unique idea, and worse script, and once again got Amitabh to star and made Paa, which was a smaller hit. And then he made Shamitabh, which was basically a flop (and again featured Amitabh). And then Ki & Ka, which had an important Amitabh cameo, and was also a flop.
And now let’s look at Gauri Shinde. It took her 5 years longer than her husband to get a movie made. Her first film, English/Vinglish, was a huge huge hit. And then it took her 4 years to get her next film made Dear Zindagi (Balki averages only about 2 years between films). With an entirely new cast, no one was hanging on to support her. But an entirely new cast lead by a SuperStar who appreciated the script, just as a different SuperStar appreciated her first script. It got less promotion, less release, and made more profit than her husband’s films. Just as her first movie had.
(Think about how vivid this song sequence is, how much you remember about Sridevi’s character. And then try to remember anything about Shamitabh)
Do you see? Do you see why this is INFURIATING????? Gauri is clearly the more talented one of the couple, she had better scripts, she attracts better talent, she makes more profit. But her husband is the one getting the funding. Not just because people went “well, a man must be more talented”, but because of all the little decisions that go into it. Because he is a man, he was able to build a tighter bond with a male SuperStar. Male SuperStars (like Amitabh) are seen as bigger draws that female stars (like Sridevi or Alia). Because he is a man, it is natural for him to write scripts that are completely or partially focused on the male characters. Because he is a man, he doesn’t have to constantly apologize and explain his career choices in every interview. And this is how the world works, in every field. There are always perfectly reasonable reasons for a man to succeed over a woman, reasons that don’t seem related to gender at all, that make women (or minorities) furious because of course they know that these things are related to gender.
And so even before I watch Ki & Ka, I am already mad about the gender power dynamics that are so accepted people have become blind to them.
And then the actual film, ENRAGING!!!! I already kind of went into it in my various reviews. But there were so many missed opportunities! And they didn’t feel missed because the filmmaker chose not to pursue them, but because the filmmakers were too stupid and out of touch to even realize they were there. Which then gives the audience permission to continue to be stupid and out of touch by reinforcing their limited world view. Or, if you are me, ENRAGES the audience by reminding them of all the times they have been insulted and hurt and frustrated by people in the real world who are similarly blind.
It never occurred to a filmmaker that a woman may enjoy her career and want to continue working, and also want children. You know, that is a thing that can happen! Working woman are allowed to be mothers too. And here’s another thing, men can want to be fathers! In fact, with a nurturer like Arjun’s character, it would kind of be expected for him to want kids.
Or how about ALLLLLLL the money issues??? You know money is the most common source of marital discord? And yet in this film, it’s just a thing that is or isn’t there, without much thought to it. Arjun is an additional drain on the household, how about a bit more of an explanation as to how his work in making a home pays for his additional expenses on the household? How about an argument over all the money he spends on redoing the apartment when he hasn’t earned that money? How about a sign that part of how Arjun is contributing is by tracking the household expenses and budget and taking charge of family finances?
Actually, how about a sign that the director has ANY RESPECT AT ALL for the work done by homemakers? Look at Arjun, trying to figure out the household accounts at one point like he had no idea until then what he was spending, no one who runs a home would do that! Heck, I don’t do that! And I live alone and just take care of myself. But I still know roughly what I spend on milk every month and laundry and everything else, and how much I can afford to spend on other things. The only people who wouldn’t know that are men who went straight from their mothers taking care of everything to their wives.
(Fa-la-la, this is all it takes to run a home)
Of course, he doesn’t have to do all the messy stuff that because they have the maid. Years ago, my parents were visiting some country where household help was still common and when they remarked on it, their host said “oh, it’s not a big deal, everyone here has a maid”. And my father pointed out “yes, or everyone here is a maid.” Which hadn’t occurred to them. Because “everyone” is only people who employ maids, the maids themselves aren’t “everyone”, they are, you know, just maids.
And so we have this movie about Radical Gender Roles!!!! NEVER DONE BEFORE!!!! Look on in AWE!!!! And smack in the middle of it, we have their maid show up, clearly a working woman, who has a non-working romantic partner that is able to meet up with her in the middle of the day for sex. And while our upperclass and educated heroine Kareena is lauded for her behavior, for breaking new bounds and so on and so on, the maid is punished for it, we in the theater are all supposed to laugh and laugh as this poor working woman is forced to do extra work for free as punishment for having sex. Yeah, there’s a little more to the situation then that, but that’s essentially what it is.
(This is also my problem with Ta Ra Rum Pum. Look at the brave family surviving in the hellscape that is public transit, public school, and low income labor! But wait, what about all the families that are already doing that and don’t get a movie about them? Never mind, they aren’t “real” people, they are just poor people, poor people are used to living like that. It’s the rich folks that really suffer)
And you don’t even have to look all the way to the domestic help class to see how this situation comes up all the time and it isn’t a big “Gender Role Decision” kind of thing, it’s just life when you don’t have infinite amounts of disposable income. Off the top of my head, I know of two American middle-class families in my friend circle where the father/husband is the homemaker and primary caregiver of the kids. One of them is an extremely conservative couple, where the wife happens to have a good job she likes the the husband has less steady work, so it just made sense for him to stay home when the kids were born. And the other is an extremely non-conservative couple where, again, the wife had the steady job so the husband stayed home. Neither family felt like they were making some big political statement (in fact, their politics are diametrically opposite), it was just what made sense for them from an economic stand point.
To make it into some massive “WOW! You should be fascinated by this, like seeing a cow with two heads!” kind of situation just shows how regressive the filmmakers and their presumed audience is. Husbands have been homemakers while wives worked since time began. It’s just in this very tiny wealthy community that it is seen as a big weird voluntary decision that no one had ever done before.
So, that’s reason 1 that I hate it. Reason 2 is the wasted potential.
I’m not just talking about the plot potential, which is what I went on and on about up above. If the characters had been a little more real, if they had an actual conflict that arose naturally out of their situation, it would have been SO MUCH BETTER.
But there was other potential wasted as well. Kareena and Arjun were a really nice couple, and I would have liked to see then opposite each other in a better movie. Kareena does so few performances now, it is a real shame to waste her. And Arjun did nice job playing a similar character in 2 States, he could have made a nice little place for himself as the supportive partner of difficult ambitious women.
(He followed her when she got her dream job, he was supportive of her career over his, he spent time with her family, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was the one to stay home and take care those twin babies you see at the end, since she was the one who loved her job and he never really did. And that’s not even the point of the movie! It’s just a thing that happens with his character)
The soundtrack was great, the set design was inventive, and costumes were nice, location shooting, a Segway (did you know there are only a couple hundred in the whole of India?), all of this stuff was wasted on this stupid stupid movie.
Just think if it had been used in a better film! If, say, Happy Bhaag Jayegi had gotten half the budget and cast that this film did. Not saying Happy was the greatest movie in the world, but I think the raw material of the script and direction was better than what we had here. And maybe if it had been given a big name cast and enough budget to last 3 hours, and a Yo Yo Honey Singh song to promote it, it could have been a modest hit instead of almost forgotten already.
It just makes me angry to think about, is all.
Connecting the dots. I watched scores of Indian films in catch-up mode in 2016 and Paa was my absolute least favorite. Ick.
I saw Cheeni Kum when it first came out and really liked it. But now I am a little afraid to go back and see it again in case I suddenly start noticing the icky things that just became more and more apparent in his later films. And I’ve never bothered with Shamitabh.
I enjoyed reading this a lot more than I enjoyed watching the movie!
And I enjoyed writing it more than seeing the movie! Although, and I forgot this until just now, at least I didn’t have to pay for the movie. Or hear it. The sound went out in our theater about 40 minutes from the end and never came back. Thank goodness, just for the dialogue track, the soundtrack and songs were still crystal clear. And of course we had subtitles so we could all follow along. The theater couldn’t fix it so they comped all our tickets, I didn’t have to listen to the last 40 minutes of terrible terrible dialogue. Ideal!
Nothing like one of your rants! So enjoyed this post, even if I didn’t hate it as much as you. I agree with you that Arjun and Kareena made a nice jodi, and I wish that this film had Gauri Shindhe or another talented director.
One of my Monday Morning questions was on which film I would like to see remade. I didn’t think about it, but this movie would have been a good answer. Keep the cast, and the basic idea of a wife who works and a husband who stays home. But then make it GOOD.
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