Well, this is not what I was hoping for from a Bhardwaj movie! He is stylish, sure, but it is style that overlays real hardcore traditional messy Indian emotions. And Indian settings, gritty villages and remote farms. This thing though, at least based on the first trailer, is all style over substance. Luhrmann after Strictly Ballroom.
One liners and cool costumes and action scenes and editing and blah blah blah. But where’s the moment when someone looks at the camera and it holds to show the heartbreak in their eyes. Where’s the out of control sobbing or the anguished screams? Heck, where’s the songs????? I need a love song or a tragedy song or something, I can’t deal with people just bluntly saying they are in love, I want them to make me feel it.
I’m also a wee bit upset about what they have done to the Wadias. At some point I may give them their own Hindi 101 section, but for now all you need to know is that the Wadias were AWESOME. Okay, maybe you need to know a little more than that.
Nadia Wadia was a Greek-Australian stunt rider and circus performer. She learned how to ride and shoot and all sorts of things from the army officers at the Indian army camp where she grew up (I can’t remember of her father or her uncle was an officer, but anyway she grew up there). As a teenager, she got pregnant and left home. She supported herself and her son by performing in a circus, where she was discovered by the Nadia brothers, Parsi businessman who were looking into getting into the movie business.
They put together a whole series of “stunt” films featuring Nadia. She would stride around and rescue the heroine and defeat the bad guy and do all of that stuff in her hat and mask with her whip. And after working together on several films, one of the Wadia brothers fell in love with Nadia and married her, changing her stage name to the amazing “Nadia Wadia” (it used to just be “Fearless Nadia”, which is also pretty good).
I love Nadia Wadia and the Wadia brothers, because she is such a strong person and they were so open-minded. She was an unapologetic unwed mother, she was living independently and supporting herself and doing what she needed to do in a difficult time and place (pre-war and wartime India). And that’s why she was so popular, taller and stronger and fiercer than other heroines. The Wadia brothers saw that, believed that a strong female hero would work for the audience, and cranked out film after film featuring her. It’s a great story of substance over social norms and blinders.
And in this, well, Kangana is clearly playing Nadia and Saif is I guess supposed to be one of the Wadia brothers? But instead of this strong independent woman who can take care of herself, she is some flighty actress in distress? And the whip and mask are less about being a masked hero who fights for the underdog, and more about some kind of sexy thing?
And then poor Homi Wadia! Turned from a nice guy who fell in love with his co-worker and married her and adopted her son, into this leering older man with fancy tuxedos and high class connections.
But, I am going to try to reserve judgement. Because it is Bhardwaj, after all. He never does things the way you think he will. And this is just the first look. Maybe it will be totally different when we see the actual film.