Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Domestication : the AB way and the Laljose way

AB baby on Rai: Cartoon by Chitra in Horticulture

"Now that theyre getting married, I am looking for new sources on the tv for comic strips. but maybe with amitabh making such bloopers I wont have to after all.."

[Cartoon strip by Chitra Venkataramany on Horticulture].

This domestication business does not begin with an Amitabh or does not end with an Aishwarya. Both in real life and in the reel-life. Take any of those so-called "strong" woman characters in our films, they are almost always sure to get domesticated. It is just a matter of finding the "right" man. (Chandni Bar recently in Hindi, films in which Manju Warrier played the tough woman in Malayalam.. Phir Milenge didn't attempt a romance between Shilpa and her Advocate saviour Abhishek, but the audience didn't seem quite happy that way).

The recent Malayalam hit Classmates took it one step further. Ok -- it had a proactive woman character (Suhra), something that we have hardly seen after the Manju Warrier days in mainstream Malayalam. The film didn't play safe with the 50+ heroes (Malayalam film viewers are supposed to dislike younger/newer heroes). It had a nonconventional storyline -- a thriller packed in some campus nostalgia. And an attempt at nonlinear story telling -- a commercially successful attempt, unlike Yuva/Ayudha Ezhuthu.

I was (like many others) happy the film became a runaway hit. Until I got to watch it in December, nearly four months after its release.

I was disappointed. It was still "better than the lot" as one my friend had opined, but a "better than the lot" film has more responsibility with it. Instead of taking that extra responsibility, Classmates just stretched our old prejudices, played out same old caricatures of "Muslim girl" and "Muslim girl's father", voyeured on the female body (it even had a re-run of boy-getting-into-girl's-bedroom-while-girl's-sleeping (supposedly heroic) scene lifted from the director's earlier film Meesamadhavan) and fed the male egoes.. What should have been a milestone that marked the new Malayalam cinema, stopped short of it.

What I found the most interesting was the way Suhra gets domesticated. It wasn't an easy task, as her man is dead. But Laljose does not give up. So it is the guy's parents who decide to "keep her" (the Bahu) and "take care of her". Shubham! What happier an end can one hope for?


maymon said...

I would like to disagree here. I fear you havent seen the film. Be cause, otherwise you can confuse for the most striking character of the film. Its Razia, not suhra. :)

BTW, For a situation where Razia was in at that time, there couldnt have been better ending. For me it was not domestication (but I agree with Aishwarya's case, where arguably the most successful woman of India getting domesticated) but a mutual understanding. The old couple is feeling the loneliness, and they wanted Razia to be their part. Razia was also all alone all these days. Whats wrong in it?

Sahodaran said...

Yes sudeep, I too would like to echo what mayamon has said. Why should we insist that she should be left alone?In that situation (where she was devastated with the lose of all her loved ones) what she wanted was love and care and not 'liberty'. She had almost no use of 'liberty' there.

I feel that it was a fantastic ending. Love won. Everybody had someother people with them to love and to be loved.

In the case of Aishwarya, what you've pointed out is absolutely true. Such reactionaries are often shown as the Grand Man of Indian Cinema, Our Role Model and what not.Amar Singh, Ambanis and Sahara had no problem with the "tree hugging" and domestication.Great!

surgeon said...

hahahaha! i have to go watch this film now.

sudeep said...

Maymon, thanks for correcting the name. Probably the "striking" character didn't strike me as much as you'd like.

Ok, so come all old couples who are feeling lonely, get a younger one to give up her life and stay with you.

I agree it is quite common thing in our society-- people used to ask me to get married and "keep" my wife at home so that my mom has someone to help her!

And what is worse, as you correctly point out (there couldn't have been a better ending), most of us are left with no option but to give in. Especially if you happen to be a woman. If you have a choice, it is highly likely that it is only as far as deciding who domesticates you.

Sahodaran, I am saying that there should be more choices than that. (I know women who have dared to explore options that are not "listed" -- Muslims and Hindus -- even inside the Kerala society, but I agree it is difficult. More so with the society as well as most of our mainstream films retiterating the lack of choice).

sudeep said...

Bonnya asks (on orkut), "is not a woman supposed to marry?" And Jyotish echoes the same sentiment, "I think calling getting married as domesticated is some sort of demeaning the values of marriage..."

I am not calling getting married domesticated.

The reference is to the girl giving up career, and whatever she is good at, and all other things important to her in life (also see this. Unfortunately that is the way it happens most of the times (in real life as well as in reel life), especially in a society like India (both real and reel).

It is true not only with the "poor, uneducated and the village" crowd, it holds even with the richest and elitest. Can we have at least one male actor who give up career because the family becomes important? I am afraid that is a very very distant dream.. as long as we are looking for "domesticated" brides for our daughters/sisters.

Sahodaran said...

Of course. If one has an interest, if
he/she is passionate about it, then it is wrong to behold her forcibly. But, as shown in Classmates- life for Razia was nothing but burden. She needed love to recover. Yeah, she is too young to spend her entire life with the old couple, but then- why dont we hope that after she has recovered from all her trauma,she will find some other love(as in erotic love, not parental love)!

thomas said...

yeah i agree.. we're still pathetic

maymon said...

If you think like that this world is not livable. You can find bits and traces of male dominance everywhere in our society. I challenge you can not even list one movie without bits of male dominance in India. Why to blame Classmates alone for that.

I remember you like ddlj very much. Yesterday I was watching the movie. Of course people would love to watch this again and again. There is one scene with Sharukh, Kajol and Farida Jalal where Farida insists them to escape. Then Sharukh tells, "Simran abhi aapki pareshani nahin hain, meri pareshani hain". I didnt find any prolonged discussions when women was equated with "pareshan", or similar n number of male-dominance instances in the film.

So why there is fuss about classmates?

maymon said...

Is the non-linear story telling done in classmates really like Yuva? In Yuva, three entirely separate threads join together at one point, and then moves on. But Classmates is more like a flashback story mixed with narration and very accurate editing. I would better equate it with "Shawshank Redemption" way of story telling. Or better similarities can be found.

There is a discussion in 'varnachitram' that, it actually lifted from some old English movie with the same plot(re-union and murder mystery).

Kenza said...

Brilliant stuff! well said. What do u do Sudeep?

sudeep said...

Dear Sahodaran,

You are using words "if one has an interest" and "for Razia, life was a burden". I am saying we are living in a society where life is a burden for any girl who does not have a "family" to care about. I believe it is not very far from what you said. And I wish they (the guy's parents) stopped at saying they'd support her in whatever she wanted to do in her life, instead of projecting her as an answer to their loneliness in life.

In your blog you have quoted a Madhavikkutty story in which when one girl is afraid of getting married, someone asks then what would you do all your life. That is not an obvious choice of question to a man because a man "can do a lot of things" other than caring for a family. He does not have to depend on his wife for social security.

Maymon, I agree you will find this anywhere. I mentioned Classmates because I thought it was a film worth mention (Like DDLJ). There are many things I did not like in DDLJ, like the over-emphasis of "traditional" ness, too much of "our nation our culture" stuff.. I particularly loved the first half much more than the later half.

Yes, the non-linearness does not go exactly the same way in Yuva and Classmates.

Kenza, I teach computer science as of now. You may mail me at gmail id sudeep dot ks if you want to get in touch.

Sahodaran said...

I guess we are thinking about quite the same thing, though your take is from a protest/idealistic point of view while I am looking from a realistic point of view.

I hope we can leave it there.


tabassum said...

i was not clear where exactly i differ from sudeep's argument on classmates. I admire the way he named the end as domestication, but am afraid it is still a simplification. There is, ofcourse, a practice of old people trying to escape lonliness through many kinds of objectifying. But here it is more the sense of "common lose" that bind the old couple with Razia, isn't it different from sacrificing a life in closed domestic air?
There is aloss that Razia wants to live. And she gets reflection of that loss best in her the couple's lives. She is becoming true with her deep loss and despair by living it out with them. And i think this is the best possible way to get out of that grief. Any other choice would have, i fear, kept her captive of a grey grief.
So i think it need not be a non idealist end, it is ideal from the point of view of the character's psychological self. Why should Razia be a victim of the social necessity of Women's freedom symbolised by freedom from domesticity if it doesn't help her free from her own grip on negatives?