Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Thoughts on Neerja, and a gazillion other things

I've liked Sonam Kapoor since her first appearance on Koffee with Karan; that episode, incidentally, is also when I started warming up to Deepika Padukone. I've continued liking what Sonam Kapoor has been up to in the years since. Don't get me wrong - I don't think she can act. I was horrified when I heard she might be playing the lead role in the movie adaptation of one of Anuja Chauhan's books, although on further thinking about, she'll probably do justice to the sheer silliness Chauhan's heroines tend to display.

But I like her because, among other things, she refuses to let her inability to act well limit her options. She continues to do the kind of movies I want to go and see. It's a different matter that I don't see most of them, because I'm very lame when it comes to movie watching, but that's not the point. She does movies that, on the whole, have female characters and story lines I feel I can approve of. Most of the time. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo notwithstanding.

I read an article a year or so ago comparing her with Sonakshi Sinha. The latter did Lootera early in her career, and was lauded for her acting ability, but seems to be quite content being the eye candy in Akshay Kumar or Ajay Devgan movies ever since. And then there's Sonam, who insists on playing characters with agency, even if she can't play them that well. And even if she has to produce them herself to get them made.

What's not to admire about that?


Which brings me to her latest movie - Neerja. As is happening with most Hindi movies and me these days, I had no clue this movie had released, what it was about, or who was in it, till a friend asked if I wanted to go. I couldn't, that day, but I looked up the music, and fell in love with two songs. Then I looked up reviews, and decided I wanted to see it, even though I usually avoid movies with dismal endings or really anything requiring thought.

But I wound up going to see it anyway. And sat on the edge of my seat throughout. For someone who usually covers her eyes at the slightest scary or gory scene (yes, shoo), I don't think I blinked even once while watching the movie. And of course, towards the end, when Neerja's mother places the birthday gift, I started crying and didn't stop till the end credits started rolling.

The movie was extraordinarily well made, and Sonam Kapoor was surprisingly good in it. As were every other actor and actress in the movie.

On a more personal note, the movie was also utterly terrifying for someone who travels as much as I do, and for the reasons I do. And I'm not at all surprised the mother didn't like the movie - her imagination must be going crazy ever since she saw it.

It also struck me as interesting that having watched the movie in Amreeka, I got subtitles. So when the hijackers spoke among themselves in Arabic (at least, I assume it was Arabic, since they were supposed to be Palestinian?), I knew what they were saying. Folks I've spoken to who watched the movie back in India did not get subtitles, and so had no clue what those conversations were about.


Since I mentioned Deepika Padukone, I have to say, her movie choices are no less approval worthy - at least the ones I've watched. I've watched Piku and Finding Fanny in the past year or two, and not only were those movies excellent, but she was excellent in them.

Also in both movies she says "mad or what?!" exactly how I say it and it makes me very sad I can't find a gif of her saying this phrase.

The day we went to watch Piku, my friends and I had an intense discussion just before the movie on why she was playing a Bengali woman, and not an actual Bengali woman. (I will point out I did not have a problem with this; my non-Bengali friends were the ones questioning this.) And it struck us that the current generation of actresses in Bollywood has no Bengali women left. I mean, yes, Rani Mukherjee and Konona Sen Sharma are kinda still around, but you know what I mean.

This makes me a bit sad.

I will however say Deepika Padukone made an excellent Bengali woman.


This post was supposed to be about just Neerja, but as usual, it got me thinking about other things.

Who are the other actresses in Bollywood doing relatively sensible movies? Kangana Ranaut, obvs. Anushka Sharma and Parineeti Chopra to a large extent I think. Alia Bhatt manages to do fairly decent roles too, and is a really good actress. Huma Qureshi, I think, is a name I keep hearing, but I haven't seen enough of her movies. Is that it? Priyanka Chopra seems to have been appearing in fewer movies, and in any case is being lauded by NRIs on Whatsapp for Quantico.

I feel like I don't even know who else are in the current crop of actresses in Bollywood. When did this happen to me?


When I say characters with agency, I don't necessarily mean serious movies, y'know. One of Sonam's other movies that I quite enjoyed was Khoobsurat. Not as much as the original Khoobsurat, because obviously no one compares to Hrishikesh Mukherjee, but enjoyable nonetheless. But how unabashedly unapologetic was Sonam's character in the movie? Right till the end. I totes approve.


Switching gears just a little, if the Marvel Cinematic Universe could just get it into its head that we don't need to constantly see a story arc where a woman finds out she can never have babies, I would be totally approving of Agent Carter's second season.  Because it gave me the almost all the things I've been wanting from a show - it had kickass women, it had men who didn't have a problem with kickass women, it even had one man who starts out being a chauvinistic idiot, and then grows as a character. It had women being friends, and it had one of the most beautiful platonic friendships between a man and a woman I can remember seeing portrayed. Also it helps that the pair I was shipping seems to have ended up together. Bring it back for a third season, I say to TPTB.


This post has been in the works for a week or so, so it really wasn't planned as a Women's Day thing - especially since the construct of Women's Day does nothing more than infuriate me these days, because all it does is remind me how things just don't change. So the timing of this post finally being ready is purely coincidental. But as I glanced through other posts in the labels applied to this one, apparently I have been prone to writing in a similar vein around this time of year. What is there.

No comments: