Sep 5, 2010

Some Films, Some Thoughts

As I watched The Bridges of Madison County again, a thing struck me – there is a girl inside every grown woman. I don’t know if there is a boy inside every adult male, but the take a close at Francesca giggling like a school girl when she has startled Robert into dropping the purple flowers by calling them poisonous and later when he is recounting tales of his encounter with a gorilla, and you’ll know what I’m referring to. Of course she is slightly drunk at this point, more relaxed than before and can laugh uninhibitedly at his tales. It is this laughter that women lose as they pursue their “life of small details”  post marriage & children. Explaining this she says that when a woman decides to start a family, she puts a stop to her life so that her children can move. There are various kinds of mothers – excellent ones, good ones, not so capable ones – but I think, in varying degrees this is true of all mothers. By the time the children gave grown and are settled, the hubby has retired as the Sr VP of a huge MNC, and the in-laws are safely tucked in their graves, you have completely forgotten what it means to have the time when you didn’t have to bother about buying grocery, paying bills on time, ensuring there was enough chicken in the fridge to tide over sudden guests, and handle everything from repairing washing machines to your daughter’s broken heart. I don’t mean this in any sad, self-indulgent manner. This is the way it’s always been done and frankly, while it does seem a lil overwhelming and unfair at times, it works best. At least for the kids. You watch a film like Udaan and you realize what not having a mother means.

I don’t want to write much on Udaan as I’d huge expectations from the film after reading Jai’s review but it’s been a disappointment at many levels. However, this is the only film I can recall which has moved me solely in the ways and means I function as a mother. One of the reasons is perhaps the younger son Arjun, a quiet, helpess 6-yr old is close to my d and both share a strange resemblance. But even Rohan, the 18-yr old hero, is really a lost boy who would have turned out all right had his mother been alive to act as a buffer between him &  the abusive father  it is his curse to live with.

While the movie has its flaws, it also achieves a rare balance - there are no pure villains. As you watch Bhairav Singh, the father with a monstrous ego, you realize that more than evil, he is dysfunctional, someone too far gone to benefit from any help. We don’t know who or what has made him this way or if he was simply born like that, but there is a brief conversation with his younger brother  where it is hinted that he has had to fight an oppressive father while protecting the younger brother. No wonder, the two brothers have turned out so different.

 Udaan is not really about following your dreams or any such crap. The point is that Rohan may have settled in Jamshedpur and continued to study engineering, had his father really tried to understand and at least minimally support his aspirations, without trying to beat them out of him. There are many of us who wanted to do something that we eventually gave up because the parents talked us out of it, and frankly, we’ll do the same to our kids. It is not merely about unfulfilled dreams.

What Udaan probably talks about is having the balls to shoulder the responsibility that you assumed and see it through. For all his rigorous discipline, Bhairav Singh has failed to shoulder his primary responsibilities and instead embraced abuse and violence as the easy way out. Rohan, while daring to dream, also has the courage to accept and bear his responsibilities.

Speaking of which, what exactly are these responsibilities we make so much of. My family, my parents, my career, my house, my city….its endless. The thing about any responsibility is that it is an orphan and always eager for adoption. Anyone who assumes it, will become its bearer. You don’t need relationships to be forged in blood or job descriptions to be authorized. It becomes yours, the moment love enters the heart; it happens to Rohan too as he comes to love his step-brother. If being a man is all about shouldering responsibilities, then Rohan is one at the film’s end.

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