Arjun Reddy – a fallen GOD

 

Arjun-Reddy-Movie-Review

There is a very fundamental difference between Hindi films and South (I mostly mean Tamil/Telugu) films. South films are more connected to the id (unconscious driving force to fulfill basic urges). They are more upfront and honest about sexuality. I am not talking about the obvious sexual expression of love-making, making out or talking about sex. Because the new era Hindi movie characters do these things very flippantly which makes it damn routine (maybe Hindi films have grown past it and I still haven’t). The south movies on the other hand, do not show any action, but always carry a sexual charge, never failing to acknowledge the sexual tension. Of course, they make a big deal out of it, but that’s what most of us do in real life. A very simple innocuous example would be the first physical contact between boy and girl. It does not carry much weight nowadays in Hindi films. However, a South film treats it as a dramatic beat with slow motion, music drowning out etc.

I start conversation on Arjun Reddy with this is because Arjun Reddy clearly carries the burden of sexual taboo, and it stands right at the cusp of the north-south mainstream film divide. It tries hard to handle sexual expression the Hindi film way, but is held back by the weight of the milieu. It actively tries to rescue kissing from the burden of social taboo, by having the lead pair kiss in every scene (even on poster!). I could clearly see how hard it was trying to normalize kissing and bring it to the level of a hug. Whether it succeeds or not completely depends on the eyes of the beholder. But the rebellion has a candor and naivety that is difficult not to empathize with.

Arjun Reddy has obvious similarities to Dev D. Where Dev D is more indivualistic in its approach, Arjun Reddy approaches its subject from a collectivistic cultural perspective. Arjun Reddy (titular character) is almost a force of nature, which rips apart this collectivism and debunks politically correct scales of behavior. He stands out as a raging bull. He treasures id satisfaction over any other reward. He sees himself as a superior being trapped in the ways of the civilized world. When he is denied the thing he feels he has an indisputable right on, hell breaks loose and he just cannot accept this with his chin up. It is a failure of massive proportion, which sends him on a trip of pain and RAGE. He is angry on not only himself, but also the people around who denied him his right and now asking him to move on. It seems unacceptable to him. Still he is never able to tear himself away from the people. There is a constant intrusion of the outside world into his space of manic rage. Sometimes it mitigates, sometimes it aggravates. He has to eventually make peace with the outside world.

Earlier I compared Arjun Reddy (the character) to a raging bull. Along with the obvious metaphorical meaning of it, there is a strong sense of animalistic gratification and an archetypal alpha animal ruling the jungle, throughout the movie. The most in-your-face example is a stunningly staged sequence where all the fresher girls (first year) line up for breakfast in a serpentine queue around a bench, where Arjun Reddy is seated behaving all alpha (posturing, smoking). In slow motion, we see him checking out each girl, making eye contact with everyone. Then finally fixing his eyes on one of them and following her throughout the moving line. To today’s progressive eyes this might feel disgusting, but we have all been to college, where world does not confirm to today’s politically correct standards. There are obviously guys trying to score, and there is a prevailing hierarchy dominated by seniors who feel entitled to impose them on the freshers. You might ask, why glorify it? Same reason violence is in movies. Movies do play a role in giving a visual to fantasies. Good, bad, ugly. Hyper masculinity connects viscerally with the audience, both men and women.

Reactionary digressions aside, this scene – set to the beautiful semi-classical ‘Madhuram’ – really sets up the movie and the character on path to the sublime, destruction and redemption. The movie’s absolute single-minded focus on the protagonist almost builds him up as a fallen GOD. Arjun Reddy is a genius (college topper and top surgeon) which we all wish we were. He acts out on all impulses, good bad and ugly, which we secretly wish we could. As we saw Khaleesi – another victim of God complex – lighting up Kings landing, here our guy lights up himself with unlimited drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, ultimately leading to his fall. It all catches up when he botches up a surgery in drunk stupor. He truly falls down in his own eyes, which is very important, because until then it really does not matter to him what the world around him talks or thinks about him, he feels he is a GOD. Interestingly, his progressive ideas of caste-less society, individual freedom etc. add up building the god complex within. He gives sermons to his best friend explaining why no one around understands him, and are trying to control his fate. Many of these things are not new to Indian cinema, numerous versions of Devdas and more importantly the critical darling Dev D. I think what sets Arjun Reddy apart is the doggedness of staying away from self-pity. Anger is something that he uses frequently to shield himself from pity. Until the surgery accident, he does not allow us to feel any pity or sympathy for him, which makes it difficult for the audience.

This brings us to the climax. Devdas does not get his girl, nor does Dev D (I know he finds redemption with Chandramukhi instead). But our man Arjun Reddy gets her, which many commentators took objection with. ‘He is getting away with all the bad behavior and also getting the girl?’ However, it is a terribly heart-breaking moment when he finally meets her. While Arjun Reddy was drowning his sorrows in style, Preethi is the one who truly suffers, but maintaining dignity. She runs away from her wedding, realizes she is pregnant, and stays a solitary life trying to give stability for the baby in her womb. Suddenly the nature’s inequality hits us. Sex is always without consequences for the man, but it could change a woman’s life forever. It is truly a humbling end for Arjun, as well as for us.

Addendum: I did not feel the need talk about the woman’s perspective, because I thought her motivations, though not underlined, were pretty self-evident. But the latest uproar in the hind film critic fraternity requires me to respond to some concerns (believe me I’m not strawman-ing their concerns)

  • Is she really in love or is she hostage in the relationship (Stockholm syndrome)? At the start of the relationship there are circumstances which could pressurize the girl into consent (seniors pressure, whole campus watching), but on the other hand some perks (rise in hierarchy by dating college stud, campus protection) too. And finally primitive attraction to the alpha male, and how he is mild and tamed with her. So I would say it is a mixture of all this, which is honestly depicted.
  • Why does she accept him? Deep inside, she would have of course wanted the guy to show remorse and ask her to come back, right? If you feel her self-respect should have overridden that, you need to understand that, she does get the moral victory over him at the end. That should be enough to assuage her hurt self-respect.
  • She has no agency; she is always a victim of her environment, always under pressure from either lover or parents. Agree that she is the victim of her environment, but why do you discount her brave decision (agency) to run away from her marriage and raise a child on her own? Regarding parental pressure, of course in some areas like marriage, women are more restricted. It is a cultural thing. The woman has to leave comfort and venture into the unknown. So obviously, parents get protective and hence more restrictive. Do you want the film to denounce it? If you look closely, it does, emphatically! Arjun Reddy throughout his phase of pain and rage gives sermons about how this society holds back individuals from attaining their happiness.

Uri Movie Review: A Lobotomy of the Senses

The Uri Attack of 2016 was the straw that broke the back in India-Pakistan relations, leading to a diplomatic war between the two countries, and when news of a surgical strike behind enemy lines broke out, a few days later, there was much rejoicing among the public. Therefore, it was only natural, that the incident would find its way to the big screen, but is debutant director Aditya Dhar up to the task of narrating this exciting tale of guts and glory?

Major Vihaan Shergill (Vicky Kaushal) is a dedicated young military commando who after a successful mission in Myanmar, decides to resign from the army to take care of his Alzheimer’s stricken mother (Swaroop Sampat), but at the insistence of the Prime Minister (Rajit Kapur) and the National Security Advisor (Paresh Rawal), takes up desk job at the Army HQ in New Delhi.

But when the Uri attack occurs, and ends up hitting a little too close to home, will Vihaan heed the call of his conscience, and take the fight back to the enemy? With the support of a hawkish establishment, a steely glanced intelligence agent (Yami Gautam) and a grieving pilot (Kirti Kulhari), can Major Shergill win back India its lost honor, by striking fear, deep in the heart of the enemy?Continue reading “Uri Movie Review: A Lobotomy of the Senses”

Solo Movie Review: Visceral, Vicious, Visual, Vibrant

There is a certain synchronicity to the elements, that can’t be described with words, but can only be experienced, and the same can be said about Bejoy Nambiar’s works. Right from Shaitan, David or Wazir, it is quite evident that he is a rare breed of filmmaker who enjoys experimenting with content, visuals and storytelling tropes. Solo can be termed as a homecoming of sorts, considering that it is the first time he’s narrating a tale in his own tongue, Malayalam. However, the real question is, does Solo finally find balance between form and content, the balance that has been sorely missing in his previous efforts?Continue reading “Solo Movie Review: Visceral, Vicious, Visual, Vibrant”

Feminism and Badrinath Ki Dulhania

Shashank Khaitan’s Badrinath Ki Dulhania hit the theaters past weekend and this post is full of spoilers about it, so please read it only if you have seen the film.

In the one week run which completes today, the film would have collected a little over a 70 Crores Nett at the Indian Box Office. Quite a feat, for a film that is made in around 30 Crores (excluding P&A), with two actors who are less than 10 films old and a director who is just one film old. To give some context to the success, the film is, in essence, a more worthy sequel of the 2014 hit Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, both being produced by Dharma Productions. However, Badri does not share much with Humpty except for Alia Bhatt, the focal point for the feminism debate surrounding the film.Continue reading “Feminism and Badrinath Ki Dulhania”

Badrinath Ki Dulhania Movie Review: From Mads to Alia

Nostalgia is a funny thing. It has this tendency to make one romanticize even the most loathsome aspects of a given period in time. Take the Bollywood of 90’s for example. When you think about most movies from that era, you associate it with a youthful brand of romance thanks to the emergence of the Khans, politically incorrect, yet amusing lyrics, and of course, stories that were high on drama, and even melodrama for the most. But when you end up taking a deeper look, what seemed adorable at that time now ends up making you cringe inwardly such as the glorification of stalking, the harassment of women etc. Shashank Khaitan’s directorial debut, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, was an interesting take on a modern day DDLJ, and the promos of Badrinath Ki Dulhania promised yet another de-construction of 90’s movie tropes. But does it end up being a pleasant watch like its predecessor?Continue reading “Badrinath Ki Dulhania Movie Review: From Mads to Alia”

Katyar Kaljat Ghusali: Does the dagger make an impression?

Katyar Kaljat Ghusali is based on a famous Marathi play by the same name. The issue with remakes/ sequels is that they come in with lots of expectations. The original Marathi play, Katyar Kaljat Ghusali is considered as a milestone in the history of Marathi theatre and hence lots was expected from this film. It was brave of Subodh Bhave to choose such a project as for his debut as director. The trailer looked very promising, Shankar Mahadevan being the being the surprise element. Does the movie successfully recreate the magic of the play? Read on to find out.Continue reading “Katyar Kaljat Ghusali: Does the dagger make an impression?”

Katyar Kaljat Ghusali Marathi Movie Review: When Ego Overrides Talent

Katyar-Kaljat-Ghusali 1In one of the early scenes of the film, the king of Vishrampur showcases a dagger to his wife – an unusual gift for the person who will be appointed as a singer in the king’s court. In the king’s opinion, awarding the dagger to the musician will help to kill his ego and pride which often becomes the bane of many talented individuals and drives them towards self destruction.Continue reading “Katyar Kaljat Ghusali Marathi Movie Review: When Ego Overrides Talent”

Poshter Boyz (2014) Movie Review: A Good Idea Ruined By Poor Execution

Jagan Deshmukh (Dilip Prabhvalkar) a highly respected elderly person, Sadanand Kulkarni (Hrishikesh Joshi) a respected school teacher and Arjun ( Aniket Vishwasrao) a hot tempered youngster are residents of Wadner village located in the district of Maharashtra. These people are living a peaceful life when the son in law to be of Jagan Deshmukh calls off the wedding with Jagan’s daughter. On the other hand Sadanand’s wife wants to file for a divorce and Arjun’s father in law to be (Uday Sabnis) refuses to let his daughter Kalpana (Pooja Sawant) get married to Arjun and thus these three people find their lives turned upside down all of a sudden. It soon turns out that the photos of these three men are accidentally printed on a Government ad promoting vasectomy and this has caused the turmoil in their lives and is responsible for them facing humiliation. Enraged by this, the three men set out to find the people responsible for this act and to set things right before it is too late.Continue reading “Poshter Boyz (2014) Movie Review: A Good Idea Ruined By Poor Execution”

Shuttlecock Boys Movie Review : A slice of life story

At some or the other point of their lives, every individual aspires to be an entrepreneur. A moment comes in the lives of many a people wherein they want to leave their dreary existence of jobs and take a risk of starting their own venture, result notwithstanding. Wherein, they get a chance to fulfil their dreams, get to be their own boss and call the shots.

Shuttlecock Boys ,directed by Hemant Gaba, tells the story of four such individuals Loveleen (Manish Nawani),  Pankaj (Alok Kumar), Manav (Aakar Kaushik) and Gaurav (Vijay Prateek) who want to start their own venture to overcome their ordinary existence and with an aim to achieve something in life. The boys meet every evening for a game of badminton(hence the title ‘Shuttlecock Boys’) which also is interspersed with sharing each other’s joys and sorrows.

While Pankaj is a reluctant C.A aspirant, Manav is a cook who has lost his job and Gaurav is  unhappy selling credit cards while being mocked by his other peers who are slowly inching towards successful corporate careers. Overcome by their dreary existence, the three hit upon an idea of starting a catering business. While Manav, Gaurav and Pankaj are gung-ho about the venture, Loveleen is reluctant to leave his call centre job and help the business. But since, they are best friends he can’t help but assist his buddies in their venture, while continuing with his job.

Everybody loves the story of an underdog and wants an underdog to win, especially in the movies. Because everybody amongst the audiences identifies with the dreams, aspiration, trials and tribulations of an underdog and want them to win. Like in most of the underdog movies, you know that despite the most adverse situations and problems, the protagonists will come out unscathed. They will emerge as a winner against all odds, because that is what the audiences want. To see such people emerge as winners against all odds as instill a sense of hope amongst the audiences. It is the journey that leads the protagonists that matters in such films. And director Hemant Gaba does a good job of depicting the struggle of the Shuttlecock Boys , thereby making a connect with the audiences.

The camaraderie and the bromance amongst the protagonists is natural and heartfelt. The way the boys make their journey amongst various problems such as parental opposition, lack of finances, heartbreaks is very nicely depicted despite a few blemishes. And as a result, the viewer can’t help but root for the boys as they march towards their goal.

Some scenes deserve a special mention as they very nicely bring out the nuances of everyday lives. Like the scene in the vegetable market when Pankaj hides from his father to whom Manav calls out, as Pankaj had lied to his father about going to study.  Another scene which stands out is that of  Gaurav’s outburst when his girlfriends breaks up with him over the phone in the midst of preparing an important catering order. Devoid of unwanted melodrama, the scene nicely conveys Gaurav’s outburst and the determination of the boys to overcome such heartbreaks as they give a tight hug to each other. And then Gaurav veers the conversation to the task at their hand, thereby indicating that he has already overcome the heartbreak. The opening scenes swiftly establishes the protagonists with the absence of dialogues and just background music to enhance the scenes.

Though the film doesn’t show much about the game of Badminton, still one would like to thank the director for making a film that for a change focuses on this relatively lesser shown sport in Indian cinema. The film is shot very nicely by the cinematographer Shanti Bhushan amidst the busy streets and narrow bylanes of Delhi, thereby giving a nice feel of the daily life in Delhi. Avinash Baghel’s background score is well composed and rightly conveys the mood of the scenes and the characters. Amongst the songs, ‘Chala Chal’ stayed in my mind even after the film ended.

 

However, the film does have it’s fair share of flaws. A few major key scenes have compromised upon to keep the length in check. And elaborating on some of those scenes would have only helped in elevating the film especially the ending scene. The scene in which the restaurant owner confronts the boys after discovering that they have been using his hotel’s kitchen could have easily been prolonged for a more convincing effect. Also, a scene in which Loveleen hands out his wrist watch to a rickshaw wallah when he is unable to pay the fare seems straight out of a YRF/K’Jo flick.

At times the director’s penchant to put the boys in seemingly impossible situations and make them emerge as winners out of the same every single time seems a bit too much at times, for a film that is giving a realistic depiction of everyday life and human struggles and hope.

The performances by the four lead actors are natural despite a few rough edges. The traits of the individual characters are very well brought out by the respective characters. Manish Nawani especially has a good screen presence. Alok Kumar also depicts the nerdish traits of his character very well. Vijay Prateek convincingly brings out the pathos and earnestness of his character. Aakar Kaushik as Manav stands out with his portrayal of the sleepyhead yet focussed individual who wants to his catering venture to become a success at any cost. The scenes which depict the sleepy nature of his character are very funny and life like.

Despite the flaws in the movie, Shuttlecock Boys manages to win the audiences in the end. Because the film celebrates the triumph of human spirit , courage and dedication and gives the audiences a sense of hope and the courage to follow one’s dreams and aspirations whatever the result maybe. Like one of the characters in the film says, even if we don’t make it in the end, we will be happy for the fact that we atleast tried to chase our dreams.

In the end, it is very important to promote films like Shuttlecock Boys because they promote a cinema which is fresh and speaks to it’s audience in a very honest way and connects with them. As rightly tweeted by Mayank Shekhar a few days ago, PVR is doing a very good job by promoting small budget and Indie cinema through Director’s rare. My only request to them is to release such films outside the vicinity of their Lower Parel and Juhu multiplexes as well. As films like Shuttlecock Boys, Supermen of Malegaon etc are genuine crowd pleasers and have the capability to connect with all kinds of viewers.