Family Drama

The Imperfect Filmi Family: Kapoor and Sons, Since 1921

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Sophisticated.

Mature.

Nuanced.

These are just a few adjectives that one can begin to describe Kapoor & Sons, but this film is so much more, and truth be told I’m at a loss of words on where to begin. Rarely have I walked into a Bollywood film, especially those with queer characters, and walked out with sense of overpowering emotion engulfing me. Kapoor and Sons, I can finally say, is one such film.

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Retro Rerun!

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Hey, hey filmi travelers!

Keeping in mind my obsession with everything retro, I’m starting a segment on those retro highs(!) and lows, of course some choices will be more retro than others. All the way back to the black and white and rather gay 1920s to the acid trip highs of the 1990s, I’ll be picking hidden gems for your viewing and reading pleasure!

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Sadqay Tumhare Episode 3

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Ranjha, Ranjha kardi wey main,
Aape Ranjha hoyee.
Ranjha, Ranjha saddoni mainu,
Heer na aakho koi.

Waris Shah once wrote an epic for a true deewani. A lover so besotted by her beloved she lost herself in him so completely that even she couldn’t distinguish between Heer (herself) and Ranjha (her beloved). Such is the power of true love. Woh baithay, baithay, acchay, acchoon ko abaad kar daitay hai. Ya phir… barbaad.

Kuch aaisee hi kahani hai Shanno aur Khalil ki…. Shanno ka Khelu. Khelu ki Shanno. 

The moment we’ve all been waiting for, the moment that our lovers have been anticipating, hoping, perhaps, even bay-sabri say intezaar karo-ing, that moment when their eyes meet, their hearts melt, and they are but each others for all eternity. As the baraat makes its way so do our lovers and what a sequence it was! Hai ray hum sadqay tumhare, indeed. It is no secret that Khalil is just as smitten by Shanno no matter his nakhras or bahanas. This is a man who, try as he might, cannot deny the existence of his very beautiful fiancé. Just as Shanno is in seventh heaven after she’s finally seen the man of her dreams – apnay sapnoo ka shazada – for a full ten minutes no less!

Anwari’s gentle teasing brings Shanno back to earth (and secretly me as well!). At least now we know that Shanno can ru-ba-ru with Humaira! All this in but one look. Something tells me if looks could kill, Ms. Khan, you’d be right up there way past Khalil, hainaLekin muu say baat nikli naa to jism say jaan nikal jaye gi ka kya hoga? Kis ki jaan? Aur kyun? Perhaps, as a testament to the genius of Waris Shah, our love stories must always end on a bitter note. What’re the odds that Shanno will meet a sad and tragic end? Any wagers? Teray uttay mardi, pyar tainu kardi can have only one outcome, the same outcome that Heer, Sonhi, Sahiban, and Sassi had in store for them.

Be it Heer’s poisoned ladoo, Sohni’s mitti ka ghadda, Sahiban’s talwar, or Sassi’s earthly grave in the mountains, death in all its forms is a befitting end to a love that dare challenge the status quo, and here not only does it challenge Amma-ji and Abba-ji but also their misplaced sense of pride. In these tragedies, though, eternal love reigns supreme. For your sake, Shanno and Khalil, and for ours, I hope your love isn’t eternal, if only to save you from what lies ahead.

Lekin mohabbat jab apna shikar chunn laiti hai uska nishana kabhi chukta nahi. Shayad yeh Shanno aur Khalil ki kismet ka almiya hai… 

Barhal, jahan ek taraf Laila aur uska Majnu ishq kay bukhaar say taap rahe hain wahin doosri taraf Rasheeda aur Amin ka para bhi sabar kay paar ho raha hai. As much as I like Samiya Mumtaz, and I really do, how could her ‘Sheeda be so insensitive, so unkind? Is she blind to her daughter’s dreams? Is she deaf to her heartbeats? Jo maa-ein apnay bachoon ki khushiyon say andhi, unki khawhishoon say beheri hoti hain akhir mein woh unki tabaahi, unki barbaadi par goongi ho jata hain. Seeing ‘Sheeda seething with anger as she slaps Shanno into submission, seeing her connive and plot as she threatens Amin to leave Tooti Chukk, and simply seeing her being the hate monger that she is, I cannot help but wonder what better rishta the thakaydaar and his wife hope to get for Shanno than her bachpan ka mangaytar.

What do they have against Khalil? He’s rude, arrogant, and jobless, but since when did all that stop marriages in our dramaland?! I mean, Khalil’s perceived rudeness (and I’m not defending him!) could be, as Amin’s maanji-mate rightly noted, because he doesn’t know who is actually who. After all, isn’t this his first wedding? His future might not look bright but he’s young and as soon as he finishes school he’ll be well on his way to a career, are they going to begrudge him his haseeyat? Isn’t his mother Rasheeda’s sister, so, whose haseeyat is ultimately in question? As if this blind belief in Khalil’s incompatibility with Shanno and her gharwalas wasn’t enough, Amin, of course at ‘Sheeda chaabi lagaoo-ing, makes it clear to all and sundry that Shanno is not engaged to Khalil. Nor is he willing to consider the commitment they all made at the time of Shanno’s birth. Yet, he “Sau BismillahsLahore-walay Khalu for what? To humiliate him and his wife? To insult family, to people he’s related to not just by marriage but also by blood?

Inasmuch as I understand the complex dynamics of a joint family, I am hard pressed to comprehend why Amin and Rasheeda despise Khalil? Aakhir kyun? For an episode that was building up to a spark-filled mulaqaat, Shanno and Khalil couldn’t have done better than the fireworks that ensued even before they exchanged a word. I guess, aankhon hi aankhon mein ishara ho gaya.

In an otherwise perfect viewing experience, there is one thing that has been bothering me for the past three weeks and I think it’s time I point it out. Every time I see Tooti Chukk on screen, Mahira in her bright shalwar-kameez ensembles, Khalil and his kurtas and sherwanis, the spectacled doctor-to-be Maqsood, the vintage Beetle, I cannot help but think of 1942 A Love Story. This is not a period drama, in fact, I don’t think HUM TV or any other Indian/Pakistani channel can truly execute a flawless period drama, nonetheless, a little easy on the vintage, we’re in the 80s not the 40s. Please and thanks.

Other than throwing me off in terms of time period, the camera work is gritty enough to make me believe that Sadqay Tumhare is indeed set in Punjab’s rural hinterlands. The background score could be better utilized. Did anyone notice the tablas as the men discussed the impending betrothal? Costumes and art direction deserve an honourable mention, and something tells me its going to be more of the same. As for acting, in many series, it’s easy to pick apart the best actors in the cast, here, at least in this episode, I found perfect synthesis. Rehan Sheikh was more than convincing as Amin, Samiya Mumtaz was absolutely perfect as Rasheeda (and she was only on screen very briefly!), Farhan Ali Agha, even though he’s a bit too young to be Khalil’s Abba-ji, was a picture of composure and calm in a house that was otherwise chaotic, and Mahira and Adnan share excellent chemistry, perhaps, because we haven’t seen them together as yet.

But togetherness brings with it its own consequences. I started with Heer so I’ll end with her, as a reminder of what this coupling is leading to:

Ohh Ranjha, Ranjha na kare Heere,
Jag badnami hoey.
Patti, patti jhar jawey,
Par khusboo chup na hoey.

Till next week,

Rab Rakha

This is RB signing off. (Tweet me!)

Jackson Heights Episode 2

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“What a beautiful accident!”

With those four words, Nauman Ijaz just stole the show. Our cheery Imran Bhatti sahib keeps up his spirits and the lookout for new-and pretty-desis to befriend. That scene was priceless and Bhatti sahib owned it even if he was spinning the oldest line in the book.

All however, is not well on the home front and so it wasn’t our dear Jamshed, but his mamu who has the green card via marriage plan. It’s is hard to imagine any other possibility given the fractious nature of their relationship. She bulldozes him all the time and treats him with scant respect and her kids follow suit.

True to form however, Bhatti sahib takes his responsibilities seriously except when he is fraternizing (ha! not quite) with Salma. Salma, for her part is trying to rake in the cash by working the graveyard shift – what else would you call 8:30 am at a salon?! Perhaps it’s just that Aamina Sheikh is too damn pretty, but something about her conveys a very calm persona to her supposedly harried and worked to the bone working gal.

Even if the dialogues and those plain Jane shirts try to convince you otherwise, something is amiss here. Though bonus points for Nazia Hassan soundtrack!

And perhaps in time the Salma- Imran track will work better but the Rizwan-Michelle track is going smooth I have to say.  They share an easy camaraderie – thodi khatti thodi meethi and Vasay Chaudhary’s dialogues about muft ki cooking, pyar ka jaal, katal and kabza play up that underlying romantic interest though that Rizwan does seem to be breathing down her neck a bit, no?

Also minus points for the slip up on Bombay! Choose a side Ok?

There are other germs of ideas here – Michelle paying her desi staff a lesser rate than the legal norm, Hira beauty parlour undercutting their prices which hint at the lives of working desis in America, which I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that explored more.

Also the no man’s visa land of ‘in process’ and ‘clearance’, often euphemisms for security and background checks which are the bane of every desi’s immigration experience especially Muslim men in the post 9/11 era, is hinted at through Adeel’s visibly drooped shoulders and slight frustration at the process. Though was that Mehreen Jabbar’s voice herself on the other side?

Jamshed, is stuck in limbo and constantly dreaming of his brighter and better future. No doubt being at the mercies of his relatives have him longing for escape. Even his loving Nani and her protective gaze and loving parathas can only go so far.

A bit slow placed and focused on setting up the characters, all of whom have rich back stories, its nice to have that insight into what makes them tick, or holds them back.

All in all, in the words of Imran Bhatti (or should we say Vasay Chaudhary?) Impressive hai, bohut zyada impressive hai…

MM (aka A musing Muslim)

Jackson Heights Episode 1

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The telling of the immigrant tale is in a sense the journey of laboring for a better life, mostly for others and sometimes an escape from lives already etched out and paths already chosen for us.

The beginning monologue of Jackson Heights zooms into that pardesh mein chotta sa desh. The lens focuses on intersecting lives of the diasporic desi community of Imran Bhatti, an over sharing NY cabbie who shoulders the burden of others lives, to restaurateur Michele whose bitterness reflects in more ways than one, the relationship with the land she left, to her friend and admirer Rizwan who escapes the life written out for him to Salma earning her way through hard work and possibly some great threading moves, and Jamshed our gold-tinted glasses-wearing dreamer.

Behind each of their stories there is a sense of desperation –majbori chasing a behtar zindagi ya khwab and the failings of the lands and people we leave behind sprinkled with the saundi scent of nostalgia.

The introduction to all these characters, and glimpses into their lives were effortlessly woven together by the flitting pen of Vasay Chaudhry’s light and dark moments and the astute hand of Mehreen Jabbar’s direction and the characters that Nauman Ijaz, Marina Khan, Adnan Jaffer, Amina Sheikh and Adeel Husain embody rather than play.

In this unmistakable NY landscape, of skyscrapers, interiors of cabs plying people of multiple races, (500 points for mentioning my favourite African country and another 500 for reiterating that Africa is not a country) we are introduced to sprightly and a tad oily Bhatti sahib, lover of Lalaji’s gaane and ATM to his family back home.

Nauman Ijaz proves once again what a fantastic actor he is – his country bumpkin-ness balances out his annoying inquisitiveness, his literal angrezi has a Punjabi lilt, that slight downward gaze on being plied with demands for play stations and electric shavers, and that longing for Ammi were all conveyed in his stance. With his friends and in the presence of Michele he had an oily obsequiousness that no actor other than Nouman Ijaz could have pulled off.

His conversation with Salma was a delight to watch and Aamina Sheikh’s eye roll was on point even if she slipped up on the blue collar angrezi accent (though perhaps am leaping to a conclusion here about the color of her collar here). Driven by dollars and tough as nails to boot, we are yet to know her back story though as she herself says it’s not greed, it’s being opportune – heck- a beautician that makes house calls in the US? Sign me up pronto! Also, what’s with the spate of Mrs Khan’s visiting salons?

Marina Khan is a delight to watch in a different avatar as an embittered Pakistani Christian playing Michele with sarcasm and tight whip. That ‘ji’ was razor sharp. Some of that bitterness I am guessing could be traced back to troubled relations with her home country and am looking forward to that exploration.

She’s wary of desis and their slipshod ways or is that only working desis? Though she seems a little distant from her admirer as well. It’s no secret that I heart this man, even minus muchi, Adnan Jaffer is still looking dapper, though come on, what’s with that lukewarm defense of the Little Master?! It was as bad as this lukewarm defense of Shah Rukh Khan! Come on people, even if you are playing the enemy, amp it up! Points, however, for saying Bombay.

The last entrant on the scene was Bhatti sahib’s nephew Jamshed, a graduate with dreams of the land of milk and honey. So much so that in that dreamy fog that no opportunity is good enough for him to stay – not even an almost maangetar or that muft ka ehsaan lene ka fyada step ladder of nepotism or an iota of actual hard work it would seem. Thank God Adeel has taken our (unsolicited) advice. Here’s hoping he isn’t in it for the marriage green card ticket.

Props to Mehreen Jabbar who always brings in minority representations (Coke Kahani, Ramchand Pakistani) and a look at diverse socioeconomic backgrounds (Daam). For a drama that named after a South Asian hub, I hope there is an exploration of that wonderful diversity.

There was some interesting framing of scenes –Amina Sheikh in the cab, the rooftop gate, but overall the camera work (by Nausheen Dadabhoy) felt a tad distant, almost as an outsider especially in capturing Jackson Heights though this is the first episode and hopefully we will get to see more of an insider look as we go along. Vasay’s trademark humour– lawnmower, you sit baby, rishway dene se baaz nahin aate, chubti awaz , sticker bana diya– was sprinkled everywhere.

Jackson Heights definitely impresses and this being a diasporic tale, am sure we can all relate and see ourselves in these characters and their struggles. Heck, it’s got me looking forward to rush hour, chai, and conversation with chatty cabbies!

MM (aka A musing Muslim)

Dil Dhadakne Do: A First Look

Zoya and Farhan Akhtar have given us a taste of Indie cinema packaged in a shiny Bolly-wrapper more than once. Take, for instance, Dil Chahata Hai, Luck By Chance, Zindagi Na Milege Dobara, and most recently the short film in Bombay Talkies. Seeing yet another indie-bolly-flick from this sibling duo with its offbeat theme – Punjabi dysfunction at sea is offbeat! – doesn’t surprise me.

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I’d venture forth and say that a dysfunctional Punjabi family (with kutta) on a cruise is worth one watch at least. From what I can see in that poster, the movie does pique my curiosity. After all, how often do you see Bollywood on a cruise? And full marks for giving us Sheefali Shah and Anil Kapoor as the Punjabi mum and dad! Clearly Anupam and Kirron Kher were starting to get a bit annoying.

For a creative, fresh, and unique vibe, Dil Dhadakne Do is making my heart beat just a little bit faster. Here’s hoping the story is just as innovative.

Till we meet for a review.

RB