A couple of days back I watched TZP and I have a few things to say about this film particularly when I am seeing that people at large are loving it.
It has a very sentimental/sad touch thoughout, no doubt about that – I almost cried twice. But if I have to talk about the film as a whole, then I have a few things to say but before that, I would like you to read what Aamir Khan had to say about Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black (You can read it here in the article called 'Thanks for the drubbing on my smoking'). To give a one line summary, he said that he was totally against the idea of children being treated harshly. Period.
Before I set out to write what I want to write, I desire to accept a few things:
1) I like Aamir Khan as an artist – I think he has been a part of great films like Lagaan, RDB etc (barring Fanaa as his latest disaster).
2) I don’t particularly like Bhansali’s films because he tries to make everything very out of the world – dream sets, beautiful faces, gaudy clothes, picture perfect locations – all this makes his films gross and vulgar. To reason this out, I would like to talk of Devdas for instance, written by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, it was a story based on the pre independence days – the houses, clothes, the place where Chandramukhi lived etc were not even close to how Bhansali made it look. Another example form the same film is when Devdas hit Paro before her wedding night, Paro’s face bore a scar which run through her face – but no, in the film, Ash of course would not allow herself to have a scar which will make her look any less beautiful :). Now, getting to examples from Black – look at the place where Rani stays, the college she goes to – everything is so picturesque, so beautiful. I think Bhansali sets out with a good script and then messes it up using the Yashraj’s / Karan Johar’s lavishness without understanding its need. However, I would like to point that I did like Black – the story, because I think it was quite real.
Let us now come to the point I want to make.
Aamir Khan shows a dyslexic child who is regular in all other aspects other than his impaired reading abilities – he has shown that the child responds to the environment, most often like it is expected, and based on that, he tries to justify that people should be soft and sensitive towards the differently-abled kids. Which I totally agree should to be the appropriate behavior. But that is not how most mentally challenged kids are (please excuse me for using this term, because I personally feel that they are no less than any of us who proudly call ourselves normal – in fact I think they are far superior to most of us reading this blog – and I say this not out of something I have read or have seen on screen, but out of experience of interacting with them.). Going back to the point, these kids most often come with a physical disability in addition to the mental disability – this makes them not very conventionally pleasing in appearance and conduct. Now with this reality biting, let us go back to this film, and see what Aamir has to offer.
Talking of Black, what Bhansali started out was that there is a girl who does not respond, who is violent, who does not have the ability to speak, or eat or do things the way children of her age do. She is distinctly and unpleasantly different. Her tired and desperate parents have tried hard to educate her by getting her different teachers, but all of them run away because the child is so unmanageable – and then comes this new teacher (played by Amitabh Bacchan) who takes the responsibility of making her confident enough to face the world. And so there are various incidents where we see that people are behaving very harshly with the girl -- which per me may not be the morally correct thing to do, but it is real. In my view, thats where the difference lies – there is something like a appropriate and morally correct behavior and then there is something like natural/reflexive behavior. Now the question is what should be shown in a film?
People who come to watch films try to find respite by seeing that at least somewhere, things are right and fairy tale’ish’. They feel reassured and rejuvenated by believing that there are places where there is goodness all around and people live happily ever after.
A story (I am purposely not using the word Movie) like black is not a fairy tale. It shows an inconvenient truth, and no one likes to witness the reality so much on the face. It makes them uneasy and dissolutions their concept of a happy and fair world making them uncomfortable and unhappy. And so they take moral high grounds and chose to reject the reality.
My idea of a good film is when the director is able to capture what is real rather than trying to show what is correct. Most of us know what is right and wrong. We don’t want to see a rosy rosy picture, and moreover, I think that is no better way of teaching someone the right, other than by showing how dark the wrong appears.
TZP shows us what is right. Apart from that I was also unhappy that he did not dare to work with the more complex cases (the kind of people you think of when you hear the word mentally challenged).
Having watched TZP, one gets the feeling that yeah, that is the way of life – that is how we should behave – but who is there to show us the mirror? Who will show the reflexive behavior that the attitude of people in large have towards the mentally retarded (sorry for this term again, but I am just trying to express the seriousness of the entire issue) – I strongly feel that it is important to show what happens in reality so that people know where they wrong. I think that this is a more effective mode of sending the message across.
To close, I would like to share what Sudhir Mishra wrote in one of his articles “I personally think that most film makers in India are children and most films in India are childrens’ film and rather bad childrens’ films. Their notion of love is that of a fourteen year old. In all popular entertainment the notion of life is going retarded. It’s an illusion which you make people buy into and you get rather hurt when they realize life is not like that. There’s very little difference between selling a fake notion of life and selling a fake product. It’s like advertising. You fall in love and you live happily ever after, is as stupid a notion as you use a fairness cream and you become fair. All are very idiotic notions, sold to the naive and people make a lot of money out of that.”