Friday, December 28, 2007

Tea Zee Pea

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.”


Nandita said...

Deepu,you totally missed out his point.He is not trying to show how society behaves with mentally challenged kids or what’s a right behavior a person should have towards these kids.He is just trying to unfold parent and a child relationship. This isn't a film about society or what is morally correct or who is wrong or right.This film simply shows that what actually a kid expects/needs from his parents.He doesn't need a society,he needs his parent's love,support and care.If you have closely observe in the film you will notice that he never got dejected when anybody else teases him or ill-treats him but he was completely shattered and closed when his parents also ill-treated him and here is the whole nerve of the film.Aamir is not trying to show the face of society and neither is he trying to teach society.He is simply trying to portray that how parents fails to learn about their own child.This film only teaches you the new dimension of parent and a child relationship.Dont compare it with BLACK,you will miss its beauty.

Deepshikha said...

@Nandita: Last things first. :) Aamir Khan spoke of Black in context to his thought behind making TZP which implies that I did not make the comparison darling, he did!! And I did not dislike the film, it is just that I think is that it talks of exactly the things you wrote of and nothing other than that, but if you have seen any of his latest interview on TZP, he is under the assumption that he is addressing the bigger picture.

Apart from this, I also object to a couple of scenes in the film. I am not sure if you noticed that there is a scene where Aamir Khan shows children from the special school Tulips, and the kind of children shown there were not like the main character. I think AK trivialized the subject by doing that.

It is a nice film, no doubt, but it is a film which does not deal with real cases of retardation, it is more like an expectation pressure that parents levy on children – hence, the child could easily be shown to be normal just that he doesn’t like to study, instead of showing that he is dyslexic.

Deepshikha said...

I would also like to add that TZP is a feel good film, who ever watches it will come out feeling nice about oneself. But how many of us came out from the hall thinking of the feeling of being dyslexic or having a retardation of any form? That is the question.

Nandita said...

Deepu, Dyslexia is not a mental retardation. It is a disease where a person is suffering from learning disability that manifests primarily as a difficulty with written language, particularly with reading and spelling (source WIKIPEDIA).If you have observed that in a movie also, the kid is perfectly normal, he is as normal as you and me are. He is just suffering from a disease which anyone can have. Why AK is trying to bring the comparison because both the films revolves around a kid. I think, he’s doing wrong by comparing because in my opinion both are addressing different issues. And it is dealing with a real issue and bigger one as well. I am not saying that you shouldn't focus on mentally challenged kids but any kid, whether he's normal or not, needs care and love. So I would not agree that this issue wasn't real or big. And why the issue of dyslexia came because if he was shown as a normal kid, the gravity of the subject must have lost. It shows that a small kid is facing a problem which is not big but his parents failed to understand him and help him out from that problem. Movie is focused about the gap between parent and a kid. The focus of movie is not a disease or a social issue but the message which it gives out is only for the society. I think that any parent who will watch this movie, will think and see their kids with a different perception and respect and that itself shows how big the issue is and how imp the issue is.

Deepshikha said...

@Nandita: the message you think is being sent across is actually the message, but sadly AK doesnt claim to think the same way. P.S: :) :) I know what dyslexia is ;) It is a form of retardation only :)-- just that it is not as bad as the spastic cases. Baaki, waha aakar discuss karte hai .. :) See you soon :) :)

Divya said...

You have already read what I wanted to say. After reading all this I feel the same as what Nandita wrote. And going with what you said, one thing I am curious to ask is that is it necessary to take the worst case to send a message across?? Ofcourse I dont want to trivialize the matter but not so extreme cases also exist(actually majority) and would we be incorrect to throw light on them?

Deepshikha said...

Dyslexia is not common. Low interest in Studies is common. If you are addressing children who do not have interest in conventional education, then talk of a normal child who does not like to study text books. The moment you touch upon a subject like inability to read because of a problem, you take up a responsibility. I think both you and Nandita do not understand what I am talking of. :) Maybe the way I have written it is cryptic or my mind is too complex :) :) .. Whatever :) .. So I would not further discuss on this because hume har jawab mein sawaalon ki ek lambi si ladi mili. :) :)

Deepshikha said...

I was reading another persons blog when I came across this paragraph that she wrote on TZP which actually also says what I wanted to say, maybe her words could explain things better. I am quote-unquoting her lines below:
"Also, in my opinion it is not a film about dyslexic kids or kids suffering from any other physical or mental disabilities. The film is about parents' over-expectations from their kids; about every parent wanting his/her child to be an all-rounder, about the aspirations and dreams of the child being drowned somewhere in the process, about our education system's lack of capability in dealing with varied needs of children having different abilities, about academic marks/grades being the only yardstick in our society for measuring a child's abilities. Ishaan being dyslexic is just for added impact; although I would have found the movie more realistic if Ishaan would have just been a child with less inclination towards studies. But then, he would have received less sympathies from people that way.