Monday, February 14, 2005

A Piece of Art....!!!

Before you read: The following piece is related to art movies and so, can be highly boring. Also, by saying that, if I have evoked any hopes of reading about soft-pornography and extra-marital affairs, sorry. It doesn't deal with that part of art movies. And it will be a little long too. If you are a guy, after reading this you may be left with a feeling similar to that you will have after watching an art movie that doesn’t even contain nudity. So here I warn you, before you read, READER DISCRETION RECOMMENDED.

I was introduced to art movies during my junior college days. And i was pretty excited about them then. Doordarshan used to telecast them on Friday nights at 11PM. Star TV was just setting foot in India and not all had cable TV access. So, those 11PM movies were the only source of 'education' for we guys.

As I 'grew', I distanced myself from this genre of movies and stopped bothering about them. So, when there was this controversy about Konkona Sen and national anthem, i couldn't get who this heroine was. I asked one of my friends and she told me that Konkona is an award-winning actress who acted in a very good movie called "Mr & Mrs Iyer".

Yes, i did hear that movie's name some time back. But never bothered to check the details. Now that i got a little interested in knowing about this actress, i thought of finding out details of this movie. Google helped me in finding coupla reviews of this movie.

For all those who didn’t watch this movie, here is a brief. It’s about an Iyer woman, traveling in a bus to kolkata with her infant son. She meets a Muslim guy in that bus, who helps her during the journey. On the way, some Hindu fundamentalists attack the bus and kill all the muslims in the bus. She saves this muslim guy by saying he is her husband Mr. Iyer. During the rest of the journey she falls in love with that guy, but in the end reaches her husband.

This film is directed by a famous director Aparna Sen and stars her daughter Konkona Sen. As usual, this was played in all those international film fests and won numerous awards. Konkona Sen got best actress award for this movie from Indian Government. There were rave reviews appreciating how Aparna Sen portrayed subtle emotions and human feelings in a very natural and touching way and all that. I could find all those rare words that are used only in art film reviews.

But to my petty brain, nothing looked natural in that movie. Ofcourse, i agree that to understand such movies, one should be at a 'very high' level of comprehension & maturity. They are beyond logic and never to be understood by software engineers. For example, the lead actress is shown as such a conservative Iyer woman, who doesn’t even drink water from a muslim. For such a conservative woman, i just wonder how natural & human it is to call a muslim her husband!!! No, I never understand that.

If Aparna Sen really wanted to show the conservative nature of orthodox hindu brahmin women, she could have shown how hesitant they will be even to talk to a guy other than their husband. But her intent was to show them as stupid people, who dont even drink water if it is given by a muslim but at the same time can fall in love with him. They are portrayed as confused, ignorant and senseless people who dont know their priorities. Little wonder this film got so much acclaimed in all those
international film fests by so many westerners.

One more instance is of a muslim couple traveling in the bus who are murdered by the attackers. Its shown that they have refused to go to pakistan at the time of partition. And all the reviewers appreciated how well Aparna Sen dealt with this aspect of plight of indian muslims. One person described it as the portrayal of an indian muslim's mindset who is wondering whether he has done the right thing by staying back in india.

Now, i wonder how natural is that again. Aren't indian muslims safer and more developed than their Pakistani counterparts? Don’t they enjoy more comforts in this democratic country than in a dictator-ruled Pakistan? After all, their fellow Hindu
exchequer pays for their Haj trip subsidy. Where else can they be in a better condition. Ofcourse, i agree that there are few instances of communal violence. But whose responsible for that? Any Way, lets not discuss such controversial things. But is the situation so grave as to make films and parade them in all the international forums? What impact will it have on India’s image?

But after all, this movie is made by a mother who couldn't civilise her daughter enough, even to respect the National Anthem. How can i expect something different? But to think that the movie received awards from Indian government instead of a ban!

I always hated these fame-mongers who would go to any lengths, just to earn awards. And to be known as progressive and intellectual. And also, all those people who throw applauses on them just to claim their piece of fame. Just imagine what would have happened if some one made a film named Mr & Mrs Khan, with the same story but showing the woman as a muslim and the guy as a hindu. And show Hindus getting killed by a muslim mob. Forget any awards, all the so called secular media would have called it Hindu fundamentalist and the government would have banned the movie. And Aparna Sen knows this pretty well!

If some one really wants to represent india in all those International film fests, there are many better ways. We have one of the best family systems in the world. There is a huge scope to make films that portray the emotions and affections that are unique to indians. We don't have to show a married woman falling in love with a co-traveller on her journey. Yes, you may call it as middle-class morality thing or whatever, but thats what is native to this country. I do agree that every society is a mix of things good and bad. And i don't claim that india is full of Sathi Savithris. But i think, our strength is in our family system and thats what the outer world looks for in indian movies. And i believe thats what has earned respect to India in the past.

A movie like 'Fire' won't do any good to india and is of no use to our society. I look at it on par with those Shakila starred Mallu movies. I really wonder why they are not called Art Movies!

Aparna Sen might have got so many applauses and her films might have won so many awards internationally, but I am ashamed of Indians like her.


Blogger surya said...

really nice one dood....I liked it.

All these so called Art Movies are nothing but pieces of crap.
They just server the purpose of feeding the superiority complex of the whites abroad by showing how Indian women are oppressed and such BS.

Why Mr&Mrs Iyer won acclaim abraod is that the director is successful in showing to the world that " A married Brahmin woman is not happy with her married life and ready to fall in love with a strange muslim guy".

Fire, Water ( not yet complete), Mansoon Wedding etc... are all such movies made by some sick females who just want to demean India and thereby win the hearts of Whites...

you read that Fire review by Dr.Ramesh N Rao

15 February, 2005 20:39  
Blogger reNUka said...

'hmm...ok!! :-( u didnt like the movie? i liked the movie' - that was my reaction. I am not sure if the movie is worth an award. anyway - i felt this: such a conservative woman (it need not be iyers cud be anybody who is orthodox - the sect iyer was taken probably bcos ppl cud relate to them more easily) who does not drink water from any guy goes to the extent of saying that the person is her husband for the simple reason that he might be killed if otherwise. i jus saw it from humanitarian grounds and not on the any other basis. Demeaning a particular sect need not be considered here. I suppose u havent seen the movie. i personally liked the way it was taken.

16 February, 2005 00:55  
Blogger Anupama Viswanathan said... do seem to feel strongly against such movies...
I saw the movie too but didn't bother to interpret at this length..
I guess different reviews that you read and the kinda review that you have given are just varied interpretations..
Personally, I wonder whether Aparna Sen even wanted to express what the movie reviews actually said..probably, she just wanted a simple love story..
For me, the movie showed that Konkona actually met the guy of her choice, quite sadly later in life and she is also, one of those million other girls, who had accepted life the way it came..with the muslim guy, she fell into one of those transient states of instability..after all, it is just a movie..
p.s: This doesn't mean i appreciate all such movies...some of them are like u said, utter crap..the story telling makes all the difference..

17 February, 2005 03:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice one dude...agree with you.
btw, you should read this review of this movie...

17 February, 2005 08:40  
Anonymous Jahnvi said...

While I dont have much of an opinion on the movie, I dont understand why you made so many digs at Indian Muslims. Was it relevant to the review?

Dont take me otherwise, I am just suprised at your reaction!

28 February, 2005 02:03  
Blogger Sriram said...

Thanks for asking this question Jahnvi! I never thought the above post can be interpreted that way. so let me clarify...

There was a mention about muslims at 2 places in the above post...

at one place i wrote that Indian Muslim's are in a better and safe position than their pakistani counterparts. and said that the situation is not so grave as to make movies and parade them.

Second mention is to write about the attitude of our media and politicians who compete at minority-wooing and posing as secularist just for power.

I dint see any indian muslim bashing at both the places.

Please show me where i took a 'dig' at indian muslims so that i can delete that. coz that was not my intention at all...

28 February, 2005 02:55  
Blogger Kirthi said...

Strange reaction to the movie to say the least. Well, its your interpretation. I leave to your "discretion" to consider mine.

1. Aparna Sen as a director probably wished to portray how we tend to shed orthodoxy when faced with calamity. And it was not a "normal/natural" occasion as you put it. It was under "extraordinary" circumstances that Mrs.Iyer came out of her shell. We as Hindus have our own preconceived notions about our Muslim counterparts. It was the process of myth-shattering that was depicted in the movie.

2.Konkona took a lot of efforts in the movie to get her attire, look, accent and mannerisms right. She deserved the award no matter what. (Well if u r talking of revering the national anthem then I should say our Railway minister ought to hang himself). Talking of Bollywood felonies, well, well ,well this was way too small an offence.

3. When we talk of art/parallel/cross-over cinema, what comes to my mind is fiction set in a realistic background. Do the ostentatious Bollywood family dramas actually represent the true India? I don't think so.

4.And then, we are talking about India's image abroad... take a poll u'll probably find snake charmers, yoga, godmen, elephants, and cheap Bollywood nach-gana routines getting the maximum votes.

The pugnacious blogger

09 March, 2005 03:37  
Blogger Sriram said...


First,thanks for saying only the least and sparing me of the most you could have said...:) well, here is what my "discretion" said to your observation and i present it for your cognition...

1.Let's assume that you are right. The director had such noble thoughts. But did she stop at that point? what's the necessity to introduce a love angle between the two protagonists? she could have just shown how Mrs.Iyer came out of so called "orthodoxy" and realised that there is nothing wrong in drinking water from a bottle from which a stranger took a sip directly! but she went on to show some melodramatic shit. the age old indian movie thingie, with the hero taking heroine to a hotel with a single bedroom,the heroine accusing him of all wrong things, the hero's sacrifice and sleeping out in the dreaded cold...and finally heroine's melting and loving! Ha ha ha, so much for the creative abilities of a great director!!!
And so as to your other point, i am not aware of what pre-conceived notions you were
talking of as i don't have any. And even in the movie, i didnt see what great myths were shattered! Apart from telling that all those not having fore-skin are not muslims...

2.Agreed. But please, Credit for looks and attire should go to the make-up men and costumes guys.isn't it? and there is a lot of difference between imitation and action. she might have imitated a tamil woman very well but i didn't see any great display of expressions and emotions from her in that movie. And if aparna sen's intention was pure, what was the need to cast her daughter there? any tamil iyer woman would have done a lot better job. but then, she won't get a national award right?

3. Agreed. They don't. But is this movie any different from them? is it represnting true india? why is this praise and hype calling it an "Art Movie"!!!

4.You are right. And i strongly feel that these kind of movies are the culprits. Coz they are the one's paraded before foreigners in all those film fests. And they show them that india is full of orthodox, dumb and stupid people who don't even know their priorities even though they have post-graduate degrees in physical sciences!

The not so belligerant blogger

09 March, 2005 10:54  
Blogger Kirthi said...

Good to see u refute each and every one of my points.

1. Lets face it, until the peace process happened a lot of us had ideas about pakis being meat eating marauding jehadis and the Indian muslims being agents of the infamous ISI. There was and perhaps there still is a lot of bad blood. About the melodrama, well I don't think it was over the top like most bollywood movies go. But thats a very subjective view point. For an Iyer girl coming from smaller towns and interior Tamil Nadu, no matter how big the string of degrees she attaches to her name there will be certain things she'd never do. So it was a myth shattering process for her not for u and me.

2. FYI Konkona stayed with an Iyer family to pick up the mannerisms right. Haha choose an iyer girl for the role!!? For one, would u say a gujju acting as a gujju in a movie a great actor..he is acting himself. Another thing is, it is tough to find iyer girls in the film industry. (u'll probably find more punjabi kudis in South cinema than anywhere else).

3. Wonder how much money this movie raked in the box office in Harayana and Chattisgadh...Well if you call "art" cinema as the genre which appeals to a few elite who are not looking for mindless entertainment then this is it. It is simply not made for the masses period.

4. We, as Indians never made a conscious effort to change that image. But I guess the diaspora is doing its bit to alter it in their own way.

09 March, 2005 22:43  
Anonymous Sriram said...

nice to see you come back.

1.i am ready to face, if only i know what you were referring to... :). what peace process? you think there is peace along the border now? Any way, thats off topic.
So as to your point, where in this movie is it proved that pakistanis are not jehadis? and about indian muslims being pak informers etc? there is no mention of pakistan at all. It is only about internal communal riots. No where Rahul Bose is shown as not being a pak agent. Ofcourse, he was shown as a caring and sensible guy. But he can as well be an pak agent right... :)
And for the second one, please, she is not an iyer girl from interior tamilnadu. she is an urbane girl. her father is an endocronologist and she spent her life in cities. she stays with her husband in kolkata. and now tell me, how natural for such a girl to behave like that!

2. Agreed. i also read that. Konkona said in an interview that she stayed a week in chennai. But in some other interview Aparna Sen said she sent her chennai for 2 weeks! God only knows how many days she spent. Whatever that may be, thats nothing great. She might have done a good imitation but that doesn't classify as good action. As i said earlier, i didn't see any great display of acting skills there.
Yeah, thats what i said. If she casted a tamil girl, she would have lost an award for count. Thats why. Not because she couldn't find a tamil girl!

3.Right. This is not for masses. This is made to feed western egos who would like to find an opportunity to ridicule us. And for all those so called page 3 elites. And the fact that it would not have made any money at box-office won't make it a great movie. Any way, we were Not discussing whether its made to churn collections. we were talking about representing true india. And on that count its a miserble failure.

4. Agreed we didnt do much on that. I think we rather dont care. But is this genre of cinema doing any good? It's only aggravating it and doing more damage. Thats what i was saying.

10 March, 2005 10:50  
Blogger Amrita said...

Sriram, I agree with you when you say that filmmakers purposely make movies like 'Mr.And Mrs.Iyer,' always showing the muslims as victims. It definitely does not show India in a good light in the international film festivals. I guess the funda is the more abstract a film is, the more awards it wins.To me an ideal non-commercial movie(I shall not call it 'ART movie' as different people have different interpretations for Art movies),has to be something that should capture a part of life that is not stereotyped as in mainstream cinema. I feel Satyajit Ray was effective in this respect. I do not know whether you agree with me or not. but one of his movies Agantuk, is about this upper middle class Bengali family, where the wife receives a letter from a prodigious uncle of hers who who had left his home when he was young. For several years there was no news from him, and his family thought that he had died. When all of a sudden he returns people view him with suspicion and curiosity. Its a non-conventional film, but makes interesting watching. Quite a good movie.

10 March, 2005 21:02  
Blogger Sriram said...


Thanks for the info about a nice movie. Will try to watch sometime.

And i don't mind much people always showing muslims as victims or something.

What beats me more is the fact that some people can go to the extent of damaging nation's image just to win accolades for themselves...

11 March, 2005 08:44  
Blogger surya said...


I think it is not the subject of the movie only...the intention of making such movies.
Please read the article I posted in the first post here. Let me repeat her e for your convenience.

There is much to these movies beyond all this "progressive" and "secular" portrayal.

13 March, 2005 20:45  
Blogger surya said...

forgot to add...

Hope you have seen those "Indiana JOnes" movies....India at its worst..I really hated Amrish Puri for accepting those roles.

In that movie " temple of doom" ...Spielberg showed Indians eating dust and sand.

And the Kings banquet serving "snakes, monkey brains, worms..ect".

Do you see people eating such stuff in India???

And Harrison Fords' promoumciation of "Shankara" ...I am sure that hurts anyone who has really know what is India and what is "Shankara".

13 March, 2005 20:49  
Blogger badmofo said...

Saw your comment on greatbong's site. Sriram, I understand where you're coming from, however I have to disagree on one thing. I don't think filmmakers have a responsibility to project a certain image of their country/culture etc. If they are making a film based on what they believe is a good story, without bias, that is all that matters. Whether we agree with that viewpoint or like the film itself is our prerogative. It is the same with other creative disciplines. No one film (or even a whole bunch) can truly represent a society, especially one as complex as ours.

As for certain people showing things in a way that appeals to "juries", again, I know exactly what you mean. But then again, aren't the juries to be blamed for their failure to see India as anything other than what they perceive it to be? I'm not sure what Aparna Sen had in mind when she made the movie and I cannot attribute such unfair motives (unless she has claimed that this is anything other than a portrayal of one story, not a mirror to the society).

25 July, 2006 23:38  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your review of the movie is a classic example of how personal viewpoints affect ones interpretation of any artistic presentation.

The movie is quite interesting in the journey of the female protagonist, both literally and figuratively, and how circumstances affect her thinking and actions. It was not Hindu or Southie bashing by any stretch and is in fact presented quite tastefully with good acting all around. I find your protestations a little contrived.

Then again, your blog is also a form of art, so maybe my prejudice is also showing.

@surya. You need help.

26 July, 2006 02:22  
Blogger indianpeppone said...

U do seem to have strong opinions...

Dont agree that film makers have a responsibility to present our country in positive light... what image do u have of america from the movies that spew from there??

And do u mean to say that filmmakers should not make films for, money, acclaim or awards????

26 July, 2006 08:56  
Blogger Sriram said...

@BM : I agree that film makers doesnt have to present a "certain" image and no one film can truly represent a society as complex as india.
But i dont think this film is made "without bias". I also think that this film has skewed the reality in its potrayal and customised to suit certain type of indivisuals. But again, my problem is with calling it an Art film which is supposed to be very close to reality.

And i dont blame the juries. Its the people who take their works to such juries are to be blamed. These guys vie for their attentiona and make them feel superior. They just want fame at any cost.

@Anon: first, isnt art nothing but expression of personal viewpoints?neways...
and to the rest of the points you may read my response to kirthi above.
It is clearly targetted at making fun of the traditional indian women and the circumstances are so un-natural that i felt they are cooked to suit the view point the director wanted to present. Again, my problem is, it doesnt call itself fiction but comes out with a reality movie brand. answer me this simple question, can she dare to make a Mr & Mrs Khan...?

@Indianpeppone: but i think you agree with me that there is something called moral responsibility. these very directors enjoy the freedom of expression and benefits that india provide and go on to make films that show it in poor light. That too in international forums.
Obviously people make movies for money and fame. But i hate them if they do it by skewing the reality and showing our society in bad light.again, by calling it a reality movie. its criminal in my view.

27 July, 2006 04:10  

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