First of all, if you’re making a movie in Tamil Nadu, better know that all shop keepers and locals speak in Tamil and not in Hindi – even if your film’s target audience is not the Tamil crowd. That way, you acknowledge the fact that the language is one of the oldest languages in the world and it is “Indian”. Not that the Tamils would have time to mind this error, because they’re probably too proud to learn any other language other than their own – which seems to have degenerated after the Kolaveri song and much of slang being used in the tabloids and the movies these days. There was just one instance where Tamil figures in the film – when the cast were having dinner at Shinkow’s (which is in Ooty, btw) the waiter says “Order ready, ah?” and there’s a 2 or 3 word response in Tamil. Not enough!
Moving on to another drab matter like the marketing of this film. I like the idea that the film is not positioned as a “gay” film. Clever move, I say! Why? Look what happened to “Aligarh”! It got censored and got rated “A” as though “gay India” never existed and as though there’s not enough of “A” content that gets passed off as “U” in Indian heterosexual cinema. Ufff! So, good positioning, Mr Producer! There were some gay friends who were disappointed that the whole explicit portrayal of himself being gay after being cornered by his mum did not happen. He could’ve told his mum that he was gay. Would that have stopped her from accusing him of lying about the ‘boyfriend’? Some believe that the heterosexual audiences who may have watched the film and considering their complete lack of knowledge of the gay scene in India and what gay men go through right from childhood (the bullying and the expectations to conform to the male stereotype), would not have understood the fact that he was gay unless it was specifically mentioned somewhere in the script. Because, they probably don’t know with their heterosexual upbringing, what difficulty and guts it takes for one to ‘come out’. But, as the movie progressed, the point that Fawad played a gay character got more and more evident towards the end at least to a discerning aware audience. The suspense about this mystery ‘girlfriend’ was being built well. It played into the plot also very well and was a great built up towards the catharsis.
The best actor award in the film goes to the little doggy! He was the most natural of all things in the film and the most original. The location was also original and real. For someone having lived between Ooty and Chennai for 5 years and with Coonnor as a neighbouring town to Ooty, I must say that the location was captured beautifully on camera. Bravo! Don’t know why the little heritage mountain train and Ketti Valley were missed out in this film. The power cuts were also real! Bravo again! Fawad played his part wonderfully and came out so strong. Now I’m gonna send him flowers with an anonymous note from one of his new admirers! The worst actor award goes to that Alia Bhat girl and I’m not going to explain why!
Now, when some people I know, who saw the film before I did, said it was quite disappointing, I did not delay in passing judgement on K Johar saying, “What else can one expect from KJ on matters LGBT!” But, now I have changed my stance after watching it myself. The portrayal of the gay lad who doesn’t know how to break the news of his sexuality to his brother and his folks is something that every gay man experiences in our country with all this religious and social conditioning that being gay is not normal etc. It was perfectly expressed, when the mother finds out that her son is gay and says “Is this your girlfriend! Cheee!” Quite realistic. I’m saying this because some believe that gay men are perpetual liars and are villains with no scruples in life – perpetuated by the protagonist plagiarising his brother’s book and his mum screaming that he was a “liar” again and again.
What I couldn’t understand was the scene when momma Kapoor snoops through her son’s laptop and confronts him about his girlfriend. She keeps accusing him of being a liar and that takes prominence over him trying to explain himself. He’s not given a chance to speak. This drama can also happen in any Indian household. Now the confusing part was, was she upset because he lied and wasn’t honest? Was she upset because her image of this ideal son came shattering down to the ground because he lied to her about having a girlfriend when it was a boyfriend all along? Or, was she upset because she found his homosexuality appalling and called him a liar because she thought he was lying to her that he was straight! Did she say “Chee!” because she was upset that he hid his homosexuality? Was she upset that she didn’t provide a safe environment for him to ‘come out’ and be himself? Is that why he retaliated by telling her that her marriage was a big lie itself? Was his home not conducive for such open conversations as most Indian homes are? Or, did she say “Chee!” because she just felt he was one big liar? In the film, the latter seems to be more true which is sad and confusing which may make it sound a bit homophobic, yes? But, in India we don’t live in the most homo-philic of societies, do we? Was it right to do this – to present realism or was it meant to sensitize the general public?
The movie beautifully portrayed how people of two generations eventually react well to his coming out. The mother’s initial reaction of “chee” and acceptance months later. And, the brother’s reaction – where he, for the first time – after the whole trust-breaking episode of the book fiasco, orchestrated by the mother again – begins to sit up and really believe in his brother’s words as he says he’s not interested in women etc. on their second visit. Looks like he, Fawad’s character, started gaining his brother, Siddarth’s character’s, trust. I’d have liked to have known how the Dadaji would’ve reacted to it too. But, I can say, he’d have taken it quite well. Smiles!
One must add that the portrayal of the gay lad not as someone who is camp (translate camp into OTT and loves to prance around in ostrich plumes and high-heels) which has usually been the case in most Bollywood films, is truly a breath of fresh air and realism to quite a degree. Usually, we have gay men or hijras who are the butt end of all jokes or are portrayed as evil and villainous in most Bolly films. Not in this one. He’s just like any one of us. Thank God for that! (Aside: Though I do love the thought of some feathers on Fawad also with some make-up and fairy dust – but, I’m not disappointed that it didn’t happen).
Rishi Kapoor was thrown in there for some comic relief and he lived the part very well, including Waseem and the body builder. But, why the body builder had to copy the Rock’s boob-move from “The Mysterious Island”, I don’t know! I just rolled my eyes up so hard, I could read my seat number in the theatre!
The film, I must say, portrays relationships in an Indian family quite well, including the drama. Don’t tell me that your family doesn’t have drama at all and that getting hysterical with breaking of some glass or flinging of a random pot, (bed)pan, shoe, broom or book has never happened in yours even once! If it hasn’t, then I think I’m going to roll my eyes up once more and I don’t know what I would see this time!
So the dynamics between the family members were very well portrayed. The father who discourages his wife from setting up her own business – like the one in English Vinglish, the grand father who loves to hangout and play pranks with his grandsons, the mother who is insecure and snoops around a bit (mostly because, I believe, Indian parents want to know all facts about their progeny and not be taken in by surprise by some unknown side of their child that might crop up later which would warrant them running to the police station or government hospital, or something scathing they’d discover from a gossip mongering nosy relative or neighbour AND that privacy is something that an Indian parent doesn’t understand), the father again, who is having an affair and supposedly was ending it towards the end etc. etc. All of those family dynamics worked well in the film. Oh and the bit of sibling rivalry between the two boys also comes out well in the film – subtly and not with the usual Bolly drama with verbose speeches and dramatic dialogues. Very nice!
I think, it was totally unnecessary to do the whole talk about the “stick not being big enough” to switch on (read as ‘turn on’) the main power and the sexual innuendo about “remember what they say about men with long noses”. Come on! Grow up beyond these school kid puns in a proper adult film. But, I guess, adults in India also still speak this way and giggle over such euphemisms! Sigh! It’s so Victorian – just like that article 377 and the one on rape as defiling a “woman’s modesty”! Grow up, India and smell the grass – it’s made of digital bits and silicon bytes and not horse dung, stage-coaches, bonnets and petticoats!And killing the dad in an accident was also too Bollywood… Couldn’t it be made simpler? We would’ve loved to hear his thoughts on the son being gay too. We missed a chance of the portrayal of the “man of a patriarchal house” reacting to it. After all, it was Kapoor and Sons.
Overall, it was a good film and a real portrayal of how a ‘normal’ gay man in India (or anywhere else in the world), if placed in the right environment (we’re talking again about the archaic law in our country which is not the right environment) will be himself and not have to be OTT to be gay – nothing wrong with being OTT either. This is shown beautifully in the film where the gay son has a boyfriend and goes on holidays with him and can be himself in a country that gives him this basic right to love and express his love as opposed to him being closeted and suffocated in his own home, to his own family. Somewhat like my own story, where I came out to my parents and family last of all, but was leading quite an openly gay life at work and outside the ‘home and church space’ which is where I grew up in.
I also feel it was poignant to place the older gay brother in London, because Section 377 is essentially an old British law. But, hey! The British has moved on since and we in India haven’t! So placing him in London is a great political statement at a time when we are fighting for the re-writing of / re-looking at the whole ‘sex between consenting adults’ thingamajig and the decriminalisation of Section 377 of the Indian Constitution. I would say that this film would help sensitize the public on gay men in India.
The Great Recommendation from Vinodh Philip:
The film is a Must-see! Don’t miss it! Btw, if you feel you need to take an extra pee break during the film when the AC makes the cinema hall chill like a freezer and you’ve drunk two cans of Coke Zero from a straw to make it last longer, do so when Alia Bhat comes on screen! You wouldn’t have missed much. But, you probably already know that!