A yay and a nay for a Hindi movie.

by theglobaldesi

Over the last few years I had begun to get weary of the usual Bollywood fare. I wondered if I was getting too snobby for my ‘roots’. Because I did grow up watching these movies! Granted not many – since as kids we weren’t allowed to. But since I have also been getting weary of the typical Hollywood fare I figured I was ok.

Anyway, I still enjoy the occasional Hindi movie that does not focus on the tired love story. ‘A Wednesday’ is one such movie that I really liked. Of course ‘Taare Zameen Par‘ deserves a huge mention. But more about TZP later. Right now I want to talk about a movie I saw over the weekend – Say Salaam India.

Its what we call an offbeat movie or a non-mainstream movie in Bollywood. The starcast was impressive – each of the names mentioned are people I associate with good acting and meaningful movies. Here’s the description of the movie from wikipedia:

Salaam India is the story of cricket. It revolves around a group of 4 boys and their passion for the game. The boys come from humble backgrounds and limited resources but what they have is a zeal for the game of cricket and undeniable natural talent. They study in the local corporation school where the most important sport on agenda is wrestling…. Taught by Wrestling Guru Surinder Huda- a man driven by hatred for cricket because in his eyes it is cricket that is responsible for destroying traditional sports like Kushti, Kabbadi, and Hockey etc.

To me, SSI was also the story of the Cricket coach that refused to bow down to the politics that plague pretty much any organization in India.

Some yays: Its a beautifully made movie. Very true to life, very down to earth and highlights some very true issues. It also gives a very inspiring lesson without sounding like a lecture. It did sadden me that having had what I consider a staunchly middle class upbringing, I could identify so much more with the poor kids’ lives than the rich ones. Especially in terms of the small joys, the concerns, the relationships they build with people… everything that India likes to take pride in seems to be reflected in that part of the story.

Now that my praise and love of the story and the movie have been put forth, here’s a small nay. The movie is a humongous step back for sensitivity in marital and familial relations. Despite trying hard, it actually falls flat on its face because it tries to force the ‘must be divinely patient and willing to sacrifice everything and yet take all blame for everything’ role that Indian women are always thrust with. Three scenes bothered me considerably.

Scene 1: Hari Sadu. Awesome cricket player and coach. Not bringing in a steady income. Plays cricket in the galli. Then comes home to wife who is a college professor (I think) and then by common sense obviously the main wage earner of the family. Takes off shoes. Wife is awesome and reminds him that it is his day of watching the match with his son, Rustom. Mr Sadu conveniently leaves his shoes and socks and rushes to the boy (who has mental and physical disabilities). So again common sense is that the wife should be willing to pick up after husband like he is her child rather than her equal and yet somehow her superior. Or she’s not a good wife.

Scene 2: Husband compliments wife in his quirky way comparing her to some International Cricket player. She complains light heartedly, and he spouts off a mukhda of a Jagjit Singh (Oh I miss him) Ghazal. She is happier. So he ushers her off to “Jao mere liye ek cup chai le ke aao”. Seriously?

Scene 3: Husband and wife are sitting on their garden swing with child sleeping in wife’s lap. Wife says she has thought about how she was unable to give him a son that he could teach and play cricket with. So many things wrong here. One – the child might hear you, lady. And he is high-functioning. ie. he understands all. So a little consideration here would be great. And, all women now repeat after me “Unless you drank a bottle of whiskey a day and did drugs while pregnant, you are NOT responsible for your child’s disabilities”. To the movie’s credit, the husband does react nicely and considerately to this. Thank goodness for small mercies.

Overall, I’d like to say again, that this movie was a breath of fresh air in the Bollywood landscape. But I write this little review in hopes that someday, some scriptwriters will realize that each scene is a chance to either make a good statement or blow up the screen with tired cliches that are harmful to our social construct.

So, thank you, Subhash Kapoor (writer and director) for giving us a movie worth watching and getting teary eyed over. But I hope you will give some consideration to my review (if you ever read it) and please not deal any more blows to the women of India through your movies. We women are as much human as any man in India. We have personalities that go beyond the prescribed Sati Savitri role. We have a value that is more than the sum of our body parts and a place greater than at the feet of our husbands.

And my husband would tell you this very same thing.