Monday, February 05, 2018

How To Watch A Movie In 2018?

Courtesy -
Who knew watching a Bollywood movie in 2018 can be such a minefield?  Here you are, a sorry-ass just trying to get through the week one traffic jam at a time; juggling linking of Aadhar and PAN; worried the bank will start stealing your money because you can’t maintain their exorbitant minimum cash balance. . . and so many other things. You just want to go catch a movie. Like how it was done for donkey’s years. Three hours of escapism. Where you are transported from Thippasandra to the Swiss Alps, to the pyramids, and to the streets of Budapest whilst munching popcorn. Where a babe can be irresistibly drawn to a middle-aged waiter and the guy suddenly becomes a bomb disposal expert for the Indian army because his heart is broken (whereas, you must pluck your eyeballs out just to move from one project to another).  Where a middle-aged man can become a worldwide wrestling champion to prove his love (and you already have lower-back pain and knee joint pain because you are sat on your butt for fourteen hours a day…and you are not even officially middle-aged). Where a middle-aged tour operator seduces a young, rich, gorgeous, and very much engaged woman (and you with your BE, MBA are getting rejected left, right and centre on matrimonial sites).  Yeah, three hours of escapism because Bollywood is the hyperbole of hyperbole.

But now, it appears watching a movie is not so easy. You must be mindful of how you will be judged. A traitor, anti-national/patriot anti/pro-(insert religion), anti/pro-feminist. If you want to be relevant on your social media platform, you must also carefully mentally prepare on what aspects of the film will potentially outrage you even before walking into the cinema hall (because others are already outraged, and you can’t be left behind) and come out successfully and sufficiently outraged.  

We are witnessing a curious trend in India where everyone gets their underpants into a bunch over everything. People turn into overnight historians, theologians, philosophers and what have you, having educated themselves on Wikipedia and Whatsapp (okay, perhaps some serious crusaders do refer authentic research). Armed with this knowledge, they berate and bully anyone who prefers to remain noncommittal/have different POV. If Karni Sena’s protest against Padmaavat was politically motivated, the chastisement on social media of people who enjoyed the movie was equally nonsensical. What is even more absurd is some of these articles and comments were written by individuals who have not viewed the movie at all(!), unlike you – you unpatriotic capitalist and patriarchal foot soldier. 

So, if you are still “wondering” if you must watch Padmaavat, have this perspective –

- It is 2018. You don’t have to bear the burden of history just to watch a movie. Because if this were true, there’d be no audience for any movies on the World War II, the Holocaust or Hitler.

- It is okay if you are not a historian and have no opinions about Khilji one way or the other. It is okay to walk into the movie hall with your thread-bare knowledge from ICSE history text book. In case you are interested, you can find the best reference work on the Khilji dynasty by Kishori Saran Lal - "History of the Khaljis", made available by the Central Archaeological Library archives.

- It is okay to believe the producers’ disclaimers that the movie is an interpretation of an epic poem – it is akin to a folklore - and watch the movie in that frame of reference. If you are curious about the original source, you can find a translation with notes on the original "The Padumawati of Mallik Muhammed Jaisi" published by The Asiatic Society (1896 edition!) here. By the way, this is not the first cinematic adaptation of Padmavat; as The Print notes, this poem has been a part of Indian cinema and theatre for over a century. The only difference now is common sense is in short supply these days.

- It is okay if you loved the sets, the costumes, the songs and came out thoroughly entertained. It does not imply you support Khilji’s brutal genocide or plundering. It does not imply you support medieval practices of sati.   It does not imply you are less of an Indian.

- It is okay to forget the movie as soon as you walked out of the cinema hall.

- It is okay to think about the movie for days together after you walked out of the hall.

- It is okay to feel conflicted about the characters after you walked out of the hall. 

- It is okay to discuss the movie AFTER having watched it. 

- It is okay to have hated the movie.

- All the above is okay because consuming a movie is an individual experience, and you are an individual. You don’t have to apologise for liking/disliking the film.

- And, it is also okay if you decide not to watch the movie. Either way, don't pontificate, thank you very much.

Here are some (purely cinematic) reasons why you’d probably want to watch Padmaavat  –

1)    Ranveer Singh. His interpretation of Khilji is extraordinary in the context of the film. As the ruthless, amoral psychopath, Singh draws you into his orbit where you are repulsed and riveted and simply can’t take your eyes off him.  He emanates brutal, crushing magnetism in his blood-lust, obsession, debauchery and deception. Singh has raised the bar sky high in the commercial space. His unconventional looks and outstanding talent gives him the elbow room to portray hero/anti-hero characters and he takes full advantage of this; his risk paying off spectacularly. He is very aware of the camera and the light and exudes menace and malevolence in every frame.
2)    Jim Sarbh as Malik Kafur –  a huge round of applause because Sarbh does not allow Singh to eclipse his supporting role and he shines through all the homoerotic insinuations with fantastic body language and easy confidence.
3)      When you come out of a movie thinking no one else could have done that role, you know the actors are winners. Indeed, no one could have filled Singh’s or Sarbh’s shoes. Such work is a rarity in commercial Bollywood space, and you must watch to encourage writers, actors, producers to take such creative risks.
4)      Raza Murad as Jalaluddin Khilji in a brief role – his trademark voice and dialogue delivery is a wonderful opening to the movie.
5)      Attention to detail is a captivating delight be it in the sets or in the costumes – and both these aspects are very important in a period drama.
6)      Shahid’s understated portrayal – a lot of people have found his acting insipid, but I think the role demanded he underplay it – a characteristic contrast to the loud and vicious Khilji. It would have been awful if there was a lot of chest-thumping. But there are a couple of scenes where Shahid communicates with his kohl-lined eyes, and that’s no easy feat. 

If not anything, you must watch this movie to put every bully in place who has dictated what movies you must watch and how you must feel when you watch the movie, and who has judged you based on what entertains you. You must watch this movie to put an end to this dangerous trend of a bunch of people trying to make everyone conform to their idea of Indian-ness and patriotism; to wrest back control of your thoughts and opinions, to make your own informed choice…because you are a thinking individual of the 21st century.

© Sumana Khan 2018


  1. Or, you could say that you're tired of Bhansali movies because they're superficial/too long/too melodramatic (any reason why you hated any of his other movies) and just skip it! Like you normally would! :D

  2. Exactly.. the movie needs to be watched for it's details. Personally, I did not like the ending scene which was too elaborate. But Ranveer as Khilji is the best.