Saturday, July 31, 2010

Plot vs. Characters - Reflection of two kinds of societies?

Individualistic society's content always rely on strong characters, because characters are supposed to control and change the world, whereas collective societies always rely on intricate plots, with lesser emphasis on individualism of characters, as the fundamental belief and curiosity is about destiny, and understanding that not everything really is in an individual's control - individual is too small, and insignificant in the larger scheme of things controlled by both God and destiny. Which is why Chinese films - like the clouds, like the wind, rising the red lantern, or curse of the golden flower, have fantabulous plots and stories filled with coincidences, ripple effects, and million intricate possibilities triggered by a gargantuan system.

Confusions of a dangerous mind: Jesse vs. Summer

There is uncanny similarity between the two films - (500) days of summer and Vinnaithandi Varuvaya (Tamil). Both are love stories narrated from a boy's point of view. In both the films, the boys, from whose viewpoint the story is being told are entirely sure of their love for the woman. And in both the stories, since its the guy's viewpoint, the women come across as confused, and stereotypically 'hard to fathom'.Both base their stories with contemporary relationships as their landscape. Its probably a universal confusion with women, and perhaps even men...'Its hard to say no to someone who loves you so much, but its harder to say yes'. No wonder the women go out to explore the relationships but dont stay with the men in the end.

Incidentally, both the films were released almost simultaneously, and  across two culturally very dissimilar parts of the world. And these very same cultural differences, bring out the differences in the way the choices were made by both the women. Summer, highly individualistic and independent, makes her choice, is sure of it and takes responsibility for the end, she knows she did not love him enough to marry him. With Jesse, its more complicated, I couldn't really figure out if she decided not to marry the guy because of family, her father and for the sake of his social pressures or if she just used that as a reason, in her head and otherwise..because deep down she thought it wasnt the love worth fighting so much for? She is courageous, because she walked out of her marriage, and confronted her family, and confessed about being in love with somebody else...but also made the choice of not marrying her guy in the end, but marry someone her parents wished her to. Interesting to see Sheena Iyengar's theory of how our choice making process depends on where we come from, come alive through these two films, which are so similar, but for where they are set, which contributes to all the differences.While an individualistic society offers more choice, and the responsibility of making the choice lies with you, a collective society poses a lot of different external variables, and there is a lot of possibilities that one can play with, consciously and sub - consciously!


The movie is infused with hope in the bleakest situations, unexpected humor,  a 17 year old writer, small town pace and colorful dreams. Writer - director Vikramaditya Motwane says its about teenage angst, and coming of age of a boy. About teenage boys discovering sex, porn films, alcohol and cigs, coming to terms with their relationships, finding their place in the world,  making choices to follow their dreams and cribbing, frolicking with friends...
But to me, in addition to all this, this film is about complex characters, parenting and a father son relationship

Ronit Roy, who played the father was one of the best etched characters in Indian cinema, so far. I loved the fact that Ronit justifies his stance and we know why he has become what we see - A father whose wishes he adhered to, revered with fear, and submitted himself to...accepted his definitions of 'masculinity' and 'loser'..
They say that if you had a bad parent you didn't do anything about, you'll end up being the same monster in the future, because he dictates your world and creates 'the right definitions for you'. Ronit, a typical MCP, always weighs and assesses everybody with his set and standard definitions of masculinity...which is why he calls his boy 'a girl' and finds it funny that 'tumne sex bhi nahin kiya' (which was also his way of bonding with his son the manly way, weirdly endearing i thought) or calls his brother a loser, because he does not have kids...
 Never having been truly loved, resorts to life filled with self - pity - which is the most dangerously indulgent way of loving yourself. In his mind, he is the ideal father..the one who has given his savings and life for creating a bright future for his sons, except that his elder son does not want to live that future. He does all the 'done things' by a parents, like showing the son Jamshedpur, by pointing out to all the statues of famous men in that city, taking the sons for a 'picnic'...but the acts have no emotion, no life and definitely no love.Its rare that we know everything about a villain, his insecurities and his incapabilities and yet not feel like empathizing with him..

I also liked Rohan - the kid who plays Ronit Roy's of those strong willed heroes...self - assured, confident, silent and brave. Rohan is not someone who stomps around the world saying or thinking he is great. He is just quietly in peace with himself, who he is and discovers things about himself in his life. He isn't defined by peer pressure, but only by his dreams and conviction. His simple acts of courage, and his rebelliousness are really endearing and inspiring.

There were two extremes in the film...a 17 year old with ample conviction, a boy who knows what he wants, and who he exactly wants to be...and a monstrous, strict, self - piteous father who is stifling, scary and smothers the dreams and lives of his sons...I just thought its even more complicated in real...half monstrous parents, but kids also lacking in conviction :)

The film never loses its sense of humor and ingrained lightness no matter what how bleak the situation or how dark the plot - beginning with 'Kantishah ke Angoor' to 'Rathod' to 'Papa mujhe bhi hospital bejh denge' to 'Motumaster', the humor is what really brings us to tears, and builds empathy. And there is just so much hope, through and through in Rohan's character, and in the climax. Must watch for the humor, Rohan, and his Father played brilliantly by Ronit Roy, and of course, the most awesome music!