Nishabd the movie – why the theme of the film makes me uncomfortable
This film is about an 18 year old girl falling in love with a sixty year old man. One of the many avatar’s of films based on ‘Lolita’, a movie about a pedophile and murderer. Amitabh Bachchan, one of our legendary stars acts as the dirty old man…oops! Not dirty old man. He is Amitabh after all, so how could he be portrayed as a dirty old man? And so Ram Gopal Varma, one of Bollywood’s foremost directors, decides to show the sixty year old who falls in love with a young 18 year old as someone decent and respectable. Not mixed up. Not disturbed. But a normal grandpa figure who feels no sexual desire for the nymphet who is in love with him!
I admit I have not seen the movie so this cannot be a review. I have just given the reasons as to why I will never see this film.
But why am I so nauseated with the idea of a child falling in love with a man who is old enough to be her grandfather? I always considered myself a liberal thinker. Could it be something to do with the fact that I am a mother of two young daughters and for me it would be a nightmare if any of them got hitched to an old man? But which mother would think that this would be a good union for her daughter?
It could also be that I am acutely aware that this is India where millions of young girls are exploited sexually by older men. In fact not just this, there are many cases where girls as young as 12 and 13 have been married off to men older than 30 and in some publicised cases, 50! That is why the theme of the film revolts me.
But I thought I was different and that everyone’s taste differs and there would be enough people wanting to see this movie. That is what I thought.
I was wrong. The opening of the film has been disastrous. Many cinema halls are going empty. I can’t say I am not glad. In this same article, trade experts have been quoted as saying that Indians are orthodox and and some other reviewers have said something similar. That Indian viewers are not ready for this sort of thing…but frankly I do not think of myself as orthodox. In our family we all wear western clothes as well as Indian clothes and I do not think there is anything wrong in showing flesh. I dated my husband for many years before marrying him and it was accepted in my family. Women in our family are all highly educated and quite a few of them are professional working women. Drinking is not considered taboo in our home and nor is non vegetarian food…and nor do we maintain many of the traditional ‘Hindu’ rituals and practices. Intercaste marraiges are also not taboo in our family..but certainly a young girl marrying an old man is something quite repugnant. And I refuse to believe that in western society a mother would be happy with this situation. It is a not a question of west vs east as some people are suggesting.
However, a film director is an artist and he has a right to air his own views about life, however repugnant they are to others. But apparently, the film is not good even artistically. Here is an excerpt from a Mumbai Mirror article:
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita probably rocked the boat because it offered literary gravitas to pedophilia. Not that Nabakov denied the sheer brutality of his protagonist: a middle-aged professor, later a murderer, who marries to seduce a 14-year-old step-daughter; a relationship that social contract will rightly never allow. Moralists felt he provided an incitement, at any rate, an outlet or overt expression to perversion…the young, 18-year-old Jia is the lollipop Lolita of a sexually precocious nymphet’s brown skin…her restless, unstable life, shorn of parental care, very partly explains an unnatural lust for a stable, older man. Bachchan, as it turns out, isn’t quite Humbert Humbert. Therein lies a problem…Humbert had a messy childhood history…Bachchan is just another 60-year-old, neither overtly naïve or immature, nor impulsive or uncaring; leading what seems a regular, retired married life…the camera-work, high on unnecessary effect, and sounds of wind chimes and gongs strictly portend an event or action; more in line with the horror genre. Nothing happens really. The conversations between protagonists aren’t revelatory. Even the intended lyricism, if you look out for one, seems rather manufactured. We’re just meant to learn that Vijay accedes to quick advances from a girl he would rather reserve grand-parental affections for. And that this is an inestimable, rich emotional bond; not a fatal attraction or a momentary lapse of reason. In confusion between love and lust, the odd guffaws in the theatre will tell you, we’re then left with a film that’s about neither.
Well, that review decided it for me. The movie is clearly a hypocritical rendering of a pedophile’s lust for a young girl. It doesn’t makes sense otherwise – a sixty year old bonding emotionally with a girl who in his eyes could only be a ‘brat’. Unless ofcourse the physical aspect is strong…but apparently this has not been shown! As for the girl falling for him, that is more understandable…young girls are often infatuated with older men.
I wonder why Amitabh Bachchan accepted this role. This is one role of his that is not going to be liked by the public. His role as ‘sexy sam’ in KANK was also criticised (he played a man who started having affairs with women after his wife’s death because it was always his suppressed desire which he kept in check because of the ‘love’ he had for his wife) but somehow people accepted it. But this time Mr. Bachchan is not going to be so lucky.
Later this evening: I saw on television today that people in Bachchan’s home state of Uttar Pradesh are protesting. Buring his effigies! And there was a television programme on Zee news discussing this issue. There were four people who were discussing it…a couple (old man professor married to a young woman student), another old guy and a young westernised looking girl. They were all off the point in my opinion. The professor and his young wife kept repeating the same thing: that love crosses all boundaries, including that of age. The other old guy kept talking about how Indian culture has been corrupted by western culture and the westernised girl kept saying that the young make impulsive decisions and also that there is nothing wrong with western culture and that love crosses all boundaries. And the achor couldn’t control them because they were all talking at once, yelling at each other in fact. It was rather amusing. Not one of them mentioned the artistic merit of the movie or even whether the characters made any sense. Whether it was possible for a sixty year man to fall in love with an 18 year old without lusting after her body. This is the real reason why this movie is nothing but bullshit. Not becoming of a talented director like Ram Gopal Varma and a wastage of the talent of Amitabh Bachchan. Hypocrites all.