friend and I went to see Chandni Bar. It depicts the real-life
anguish of a woman who dances in a bar in to support herself and
her uncle while attempting to raise two children on the fringes
of Bombay's criminal underworld. It is a compelling story beautifully
shot, portrayed with quiet dignity by Hyderabad export and sometime
beauty queen Tabu.
friend instructed me to tell his parents we were going to see
Ajnabee, a film about partner swapping. It reminded me
of the joke (you can attribute it to William Safire) where the
guy wants to conceal the fact he's looking through the Victoria's
Secret catalog so he covers it with a copy of Hustler.
reason I couldn't tell his parents what we were watching is because
the CBFC has branded Chandni Bar with an 'A' rating. 'A'
is India's equivalent of the American 'R', meaning that children
are not admitted without adult supervision. Quite unlike the 'R'
rating, which often increases box office appeal, the scarlet 'A'
next to a movie's title relegates it to commercial and cultural
insignificance. In the Deccan Chronicle, meanwhile, Man
Two Woman and Bed Timing (from bed to worse) carry
no rating at all and are listed proudly alongside Jurassic
violence, drug use, foul language, even Taboo Number One, the
kiss-Chandni Bar contains none of these. (I'm afraid most
of you just lost interest.) What undoubtedly earned it this dubious
distinction were two rape scenes (one homosexual) depicted with
great restraint, and soliciting of prostitution. It is, to repeat,
a true story.
parents nonetheless opted to take their children, all of whom
looked younger than ten-possibly old enough to be scarred but
not to derive any kind of lesson. My friend agreed it would be
salutary for broader audiences to be exposed to these sorts of
stories but felt that some of the scenes (you can guess) should
be banned outright. Baby steps.
Nenu is the worst film I have seen in years, often senselessly
violent even while masquerading as a tender love story. In fact,
there's no love story at all: one minute they're antagonists
and the next they're inseparable. Since some kids belong to families
who still consider a schoolyard crush tantamount to a marriage
proposal-as with Naipaul's Mr Biswas, so with Mr Reddy-implanting
this model of love in teenagers' heads could result in lifelong
frequency and nonchalance of violence throughout Nuvvu Nenu
seems more dangerous, because more likely to be emulated, than
anything kids could pick up from Chandni Bar. While the
latter gazes steadily at the pain haunting its subjects, the former
keeps busy unrelentingly inflicting more. With a singleminded
determination, the parents of Nuvvu Nenu's star-crossed
pair pummel, bludgeon, scald, bitch-slap, and dispatch scythe-wielding
maniacs in an effort matched only by Doc Hopper's pursuit of Kermit
the Frog. Rarely has a film been more adept at traversing the
narrow line between brutality and parody. Most awfully earnest
was the bloodied and bruised final love song, a larger-than-life
reminder of which assaults southbound travelers at Lakdi-ka-pul.
the rating system colludes with prevailing mores to purvey violence
for popular consumption even as it suppresses the stories of those
who actually suffer. Stateside, where views are so much more enlightened
(as we witness daily on CNN), we take some of each, kabhi kabhi.
While the industry worries that song sequences will mar Asoka's
reception by international audiences, I can think of a few other
hurdles that need getting over before serious films get their
due here at home.
the author: Matt Daniels, 23, holds an A.B. in Philosophy
from Harvard University. His long-awaited return to Hyderabad
was sponsored by Let's Go Publications, whose India 2002 guide
hits shelves everywhere this Diwali. You can email him at [email protected].
article by Matt: Daddy review