My Happy Family

After a long time, I watched a film in a language that made me pay attention to the silences between words, scenes, and walls. My Happy Family was on Rheaa’s recco list and I immediately bookmarked it because the synopsis said that it was about a woman who leaves her family to live on her own.

What I didn’t know was that the woman is a teacher, married, has two adult children, parents, one brother, one husband, and husband’s relatives. She leaves them all and decides to live in an apartment far away.

Manana has been wanting to leave and live on her own for sometime now. When we first see her, she is already looking for houses. But the urge to finally do it comes from one of her students who is newly married and even more newly separated from her husband. Apparently when the girl told him that she was leaving him, the husband told her that if you say no, you must say it without hesitating, otherwise there is no point.

The next day, Manana packs her bags, moves out and begins living in her new home. All we need to know about where she lives now is that her apartment is on a floor closest to tree tops and their leaves and rustling. Her family goes berserk and there are various meetings held at home and in coffee shops to persuade her back to her life (“mark my words, you will come back to us in one week”– to which she says “ok”)

After one such noisy family intervention where everyone yells at everyone, she leaves them and returns home where she cuts herself a piece of cake, listens to Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca on full volume, sits on a sofa right in front of the tree and eats.

If it is at all possible that an image from a film, a sentence from a book or a conversation with a student can make you alter your life completely, then I wish it is this scene for me. It is something I want to personally and professionally work towards: the silence to have your cake and eat it in front of a tree. While listening to Mozart.

Every day after work, she stops by a vendor downstairs and buys fruits. She is very deliberate in doing this, making sure she only picks the fruits that she wants to eat, and in the exact quantity.

One day, she tries to play her old guitar and learns that its seventh string is broken. The next day, she is at the market looking for the seventh string. She finds it, goes home, reads student’s assignments, smiles at one, drinks wine, and plays the guitar.

Manana found her seventh string and then she couldn’t stop playing.

She makes it look like it is possible to dust off the many parts of you that you have allowed to rust because life just kept happening and you didn’t notice when you stopped doing the things you loved to do. That even at 50, if you find the josh to go looking for some fucking seventh string, then you have nothing to be afraid of.

At the beginning of the film, we are shown Manana with her family. She is just sitting down at the table with cake and her mother asks her to eat it after dinner. People have called this a feminist film because she leaves her family and lives alone. I like to believe that the film is simpler. It is about a woman who dumps her family to eat cake in peace. If that makes it feminist, then we should all have our cake and eat it too.

The film is available on Netflix.

Ammonite

Neck

Mary (Kate Winslet) is looking at Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan) who is sitting with someone else in the first row. They came there together and it doesn’t make sense for them to be sitting away from each other. A little before she leaves, Mary looks at Charlotte’s neck. It is quiet, the kind you want to touch and disturb. It is also inviting, the kind you can never be sure of. Nothing is as bitter in your mouth as the taste of watching their naked neck teased away from you.

Hands

Women’s hands when they are at work, and in love are the most easiest, most forgotten pleasures. In the picture is an ammonite that Mary and Charlotte heave onto a plank and carry home.

Toes

What does it mean to steal a glimpse of her toes while the rest of her body has already surrendered itself to you?

Face

We must learn to be grateful for art that can lead us into love, pleasure, and desire so ruthlessly. Ask for nothing less. It must be exactly like this.

Letting go

When does body become bodies? Is it still not one body when they are bodies throbbing together?

Fin

Water Lilies

Crushing on Adèle Haenel today. Read that she walked out of the César Film Awards in 2020 when Polanski was announced best director. She yelled “Bravo, pedophilia”

Floriane and Marie

Watched Portrait of a Lady on Fire, again. It was my first time on Prime Party. Smiled more, bawled less this time. But everything was loaded with more meaning. The looking and being looked at and especially the looking back in return. Adèle Haenel and Director Céline Sciamma met while filming Water Lilies and were lovers till they filmed Portrait of a Lady. So I died a little and went and watched Water Lilies. Looked again at Adèle Haenel (Floriane) as she changed her top in the metro, put lipstick on while looking at her reflection in the window, and looked at her for Marie as well who was just as drawn as I was.

Became very fida after learning that Adèle Haenel came out and admitted full love for Céline at another award show. Gahhhh. There’s one lovely scene in the film where we are shown the under water side of synchronised swimming. I would never have been able to tell by the way their upper bodies danced that under water- their legs were constantly fighting.

Anne and Loafer boy

Ultimate hearthrob is Anne who spits in loafer boy’s mouth just when she is about to kiss him.

Nice day. Downloaded a whole bunch of women only films to watch for the next couple of days. As I lie in bed typing this, I’m smiling and wondering if it’s possible to go to bed with a secret every night.

HUNTERRR

I watched Hunterrr today and it made me howl and giggle and laugh and oof. It was refreshing to be drawn into the world of young male cousins bathing together, of them seeking a chest to lean against and cry at funerals, of them speaking of nothing but love and marriage and sex and shit, of men who don’t forget to carry left over pieces of chicken kebabs while running after their Devdas friends who drunkenly leave tanni on the table to go settle matters of the heart.

It is a rare film. Because usually male narration of itself is exhausting. Hunterrr isn’t. Because usually male narration of itself tends to have a Ranbir Kapoor- type aura around it even if there’s no Ranbir Kapoor around. But Mandar Ponkshe is delightfully anything but Ranbir Kapoor. And that’s not the only lovely thing about him. The man is full dil. Gulshan Devaiah who plays Mandar is apparently a Bengloor huduga who went to Cluny’s and then to Joseph’s Indian.

There is also Radhika Apte in the film before she became the Radhika Apte. She is Trupti who is stunning in her clarity of what she doesn’t know she wants in life. There is a small shopping scene at a market where important conversations around love and marriage happen simultaneously with alteration directions to a tailor ( also featuring in the scene is Satrapi’s Persepolis) 

Mandar lost in shops is a whole museum of comedy.

*Scene One: Women are bra- shopping and Apte tells Mandar to go talk to (read: put line for) one of the women. Hero goes there in his most sex energy on legs kind of way and is asked by the woman to give her a 36 D bra. He is staring, Apte is laughing. He puts his hand inside a tub full of bras. Sales boy comes and tells him ey don’t put kai man, you are dabaoing everything. Mandar says eh fuckoff man what is there to dabao here anyway? (In my head my mangloor sisters and I are rolling & laughing)

**Scene Two: Mandar in a supermarket following Apte. But the store manager is following him and asking him questions like ‘Sir what you eat in morning sir? Corn flakes, muesli, bran, tell me sir tell me”. Mandar says I eat poha and walks off. Hengappa kannada huduga ishtu sexy aada Marathi alli? I am asking. 

The scene that took my heart away has young Mandar, his father, another young cousin walking to his village. Random paapa smol kid doing open tatti stands up almost militarily to greet them and say ‘Haiiiii’. Tatti-doing boy’s father yells in the background ‘ey gadhava bas khali’ 

Man organising bloo fillum in seedy theatre instructs men not to do dirty things or he will rub tiger balm there and all. The other thing he rubs is one burn for young Mandar whom he calls ‘Baby Mushroom’. In the middle of the screening, cops come off. “I came to watch chota chetan”, mandar says. “Came to watch chota chetan or to make chota chetan bada?” cop asks. 

_________

Getting to know a city through a film set in it is becoming rare. I am not complaining. I am grateful that it happens only now and then because when it does, it teaches me to look where I am not used to looking, and to pay attention when it’s so easy not to. Hunterrr has Pune in the way that Mumbai is never allowed to overshadow it. In the way that Mysore used to be until everything became Bangalore.

Hunterrr has the same energy of old Bengloor love stories that I keep demanding from friends to narrate and re-narrate until I can see them instead of Anil Kapoor in Naguva Nayana, and see Premier bookshop every time I walk past Church street. It makes room for a rare pause in that song where you can walk to a cart selling guavas and buy some for your lover and yourself. Fruits man, fucking fruits.

***Scene Three

Mandar and cousin sleep on the footpath after the chicken kebab- scene. Context is that Mandar is waiting to go and tell Apte everything about his raunchy past. Cousin says fuck you bastard tell after you get married otherwise she will leave you ra. Mandar doesn’t listen. Cousin convinces him to sober down a little so they decide to sleep on the footpath. Early next morning Mandar goes into Apte’s apartment leaving sleeping cousin behind. Camera doesn’t begin and die with heroes only. At one paapa moment, it returns to find sleeping cousin being rudely woken by a walking passerby thatha. 

Haven’t watched a film like this in soooo long. It returns with grace to the moments other films have trained us to forget and move on from. Pah.

Mr M discovered this byooty on Prime. But I sincerely believe he is lucky to have me give him all these lovely film reccos man.

G for Gumption

sssss

The first syllable of this word comes from nowhere in particular. Your tongue hangs about without really touching anything in the mouth, making room for its own stomach to gather the ‘guh’. Indeed, it’s a word that requires more than your mouth to say it. It needs the tightness of your fists & the firmness of your stomach. I first heard it in the film, ‘The Holiday’ & understood its meaning entirely from the way Kate Winslet had banged the door on a man- an asshole, turned around with infectious energy, punched the air with her fists & celebrated having fallen out of love with him. When he asks her what had gotten into her, she says ‘Gumption’

I don’t have gumption. My mother has it, my aunts have it, & mouma who passed it on to her daughters will always have it. It’s what caused amma to hold a broom over her head one day & chase away an old Brahmin man who had stopped at our gate to teach her manners. She was cleaning the front yard & he stopped to tell her that in America, people didn’t do things like that(!) She screamed, ‘saakappa hogu, naavu nodidive jagattu’ (enough man, keep walking, even we have seen the world) 

My aunt showed gumption by pushing an abusive brother-in-law into a chair, her foot firm on his chest, her eyes dancing with fire, while her index finger launched a threat at his face to never ever lay a finger on her sister. 

As a child, I believed that mouma’s gumption was hidden in her blouse and perhaps it is. It’s why she never wore a bra. She barged into temples, ate their food, prayed to their gods because she never believed that anybody should have the right to stop her, even if it’s all they did. She grabbed her paysa & ate it too. And ate it how – standing tall against all the poojaris united.

Savitrimai’s gumption was in the extra saree she carried in her bag because she didn’t have time to fight Savarna losers whose only job was to stand with cow dung to throw at her. She had work to do – her work was her gumption.

Sujatha Gidla’s mother had gumption when she ran after a train that was leaving the platform with all her belongings – marks cards, certificates. She ran with the speed of an athlete, still carrying the water bottle for which she had deboarded in the first place.

It’s the English-language’s poverty that even a word that needs you to thrust your fists in the air like a martyr, like a woman newly out of love, will never fully lend its energy to understanding Dalit survival in this country. And this is why, G for me, is Gumption & I am claiming that word to tell our stories.

 

J for Jabya

Jabya smiling, Jabya laughing, Jabya crying, Jabya studying, Jabya singing – is a boy in love. Jabya doing homework is Jabya writing Shalu’s name on the slate. Jabya, in uniform, is Jabya dreaming of wearing t-shirt & jeans some day. Jabya who makes his friend wait while he combs his hair, who rubs powder on his face, powder dropped carefully from a paper is a boy next to whom nobody sits with in school. Jabya who reminds me of a student who loves to dance, Jabya who reminds me of my brother who pushes his hair back when nervous, is a boy who has to hide himself so he can watch the girl he loves & smile.

Jabya climbing up trees with his friend to catch a black sparrow that will bring him luck & love, is young Ambedkar climbing up trees to read. Jabya’s friend who doesn’t know how to climb down trees is young Ambedkar jumping down trees. Jabya at Aashiqui cycle mart is Jabya in love. Jabya pulled away from Aashiqui cycle mart to remove a piglet from the ditch is Jabya not allowed to remain in love. Jabya who has nightmares of that piglet when he sleeps is Jabya who chases a black sparrow every morning so he can convince himself that he is not the pig that Shalu has to flee from. 

Jabya who cycles out of the village to sell ice lollies is Jabya standing outside a Van Heusen billboard in town, staring at the white man’s sharp nose & feeling his own flat nose. Jabya dancing on Chankya’s shoulders is Jabya closest to Shalu who is watching from above, even if momentarily. Jabya’s Chankya is a man who saves Jabya without even letting him know that he was in danger all this while. Chankya, who guides Jabya to remain alive, who sets him to chase a black sparrow, distracting him, even if momentarily, from the horror of this impossible love.

Jabya chasing pigs is Jabya hiding behind the walls, hiding from school, hiding from classmates, hiding from Shalu. Jabya still inches away from the black sparrow is Jabya never losing hope. Jabya, inches away from catching the pig, Jabya standing still for the national anthem is a slap on your face, my face, and this fucking country’s face.

Jabya pelting stones at the pig is Jabya learning how to pick up the stone differently. Jabya has picked up stones to catch the black sparrow before but he always did it out of love. Jabya carrying the pig in front of his school walls where Ambedkar, Savitrimai, & Jotiba look on grimly is the image we need to remember everyday. Jabya picking up the stone in the end, is Jabya finally picking it up for himself. Jabya throwing the stone at the camera is throwing the stone at you. Manjule’s slap for you, for me.