One of the boys
There are some women that men will say this about complimentarily: She’s just like one of the boys. This so-called compliment implies: “Women’s humour, analysis, aesthetic and world view are not usually interesting. Hers is, so she must be more like a guy.”
A still from Happy New Year
It’s a limited view of the world and of what men and women are. I’d agree that masculine and feminine thinking do have different registers and charms. But such statements imply that one is superior.
Some women consider this negation of a chunk of their identity, a compliment. They’ve had to bang their heads against brick walls, glass ceilings and stupidity to have their work noticed. Even if successful, they constantly struggle with being seen as a ‘special category’, so they buy into this back-handed acceptance
As artistes, many women wiggle out of this straitjacket using humour, irony, terrific poise and just scarily awesome intellect.
Farah Khan has been such a director. The madcap energy of her films also retains the very warm gaze of an amused woman — whose tendency is not to mock as much as tease affectionately, if lethally. Through all the kitsch and post-modernism for the people, her robust sincerity and a strong emotional core keep us involved. Her frothy, slightly girly aesthetic finds a certain romantic beauty in the shiny baubles of tinsel town.
Her particular brand of womanly androgyny could have found no greater muse than Shah Rukh Khan — a movie star who has defined desire with gender shrugging ease. He has celebrated androgyny by reclining in a rose petal bath, altering his body like a submissive slave to his director and creating a delicious aura of androgyny and sexual ambiguity. Both Farah Khan and Shah Rukh bring the irony and humour necessary to blur lines, without losing warmth; important if we want to make meanings not double, but michievously infinite. Together they’ve made films that affirmed idealistic love and desire in different ways. They have given fans love and fans have repaid it many times over with love and money.
So, what could have made them sacrifice this joyful, sexy mischief to make an unexpectedly loveless film like Happy New Year? A film whose tumescent humour and deliberate ugliness, in writing and filming, are matched by flaccid emotion and embarrassment about love and romance. It was like a film made by boys who get high, don’t change their underwear and watch those really wholesale mein liye DVDs of so-bad-it’s-good films — except from all over the world, with none of that screwball energy. Its scenes, its un-romance, generic music and I’m too-cool-to-stay editing, that hard masculine body of SRK’s also felt like a bulk buy.
It’s a film that does something no Farah Khan or SRK film has done — it shits all over sincerity as if that’s what
In one scene, the male characters in the film go into a huddle and Deepika stands outside. She asks, so is included, as an afterthought. She seems so grateful, this woman disappearing into a group of boys. That scene symbolises the film, craving some acceptance, wanting to be one of the boys.
We know a film of this scale doesn’t need to be sincere, or even good. Marketing will ensure returns. But are these two people really saying they can’t be good and successful? What explains this self-hatred and disbelief in their fans?
Given my oft-declared devotion to Shah Rukh, I’ve been asked all too often this week: So, do you still love him? I will always love Shah Rukh but I fear, he no longer cares for love.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.