(At the very outset let me apologize…this is an extraordinarily longish post. So readers, if you lose patience, are not to be blamed)
Have you read Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? If you have you’ll know that the novella, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or simply, Jekyll and Hyde, pivots around the unnerving plot of coming to terms with the dichotomies co-existing within human personality – the residence of the Angel together with the Devil inside – unearthing the negativity within one self clashing with the positive side, time and again, perhaps to the acute discomfort and non-acceptance of the conscious mind! The litterateurs may delve deeper into the connotations and scoop out allusions to social divides but what concerns me here is the realization of the inner-insane popping up at the most unexpected moments in stark contravention of the broad-daylight-sane-image one claims to brag of and associate oneself with!
Not because it’s a classic, that Jekyll and Hyde absorbs my interest and usurps a post space, its that suddenly staring at oneself in the mirror, one fine morning and getting perturbed over an unaccustomed reveal, that my mind flies to this conclusive theorem that I too am in possession of this J & H factor! “How sordid!” Should have been my prompt ejaculation, but no, being the evergreen rationalist, I mulled and lulled over the fact till it blew out of proportion and had to be regurgitated out of my cerebral system, per force, for the sake of, oh again, sanity!!(There’s a contra here, whether you agree or not!)
So what made me propound this theory, subjecting myself, the hypothetical guinea pig, to an experimentation of my own? On the onset, let me clarify that it was not intended to be a so-called experiment. It just happened like so many other momentous occurrences of Life!!
It was last to last weekend – the one which juxtaposed with Christmas – extended into a prolonged holiday to our unbridled excitement! All we insufferable pen-pushers were so relieved to get three full days to laze around…am sure our workaholic Premier would be most disgruntled at this self-motivated confession.
Anyway, coming back to that historical TGIF moment when the Family decided to go berserk with that overbearing feeling of togetherness and chalked out an elaborate programme of lunching out followed by an evening show at the PVR to be again followed by another late-night show at the same PVR the very next day!!! Height of celebration!! And I was pulled along, (not exactly, because initially it was my idea of bonhomie, you see), with teases like, “At last she’s got time to devote sometime to the clan!”
Till now everything was hunky dory. Stretched out on our favourite seats (which take care of viewing pleasure as well as leg space both!!) – yes, we also have our claim to exclusivity (what with visits coordinated with availability of vacancies in a particular row of a particular PVR!!) – we let ourselves in for an enthusiastic guided tour down the lanes of history, though the disclaimer in the beginning of the chronicle itself was a detour, indicating a morphed version of chronology for the sake of cinematic adaptation and liberty.
Notwithstanding, I was whelmed by the opulence of the larger-than-life settings, the power packed performances, the distracting grandeur of period couture, the ensemble of impressive cast and crew, and above all, the sweeping narrative of epic proportion, all packed into a hypnotizing package of high-voltage visual imagery and impact. How the muscle-rippling, lightening-speed warrior Peshwa Bajirao (Ranveer Singh), the Ultimate Kshatriya, is wooed by the valorous temptress Mastani (Deepika Padukone), who is as adept at warfare as she is on the dance-floor. How the pious and dignified beauty Kashi Bai (Priyanka Chopra), Peshwa’s wife and confidant, is pushed to a cursed life of increasing isolation. How palace conspiracy dominates the lives of the trio ultimately leading to the inevitable estrangement which transmutes a royal saga into a legendary tale of love and familial piety, emblazoned in the annals of history, in letters of unalloyed gold. It is one of those classic enactments which leaves the audience heavy-hearted after the curtains drop down and long after one is wont to brood over the futility of all divides and demarcates that the society is so adamant about imposing on earthlings through ages. Director-co-Producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali endows the age-old clash-of-the-regalia an un-thought of dimension. It is on one hand, the ghar-ki-bahu Kashi Bai versus the bahar-wali Mastani Bai, on the other, it is the shrewd Radha Bai (Peshwa’s mother played by Tanvi Azmi) versus again the undeterred, madly-in-love Mastani Bai. War of words cut deeper wounds than the slash of swords. Hovering largely amidst questions of transcending social and moral bindings, is the looming issue of religiosity – the great pure-blooded Hindu Maratha espousing a ‘muggle’ Muslim, off-spring of a mixed alliance sans social sanction. Somewhere in this blood-soggy period drama, the omnipresent contentions of royal inheritance and consolidation of power get somewhat diluted. In the final analysis, if you ask me, my heart goes out to Kashi Bai, not because she is, obviously the most neglected of the threesome, though Peshwa does valiantly attempt at performing the balancing act between love and duty, but because the choice of an adulterous entanglement is neither available to her nor does she opts for one. I am, to be very honest, rather taken aback by the way Peshwa tries to retain both – lover and wife – on almost equal footing, whether that is possible or not, am yet to figure out.
It was in this palette of dismal grey that a sudden spout of the most shocking shades was indulged the very next night. Had it not been the mindless slapstick comedy that we coaxed ourselves into watching a full two and a half hours on Saturday, I might have carried on with the morbid mood and written a dozen poems of heartrending love-sickness for the next succeeding fortnight.
Cut two…. I take pride in predicting every turn of head, roll of eyes, flick of the jell-dripping strands, stretch of flailing arms, twists in the script, twirls in the choreographed moves and whiplashes in the dialogues that incessantly follow, like a torrid spree, one after the other. The baddie-turned-the-respectable-guy-next-door, burying his past behind, spoiling a brat of a younger brother, who is not actually his own blood-brother and refraining from falling in love because he cannot forget his first love who exited from his life with a bucketful of hatred for him, is actually staying in the same city, but that very fact is not known to him….phew! I can finish the entire screen-play in one sentence, which we sat through to stomach for one hundred and fifty four minutes, to be precise.
Atrocious! No, it wasn’t. I actually, thoroughly enjoyed the roller-coaster ride, the complete absence of coherent plotting, the repetitive-to-the-point-of-no-return-SRK-menagerie (if I may say so!) who unconvincingly tried to look twenty years younger than his present age and the vivacious Kajol (after a self-imposed looooooooooong hiatus), returning ageless on screen making one wonder whether she has been secretly making regular trips to Shangri La (Of course, if you don’t mind overlooking the creeping harshness contouring her well-disguised years of habitation on this planet Earth). There are also a horde of unimpressive sideys, like the ugly-as-a-beast Vinod Khanna and the Botox-ki-dukaan Kabir Bedi, who can be royally ignored in this wild than the wildest of confounded concoction. Dilwale, as is evident from the name itself, is undoubtedly styled to be the come-back vehicle for the lead pair and the forgettable eight-abs-sinewy Director Rohit Shetty has tried his unsuccessful best to recreate some of the classic DDLJ moments (e.g. the palat scene) minus the effect and the ardour. But now what else can you expect of a brainless brawny?
Having said all that, herein pirouettes the interplay of the J & H factor! Since that fated weekend I have been constantly agonizing over the fact that how could, I repeat, how could I not only focus my precious attention and time but also relish the most idiotic display of histrionics chomped into an equally unforgivable caricature of that much-touted Rs. 100 Crore celluloid extravaganza which briefly boils down to nothing but an ungainly show of financier’s unaccounted money, and pots and pots of it at that. Of all the populace on Mother Earth, I, who do not fail to intellectualize a single strain of thought and rationalize even a millionth of a grain of emotion, could sit through two movies of diametrically opposite genre and walk out of the promenade satiated in no uncertain terms!! This and this can only mean that either I am given to phases of temporary insanity wherein I act, think, behave and above all like things which are in total contradiction to what my friends and foes ascribe me with or there is a side to myself which is not known to me at all and that’s scary by all means (one of my dear colleagues once commented that I am a perfect psychological case study for Multiple Personality Disorder! Seriously!!). If you ask me, it is in all probability, the latter. This could be it….the only explanation! Only and only that inkling of abnormality, that hidden personality disorder that strain of a persona unknown to me yet residing within me – in short the J & H factor-which makes me forget who and what I am and give in to pleasures of the most deplorable and paradoxical kind!! What else?