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Did You Say Anvita???
Sep 25, 2023 10:28 PM 199 Views



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I watched this movie late. Therefore the late review. Well, it does not make much of a difference, does it? Said that b'coz just wanted to straighten things up a bit.

Notwithstanding the reviews which went gaga about the movie, my pendulum swings on the other side. I will not say I did not like it but I will not rave about it either. In short, I have my questions and reservations.

The narrative is set in the backdrop of a snow hardened Shimla. But Shimla is not so white throughout the year. Its I guess to build that melancholic Havisham-ish, brooding time warp where everything has stopped. Just like in the lives of Urmila Manjushree and her daughter Qala Manjushree.

Urmila Manjushree bears the onerous legacy of music maestros wherein the titular recognition of Ustad or Pandit are the patents of the patriarchs. The heritage is carried forward by them whereas the women are merely condemned as Bais.

Without digging too much into the past, which is kind of novel, Urmila gives birth to twins - a boy and a girl. The girl survives because she is stronger and extracts all the nutrients off her mother's body. The boy is still born which incites Urmila to almost commit a heinous crime by smothering the girl child with a pillow.

The stage is set wherein a mother deprived of a son inwardly blames her daughter. She is too harsh on her while teaching her the first notes of a Raga punishing her by closing the door on her leaving her shivering in the freezing snow because she just cannot get the sargam straight. The mother knows that her inheritor is not up to the mark.

Urmila has stopped singing. Why? Again the narration does not delve in too deep. In comes Jagan, an orphan, with a God gifted voice. Urmila immediately takes him in to fill the void in her life giving way to suppressed jealousy, diguised competition and a perpetual yearning in her daughter to win back her mother's love.

Somewhere Urmila, the singer's choice of tutoring her daughter to wrench away the much craved crown of a musical protege from a male dominated world is overshadowed by Urmila, the mother's longing for a son.

Qala, always the stronger one, seduces her way to stardom striding past the carcass of a young boy whose voice was his identity. Here, there is a difference. Qala does not sing for herself but Jagan sang out of his soul.

Suddenly the go-getter Qala is reduced to a diffident, hallucinating, guilt ridden vulnerable child who needs her mother's arms to cradle her. Again, my question is why?

If she were that bold why does she fail onces she is enthroned in the apex of her career. Why does she cower under the pressure of a dark past which metaphorically steals the wind out of her? She has the DNA of a survivor, doesn't she?

It is here that the script falters. Qala has to be portrayed as sublime in her growing conscientiousness and thrown on to the path of righteous self-indignation. If her mother is misogenous what is Qala? What does she symbolize? What does she signify?

She is a path breaker of her times, ruthless in her attitude and unflinchingly fame thirsty. It does not take her to bat her eyelid once to woo a man fit to be her father to make a debut into the world her mother would have taken pride to be. But when he extracts physical pleasures out of her she feels dirty and disgusted. Contrary?

Qala is touted as a period film. Which period it showcases is not clear. Perhaps the early 40's. A time when even the most educated family will not converse in English amongst themselves.

Qala is always dressed in green in her adolescence and grey as she steps on to womanhood. Does that imply her loss of innocence to shades of devilry?

Urmila is the woman in black. Her domain is shrouded in silhouettes. Her eyes are always vacant. There is no sunshine in her life. She is bereft of dreams. She has strangled her emotions so hard that her soul is dead.

Jagan is the surreal cognition of a misdemeanoured past playfully harrassing Qala. Perhaps there is more to their equation than the forced stature of siblings not born of the same mother.

In all this mistique, nuanced and symbolic narrative of a mother and daughter fairy tale like story what does the Director actually forecast? Why have viewers jumped to conclusion that Qala is much ahead of her time feminist? If so, then why the crushing guilt of wrestling with the feudal mindset? Why is it so damn difficult to accept that women have the right to dream and transpire those dreams into reality by hook or by crook? Why do they always have to be shown in the light of the distressed and distraught damsel who has to go back to her foetal position to win the awe and admiration and angst of the audience at large? Why can't she be the villain of the peace and yet be a sterling achiever of her times? Just because she is from Venus she has to be in bondage of her own image?

If that is so Qala does not serve the purpose.

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