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Film-watching is a different experience at 8 and 18. I decided to rewatch 2 movies from 2010 now, as an adult. Here are the changes I saw.
Cinema or media in general has always been reflective of existing social norms. This often makes opinions from viewership shaky to say the least.
Growing up, I noticed a stark difference in how I feel about portrayals on celluloid. I watched two movies ten years after I watched them the first time. And here’s what I felt about them at both points.
Watching Aisha at age eight, the aesthetics designed to fit the elitist, upper-class setting did distract me for a while. The polo matches, fancy dinners and expensive clothes painted a reality very different from the Delhi I had experienced. But eventually, I couldn’t help but notice the problematic class angle even if I didn’t know what to term it then.
Aisha features Sonam Kapoor, who plays a glittering rich girl among Delhi elites who also voluntarily, becomes a match-maker in her social circle. The movie is centred on Aisha’s new project- Shefali.
Hailing from a small town, Shefali (Amrita Puri), dresses and talks differently from Aisha. And Aisha decides to ‘transform’ the supposedly less stylish small-town girl. This was a pre-curser to finding Shefali the ‘perfect boy.’
Looking back, this part of the movie ran along the popular transformation narrative, very commonly depicted on celluloid. Glossier nails, cut hair and expensive clothes aid a quick change of persona and a spike in someone’s social standing.
Even the transformation sequence in the song ‘Suno Aisha’ was not very different from Anne Hathaway’s glam turnover I saw in Princess Diaries. To eight-year-old me, these movies made it look like a ‘glow-up’ was the way to go.
Perhaps, in Aisha, the parts I now like are where problematic narratives are addressed. The scene where Shefali speaks up, letting Aisha know that she is not ‘bechari,’ who needs to be tailored to fit into Aisha’s world.
Shefali also eventually finds her way back to the boy from her own town that Aisha had asked her to inch away from, advice that was obviously based on the class angle.
However, when everyone finds a match in the end, is the class narrative still at play? At eighteen, the question I ask is why Shefali barely found any acceptance among elites. Why did she have entirely change her persona to even be considered by men in Aisha’s social circle?
Break Ke Baad portrays a romance between two childhood friends Abhay (Imran Khan) and Aliya (Deepika Padukone). For me, back in 2010, the characters stood out. The stereotype of what a couple should look like was so engrained that the equation Aliya and Abhay shared was new to me.
Looking back, cinema has always made the ambitious woman look like a misfit. Deepika’s character, a strong-headed, focused woman is also portrayed to be unruly in stark contrast with her collected, calm boyfriend.
Bollywood has always portrayed men to be of polar opposite personalities. Either men embody a masculine persona, admired by females around them or an accommodating, level-headed male who’s not necessarily attractive.
Conveniently enough, the latter are portrayed to be more committed, and trust-worthy. It is only now that I see how male and female characters have fit into defined stereotypes.
As per the plot, Aliya moves to Australia to study theatre and the relationship suffers. Abhay moves in next to her, despite Aliya wanting space.
Eventually, Abhay understands Aliya’s side and leaves. Aliya then signs a contract for a huge film without letting her mother know. She is, then met with various realisations about relationships and ambitions in her life.
Watching the film back in 2010, I found nothing wrong with Aliya having to tailor her life according to loved ones and what they wanted for her. In fact, I thought the end marked Aliya realising a ‘mistake.’
Now, I’d say Aliya should choose to do as she pleases and relationships should be much less of a burden than they are portrayed in the movie. However, I do still appreciate the realistic element. Being at a crossroads between ambitions and relationships is a reality for many women.
At the same time, what’s with the moral policing over individual decisions? How is Aliya supposed to calibrate her every move according to what her mother or her lover might want for her? These questions still remain.
Picture credits: Stills from the movies Aisha and Break Ke Baad
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A student of International Relations at Shiv Nadar University. Enjoys old bands and acrylics.
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