Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review of Bunty Aur Babli with relevence to social problems of traditional marital norms in India

Bunty Aur Babli, an escapist film with a theme of tradition verses modernity, was an enormous hit in India in 2005. Rakesh Trivedi, a small-town guy who feels he is a big fish in a small pond, sees his father’s life and knows he wants more. When his father gives him the ultimatum of a job interview or leaving the house, he packs his bags and heads for his dreams. Vimmi Saluja is also from a small town who feels that she cannot settle for the traditional Indian life she sees around her, especially the struggles that come with being an Indian woman. With dreams of becoming Miss India, she sneaks out and leaves home when her parents tell her they have an arranged marriage set up for her, and coincidently it is the same night Rakesh leaves home. The two meet and become friends, encouraging each other to achieve their dreams. But when their plans fall through they soon become Bunty and Babli, two con artists who realize they can make even more money scamming the wealthy and fall in love as they do it. The couple marries as they continue to con, but unknowingly to Bunty and Babli, an ACP officer, Dashrath Singh, is right behind their tails and pranks and will not stop until he puts them in jail. Bunty and Babli have a child which will lead them to hang up their prankster hats, and also to getting caught by Dashrath. After having the two in custody, though, Dashrath lets them go when he realizes their changed hearts and intentions. Years after the couple’s release, both are offered a government job that will utilize their conning skills, the cherry on top to this Indian day dream.

But what would their lives had been like if they never ran away from their small villages? My review will go in the direction of providing social commentary on the allusions to traditional Indian martial norms that Bunty and Bubli deter from, particularly dowry and some of its social consequences.

Dowry is the transfer of money and or goods from the bridal family to the family of the groom, a widely-used system dating back to Greco-Roman world (Hughes), though confined to Europe and East Asia[1]. The dowry system prevails in India, despite it being outlawed by the Dowry Prohibition Act in 1961 (Anderson, 270), and Anderson argues in “Why Dowry Payments Declined with Modernization in Europe but Are Rising in India” that this is because of India’s severe class stratification and the endogamous and patrilineal nature of marital practices (Anderson, 271). From an economic aspect, money acquired to give to the groom’s family can be detrimental on the bridal family, often leaving them impoverished. There have been case studies that show dowry prices ranging from $60,000 to $130,000 (Billig; Joshi) and can go as high as six times the annual wealth of the bridal family (Deolalikar and Rao).

The economic burden of a daughter in India creates many social problems, including the rise in preference of male children leading to sex-selective abortions and female infanticide. Abortions have been legal and accessible in India since 1971, and though sex-selection abortions have been banned (Clark; Arnold), there still seems to be evidence for highly disproportional sex ratios at birth and among young ages of children (Das Gupta and Bhat; Basu; Srinivanasan). In one study[2], researchers conduct interviews focused on fertility decisions with women in villages of Tamil Nadu, the Indian state with the highest rate of induced abortions according to National Family Health Survey data (International Institute for Population Sciences and ORC Marco). Most of the women in the study were of lower caste and typically poor, economic factors being the primary concern in their preference for quantity and sex of children. Almost all of the respondents stated a preference of two or three children and mentioned the struggles of providing children with education, healthcare, and for daughters, dowry. Many women voiced their preference for sons over daughters, majority of their reasons pertaining to dowry, as can be seen in this woman’s response:

“We decided only two because we need to have more money to raise more than two. Dowry was a problem for us, it costs two lakh (two hundred thousand Rupees) for dowry girls. We both do coolie (hired labour working in fields), so we can’t afford to have more than two. The government also suggests no more than two. It’s an incentive for people not to try for a boy.”

The interviewers never directly ask about sex-selective abortion, female infanticide or neglect, but some respondents talked of other women engaging in these activities:

“I know a lot of women who had scans and found out that it was a girl and then they got an abortion, in private hospital. Lots of people do that, I don’t know exactly, no one will tell outside…”

“…if they don’t like females they are putting paddy in the baby’s mouth and it will die. Another one, they don’t feed the baby for 2-3 days and it will die. Or they give herbal plants, milk of some plant to till. I know my neighbours and also other villagers. In this area it is very popular for female infanticide.”

“If women have two girls and want a boy they will give the baby ‘stone milk’ and then the baby will die.”

The study supports the notion of daughter avoidance due to economic restrictions, especially dowry. Other reasons were given for not wanting a girl because of dowry, such as the potentiality of daughters being harmed. If the groom’s family does not receive the dowry they stipulate, the daughter might be subjected to adversities, including physical abuse. This is reflected in one woman’s response during an interview:

“I am ready to give dowry for my daughters because now men’s families demand dowries. But I feel that in rural areas, mother-in-laws are doing cruelty to daughter-in-laws because of dowry matters, they are demanding dowries and it should be changed.”

The National Crime Bureau of the Government of India reports approximately 6,000 dowry deaths each year, but it is estimated that, because of unreported incidents, the number of women affected by dowry violence is around 25,000 (Menski). It is estimated that 30 million women are missing in India because of female infanticide (Sen). The trend causing these effects needs to be promoted and further analyzed and should be seriously considered by the Indian government in hopes of providing policies that will put an end to dowry, sex-selective abortions, and female infanticide.


End Notes:

[1] Murdock’s Ethnographic Atlas examined 1,267 societies and concluded that only 4% of those societies practice the convention of dowry and illustrates the restricted locations of the practice

[2] Diamond-Smith, N., Luke, N., and McGarvey, S. (2008) Too many girls, too much dowry: son preference and daughter aversion in rural Tamil Nadu, India. Culture, Health, & Sexuality, 10(7), 697-708


Anderson, Siwan. (2003) "Why Dowry Payments Declined with Modernization in Europe but Are Rising in India." The Journal of Political Economy, 11(2), 269-310.

Arnold, F., Kishor, S. and Roy, T. (1998) Son preference, the family-building process and child mortality in India. Population Studies, 52, 301-315

Basu, A. (1999) Fertility decline and increasing gender imbalance in India, including possible southern Indian turnaround. Development and Change, 30, 237-263.

Billig, Michael S. (1992) “The Marriage Squeeze and the Rise of Groomprice in India’s

Kerala State.” J. Comparative Family Studies, 23, 197–216.

Clark, S. (2000) Son preference and sex composition of children: evidence from India. Demography, 37 (1), 95-108

Das Gupta, M. and Bhat, P.N. (1997) Fertility decline and increased manifestation of sex bias in India. Population Studies, 51, 307-315

Deolalikar, A., and Rao, V. (1998) “The Demand for Dowries and Bride

Characteristics in Marriage: Empirical Estimates for Rural South Central India.”

Gender, Population and Development

Hughes, Diane Owen. (1985) “From Brideprice to Dowry in Mediterranean Europe.”

The Marriage Bargain: Women and Dowries in European History

International Institute for Population Sciences and ORC Macro. (1993) National Family Healthy Survey-1 (Mumbai, India: IIPS)

Joshi, Charulata. (1992) “The Indian Dowry Service.” Spectrum, 3

Menski, Werner. (1998) South Asians and the Dowry Problem.

Sen, Amartya. (1990) More than 100 Million Women Are Missing. 61–66.

Srinivasan, S. (2005) Daughters or dowries? The changing nature of dowry practices in southern India. World Development, 33 (4), 593-615

[1] Murdock’s Ethnographic Atlas examined 1,267 societies and concluded that only 4% of those societies practice the convention of dowry and illustrates the restricted locations of the practice

[2] Diamond-Smith, N., Luke, N., and McGarvey, S. (2008) Too many girls, too much dowry: son preference and daughter aversion in rural Tamil Nadu, India. Culture, Health, & Sexuality, 10(7), 697-708

Review of Bunti Aur Babli Review

Shruti's analysis of Bunty Aur Babli was a really provocative read. The aspect of "Relative Property", as we discussed in class, makes living at a lower standard than others much more difficult. We see 'Relative Poverty' not so much within the villages that Bunty and Babli come from, but in the exposed media. Babli cuts out pictures of models and hangs them in her doorway, Bunty refers to the larger cities where people are making their own way and escalating in society. This function of the media, as increasing the felt stratification in relative poverty, has made Indians less welcoming of westernized media sources.This has, in general, fed India’s skepticism of the west and its imposition of capitalist mindsets.
Bunty and Babli’s escape to the city would seem appropriate in an American movie-- the idea of pulling oneself up by their own boot straps and “The American Dream” is what America prides itself on. And I will admit, watching this movie I felt excited about their efforts, their agency. However, this is my cultural perception. This, in some ways, would probably seem like reckless, ungrateful behavior in India. They deny their place in society, and probably their caste. They challenge Dharma. Shruti’s point about the cop ACP Dasrath is pretty brilliant. He personifies King Dasratha of the Ramayana, continually on the verge of catching up with the two deniers of his way. Bunty and Babli’s disruption of things ultimately returns to order as the abstract and personified forms of Dharma catch up with them. Dasrath finds Bunty and Babli once they’ve already married and had a child, completing their family obligations in society. Shruti’s other observation about Babli’s traditional dress is also really important. She is visually identified with India, she also through Miss India pageantry seeks international acknowledgement like India.India throughout the movies we’ve watched is always feminized, most noticeably in Mother India. Babli is also the emotional embodiment of suffering, her crying in the train station is particularly loud and drawn out. Like Shruti described, this associates her with Sita of the Ramayana, who also suffered gravely.
Overall, the film adopted a paradoxical roll. Bunty and Babli took the system into their own hands, but ended up returning to the more ‘mundane’ life that they originally abhorred. They returned to dharma. I guess the difference in the end is that they ‘chose’ or returned to the more basic family life, instead of it simply being an imposition. But the underlying message of the story really ends up like “you can challenge things but you’re going to end up in the same place anyway.” Realistic or hegemonic, I’m not sure which, it’s all up to the capitalist and agentic beliefs of the person watching.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review of "Bunty Aur Babli"

Upon its release in 2005, Bunty Aur Babli turned out to be a huge commercial success. This movie evidently borrows generously from the Hollywood classic Bonnie and Clyde, albeit displaying much less violence. Bunty Aur Babli can owe its success to the fact that it sheds light upon the impact of modernity on tradition, as well as the state of small-city residents in a country where technological advances are leaving many people behind. Additionally, it reveals how unevenly wealth is distributed in the country, and as such the fact that these smaller city residents cannot afford to realize their true dreams, and often settle for much less.

Bunty is the alter ego of Rakesh Trivedi, who hails from a small town in Gujarat. As the son of a ticket collector, Rakesh has no interest in wasting his life at a daily 9 to 5 job. On the other hand, Babli in real life is Vimmi Saluja, from a town in Punjab, who has no interest in becoming someone’s wife, and then being tied down by the responsibilities and expectations that follow. Out of the belief that their true calling cannot be realized in these small towns, both run away one night unbeknownst to their parents. However, Rakesh’s entrepreneurial dreams as well as Vimmi’s wish to become the next Miss India are shot down once in the city. Back in the railway station, as both contemplate their failures, Rakesh and Vimmi meet for the first time. Confiding in each other about the difficulties they are facing, both decide to try their luck once again in Kanpur. Here the situation only gets worse for the duo. Rakesh comes to find that the same person, who had initially shot down his business scheme and sponsors, took the same plan to his supervisors in Kanpur, telling them that this was his idea. Meanwhile, Vimmi is not allowed to register for Miss India through Kanpur because her home town falls outside of this district. However, the attendant informs her secretively that he could make an exception for her but only if she complies with his requests, which are of a sexual nature, to Vimmi’s utter digust. After this second failure, both Rakesh and Vimmi are truly fed up with the system, which does not hold the same consideration for people of small towns, as it does for people from big cities. They run into each other once more at a local Chai shop, and decide that something needs to be done. It is at this point that the characters of Bunty and Babli are created. Rakesh and Vimmi decide to con the man who stole Rakesh’s plan. In doing so not only are they able to exact revenge, but also secure money for their trip to Mumbai. However, after the con goes according to plan, the two realize how effortless it is to simply cheat people out of their money.
Bunty and Babli represent a great portion of the Indian population that sits between the obscenely rich and devastatingly poor. This portion experiences what is called “relative poverty”, which by some is considered even more demoralizing absolute poverty. Being in relative poverty means you are fully aware of the economic hierarchy that surrounds you. It also means that you are aware that the chances that are afforded to you will by no means make you the kind of money that the upper class sees. Realizing the disproportionate nature of distribution of wealth, Bunty and Babli decide to work the system to get their hands on a portion of this wealth as well. The impact of modernity on tradition is a big theme in this movie. Being in a country like India affords one the unique opportunity of being able to see technological progress right beside obsolete mechanisms. While I do not necessarily believe that modernity and tradition are mutually exclusive, I will still maintain that in this movie the two ideals have contrasting impacts.

Rakesh’s father can be considered one representation of tradition in this movie. He spends his whole life as a ticket collector, and furthermore wants his son to join the same line of work. Rakesh represents modernity, and the wide-eyed optimism for big time changes that it brings. On this matter, Rakesh and his father are unable to see eye to, symbolizing the struggle that takes place between tradition and modernity, ending ultimately with one taking the back seat to the other. As a ritualistic in his profession, Rakesh’s father seems to be setting the par for the highest that can be achieved within that particular socioeconomic status. However, Rakesh believes his father has wasted his life working away at a job that does not even recognize the services he has rendered for it over the years.

Vimmi faces the pressures and expectations of a young Indian girl that has come of age. The parents believe it is in her best interest to get her married, which again represents the traditionalist view. Vimmi on the other hand wants to be a model, which definitely implies modernity, as models are often considered loose women with no virtues. Before Vimmi runs away, her mother has a talk with her meant to prepare her for married life. She tells Vimmi that she must now live according the wishes of her in-laws, in order to be considered a good wife. This subordinate and all-suffering view of the women was reinforced in Bollywood with heroines inspired from the Ramayana’s Sita. However, according to Bhawana Somaaya, times have since changed and female protagonists have been created that are not constantly undermined by their male counterparts. The character of Vimmi represents these major changes that have taken place within the rhetoric of the Bollywood heroine.

At the same time, Gusfield’s argument that modernity and tradition do not necessarily need to be mutually exclusive also holds water in this movie. For instance, Rakesh and Vimmi wed each other according to traditional Hindu values. Another point of consideration is the dichotomy of Vimmi and Babli. Vimmi represents the more traditional value of the two, by always wearing the more traditional Indian clothing. Meanwhile, Babli often plays the role of a Western-influenced vixen when she is conning people alongside Bunty. Additionally, after her marriage to Rakesh, Vimmi dons those signs, discussed by Dwyer, that indicate her marital status. Conclusively, it is safe to say that it is not necessarily tradition that is being abandoned by Bunty and Babli, but simply those traditions that are holding the duo back from realizing their true potential.

While the movie makes a very strong point that especially resonates with people living in small towns in India, it also has greater implications. ACP Dasrath, the cop that is on Bunty and Babli’s tail is representative of many things. First of all, he is the maintainer of laws and regulations, which are being broken by Bunty and Babli. His name itself is an allusion to the King Dasratha of Ramayana who was a strict follower of the code of Dharma. Bunty and Babli’s actions are considered Adharmic, according to the Ramayana, because they do not follow the obligations of their own status, and in fact are trying to topple the present hierarchy. Under the reign of Dasratha, transgressors of Dharma are severely punished. Similarly, ACP Dasrath is attempting to punish these people that are also behaving Adharmically. When the duo decide to put these con games behind them after having a child, they are subsequently caught by the ACP. However, now that they two have decided to abide by their Dharma, ACP does not arrest them. This implies that now that Bunty and Babli are no longer threats to the existing system, they no longer need to be thwarted. Ultimately, the two end up working for the police force, helping them stay two steps ahead of conmen and women, which I felt was the biggest cop out for a movie that started out making such a brilliant point. Vimmi and Rakesh giving up con games for a normal life, and then ending up as part of the system that they hated so much is indicative of the rhetoric that these silly games played by people to get ahead will not be successful. Additionally, it would be in their betterment to join with the existing order than to oppose it. Summarily, while Bunty Aur Babli was the source of some contradictory ideals, it still stands out in its accurate depiction of small town life in India.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Hum Aapke Hain Kaun" Review


After watching Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, I am baffled by the fact that it is one of the highest grossing Bollywood films of all time. Honestly, I wrote it off within the first two minutes after I saw the family's dog run out wearing a top hat and bow tie. The vast majority of the movie is focused on watching the characters play silly little tricks on each other and listening to them sing and speak about trivial issues. It was difficult to sit through a three hour and twenty minute movie with such a dull plot. I must admit that Hum Aapke Hain Kaun does have some redeeming qualities though. Almost all of the characters are incredibly kind and loveable, ideal qualities that many of us wish everyone in our real extended families could have too. The main characters, Prem and Nisha, also provide the audience with a sweet romance that is easy to root for. In addition to that, it is a great film to better understand Indian customs and cultural practices as well.

One common aspect that appears in most Bollywood movies is the lighthearted mischief and coy flirtation that goes on between the characters. This behavior is especially prevalent in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun where everyone pulls innocent pranks and teases each other sweetly. The playful mood of the film is introduced in the first scene when the characters enjoy a lively game of cricket. Each person pokes fun at the other for their skills, or lack thereof, with the ball and bat, but it is all in a loving tone. Let us also not forget the dog in a bow tie and the joy that a silly sight like that brings. Is the film already too saccharine? The mood of Prem and Nisha's relationship starts off mischievously as well when the two meet while she is impersonating a man. They proceed to pull a multitude of pranks, such as when Nisha lines Prem's seat with loud chips and when they chase each other around the house to get hold of Rajesh's shoes. Not only that, they make fun of each other too. They always innocently want to make fools of each other which is reminiscent of how kids in elementary and middle school show romantic interest. I cannot decide if their behavior is immature or cute; I guess it can be seen from both angles. This playful type of relationship is not just seen between Nisha and Prem but between almost all of the characters. I am very curious as to why constantly playing tricks on each other and coquettishly teasing is so prevalent in Bollywood cinema. Devdas and Rang de Basanti are specific movies seen in this class that often involve that type of relationship too. In a romantic sense, the only reason that makes sense to me is because these games are a way to play hard to get. They help to give the person doing the teasing a sense of power and having the upper hand. The flirty relationship games also create a type of sexual tension that is very present in these films but in a more understated way than most Westerners are used to. The underlying attraction between Prem and Nisha is later demonstrated by subtly provocative statements said to each other such as “I'm your sinner,” “Your slave is here,” and “When we come, there will be fireworks.” No, I definitely do not think that the last quotation was meant to be taken in an innocent sense. The words they exchange and their body language, coy but secretly filled with longing, is appropriate for the film's target audience in India— the whole family. In this way, adults can enjoy the underlying meanings within the film while not having to worry about the purity of their children being tarnished from watching it. That is likely the reason why Hum Aapke Hain Kaun was such a cinematic hit, as it was one of the first of its kind in India.

Another reason why I believe this film was so popular is that it demonstrates what ideal familial and romantic relationships should be like in a perfect world. Every character, except for the snotty aunt, oozes deep love and immense respect for every other person in the storyline. The characters are constantly bending down to touch each others' feet, a common sign of respect in India. They are also always doting on each other by giving thoughtful gifts, serving one another food, and singing each others' praises. This behavior in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun is a bit shocking, since it is completely different than what has been demonstrated in most other Bollywood films. It lacks the wicked sister-in-law characters seen in Jai Santoshi Ma and Devdas, and the judgmental and discriminating parental figures seen in Devdas and Alaipayuthey. The only character in the movie who has a bad attitude at times is the aunt of Prem; however, she doesn't influence the plot at all, and she is punished with a slap when she becomes offensive. Instead of showing the negativity of what family life can be like in India, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun seems like it is trying to be a good influence to people by portraying ideal relationship treatment. I've noticed that in a majority of Bollywood movies romantic relationships are carried out entirely by communicating only vague intentions or by speaking in dramatically poetic expressions. While that is all nice and charming, it does not seem real or have substance. It strikes me as a planned game. Hum Aapke Hain Kaun does incorporate some love games of teasing flirtation between Prem and Nisha, but the couple also has times of straight and non-flowery communication that is rare to find in the other films I have watched. One particularly tender moment between the two is when Prem comes to pick Nisha up in his car so that she can visit her sister. The ride is filled with sweet honesty and an attempt by Prem to truly connect with her without any fancy wording. In my opinion, the key to an ideal relationship is good communication, and that is something which the couple exhibits better than many other Bollywood romances I have witnessed. The concept of duty is also shown to be important in ideal relationships. Women in the film demonstrate duty by showing constant devotion to their family members through things like cooking and other forms of service. The biggest example showing the importance of duty is when Nisha and Prem are willing to sacrifice their love in order to have Rajesh's baby raised in a complete home. Rajesh later says to the two something along the lines of, “You were willing to throw away your happiness for what you thought was your duty.” That willingness to sacrifice is eventually understood to be an act of total love for one's family's well-being and happiness which is an ideal characteristic for relationships in India to have.

A beneficial part to watching Hum Aapke Hain Kaun is that I got a better understanding of some Indian cultural practices. The best example of this was the full traditional Indian wedding experience that I had never seen in such completeness. The film showed the importance of the bride's family playfully hiding the groom's shoes in order to bargain more money out of his family. It also demonstrated the beautiful wedding attire worn by the bride such as an ornate sari, henna covered hands, and a golden nose ring. The elaborate processional going up to the bride's home and the teary-eyed official transfer of the bride to her husband's family was incredibly interesting to witness. While at times I was annoyed by such lengthy detail in the film, many moments are very informative and help one to get a better grasp on what Indian life is like. 

The thing that I disliked about Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, other than the minor detail that it lacks a decent plot, is the fact that Pooja's death does not match up in the slightest to the rasa of the rest of the film. The movie's mood is playful, happy, and loving, but then completely out of nowhere Pooja dies. What was once a place full of color and life then becomes shrouded in white and sadness. I find it so strange that the tragic turn of events happens right near the end third of the movie. It's like the directors only realized at the end of filming that they had made a movie about nothing except for playing flirtatious tricks and having family conversations, so they had to do something to spice things up a bit. It is just out of place and pointless. I believe that Hum Aapke Hain Kaun would have been better if the joyful mood was not so abruptly changed near the end of the film. Even though I think the death was a poor plot choice, the movie does have a happy ending which seems to be of utmost importance for a family film. Obviously, if Hum Aapke Hain Kaun can make about seventy million dollars (inflated) in the Indian box office then it can't be such a failure.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review of HAHK Review

There are many things in Sarah’s article that I found I agreed with. First of all I loved that she included that it has been called “fourteen songs and a funeral,” because I find this to be very true. Yes the songs did take a large majority of the film over, but at the same time, I agree that each song was crucial to the film (unlike the Grey’s Anatomy clip we watched in class) and it was an opportunity of expression. I enjoyed that when the characters could not find the words to say or thought that it would be stupid to say them, that they did not give up on the thought and instead sang about it. At least they expressed what they wanted even if it did have to be through fourteen songs.

I also agree with the discussion of the families portrayed. Both a very wealthy indian families that live in somewhat of a bubble world. The girls are highly educated and the boys are taking over the family business. The viewer can see the wealth of these families if not only through the houses, but also the material objects each family has. Although I enjoyed the two love stories and was upset when Pooja died, I wish that maybe the two families would not have been so similar. After I finished “Hum Aapke Hain Kuan,” I was sucked into another Bollywood movie of the same type (“Maine Pyar Kiya”) in which the two lovers are from different social classes even though their fathers had been long time friends. It did not seem like either of them owed each other anything and it was interesting to see a family film where the families are rather different. I agree that although it is somewhat flashy and show-offish, it is important to remember the audience that is viewing the film and the experience they expect from a trip to the movies. Like Sarah said, masala films are created for people to experience things they do not in everyday life, which is true for this movie and the majority of the population in india.

I too enjoyed the Lallu scene because of the trust Pooja had with him. She treats him as a brother and so does the rest of the family, which is nice to see, especially since Bindu was so mean. I thought it was interesting to see this side of indian culture and the thought that scams occur like this. I feel like this was a chance for the director to add a little twist into the movie, seeing as the entire movie to that point had been pretty much love stories and the growth of them. Although it did add just a bit of conflict to the film, I think the main purpose was to show another love story and that is the one Pooja had for everyone in that family. They used this as another way to show just how good and loving she was towards everyone (even mean Bindu).

Although some people may have found this film boring a the same old thing, I rather enjoyed it. I thought the dances and song numbers were exciting and vibrant and also enjoyed an upbeat love story compared to such a sad one (“Devdas”) last week. I was excited to see how these two families became one. One question that still remains is if there was still something between the father of the boys and the mother of the girls, because the entire film there was a constant attraction between the two. In the long run, although there was a ridiculous number of songs and little drama, this movie still captured the masala spirit and represented Bollywood films fairly. I would love to watch other family films after seeing this one to see how they compare and differ. It is not exactly what you expect when you hear a family film, but it does have you leaving with a sense of joy and happiness.

Posted for Claire by Dr. D.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Review of “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun”

As in Ghosh’s review, I can understand why critics refer to “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” as “fourteen songs and a funeral.” Much screen time is devoted to song and dance, celebration, and happy conversation between the two families. Overall, the plot is formulaic and I think it lacks originality and the controversy that has made the other Bollywood films we have watched captivating. However, it is supposed to be a family film and fulfills this role well. Social norms are not threatened and the viewer goes away feeling that all is right in the world. For the purpose of this class, I think it gives us even more insight into Indian family life and culture. It also presents us with another version of a joint Indian family, this one being heavily idealized.
There is remarkably little animosity or instances of underhanded tricks in “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun,” unlike the last two movies we watched. The instances of trickery, such as when Rashej is not told why they are taking the trip and when the girls steal the shoes, are, like the rest of the film, lighthearted and good-natured. The film is full of touching moments, as when Prem does not want Rashej to go abroad on his behalf so near to Pooja’s delivery. Pooja and Rashej respond by telling Prem that they are doing it to help his future and they have nothing to worry about with Prem watching over Pooja. These moments are most exemplified in the game of “musical pillows,” when the characters go around the circle praising one another. Similarly, the characters present each other with gifts at every meeting and good-bye. The merging family we are presented with is almost ridiculously affectionate and loving. It is almost as if the union is meant to occur, as the family patriarchs were close friends in college.
Like many of the other films we have watched (“Devdas,” “Gadar”), “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” represents the idealized, romanticized world of extremely wealthy Indian families. Unlike either “Devdas” or “Gadar,” this film does not contain families of different social classes leading to a prevention of marriage and the ultimate heartbreak of the main characters. A love film at it’s center, “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” it is a story of simple, straighforward love between two young couples. The untimely death of Pooja is the only instance of tragedy in the film. Though the families’ desire to have Nisha marry Rashej causes some anguish, the situation is ultimately rectified by Nisha and Prem’s love, as well as the respect the characters have for one another. Nisha’s willingness to give up her love for Prem in order to help her niece and family is just one more example of the familial love and respect seen in “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun.”
Ghosh points out that the story largely takes place within the family’s home and garden. The few non-members of the family - the dog, family friends, and the servants - are treated as members of the family and warmly welcomed. Overall, the characters get along perfectly and only disagree when pretending to refuse each others’ presents. Even Rita’s unrequited love for Prem serves to increase the audience’s like for Prem, rather than being presented as tragic. As Rita is obviously not good enough for Prem, the story is set up for a young woman who is. All of these factors are similar to Hollywood family films. However, the setting of the film further exemplifies the utopia that Bharucha discusses. By removing the chaos and reality of life outside the family’s walls, the audience is also able to forget this reality and be transported to the idyllic world the characters occupy. Even the temple, which does exist outside of the home, is placed out of its context and exists solely as a location for the beginnings of Rashej and Pooja’s love story.
Much of the story’s plot development takes place during the songs. For example, we learn that Pooja is pregnant during the song “Dikhtana.” Nisha and Prem’s love is also developed in song, specifically when they are in his car and he sings “Mausum Ka Jadu” and their explaining their love for one another in “Mujhse Juda Hokar.” Pooja’s and Rashej’s love is similarly first described in “Wah Wah Ramji.” So, though critics accuse the film of being nothing but “14 songs and a funeral,” they should consider how integral these songs are for the plot. In song, the characters are able to elucidate emotions that would sound silly or corny outside of the song. However, the theme of the songs grow redundant as the film progresses and the audience begins to notice that they are all singing about uncomplicated love.
I think Ghosh’s review overplays the “undercurrents of erotic tension.” Though there is flirtatious behavior between characters who are not married or supposed to be flirting, I think this is as far as it goes. I do not believe the characters would allow their friendly banter to lead to any inappropriate actions. Rather, the characters have a lot of affection for one another and this banter is yet another way of presenting it to the audience.
Bharucha’s article about the film takes quite a different approach, considering the film vacuous and perpetuating the homogenity and unnecessary splendor of the upper class. I agree with this accusation - the family home is enormous and luxurious, a sad opposite to the reality of the vast majority of Indian families. This is exemplified in the film’s use of food. Like Bharucha discussed, food is a pervasive character throughout the film, reiterating the wealth and splendor of the family. With the gift-giving and luxurious home, this is just another example of the utopic world the film operates within.
However, it is important to consider - from purely an economic standpoint - how many fewer of those families the film is marketed towards would have paid to see the film had it been set in a less splendid home. Like the draw of masala films, audiences look for something different and exciting in their entertainment that they do not experience in their everyday life. We should also look at what the family’s lifestyle is suggesting to the audience, though. Is this just another example of American consumerism spreading throughout the world? Does the harmonious and blessed home life that Rashej and Prem enjoy lead the viewer to covet material wealth, so that they too can enjoy a similar life? My western perspective suggests yes, but I am not sure that someone with an emic Indian perspective would agree.
I also agree with Bharucha that the film is banal. There are no controversial elements and the story is very predictable. Rashej and Pooja, as well as Prem and Nisha, are so immediately attracted to one another that they hardly have a storyline. I found myself wondering how no one in either family recognized Prem and Nisha’s relationship earlier. Though Pooja’s sudden death was startling, it did not lead to an interesting plot. Rather, there was a short funeral where everyone was appropriately observant and then the family immediately set to finding a mother for Pooja’s baby. Nisha was the obvious choice, so she was chosen. Her love for Prem was equally obvious, and it too won out in the end.
The scene where Lallu is called away for a family illness was really interesting to me. Unlike the rest of the film, there is a hint of conflict. When Bindu suggests to Pooja that the telegram might be a scam, it says a lot about the culture the characters live in. Bindu would not have questioned the motives of a member of the two main families, yet her discriminatory classism leads her to immediately be suspicious of a servant being given money without proof of its destination. This prejudice is not addressed, instead, Pooja’s goodness is further demonstrated when she gives the money to Lallu anyway. It is significant that she does not reprimand Bindu for her insinuation. It implies to me that she is giving Lallu the money because she knows and trusts him, instead of doing so because the lower classes are not inherently to be distrusted.
The sexual undercurrents discussed by Ghosh could be seen as threatening or inappropriate in another film, but “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” chooses to present itself through rose-colored glasses. Any possible indiscretions are simply not plausible in such a white-washed world as this film presents. There are no subplots to speak of, no heart-wrenching sadness, and no action or violence. There are not even instances of dissent or the need for compromise. All of these elements characterize Bollywood films and are sorely lacking in “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun,” which is so formulaic that it could have been a Disney classic.
Overall, “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” is most successful in the role of a light-hearted, feel-good family film. It does not push the boundaries of Indian societal norms, nor does it pull at the heartstrings of its viewers. Rather, it presents a utopic world and the idyllic love stories between two young, beautiful, and rich couples.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review of Devdas Reviews

While I can agree in some regards with Michelle and Claire's reviews of Devdas, I must say that what drew my attention the most in this film was the story structure – particularly, as mentioned in the Creekmur article, the repetition that seems to characterize Devdas, both in remakes and in the structure of the film itself. Dev and Paro's early flirtations, upon his return from England in the beginning of the 2002 film, follow a self-sustaining pattern of one rejecting or playing coy, while the other plays the earnest suitor until frustration or tempers break.

Playing to Creekmur's Freudian interpretation of the film (and of the film's ongoing remakes), none of this repetition leads to resolution. Everything the two lovers do lays their path towards dissolution. Their coy, teasing flirtations do not bring them closer together; playful resistance to each other gradually turns to real pain and wrath. Each contact with each other does not change the nature of their relationship in some fundamental way – it only unravels whatever future they may have seen together.

If we are to hold with Creekmur, this would somehow represent a larger question, and allow us to speak to why Devdas is remade again and again. The central tension of Devdas – some melancholy pain of class disparity, perhaps, or a simple longing for a simplicity of childhood that does not exist in an adult world – remains or remained unresolved. Devdas is a story revisited and revisited – but not updated, as Baz Luhrman updated the Shakespearean classic in Romeo + Juliet, or the Coen brothers updated Homer in O Brother Where Art Thou. The story, quite simply, exists in an almost standardized form across decades, with key scenes reiterated again and again. The difference may be in how each creator chooses to interpret and focus the story, perhaps reflecting changing periodic or regional sentiments, but the deeper tensions remain the same, and continue to strike a chord.

Claire, in her review, asks whether we can really call Devdas the hero of his eponymous story. Perhaps he is an antihero. Perhaps he is the protagonist. But, at least in the 2002 remake, it might be better to compare Devdas to the object of Maltese Falcon in its movie - while his name provides the film its title, the film is only about him insofar as other characters' feelings about him motivate their actions. The film does not seem deeply interested in Dev's motives or desires; only the manner in which those motives and desires impact the women who love him. His dissolution is treated so cavalierly, we must question whether the film really cares about Devdas at all – it seems that his romantic destruction is built as an opportunity for Chandramukhi to show compassion, and for Paro to feel the pangs of worry. That one of the most cheerful and comical musical numbers of the entire film is about drinking, at the time when Dev is most consumed and destroyed by his alcoholism, speaks volumes.

Perhaps I lack the proper romanticism, but I cannot read Dev, in this film, as the protagonist, or a character developed and made to be sympathized with. Instead, I must see Chandramukhi and Pavarti as the protagonists, which provides – I suspect – a more interesting set of questions. In a film with two female protagonists, I note, those two women only have two opportunities to speak to each other, and only briefly. They are both driven by their passion and concern for Dev, and that passion takes over all that is important in their lives. As such, the gender politics of the film remain firm: while the woman of the world and the woman of the house are the two powerful female archetypes, they are defined in their relationship to men – particularly as they seek to care for those men. It also shifts the focus of the film's tension drastically. It is no longer the anomie-afflicted young man of the upper class, who is forced into the strictures of an upper class life, that causes its conflict; it is the yearning by the rising middle and lower classes to share a measure of equality and care with that man.

Nevertheless, I thought the film was fantastic. Singh may call it too flashy and colorful; while I will grant that the ubiquitous intensity of emotion may have prevented powerful moments from hitting with due strength, the lush imagery is absolutely unforgettable.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Devdas (2002) Review

Devdas is the ultimate love story. The Indian Romeo and Juliet (in which case I think it is better). Childhood friends become star-crossed lovers, who the audience instantly gravitates to. Devdas was not originally a movie, but actually a Bengali novella written by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. It has now been adapted to the big screen over a hundred times, yet the audience never seems to fade. This tale is the epitome of undying love and it exists between the three main characters: Devdas, Paro, and Chandramukhi.

Devdas is a very complex and troubled character. Although he is titled as the “hero” of the film, one finds it hard to truly define him as that. He is not a superhero and not once in the film did he ever do something truly good for anyone. He continually breaks the hearts of those around him, which finally leads to his death. In the 2002 version of Devdas, the movie starts with both Devdas and Paro in their early 20’s or so, which is a difference not only from the novella, but also the 1956 version of Devdas, where the audience is able to experience their childhood. I personally enjoyed this opportunity to have a glimpse into their childhood, because it shows and even greater transformation in Devdas. As a child he was rambunctious and carefree, leading to his dismissal to Calcutta (he goes to London in the more recent one). As kids, Devdas comes across with as if he only cares about himself. At one point he strikes Paro and she proceeds to tell on him, only causing him to come back and apologize the next day saying he will never strike her again (clearly a lie seeing as he hits her on the head before her wedding). Creekmur states that Devdas is a creature of habit and repetition, and writes, “Devdas seems more fated to repeat actions than to actually fulfill promises” (181). This is also played out by his return to his home and also the brothel. Although it seems Devdas has changed when he returns home from London (more refined and scholarly), he instantly falls back into his old self by spending all his time with Paro and rebelling against his father (The “I object” scene). Instantly the audience is drawn into this relationship and can only hope for the best, but a sick twist of fate occurs. Devdas leaves yet again, which leads to his repetitive visits to the brothel. The only promise Devdas semi-manages to keep throughout the whole movie is that he will return to Paro as a guest in her house. Even then he does not make it to her, dying right outside of her house. Devdas has a love for Paro throughout the movie which seems to be his downfall. Although one hopes that they will be united despite the many obstacles, the audience must settle for tragedy.

Yet Devdas would not be the character he is without the love triangle he finds himself in. The theme runs throughout the movie with Devdas constantly chasing Paro, and Chandramukhi following after Devdas. Once again tragedy is created through this triangle as the audience picks sides and watches hearts break. Nair writes the following: “Parvathi and Chandramukhi are classic examples of the projection of two archetypes of women in Indian cinema- the woman of the house and the woman of the world: the first as the devoted, all suffering and self-sacrificing housewife, and the second as the one destined to please society as a whole, always there to help the hero in distress, very often at personal risk” (86). Nair defines these two characters perfectly. Paro has and will always love Devdas. This is clear in the 1956 version during their childhood, when Paro does not play with the others so that Devdas will not be left alone or when she gives him her food so that he will not go hungry. Even at an early age Paro was there to respect Devdas and to devote herself to him. In the 2002 Devdas, Paro’s devotion is a candle; an eternal light that will never go out which symbolizes her love for Devdas (only when he dies does the light flicker out). Paro has counted the number of days, hours, and minutes she has waited for Devdas to return. She even risks not only her reputation but also that of her family, when she goes to see Devdas in the middle of the night alone. Paro is willing to fall at his feet for his love and be fully devoted to him, yet her heart is broken when Devdas will not go against his parents wishes and leaves. Although one would think Paro would forget Devdas after he deserts her, she continues to hold him in her heart even after she is married to another man. The undying love is a strong theme throughout, proven not only through the relationship of Devdas and Paro, but also through the relationship of Bhuvan Chaudhry and his deceased wife, who tells Paro that although she is now the woman of the house, they will never really be like husband and wife because he still loves his first wife. The symbol of the candle is even present in Paro’s new home as it travels with her and she protects it from those who try to put it out. She is willing to go against the wishes of her new family for Devdas (which she does multiple times- bringing in Chandramukhi, keeping the flame for Devdas, and running to him as he lies in front of her house).

Chandramukhi on the other hand, represents the woman who belongs to everyone. She is introduced when Devdas goes to her brothel to try and forget Paro. This does not work one bit but it does create the love Chandramukhi has for Devdas. She is surprised by the way Devdas is disgusted and how he pays her without receiving anything from her. She is so accustomed to receiving money for the love of her exploitation, that this shocks her and creates an instant attraction. Once again another woman in Devdas’s life is willing to throw away all her pride just for him, which is clear when Chandramukhi makes a bet that Devdas will return. She gives him everything she has throughout the movie, from taking him in to her heart. Chandramukhi has always pleased others, but with Devdas she is finally thinking about her own self. But although she gives all the love she has to Devdas, she seldom receives any because his continuous love for Paro. Devdas says, “Chandramukhi, I can't say how the gods of virtue will judge you. But, I do know if I meet you again, in another life, I will not be able to resist you.” There is a point where you think Chandramukhi has almost given up on Devdas, and that is when she meets Paro. Paro, who had always been so warm and kind towards others, comes into the brothel with all the disrespect in the world towards Chandramukhi, who thinks she can not compete with Paro. But both women quickly change their judgements of each other when they observe the love they share for Devdas. Paro is so touched by Chandramukhi’s love for Devdas, she even invites her to a ceremony being held at her home (again risking her reputation) and also gives Chandramukhi the bracelet Devdas once placed on her wrist. What ensues is one of the greatest dance sequences of the film featuring Paro and Chandramukhi (Aishwariya Rai and Madhuri Dixit- two Bollywood greats), in which Paro passes on her love for Devdas to Chandramukhi, after realizing he can be happy with her. Although the two had every intent of battling for his attention, they find themselves both just wanting the best for Devdas. In the end, Chandramukhi realizes she must settle for second-best with Devdas though, when he leaves her to visit Paro one last time. She accepts this and is thankful for the time she was given, hoping that in another life they will be reunited.

The other characters of Devdas enhance the tragedy the audience must experince. How badly I wanted Bidi Ma to just intercede and say Paro and Devdas belonged together, or how much I wanted the evil sister-in-law to catch on fire after she corrupted the mother and destroyed everyones lives. The father repeatedly scolds his son and rejects the love between Devdas and Paro, causing him to die alone and have his son show up drunk to his own funeral. Paro’s mother dances her feet off, only to be let down and laughed at. Bhuvan and the love he does not share with Paro. Each one of these characters brings a little more tragedy into the story that is already full of ill fate.

As a whole, this movie is one of India's greatest. It not only depicts love, but also hatred and greed. The movie comes to life with vivid colors and indescribable dance sequences. Each song was written with a special purpose (it took two and a half years to compose) to depict this undying love that exists in the triangle of Paro, Devdas, and Chandramukhi. The movie is certainly worthy of any praise it received and the story of Devdas will continue to be recreated over and over again.

Posted for Claire

Monday, April 11, 2011

Devdas Movie Review

"Fear hiding in the folds of red curtains, monstrous architecture, and caricature" is hardly the phrase I would use to describe Devdas. (Singh 91) For the most part, novel-based movies never turn out very well, particularly in comparison to the novel. However, Devdas does very well for itself, as shown by the fact that it constantly keeps getting remade. It reaches out to its audience on a highly emotional level, taking a typical dramatic love triangle and making it so much more.

In the movie, the protagonist named Devdas is caught between two women and two worlds, Parvathi and Chandramukhi. Being only human, Devdas resorts to the only way he knows how to solve his problems, escape through alcoholism and self-destruction. As a character, Devdas really reaches out to his audience. The conflicts of the self-sacrificing female leads also truly hit home for the people watching. Almost everyone has wanted something or someone that they couldn't have. Almost everyone has had to prioritize their lives and put their responsibilities first and uphold the expectations of their family and peers.

This movie really emphasizes gender roles as well as social classes in the Indian community. Devdas, belonging to a well-to-do family, could not marry as he chose. Though he had more freedom as a young child, as he grows into adulthood, he must now carry the burden of the responsibility that comes with the privilege of belonging to that specific class. His dilemma is reminiscent of another movie in which Shah Rukh Khan played the lead. This movie, Veer Zaara, has the same concept of putting obligation above love because Zaara, being the spoiled only daughter of a rich family, must enter a political-savvy matrimony though her heart has already been taken by Veer(Shah Rukh Khan).

The concept of loveless marriages seems to be a repetitive motif in Hindi movies. Though not always loveless, marriage seems more like a front in which the man and the woman play parts that they are supposed to based on the gender roles that have been fed to them since they were small children. In the movie, both Parvathi and Chandramukhi devote themselves to Devdas, although he is in love with Parvathi and despite his abusive tendencies. They all play the roles they are expected to play in society and they all suffer emotionally because of it.

As mentioned in class, the Hindu perspective of free will is the ability to choose who you love. Yet as Etem says in her article, "irony is the bottom line of human experience." And how ironic is it to be able to have the free will to love someone and not have the free will to spend the rest of your life with her?

In his article, Singh criticizes the 2002 rendition as over the top and bombastic. To him, it was just flashy colors and pretty costumes with no real tribute to the content of Saratchandra Chatterjee's novel. To this point, I would partly agree and disagree. The set is beautiful and the colors are vibrant. The main actors themselves exude beauty: Shah Rukh Khan and Miss Universe Aishwarya Rai. But Devdas is more than just colors and sounds and fireworks. The beauty of the set attracts the audience's eyes but the content of the movie captures the audience's hearts. As Etem says in her article, Devdas stays on with the viewer.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ja Santoshi Maa!

My initial reaction to Jai Santoshi Maa was a good one. I thought that the film transcended any baggage surrounding typical devotional movies and did so by bringing the female goddess Santoshi Ma to light. I found that the movie did an excellent job of exemplifying Santoshi Ma, and her ability to provide “Satisfaction” through devotion. (Lutgendorf 2) The way the director represented her as a desirable figure of power and success with the less-than-mentionable special effects was what I have come to expect. The unrealistic, God-Like ability exhibited by Santoshi Ma is effective and is a typical representation of God’s or Goddess’s in Indian cinema. I am sure the cheesy effects and constant expulsions of “Narayan, Narayan!” only contributed to the success of this film. It was still stuck in my head the day after our viewing.

The relationship Satyawati has with Santoshi Ma is a devout one to say the least. I have to agree with Stephen in that the film is not only a mythological, but a devotional film as well. (Watkins 84) Satyawati endures a living hell after Birju leaves out of disdain for actions his family had done. Satyawati is taken advantage of by her sister-in-laws and constantly knocked down emotionally and physically through the labor of her work. They deem her responsible for all of their chores and she has to work hard to earn her meager ration of stale bread. Her devotion to Santoshi Ma, which is expressed by her exhibition of a period of ritual fast or ‘vrat’ is, as Sarah stated, a reminder of a continuing form of oppression for Indian women. (Lutgendorf 9) This oppression is overcome by the devotion to Santoshi Ma, which becomes very apparent in the final hour of the film. I agree that by understanding how the readings relate to this film brings an unbiased scope to the viewer, which brings the movie to you in a different ‘mantra’.

I was also impressed to see how Birju so devoutly worships and adheres to the goddess’ desires. After much time away from Satyawati and the development of a relationship with another woman he still listens to Santoshi Ma’s cry for him to return to Satyawati. I believe that this represents a will for women to overcome oppression, formed by religion or man. By using Birju as a character of devotion the director portrays Santoshi Ma as having the final answer to his troubles. This female deity provides an inspiration to women in India, and contributed to the local and widespread success of Jai Santoshi Maa.

I think it is interesting to note how westerners receive mythological films like Ja Santoshi Maa. As Lutgendorf states in his article, “On an aesthetic level, their cheap production values and special effects, evoking the staging conventions of rustic folk theater and lower-class notions of opulence, are perceived as gaudy kitsch by wealthier and more educated people. “ This I find to be for the most part true, but he later goes on to state, “Such portrayals pose little problem for rural and more traditional audiences, for whom even laughter at the gods can coexist comfortably with feelings of awe and devotion.” These statements allow you to see that the visual boundaries westerners have trouble crossing are exactly what make the success of this film in Indian Cinema.

In conclusion I thought the movie was great. I have come to expect a three hour, visual experience that for the sake of character development and inclusion of all the typical Bollywood touches cannot be shortened. I would not mind getting a little extra bang for my buck in American theaters. I thought the movie did exactly what it what supposed to; emote a feeling of worship for Santoshi Ma.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Review of the Review for Jai Santoshi Maa

“Narayan, Narayan,” words I never want to hear again while watching a movie. I agree with the reviewer’s first opinion of Jai Santoshi Maa in that it was a painful experience to watch. Once again, my western close-mindedness prohibited me to view this movie for its significant value. While watching the movie, I found it to be a mix between the campy Batman series of the 1960s, Cinderella, and The Ten Commandments. I know this is not true; however, it is difficult for me to form an objective opinion on a movie like this because I am not Indian nor am I spiritual. In my opinion, there are two types of bad movies. The first, are movies that I consider just plain bad such as Gadar: Ek Prem Katha and then there are the movies that I find bad because I can’t relate or understand them such as Jai Santoshi Maa. With that said, I respect and appreciate the value that Jai Santoshi Maa had on the Indian people. Actually, it is kind of embarrassing. Jai Santoshi Maa had the power to inspire people to worship this holy figure, yet we are inspired by shows such as The Jersey Shore.
In Indian cinema, a mythological movie is about representing the Gods and a devotional film is based on devotees (Waters 84, 86). The review of Jai Santoshi Maa identifies the movie as a mythological film, but I also find that it has a devotional aspect as well. Obviously Santoshi Maa is the mythological figure being worshiped, but it could be argued that Satyawati is the true subject of the movie (Das 49). Her story is the narrative that unfolds the storyline of the movie, yet it is bound by the structure of Santoshi Maa (Das 49). The actions of Satyawati are the catalyst of the story. Every scene that drives the film forward occurs when something happens to Satyawati, often requiring her devotion to be tested. For example, early in the film she pledges her devotion to Santoshi Maa in order to find a husband. Her wish comes true and she marries Birju. Again, towards the end of the movie it is through Satyawati’s devotion to Santoshi Maa that drives Santoshi Maa to be sympathetic to Satyawati’s sister in-laws’ foul actions and thus resurrecting Satyawati’s dead nephews. In another aspect, Satyawati’s devotion put Santoshi Maa to the test. If Santoshi Maa was overcome by anger and conducted vengeful acts, she would be viewed as ferocious and feared; therefore, she must be able to forgive in order to show that she is a gentle and benevolent goddess.
Like the review and a few of the articles mentioned, women had the strongest presence in the movie. The male characters such as Birju and the “Hindu trinity” (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) were all backdrops to the story. Once again, it was Satyawati’s devotion to Santoshi Maa that propelled the movie, but the wives of the the “Hindu trinity” (Lakshmi, Parvati, and Brahmani) as well as Satyawati’s sisters-in-laws (Durga and Maya) provided the drama or conflict. I agree with the review that these are the representations of the concepts of “good” and “bad.” In my opinion, these qualities of “badness” showed the divine also have their weaknesses. As an outsider to Indian culture and beliefs, I found it confusing as to why the movie portrayed the three Goddesses with weaknesses driven by jealousy like their human counterparts, but Lutgendor explains that these movies are targeted towards a traditional audience who have a more personal relationship with the gods as opposed to a Protestantized ideology (Lugendor, 6). At the end of the movie, the three goddesses state they were only testing Satyawati, but I did not buy this based on the tone of the acting (Das 45).
I am usually annoyed by the song and dance in Indian cinema, but Jai Santoshi Maa truly put my patience to the test with the character of the Narada. Only through the readings did I find the significance of his character. Narada is a divine sage who is a devotee of Vishnu. He is mischievous gossiper who likes to stir up trouble and he inspired several key events throughout the film (Lutgendor 14). At first, he was a considerable factor in the decision making process of Ganesh in creating Santoshi Maa. Later on in the movie he advised Satyawat to fast in which ultimately led to the return of Birju.
Jai Santoshi Maa is a movie that has deeper meaning than I can ever understand in film. I have not decided if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but I don’t see myself ever being inspired by a film. As I mentioned in my introduction, Jai Santoshi Maa is not a movie I ever care to see again; however, I respect it’s message and significance to the people who are inspired by it.
Stephen Davis

Works Cited
Das, Veena. “The Mythological Film and its Framework of Meaning: An Analysis of Jai
Santoshi Maa.” India International Centre quarterly 8:1. (1981) 43-56. Print.

Lutgendor, Philip. “Who Wants to be a Goddess? Jai Santoshi Maa Revisited.”

Watkins, Gregory J. “Teaching Religion and Film.” Oxford University Press. 2008.