Monday, May 2, 2011

Review of BAB Review

Shaad Ali’s 2005 film ‘Bunty Aur Babli’ follows the wayfaring adventures of two small town characters, Rakesh Trivedi and Vimmi Saluja who are young, restless and seeking an escape from their parents expectations and economic limitations in their villages. They live in separate villages and entertain different dreams (Rakesh is a schemer and Vimmi dreams of the Miss India tiara) but are fueled by a similar sentiment to expand and define their own destinies by utilizing their talents and dreams. Because their respective dreams aren’t inherently focused on “Indian” values of marriage and family, their families disapprove of their dreams for the future. This controversy creates a question of the confliction of traditional and modernist “cultural systems” that Gusfield points out are “mutually reinforcing, rather than systems of conflict” (Gusfield 356). Here, I agree with Shruti that Rakesh and Vimmi, who later become the crime partnership of Bunty and Babli respectively, are not so much trying to break down the “traditional” values that their parents embody but rather to redefine their dharma and societal position in a means that accentuates the capitalism and independence of modernity but also retain some moral basis that could be associated with conceptions of “traditional India.”

As the plot of the film built, I was strongly reminded of Nietsche’s uber meich theory of philosophy which upholds that sometimes it is socially permissable to evade previously constructed social norms if the effort is to restructure social problems of the distribution of wealth. In this view, Bunty and Babli are not recklessly stacking dollars by immoral means but directly ambushing a system flawed by grossly disproportionate wealth and corruption of institutions designed to protect such as the court system and the law officers. The protagonists of the film (I call them that because Ali chose to create characters that are likable and reasonable in context of the action) are actually recognizing their dharma by utilizing their talents and building their happiness and accomplishment in the world. Although this is not close to the ideal of honest hardworking middle class people that their parents would have chosen for their futures, they are made restless by modern forces that have become omnipresent in their communities.

I think that Shaad Ali’s film was made to convey the struggle of India’s fresh and growing middle class, the infinite potential of its youth and to challenge confining village expectations so that India may grow out of it’s third world name tag. He encourages individual success not in the context of Western values of investment and stamping out the little guy but in an innovative, intelligent manner that benefits the impoverished through wealth distribution and upholds a character that is inherently Indian. The false Taj Mahal scene is a good example of how their scheming actually benefits India as a whole. By tricking the greedy and lazy American into thinking he could actually purchase the grand building, they are able to extract foreign assets and still value a site of national pride. Ali also normalizes the couple’s behavior by utilizing very little violence during the couple’s conniving plans which I interpreted as a plea to his Western audience to identify that traditionalism and modernity need not be in conflict and that the two can peacefully coexist.

Posted for Liz by Dr. D.

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