Sandeep Sahu

Nitpicking is a quintessential Indian trait. No matter how good or flawless something is, there will always be some who would find fault with something or the other. It may well be prevalent in other societies as well. But Indians would beat them hands down any day.

A case in point is ‘Laapataa Ladies’, a refreshing film from the Amir Khan Productions stable directed by Kiran Rao and released recently. It is a heart-warming story about two newly married women whose lives get intertwined due to a case inadvertent swapping caused by similar looking bridal wear and a long ghunghat (veil). It has everything that an average film goer looks for: a good story with the right mix of pathos and humour (not of the coarse kind so typical of Bollywood movies, though) that is also a telling commentary on the deep-seated sexism and patriarchy in rural India on the one hand and the essential goodness of human beings on the other; good performances by almost all actors; authentic locales; lilting music, a lovely song tinged with love, romance and pathos all at once and so on. In short, it is a wholesome treat for an audience that has grown sick of the hi tech, high octane fare routinely dished out by the Hindi film industry these days.

But trust our ‘nitpicker gang’ to shred the film to pieces. Some have a problem with the allegedly faux feminism of the film. “Urban feminism remains urban feminism. It doesn’t show rural women the road beyond finding a job and organic farming. It looks at villages from above, which can only be called elite feminist gaze,” writes a wannabe film critic. For good measure, he adds; “To smoke bidi and to drive the husband away is not feminism.” But who told you it is a ‘feminist’ film, my friend? Why look at it from a feminist point of view when the film makes no such claim? Why not simply enjoy the film without being burdened by all those ‘isms’?

Another worthy starts his invective by dismissing the film as ‘rubbish’ and then goes on to pan it saying it makes fools of the audience by pooh-poohing the rural scene. “The people in rural areas are not fools as the film seeks to present them. A rural woman is not so naïve as to follow in the footsteps of a stranger mistaking him for her husband. The ghunghat they wear is perforated and women can see and hear through them. And who carries his newly wed wife on the rooftop of a bus these days (forgetting that the film is set at the turn of the century when mobile phones had just arrived in rural areas)?” he rants. “As long as cinema exists, Indians will continue being made fools,” he concludes grandiosely, quoting an unnamed ‘great filmmaker.

Given the communally polarized times we live in – especially since it is election time – was it at all possible that the religious angle would not be brought in? No way. In any case, Amir Khan and his former wife Kiran Rao are too irresistible a target to be left alone - in the backdrop of the former’s statement in the past that his then wife Kiran wanted to leave India due to the communally surcharged atmosphere in the country - by the Hindutva brigade. True to type, a section of it found fault with the veil. “Will Amir Khan and Kiran Rao ever dare do a similar film where the protagonists are Muslim women wearing a burqa?” they thundered, adding “It is a conspiracy to show Hindu women in poor light.”

This columnist has no doubt whatsoever that none of these thoughts would have entered the mind of the average viewer looking for some wholesome entertainment while watching the film. Even after having finished watching, the feeling would be of one of a deep sense of contentment rather than disgruntlement that the film is not feminist enough, authentic enough or secular enough for his or her taste.

But try telling that to the people who have made a career out of whining, cribbing and nitpicking!!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)