150121 – Morning Pages

I talk about how yesterday was a bad day and how I need to write about films and may be, make a quick trip to Mumbai.

7:34 AM. I had a disappointing day yesterday. More than external factors that I can easily pin blame on, I think it was me. A couple of really important meetings got canceled (no, this is not my fault). I missed sending an email to a prospective client (I should’ve been more careful). Another client call got fucked cos my internet sucked (I could’ve been at a co-working space rather than at a cafe). The two projects that I am thinking hard about – Shumbur and TRS in Goa, both are proving to be tough to crack. Both of these depend on other people saying yes and it’s a task to first find those, pitch to those, and then close. Of course, it is fun to do these but still. Life should be easier. I stress-ate crap like Doritos and chocolates and Chips and all. Despite eating well for a large part of the day. And promising to myself that I will not eat. All it took was a few taps on Swiggy. Even though it’s not installed on my phone.

I hope today is better. Even though am groggy and sore in the back and neck and joints (is this a result of eating crap?). I do have quite a few things lined up for the day. I plan to check out this new co-working cafe that has come up in Anjuna (Felix). Clay is anyway fun, just that the phone does not work there at all and I can’t do video calls. If I can get another alternative in Felix, why not! PS: While looking for directions to Felix, I figured, there’s another one – Nomad. Should’ve tried that as well! I did not know there would be so many coworking places in Goa. I have to get going with that Ultimate Guide to Remote Working from Goa.

So that’s the rant on how the day yesterday was.

Coming to what am thinking on. The favorite part of these morning pages for me. While talking to Shikha yesterday about TRS and where it could go, I realized that I want to write about films and Bollywood, and more. Though I am not as well-informed or well-read or well-researched about it, I think films have the power like no other medium. For most people, it is the most immersive, easiest to comprehend and understand the medium. And that gives filmmakers power like nothing else. While I am far from making films, I can definitely talk about this power. And how filmmakers are leveraging (and even wasting) the opportunity they have. I can’t talk about the craft per se. I can’t talk about deep, thinking filmmakers that have shown alternative realities to us. I am not even aware of world cinema. I am a mere aam aadmi that finds my escape in a film that is made well and I want to write about that. Of course, I do want to point out the problematic things they paddle in their films (body-shaming, hate-mongering, casual sexism, stereotyping et al). Films, after all, have to reflect the times we live in, talk about how can we move forward, and communicate things that simpletons like me do not understand. The good part is that in The Red Sparrow, I have access to a film platform that reaches far and wide. However, this access is not really a free pass. I still need to pass through the editorial filters of the team that manages it. I can’t bypass that. Even if I could, I don’t want to. The platform is bigger than an individual.

The other thing am thinking is that I need a trip to the chaos of Mumbai soon. I’ve been here 45 days. I know how it is to live here and I know the issues and I know the good things. I need to now decide on where I want to be. I want to make a trip to Mumbai before I do that.

On that trip, I can see if I like the comforts of Mumbai better. Or if I like the open expanses of Goa. If I decide on Goa, I can even wrap up the house and belongings in Mumbai. And if I do that, I will have to find a hostel or something that I can use when I travel there for these “break” trips from the peace of Goa. Let’s see when that happens. Plus, if I want to be in Goa, I will have to find a house for myself in Goa. I can of course use Rajesh sir’s house. He’s cool like that. But I don’t want to take advantage of his kindness. And if I choose to be here, I am reasonably sure that I want to be in Anjuna, Assagaon, or thereabouts. It has to be North. Beyond Baga and the touristy stretches and yet close to places where people hang out. I could go even further to Mandrem / Ashwen etc. but that would make me very far from almost everything.

Lol. I think I am getting ahead of myself. The entire para above is essentially me getting ahead of myself with things. Take a deep breath, Mr. Garg. I think it’s all the carbs that I ate last night that are talking. I don’t even know where would my work take me. What if work picks up in Mumbai? Or Delhi? Even Chennai for that matter? What if projects that am thinking about do not materialize in Goa? That’s something that I don’t have an answer to. I need to think. Let’s see.

So that.

Onto #freewriting for #book2. It is 8:31. I will write till 9. Let’s see how many words do I get in.

Blue.

The color of the sea.

Every time I see the sea, I am fascinated by the vastness of it. It is so infinite, so never-ending that it would have only taken the ingenuity of a human to navigate. I don’t think any of God’s creation has what it takes to circumnavigate all the waters that we are surrounded by. True, some fishes are known to travel more than 12000 KMs in search of food and warmth, and better seasons. They still do not come close to us. We may not have the fins or coated eyes of gills or large lungs or whatever. But we do have a thumb that moves perpendicular to the other 4 fingers. And we have the wheel. And we have tamed the fire. And we have sharp tools to make whatever we want to. And we have made them boats that tear around the sea and take us places.

I’ve never been close to one. I grew up in Punjab and while we did dip around in the lakes and canals and the rivers that dotted the state, I never knew of the infinite that an ocean is. Funny that I think about it from the closed confines of the cell that I am locked in. Often when the sea is in a mood and the winds are strong, they carry the smells from the faraway lands. On the nights when the ocean is angry and dueling with the rock, we are on the top of, the moans and the cacophony of the crashes drown even the voices in the head. That’s what all of us want in life. No? Drown them voices in the head? To get out of the shackles and the traps that our own minds have bound us in?

There were no easy answers for Raunak.

On one side, he was in jail for the rest of his life, without a possibility of a bail. Who would bail him anyway? There was no next of kin. No one even knew if he was alive.

And on the other, he held the secret to the greatest treasure known to mankind.

***

Ok, that’s about it for the day. More tomorrow.

Review – Durgamati (2020)

A short review of an upcoming Amazon Prime film, Durgamati. The film starring Bhoomi Pednekar in the lead role is set to release on the 11th of Dec.

I normally don’t do pop-culture-y time-bound things but over at TheRedSparrow.in (one of the things I helped start), they were talking about the upcoming film Durgamati and thus I got curious and I went ahead to write it. This is a new thing. Lemme know what you think.

Every big-budget film demands the writer to pen a plotline that is so convoluted that you need a Sherlock to unravel it. And yet you want it to be so mass-y that even a 6-year-old relates to it. After all, big monies come to the producers when the film does well in the multiplexes and the single-screen cinemas. I suspect that is what the writer-director Ashok was attempting with Durgamati as he remakes his super hit Telugu movie, Bhaagamathie (2018) in Hindi. 

The story of Durgamati

The story is of two political rivals that are at loggerheads over pretty much everything. The one in power wants to pin the blame on the one competing against him (Ishwar Prasad, played by Arshad Warsi). Since he has the judicial and political machinery working for him, it is easy. So Rawat (played by Jishnu Sengupta) and Mahie Gill (her character’s name is not clear in the trailer) plot against Prasad. They try to manipulate Chanchal Chauhan (played by Bhoomi Pednekar), an old accomplice of Prasad, into conspiring against him. Chanchan is in prison because she was caught murdering a man in broad daylight.  

They put her in the holding at the Durgamati Haveli, which is apparently haunted. Mahie Gill coerces Chanchan by offering her freedom if she agrees to rat against Ishwar. Chanchan of course refuses. 

And thus starts the story of Durgamati. And the Haveli. And the film. 

What works for me? What does not?

What stands out for me, even though I first saw the trailer on the tiny screen of an iPhone X is the lavish, grand sets and impeccable CG. The cinematography by Kuldeep Mamania is brilliant. Mamania was a camera person in the critical and commercial hit Tumbaad (2018) as well. Even though the standards of visuals (a marriage of art direction, costumes, camera, and of course direction) in India have been raised to the Hollywood-ish levels in recent years, this one is still among the best I’ve seen. The shots look grand, crisp, and make me want to actually navigate the Durgamati Haveli in real life! 

I have to give a special mention to the art direction. The details are, well, detailed! I mean look at this shot. What do you think those windows at the back look like to you? 

Screengrab from the trailer of Durgamati.

As a big fan of Mahie Gill’s work in Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster (2011), Dev D (2009), and Gulaal (2009), I expected a lot more from her. She looks unconvincing as a cop. I do hope that in the film she is more powerful. 

Arshad Warsi, again, to me looks unconvincing as a politician. I half expect him to break into a joke with every line he delivers.

Bhoomi Pednekar as the lead has done a decent job with the acting. When I see getting dragged for the interrogation, I see her plight. When she becomes the all-powerful Durgamati, I feel her power. However, the couple of dialogues that she has in the trailer, they lack any punch.

Also, for some reason, while I was watching it, I could not stop drawing comparisons with Vidya Balan in Priyadarshan’s Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2017), which itself was a remake of a Malayalam film. The mood, the costumes, the music, the frames reminded me of the film that was released 13 years ago. But then maybe it’s just me – an old, self-confessed discerning cinephile. 

I am told that the Telugu film was a phenomenon! However, I have not seen the Telugu film and thus can’t really draw parallels. What I do know is that as a standalone piece of work, I may not be too keen to watch Durgamati in the cinemas even though it promises to be a cinematic treat.

But hey, there are no cinemas and with it streaming on Amazon Prime, I might as well! 

What do you think of the trailer? 

PS: Like with all reviews that I post, I wish to draw your attention to this speech by Anton Ego.


This is part of 30 minutes of writing everyday challenge. Others in the series are at 3010, 3110, 0111, 0211, 0311, 0411, 0511, 0611, 0911, 1011, 1211, 1311, 1411, 1511, 1611, 1711, 1811, 1911, 2011, 2311, 2611.

Hero’s Journey for Deewaar (1975)

Prof. Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth model (The Hero’s Journey), as seen from the lens of Amitabh Bachchan’s character in the Salim-Javed film, Deewaar.

Source: SpotBoye.com

Show me a person that does not know this dialogue. And I will show you someone who has NOT lived! Not at least in India.

This is among the scores of iconic dialogue from the film, Deewaar. Released in 1975, directed by Yash Chopra and written by the legendary Salim – Javed, Deewaar is what you expect a film to be – a roller-coaster journey through the lives of characters next door. From the degradation of a righteous man who chose to take a stand for the poor (and failed at it), to the ecstasy of the new-earned wealth of a young man (who has lived in abject poverty as a kid), the dismay of a mother who’ll be made to choose between her sons, the film not just entertains you, but also makes you question your own decisions, morality, and at least in my case, life!

So, as an aspiring filmmaker, I HAD to reverse engineer the brilliance of Deewaar, learn the tenets of what went in while they made the narrative, and then, hopefully, use those when I write my scripts.

One of the things that I realised, after I attended online sessions with Anjum Rajabali was that most great stories tend to follow a simple narrative structure of The Hero’s Journey. Discovered by Prof. Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey (also known as the Monomyth) postulates that in most myths and folklores and religious texts (and thus popular culture and books and films), the protagonist typically faces a challenge. To sort it, he has to leave his current world (and often, the ordinary and comfortable one), spend time in the other (and often the challenging world) where he would fight a demon, and then come back to his ordinary world. In this journey, there are 17 distinct stages, and at each stage, he grows as an individual. A pictorial representation looks like…

Prof. Campbell’s Hero’s Journey

I first wrote about The Hero’s Journey. Then, along with Shreya (of Green Grandma fame), I did a deep dive and wrote the Hero’s Journey for Munna Bhai MBBS. And I decided that I would read and publish as many as I could to learn as much as I could.

So, The Hero’s journey for Deewaar is the second in the series of explorations that I am doing, this time, with Hemant Joshi (who I met at one of the SWA sessions).

Here we go!

The Plot of Deewaar

Deewaar starts as the story of one Anand Verma and his family (wife Sumitra Devi and two young sons, Vijay and Ravi). Anand works at a local factory and is an honest, hardworking, and righteous worker. And naturally, the leader of the union of workers.

These workers are at loggerheads with the factory owner, who in turn is, well, like any other factory owner – a conniving, scheming bastard! The workers go on a strike and mandate Anand Verma to negotiate on their behalf.

The factory owner abducts Verma’s family and asks him to pick the family or the worker’s rights. Verma, like a typical Indian, chooses his family. The workers are disappointed and thrash him, leaving him in a hospital. Verma is unable to handle the emotional turmoil and runs away, leaving behind the mess that he’s created. While Verma is drifting, his family continues to be ridiculed whenever they step out. One of these days, the elder son, Vijay is manhandled by goons in the market and they tattoo “Mera Baap Chor Hai” on his forearm.

Sumitra Devi moves herself and the sons to Mumbai where they are forced to live on the footpath and sleep under a bridge. Sumitra picks up odd jobs and is unable to meet the expenses. This is when Vijay steps up (not even a teenager at this point) and decides to support his mother with Ravi’s education and upbringing. He starts as a boot-polisher.

On one of his regular days, after he’s cleaned the shoes, one of his customers flings a coin at him. Vijay is angered and says since he’s worked hard on shining the shoes and he deserves respect. Dawar, a local goon, is accompanying the customer spots the talent in Vijay.

We take a leap in time and Vijay is now working as a coolie at the docks. Vijay strikes against the local goons (controlled by Samant) collecting hafta from all the laborers. Furthermore, he goes into their den and thrashes them.

This is noticed by Dawar (who’s another adversary of Samant) and he invites Vijay to join him in his business. His first job is to ensure that Dawar’s smuggled gold is safely brought into Mumbai. Vijay hatches a smart plan that involves duping Samant and is able to execute flawlessly. Samant pledges revenge!

Vijay’s life starts turning around – he buys his mother a better house, gets himself a better car, his clothes get better. Everything in life starts seeming better.

On the other side, the younger brother, Ravi completes his education and goes away to train for being a police officer. When he returns, his first case is to rein in Dawar’s businesses. Ravi realizes that he would have to catch his brother to solve the case. He refuses initially. In fact, he goes and asks his brother to surrender. Vijay refuses. The brothers have a dispute over this. Their mother takes the side of the righteous one, Ravi, leaving Vijay all alone in his giant mansion.

A few days later, Ravi decides to take the case again and starts catching Dawar’s men one after the other. Dawar realizes that Ravi must be stopped somehow. One of his gang’s members suggest that Ravi be killed, but Vijay stops them. Vijay tries to convince Ravi to back away from Dawar’s men, but Ravi holds his ground. 

Their mother falls sick but Vijay cannot visit her – the cops are staking around the hospital. Vijay is distressed. Around the same time, Samant, who had pledged revenge, kills Vijay’s girlfriend. Anguished, Vijay goes to the hotel where Samant is staying and kills him. In the process, he exposes himself to Ravi and the cops. Left with no choice, Ravi fires at Vijay. Vijay manages to drive away, only to hold long enough to come to his mother praying at the temple she frequents. He eventually dies in her lap.

And the story ends.

Phew!

The Hero’s Journey for Deewaar

In our opinion, the Hero of this film is Amitabh Bachchan’s character. And we would use this vantage point to explore the Hero’s Journey.

As always, before we get in, here are a few disclaimers.

  1. This is our interpretation of The Hero’s Journey for Vijay’s character. And like all interpretations and opinions, we may be wrong.
  2. If you disagree please do point out. We are always open for inputs 🙂

Here we go…

SNoBeatHero’s JourneyAdditional Notes
1Film starts with a bravery medal being given to Ravi Verma. He talks about Sumitra Devi (his mother) being the reason that he got the medal. Makes the mom accept the medal.This serves as a hook into the world of two brothers – Vijay and Ravi.
2Flashback

We see a bunch of laborers on a strike with Anand Verma leading it. He is demanding that the laborers get a better deal.

On the other side, his sons are all praises for the father. The wife mentions that kids look up to him. Anand mentions that he loves kids more than anything else.
The ordinary worldThis scene establishes the milieu. The ordinary world. And the fact that there is this huge divide between the rich and the poor.

Plus we get to know the family dynamics.
3The workers continue the protest at the factory owner’s bungalow. The owner calls Anand inside and offers a deal. Along with that he blackmails Anand and asks him to choose between his family and the workers.

Anand chooses his family and goes back to his workers and admits defeat. The workers thrash Anand and leave him bedridden.
The flaw in the character of Anand is showcased. We also establish a conflict in Anand’s life. This sets up for a larger conflict in the life of the hero – one that would eventually grow into the inciting incident for the Hero.
4The wife and two children discover that Anand has abandoned the family.

Some drunkards round-up Vijay, the elder son, and tattoo “mera baap chor hai” on his forearm.

The mother decides to move to Mumbai. She has no money and is forced to take up odd jobs and sleep under a bridge.
Challenge from the outer worldThe hero’s life, as we know it, is about to change.
5The younger brother, Ravi, wants to study.

Vijay, not even a teenager, decides to man-up and tells his mother that he would work as well so that Ravi could get a good education.

Vijay becomes a boot polisher.
Call to adventureThe hero accepts the challenge and decides to do whatever he could do to get his younger brother education.
6Dawar buys a racebook and gets his shoes to polish. Jaichand (Dawar’s associate) throws money at Vijay, who refuses, saying he is not a beggar.

Dawar asks Jaichand to pick the money and hand it to Vijay. Also, he predicts that Vijay will go on to be a winner in his life!

We see a juxtaposition to Ravi who’s topping the school.
The seed of separation between the two brothers is sowed.

This also shows us the character of Vijay where he has taken a stand without worrying about consequences; unlike his father!
7The mother is now working at a construction site. She has to face an abusive manager. Vijay sees it and hits the manager and runs away.

The mother compares the two brothers. She tells Vijay that Ravi is kind and sorted.

Vijay is angered and flashes his tattoo, demanding an answer.
We realize that the hero will stand up against anyone that does not respect him or his family. He seeks respect.

The suffering of the hero is also showcased. The wound becomes visible.
8The mother takes two kids to a temple. Vijay takes a stand for himself yet again, stating he will not enter the temple.

Time moves on and sons grow up.

Ravi asks what does mom seek from God. She says “tere liye sukh and Vijay ke liye Shaanti“.

The two brothers go their separate ways
Crossing the first thresholdThis parting of ways is both symbolic and thematic.

Plus, by refusing to go into the temple, Vijay is protesting against the injustice in his life.
9Vijay now works at the docks as a coolie. He gets a badge with the number 786 engraved. Rahim Chacha tells Vijay that 786 is a lucky number to have and asks him to keep the badge on him all the time. They also talk about the hafta the coolies have to pay to the local goons, controlled by Samant.

A coolie, Gangu gets killed when he refuses to pay the goons. Something stirs in Vijay. He says, “agle hafte ek aur coolie paisa dene se inkaar karne wala hai
The road of trialsVijay is challenged again.

Gareebi ka jurmana” is a trigger for him to fight the norm. He wants to change things.

The badge with the number 786 could be the Supernatural Aid.
10Ravi on the other hand is struggling to find work despite his numerous attempts.
11At the docks, Vijay refuses to pay the goons. Fights and comes out on top.The road of trialsAgain the same characteristic is showcased – when someone challenges his respect, he will revolt.

The path for Vijay is full of such “trials”.
12When he comes home, the mother scolds Vijay.

In response he says, “Tum chahti ho main bhi mu chupake bhaag jaata
Again, the pain is showcased.
13Ravi continues to struggle to get employment. We see that he gives up an opportunity for someone who’s struggling more than him. We see a comparison with the idealist father.

The father is spotted drifting in a train.
The two worlds of two brothers are now completely different.
14Dawar gets Vijay to work with him.

The iconic dialogue, “Main aaj bhi faike hue paise nahi uthata” is played out.
Meeting with the mentorDawar acts as the mentor who helps Vijay into this new world.
15Ravi meets his girlfriend’s father (who’s a cop) and he recommends that Ravi join the police forceAgain, the contrasting paths.

The elder brother is being mentored by a goon; the younger by a cop!
16Vijay gets his first assignment of getting a gold consignment to Mumbai. He schemes Samant in helping him do so.

We hear, “Suna hai lift ki deewar ke kaan nahi hote“.
Road of trialsEstablishes Vijay as a formidable personality. And in the process he makes allies and enemies.
17Vijay shows a giant house to his mother. She gets suspicious of Vijay’s work.

Ravi comes running and shares he got a job as a cop and goes away for his training.
Vijay starts to see success. He is getting deeper into this new world.
18At the poolside of a swanky hotel, Vijay suggests to Dawar that they plant someone in Samant’s gang. They plot a scheme to get Darpan recruited in Samant’s gang.

Darpan goes to Samant and gives out information that Vijay would be at Sona bar and they can kill him. Samant and gang plans for that.
He continues to make friends and enemies.

He is getting sucked even deeper into the new world.
19Vijay meets his future love interest, Anita at the bar. She and the lucky badge (786) save him from the Samant’s sharpshooter. This is a case of setup and payoff – the lucky badge does two things – makes him meet Anita, his love; and saves his life!
20Dawar says he wants to take a backseat and installs Vijay on the throne.

However, Jaichand had eyed this for a long time.
Belly of the whaleAt this point, Vijay is deep into the new world.

He has conquered the new world – or at least he thinks so.
21Ravi comes back home as a police officer. Vijay realizes that at some point the paths of the two brothers will cross.

He laments with Anita that Ravi and he are different.
This is the point of no return for the hero. The final battle for the hero has been seeded.
22Ravi finds out that as a cop, his top two targets are Dawar and his own brother, Vijay.

Ravi is shocked. He is initially in denial. However, an incident with a young boy inspires him to take up the case.
23Vijay buys the building where his mother worked when he was young.Classic case of “high” before the low! – Second false victory for Vijay
24Ravi and Vijay have a face-off in front of their mother. Ravi asks him to surrender by signing on the confession. He famously asks, “bhai tum sign karoge ya nahi

The word Deewaar is introduced for the first time.

Mother decides to leave Vijay alone and moves out.
25Vijay back to Anita. She mentions that she wants to settle down and get married.

The mother on the other hand tells Ravi that she loved Vijay more than she loved Ravi.
26Ravi continues his crusade against Dawar and Vijay. To a point that the gang starts thinking about eliminating Ravi.

Vijay opposes the ideas and admits that Ravi is his brother.
27The two brothers meet at the bridge where they grew up. Vijay asks Ravi to back out from the case – arguing that because of his dirty work, Ravi could get educated!

The iconic, “mere pass maa hai” is showcased.
Refusal to returnVijay has yet another chance to surrender, but he refuses to give away everything he’s earned in the new world.

He is refusing to go to his original world.
28Anand is found dead on a train. Ravi realizes it is their father when he is filing the report. He finds a picture of the family being held as hostages.

Ravi stops his mother from putting sindoor.
Such amazing symbolism!
29Ravi lights the fire to his father’s dead body, as Vijay watches from a distance – he is still wanted by the cops!
30On a call recording, Ravi finds about a meeting where Jaichand is present and leaves right away! Ravi arrests Jaichand and makes him confess about Dawar and Vijay.

Ravi arrests Dawar. However, Vijay manages to run away and goes into hiding.

On the other hand, Samant vows to avenge the loss in business by killing Vijay before the cops could arrest him.
31Vijay gets to know that his mother is unwell and wants to meet her. He however can not as the place is swarming with cops.

Vijay is lost and doesn’t know what to do.

He goes to the one place which he never would have – the temple his mother frequented. We hear “aaj khush toh bohot hoge tum…

Maa miraculously gets better. She visits the temple, where the priest tells a shocked mother that Vijay was there!
AtonementVijay realizes that he has dragged himself too deep into this new world and escaping is impossible now.

But he does want his mother to get better. This entering the temple is his atonement!

In Prof. Campbell’s journey, atonement happens before the refusal to return. We see the sequence slightly altered, but the concept holds.
32Vijay gets to know that his mother is now home.

Anita announces that she’s pregnant.

Vijay decides to get married to Anita and surrender. He also tells his mother to wait for him at the temple.
Crossing of the return thresholdBecause of Anita, he has a reason to give up everything and go back to the original world.

We find this a tad weak compared to all the imploration by his mother.
33Anita however is kidnapped by Samant.

Unknown to Vijay, who in a separate meeting is being told of a plan to escape. He tells his gang that he would not go along with them.

When Vijay comes back to Anita, he finds her dying. She in fact dies in his arms. He discovers that it was Samant that had hurt Anita.

Vijay storms into Samant’s hideout. He kills Samant’s flunkies but Samant is not there.
34Ravi gets to know that Vijay is on his way to Samant’s other hideout.

He and other cops surround the building. However, Vijay is still able to kill Samant by throwing him off the top of the building.
35Despite all the cops, Vijay manages to escape, with Ravi chasing him.

While running, his lucky badge falls off. As Vijay tries to retrieve it, Ravi comes in close and shoots at him, injuring him.

He however gets in a car and drives the car into the temple. He eventually dies in his mother’s arms!
Master of the two worldsAt this point, Vijay has conquered the two worlds – he has realized that his path of getting the respect that he craved, actually took away from his family.

Even though short-lived (since he died right after), he is briefly able to earn his mother’s respect too.

The symbolism of the lucky badge is reinforced for at least the third time!
36We go back to the opening scene where Ravi is getting an award. The film ends with a thundering applause.

So, there! 

Even though NOT all stages of the Hero’s Journey are evident in Deewaar (they weren’t evident in Munna Bhai MBBS either), the story clearly follows the structure. Enough to warrant an investigation and research!

That’s it from our side. Please do give us feedback on our interpretation. 

Also, should you want the open files and notes that we made that we have not published, please email us and we’d be touch. We have Deewaar’s script broken into a beat-sheet (our interpretation and may not be right), and various stages of the Hero’s Journey, as adapted for Deewaar. Happy to share those!

Oh, a disclaimer for the millionth time – these are our interpretations and could be incorrect. This is merely an academic exercise to learn more about Hero’s Journey! Do help us.

That’s all folks! 

So, that’s about it from us! Let us know what you think. 

Hemant + Saurabh 

Nov 2020

Oh, one more thing. Please do let us know what next film we do this deep dive on. 

Smita Patil – The Unofficial Biography

An unofficial biography of Smita Patil – researched and written by Saurabh Garg.

Hello! So somehow I stumbled onto the life of Smita Patil and I was so fascinated that I got reading about her. The output was this twitter thread. Here’s the same thread, in the shape of an essay. 

Smita Patil was an actor par excellence and above all, an extraordinary human being. She lived for all of 31 years but her legacy HAS to stay around for 31 millennia at least and this is an attempt towards that. 

If I could sum her life in 3 bullet points, I’d say, she was/is…

  • – a study in contrasts
  • – deeply compassionate, especially towards under-represented (indie filmmakers, feminists, the common folk)
  • – fearless, spoke her mind and lived life on her own terms

Lemme elaborate.

Wait. Before I start, I think she was probably not meant to be even born! 
Smita was the second child of Shivajirao Patil (a politician) and Vidyatai Patil (a social-worker/nurse). However, when her mother was pregnant with Smita, their financial condition was unstable and her mother was reluctant to continue with the pregnancy when she conceived Smita. Even when the mother went ahead with Smita, she was born premature baby (on 17 Oct ’56). 

Legend says that when she was born, she had an angelic smile on her. Her mom named her Smita. Smita means “ever-smiling woman”. And since she was dusky, her mother endearingly called ‘Kali’ or its appendages like ‘Kaloba’ and ‘Kaluli’. 

Most of her friends call her Smi though. I will take the liberty of calling Smi in this post. 

Smi, as long as she lived, had a very strong and important relationship with her mother. Smi would often quip (in Marathi), “Tula mi nako hote na” (you didn’t want me, right?). Nothing could be far from the truth. Smi’s mother has been a pivotal figure in her life. She in fact raised Prateik (Smita Patil’s son) when Smi passed away at the young age of 31. 

Growing up, Smi’s family was based in Pune and was part of “Rashtriya Sewa Dal” where they’d travel to towns and villages across India and performed dance dramas. She’d play the role of Jijabai (Shivaji’s mother). This was her early tryst with dance, acting, stage, and everything else that we know her for!

HOW DID SHE GET INTO FILMS?

Well, luck! 

One of her friends, Deepak Kirpekar, was a hobbyist photographer and would take pictures of Smita Patil in various outfits. Since the photographer’s friend was a newsreader on DD (Jyotsna Kirpekar), the couple would often go to the DD office at Worli, in Mumbai. Once while they were there, the office was getting renovated and the friend spread Smita’s photos on a makeshift table, while his wife was busy. These photos caught the eye of then DD director, P.V. Krishnamurthy. 
He invited Smi to audition and the rest is, well, history!

Smi started as a newsreader on DD and she was so good with her husky voice and magnetic eyes that people would rush home to catch her show! One of these was actor Vinod Khanna, who was romantically involved with Smi at a point in time.

Cut to FTII. 

A couple of students (one of them was Arun Khopkar) were looking for actresses for their Diploma Film. They asked Shabana Azmi but she was unavailable. They were lost and went walking around the FTII campus. They passed by a TV shop where the bank of TV screens was tuned onto Smita Patil, reading the news! They were stuck by “defined cheekbones and striking eyes” and decided to cast her. 

They did not know who she was but they tracked her down and convinced her to do a role in ‘Teevra Madhyam’. This film is on Youtube! See it here
Post that film, Smi got to work on some roles for Shyam Benegal. These included Charandas Chor (a children’s film), and Nishant (Smi shared the screen with Shabana Azmi in this one). 

Later, Benegal signed her for Bhumika, which was based on the life of Marathi actor Hansa Wadkar and her struggle to cope with her career, love, and independence. For this role, Smi won the National Award for the best actress (in 1977).

This film made her realize that films were her calling. And there was no stopping her. 

Three years later she won her second National Award, this time for Chakra (in 1980). It is said that she donated all the money that she got as the award to women’s causes. She also won a Filmfare for this film (in 1982). Oh, random trivia – Nasserdduing Shah was her co-actor in both films. And years later, the two of them also auditioned for an adaptation of Gandhi. 

Her string of awards did not stop here. 

She was conferred with a Padma Shri in 1985, one of the youngest (if not THE youngest) film personalities to be awarded.

The Government of India ever released a postage stamp honoring her! 

AS AN ACTOR

As an actor, she chose to do experimental, small, and art films over commercial ones. 

She would do films for free or tiny sums if she liked the subject and content. Case in point? Bhavani Bhavai (in 1980). The film explored caste-discrimination in Gujarat and Smi did it because she believed in the underlying theme and message of the film.

She eventually did foray into commercial cinema. She did only to expand her acting prowess. Plus she believed that if she becomes famous, she could support small filmmakers more! After all her audience would be curious to see smaller films if they featured her. She apparently said, “commercial film is a job I have to do in order to pursue my goal of helping create an audience for the small film in India.”

Even with commercial cinema, Smi refused to do films that underplayed the role of women. 

Namak Halal is a noteworthy exception. The ‘Aaj Rapat Jaaye’ track apparently pained her immensely. She was reportedly very upset with the song and after it was shot, she locked herself up in her room and cried for hours. It was only AB who could put her at ease! 

Anyhow. She did about 80 films. About 10 of those were released after she passed away. She was paired frequently with Rajesh Khanna. And with Raj Babbar (RB).  

PERSONAL LIFE

In Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth, Smi’s character loves a married man and wants to settle down with him. Ironically, the theme played out in her real life as she fell in love with RB, a married man with two kids!

Smi was married to Raj Babbar (RB) and like other things in her life, it probably wasn’t meant to happen! 

Why? 

Well, for starters, RB was already married to Nadira. Second, her mother was unhappy about it. She apparently said, “I can’t get out of our purana sanskar nor can I embrace contemporary morality fully.” Plus, it may not have mattered to her but the very feminist institutions that she supported, labeled her “ghar todne wali” once the news broke.

But Smi and RB persisted and eventually married. Oh, and RB was still married to Nadira at this time. A big deal in Indian society. And more so in those times! 
Years later, RB said about Smi, “I would say that she was a bit mizaazwali (this is being said with all the respect and humility towards her)” 

And so yes she was! 

PS: I must add that there are unsubstantiated reports that she apparently had a turbulent, emotionally abusive marriage with RB. She reportedly planned to leave him after childbirth. Not sure of this though. 

Smi was “delighted” when she became a mother. Here is an anecdote. Soon after PB was born, she developed a high fever (104 degrees). She put ice packs on her body and fed him! 

PS: I can write a LOT about the early days of Prateik Babbar and how he coped with the loss of her mother! But I think I would skip it.

SMITA PATIL’S LEGACY

Smita Patil is probably the most remarkable person I have come to know. I don’t even know how to get started talking about her. 

People that knew her to call her bindaas, bohemian, and Tom-boy-ish. And yet she stood for women’s rights and the early feminism movement. Even though she would play tough, conservative roles on screen, in real life, she was the polar opposite! She was a typical bindass girl, “very liberated and progressive in her thoughts and work.” She was fond of western clothes and wore off-shoulder dresses, halter tops, fitted trousers, and boots in contrast to her screen image in perfect handloom sarees.

For her news gigs, she would go to the studio in her jeans and shirt and wrap the saree neatly just minutes before the camera rolled in! 

Her mother once said, “She used to dress like a bhikaran (a tramp). She’d wear a pair of jeans, pull on a kurta (even her father’s), Kolhapuri chappals, tie her hair into a bun and rush out. She never needed a mirror. Once she was to meet a well-known editor for an interview at a restaurant. He couldn’t recognize her. He kept waiting for ‘actress Smita Patil’, till she introduced herself. They both burst out laughing.”

Smi was dedicated to women’s causes and women empowerment and wanted to change the perceptions about women. She was part of the Women’s Centre in Bombay and contributed the money earned from her awards to women’s organizations. This link is a great read about her support for the feminist movement.

I have to say that unlike most of her co-stars, she belonged to the people! Apart from taking a vocal stand for feminist causes and indie & small filmmakers, she truly was a gem a human being. She treated everyone with respect. She could be found playing volleyball with the unit boys. 

She would sit with the women of the village to catch breaks between shoots and was often unrecognizable to the public who had come to see her. Smi was a vegetarian and did not complain even at tough locations. If required, she would cook her own food, by borrowing things from the villagers. 

Once there was a rebellion in one of the units on a shoot. The workers were demanding better food. Smi tackled and ended by announcing and eating the same red rice that they were served! 

Even as a child, she was deeply compassionate. She’d bring stray cats and dogs home and feed them with milk and biscuits. She would personalize her gifts. She would write something special to make the gift special.

Smi was fond of photography, roads, drives, and adventure in general. The minute pack-up would be announced, she’d zip off! She once took off to Rajasthan and gave no explanation, no reason to anyone. When she came back a month later, she had a heap of photos she had shot on her Leica.

Once during monsoons, Smita drove Ashalata, another actress, at neck-break speed to Khandala. She jested with the scared Ashalata and said, “Imagine the fun if tomorrow the headlines carry, ‘Smita and Ashalata died in a car crash’!”
Other trivia about Sri before we move on? Well, she… – wanted to be a director- contributed to production and costumes- came up with “Genesis” as the name for the new company of the veteran adman, Prahlad Kakkar.

Smi loved the sea and she wanted a sea-facing flat and yearned to enjoy the rain splashing through open windows. On her visits to see the house she was building, she would have chai from the kettle along with the workers. In fact, Smi wanted these very workers to be the first guests in her home! And they were indeed the first guests. Just that Smi had passed away by then!

DEATH

The end of this fascinating life is also intriguing like the rest of it. During the shooting of Situm (1984), a handwriting expert apparently said that “She won’t live long!”.

She herself had this uncanny 6th sense, apparently. She had a premonition about AB’s Coolie accident the night before it happened!

About her own life, at different times in her life, Smi apparently told her younger sister that she wouldn’t live long. And she told Mahesh Bhatt that the lifeline was short.

The most freaky? She told actress, Poonam Dhillon that she’d die at 31! 

And boy, was she right?

She did die at the age of 31. Her son was all of 2 weeks old at the time.  

The most commonly held belief is that Smi died of Viral Encephalitis and most reporters write it as complications arising from childbirth. I am not sure of this though. Plus there are accounts that she died from medical negligence. And there are murmurs of murder. No, this is NOT substantiated at all. 

I’d say the cause of death is a mystery. 

Once Smi told a friend (Deepak Sawant) that when she died, she wanted to be sent off as a “Suhagan”. And as per her wishes, she was indeed decked up like a bride on her last journey. Random Trivia – DS has worked for decades with Amitabh Bachchan as well.

IN THE END

As I wrap this piece about Smi, I want to mention two people here. Shabana Azmi (SA) and Prateik Babbar (PB).

A. Shabana Azmi – SA and Smi started their careers almost at the same time and they had this rollercoaster relationship. SA apparently said they “were good colleagues who could never be friends.” Further, SA said, “She was born for the camera. It lingered over her face and she held it captive without the slightest effort. I felt both challenged and inspired by her as a co-actor. She was also very feminine and deeply traditional, at times easily intimidated. I think it’s these contradictions that were both her strength and her weakness. But it was also this that made her an artist who will always be spoken of when the finest actors of Indian cinema are counted.”

B. Prateik Babbar – I can write a LOT about the early days of PB and how he coped with the loss of her mother! But I think I would skip those. Have to mention that PB was raised by Smi’s mother. 

As I end this, two things stand out about Smita Patil. 

  • She is if not THE MOST, one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever come across.
  • It’s uncanny how her Reel and Real lives were so similar and so starkly different! Truth as they say, is stranger than fiction!

That’s about it. Thanks for indulging. Oh, who would you want to read about next? 

DISCLAIMERS 

  1. 1. All photos from Google / FB searches. I did not save the sources. Regret the laziness.
  2. 2. All info from online research that I did over a few days.
  3. 3. I don’t mean to slander. Am merely presenting what I found online. If I am wrong, please do point out.
  4. A lot of this has come from various reports, press releases around the time Maithali Rao’s book on Smita Patil came out (on Smi’s 60 birth anniversary). It’s titled Smita Patil, A Brief Incandescence. No, I have not read this. 

PS: There are talks of someone making a biopic on her life. When it comes out, I will be there. The first day, first show. I am that smitten with her!

PPS: Secret wish to Universe – I’d love to work on crafting the biopic!

Other things that I did not know how to include in the essay?  

  • Smita did not know English as a child. She learned it herself by reading Hadley Chase novels and through her friends
  • Smi would frequent FTII to see evening screenings with friends. In fact, she was so regular and frequent and commonplace, some people mistook her for a student/alumni.

Links that I read to come up with this essay? These are not in any order