Monday, July 11, 2011

Darth Vader in a Dress

Pure evil has been represented and embodied several times on screen. Hitler, in every World War II movie. Mogambo, in Mr. India. The Mean Girls, in Mean Girls. Russians or Chinese or Politicians or Terrorists, in 24 (TV show) or any action movie. And of course, Darth Vader, in the Star Wars films.

Vader is the most internationally recognizable evil character in entertainment history. I usually don’t like making such general arguments, so let’s call it a statement (since this isn’t my thesis in a film studies program - which if it was, is a very mediocre one). Even if a person doesn’t know the name Darth Vader, it is very likely that at some point in their lives they have come across the image of Darth Vader or just his helmet.
But what makes Vader different from all the other villains I mentioned? Perspective. Perspective is the key differentiator between Anakin Sywalker, the protagonist in Star Wars I: A Phantom Menace and Darth Vader, the antagonist in Star Wars Parts IV to VI. By the way, that was a spoiler for what I hope isn’t many people (if you still didn’t get it: Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader). But well, if any reader hasn’t seen Star Wars until now, clearly isn’t interested.

Anyway, perspective is what makes choosing sides easier when given a choice. And the choice in the Star Wars films is very easy. The Dark Side, or The Force. And by having the film’s main character go through the transformation of going from one to the other, clearly is the best character arc ever.

Oddly enough, this post isn’t about Vader or Star Wars or anything remotely related to Hollywood or action films or Lindsay Lohan films. No, this post is about a film called “Pyaar Ka Punchnama”.

Realistic films are very much “in” these days. And while I would call Yeh Saali Zindagi the best example this year of the genre (if it is one), Pyaar Ka Punchnama qualifies for many reasons. First, its about what happens post-HappilyEverAfter. Second, the protagonists aren’t 45 year olds pretending to be 28 (which is for some reason the most stated age of protagonists played by all Bollywood Khans in their films). And most importantly, it’s about perspective.

Everyone hated Mogambo. No one would ever make a prequel to Mr. India and make it about Mogambo’s bad childhood and how he was bullied for having golden hair.

But, make your villain human, and you’ve got yourself a story. Vader wasn’t even all human, but he made a great villain, and was human enough to be given three prequels as the protagonist.

But what does Vader have to do with Pyaar Ka Punchnama? Who is the villain in Pyaar Ka Punchnama?

The villain of the film are - drumroll - women (as seen above). All women? Hopefully, and luckily, no. What makes Pyaar Ka... unique is its choice in making an entire gender the villain of a story so realistic, men are afraid to take their girlfriends to watch the film - afraid that even a slight snicker during Rajjo’s monologue will mean the end of the Force (Star Wars reference) that is their freedom.

Still, the women of Pyaar Ka... aren’t the unimaginative “vamps” of Indian television soaps. They are independent, free thinking members of society who feast on the fears and needs of their men counterparts. The last part about feasting isn’t my opinion, but that of the filmmakers. That is the power of perspective.

But, if they are just characters, what drives them? What is their motive? If we are to believe the filmmakers behind the film, the answer seems to be that there isn’t one. Or, more clearly, not one the men could understand. Or maybe they just enjoyed doing what they did.

Sadly, we didn’t get an answer to that. If we are to believe Neha, they did it to teach them a lesson. To put the men in their shoes. Or maybe, just maybe, these girls were just pure evil. And maybe represent their counterparts in the real world that just haven’t been personified on bollywood screens yet.

The film offers too much commentary, and no solution. Besides living as single men who bunk beds, the three men in this story will soon find themselves lost and in search of their next “happily ever after”. Isn’t insanity defined as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result? I think Einstein said that. Wouldn’t relationships and a person’s search for love be considered insanity then?

For me, the clear winners in this film were the women, and their new men, seen smiling while carrying their bags - still stuck in the Matrix (Matrix reference), thinking that this is their reality, and not knowing, or knowing too well, the horrific other side - being single. Maybe the blue pill would be a much more realistic decision (Matrix reference).

Still, the film offered a perspective never pursued before. In fact, the only viewers that would be at a total loss watching this film - belonging to both genders - would be the parents of 20-somethings, afraid that their children might be like this. Pyaar Ka... just force fed them the red pill (last Matrix reference).

To say anything further against the apparent villains in this film would be wrong and borderline sexist. But, to say anything for these villains, well, at least Vader was hideous.

No one deserves absolute power. Don't we all know that absolute power corrupts...mostly? And while Darth Vader has been popularized as the face of power and pure evil, Pyaar Ka...'s women did not see the same end that Vader did. But in their defence, they didn't have a six-film storyline to support their character arcs.

Bonus: Best scene comparison: Neha (Pyaar Ka...) making Rajjo cry by making up a story I was a 100% sold on, and Vader telling Luke “I am your Father.” While one scene gave us an unexpected glimpse of a human being behind an evil mask, the other gave us a shocking glimpse of pure evil behind a pretty face. Should I state which one was which?

Author's Note I: This post is rather unnecessary, much like the songs in Pyaar Ka..., since total enjoyment off of reading this post requires the viewing of Pyaar Ka... and ALL six Star Wars films and even the Matrix (or through wikipedia search of these films/characters, which to be realistic, no one will do). Luckily the few people (namely, people who are not men) who will find this post offensive wouldn’t fall under the category of “seen PKP and ALL six Star Wars films and even the Matrix”.

Author's Note II: To be very honest, the only reason I wrote this long post was to somehow make sense of the title "Darth Vader in a Dress". Did I succeed in offering a unique perspective? Also, did I mention that Star Wars is one of the greatest films of all time?

Author’s Bonus Video: If you know who Darth Vader is, check out this commercial by VW:

1 comment:

  1. Nice stuff... haven't seen star wars but i like the quirky connect between the two films SW and PKP ;) it should be fun to watch what next in Pyaar ka..... its makers confirmed a sequel last month!


Shout out!