Saturday, August 2, 2014

How to love and marry, Indian Ishtyle (plus bonus belated review)

Okay so I finally watched Ranjhana, over a year after its release. The whole stalking-as-love debate that the movie kicked off in the blogosphere really put me off. More than the critics who panned the film, it was the passionate defense from the film's supporters in comment sections that really made the call for me - it just didn't sound like a film I might enjoy.

I was wrong. As a film, it has more than a few strong points. The people in the film and their general conduct, or their thought processes weren't necessarily likable. It takes courage to tell the story of two damaged people, and the script does this coldly and distantly enough for the audience to see Kundan and Zoya for what they really are. The self-destructive path they walk in the story feels like the most natural trajectory for their life given their respective personalities. For all the distaste I feel for the way Kundan goes about wrecking havoc in people's lives, I never felt manipulated into liking him, not even with his cutesy act. It is entirely plausible for a person, especially one with limited education and very little exposure to the world outside a provincial life, to be easily likable and genuinely innocent on one hand, as well as unbelievably selfish and thoughtless on the other.

As for Zoya, she comes across as an intelligent woman with her priorities right and her morals all wrong. Again, a film that is about a person of questionable integrity doesn't necessarily endorse those values. As far as I could see, the film follows the inherent tendencies of Zoya and Kundan to their natural and inevitable conclusion.

So there, I've said something good about Ranjhana. Now for the rants.

One of the recurring arguments put forth by the film's sincere supporters in all their outpourings against critics has been this: if what Kundan does in the film is stalking, how else do you get a girl to like you in a quintessential Indian city? One particular Pro-Ranjhana dude asked a female reviewer to consider how her parents and grandparents went about the pursuit of love and romance, given that the 'western' way of 'dating' wasn't really an option.

Okay, old debate, and the reviewer in question answered to the comment appropriately, but I'll add my twopence anyway. My parents and grandparents had arranged marriages. That's the old, Indian way. There are of course, a lot of people who do not believe in western concepts, as you call them, such as dating, but have gone ahead and married for love in most conservative Indian families too.

So for the benefit of all my Indian brothers and sisters, here are some quick tips to fall in love and get your happily-ever-after, the good Indian way. No slashing of wrists, no terrorizing or annoying people of the opposite sex involved. Satisfaction guaranteed, in that none of you should hopefully end up in a loony bin or a hospital bed.

Option 1
You like a girl/guy, you try to chat them up or have some common acquaintance convey your interest and if they reciprocate, you proceed with romance-wedding-happily-ever-after. If they don't, you move on.

Option 2
You like a guy/girl, you tell your parents to talk to their parents and have a sweet little arranged marriage in true Barjatya tradition. Might involve families setting conditions/challenges a la Alok Nath in Maine Pyaar Kiya before sweet union may be achieved.

Option 3
In case one of the families doesn't approve, get the blessings of the other family, act fast, have a simple wedding, and wait for the disapproving family to cool off. Not recommended if caste/religion are involved.

Option 4
Wait for the disapproving family to have a change of heart. This is a boring, non-film-worthy path that takes a lot of patience and perseverance, tests your love to the extreme, and doesn't leave you with a charming little story to tell your great-grandkids. I mean, no kids want to hear a story where the prince and princess go about their lives for 7 long years before having another traditional Indian wedding. But I've known at least one couple to do just that, and theirs is as true a love as any I've known.

Option 5
You like someone, they like you back but are reluctant to commit due to social restraints, you hang around and try to convince them of the power of love to overcome all obstacles, all the while respecting their boundaries.

Option 6
You like someone, they don't know you exist, you grow up and fall in love with someone you actually know a thing or two about.


Whatever you do,

  1. DO NOT use any form of letter, social media, phone calls, or any mode of communication that may potentially embarrass the other party in their respective social circles. More importantly, do not use any medium where you'll end up leaving a blazing trail and embarrass yourself, or get into trouble.
  2. DO NOT make a fool of yourself. Seriously. It does not look sexy.
  3. Not looking sexy is NOT one of the sacrifices you make for true love. Not if having sex anytime in the future is on your agenda.
  4. DO NOT use pickup lines out of How I Met Your Mother or any Hollywood/Bollywood product. They don't work. Use your words.
  5. DO NOT be a pest. A pest is someone who lingers around another person when the latter clearly does not want them around
  6. If someone tells you or behaves like they don't want you around, there's a 99.99% chance they don't. Have dignity and seek affection somewhere else.
  7. Have dignity.
All the best, and may you have your happy ending and lots of children and grandchildren to listen to your charming lies.

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