Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Deepti Naval | Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish

by Douglas Messerli

Deepti Naval (writer and director) Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish / 2009

Who in the US might watch a movie titled, untranslated from the Hindi, Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Barrish, based, so I have read, on the lyrics of the famed Indian song-writer Gulzar? Those lyrics don’t sound very easy on the English tongue, translating into something like “Bombay in blue and red hues!”
     Well, I guess I’m a sucker for Indian gay movies—which this film, directed and written by the Indian actor, photographer, and painter Deepti Naval, tangentially is. Moreover, in its mix of Bollywod movie musicals, and its centering on three trapped and suffering figures—a taxi-dancer and aging prostitute, Juhi (played by the famed Indian actress Manisha Koirala), her wheel-chair-bound and mute son, Kaku (the facially expressive nephew of the director herself), and a unsuccessful lyricist, Debu (the likeable Rajit Kapur) who has just been dumped by his handsome gay boyfriend Sameer (Milind Soman)—are, throughout Naval’s film rather stereotypically presented.
    Juhi appears, as Indian critic Anshu has written on his blog, in “ a blingy red saree, cheap golden heels and garish red lipstick,” while Rajit, trying his best to celebrate in his lyrics the Mumbai monsoon rains, suddenly is forced to mope around the Mumbai streets in the heavy downpours after he is ousted from his apartment with Sameer’s abandonment, leaving Debu’s luggage at the doorstep. A photograph of his former lover is all that he has left and is the only emotional symbol of what their relationship might have been. Goodbye to a serious investigation into gay love!
    Juhi and Rajit improbably meet up in a taxi in which she is driving—a slight nod to a more feminist notion of the “taxi-rider” image—and mistakes his refusal to give up his taxi seat as an invitation for a “good time.” Soon after she is told by her pimp that she is too old for the business and must lower the charges for her favors. The rain symbolizes the plights of these Mumbai figures.
    It is not very difficult for any viewer to perceive that the passively nice Rajit and the aggressive sexual predator Juhi, despite their immense differences, must end up in a non-sexual relationship, particularly when Rajit is hired as a babysitter for the love-challenged Kaku, and immediately forms a close bond with the beautiful kid.

   Although there might be a slight pedophile suggestion here, this movie blithely skips over it, as the young boy, given permission by the affable Rajit, regains the love of an orphan cat who creeps in through his window at nights, and begins to perceive Rajit as a suitable father-figure.
     And, despite their predictability, it is this bond that begins to make you care about this Hindi movie.
     There are certainly still rather absurd interruptions, as when Juhi, returning home late one night from her sexual outings, finds Rajit has not only left on lights, but the television, and other evident transgressions. But that is the point: he is an enabler of normal living, even if none of the adults are truly capable of it. And Rajit greets her somewhat vicious attacks with comic awareness, pointing to ridiculous accusations, while attempting to dry her monsoon-wet hair. He is truly the perfect would-be husband which she should have seeking.
     At one point, Kaku finally mutters out he word “MA,” but stares out not to his impossible mother but to his now-loving caretaker Rajit.
     If the ending of this film is fairly predictable, representing a new possibility of family life, it is still nonetheless touching. Families, as we liberals know, come in all sorts of forms and shapes. Kaku needs a father, Juhi needs someone to rely on, and Debu needs someone to vitally protect him. These hurt people need one another desperately, and we recognize that their needs are what redeems them.
    Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish is certainly not a great film, nor, perhaps, really a gay film—despite the fact of one of its central figure’s expressed sexuality—but it is a caring and loving film, a movie that explores all the unusual relationships that most pictures simply ignore. If this is truly a film about the suffering male ego meeting up with the holy whore, then so it is. Eugene O’Neill, Aram Saroyan, Edward Albee and even I (as Kier Peters), as well as numerous other US playwriters have written about it endlessly. It’s a powerful subject that always ends in new possibilities, something we all might further seek.

Los Angeles, January 1, 2020
Reprinted from World Cinema Review (January 2020).

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