Saturday, March 17, 2007

a little gutsy: Doosra Aadmi

I think this movie was about forgiveness (of both self and others), or maybe temptation, or recognizing the flaws in one's sense of reality, but I'm not sure. The question I've been thinking about all day is what it meant to say by including small, simple scenes of things you don't see very often in popular Hindi films - not making a big production out of being shocking but just showing adults, both younger and older, making decisions without thinking them through as far as they should have. Some characters demonstrate a lot more id than responsibility and others are self-sacrificing, and generally these behaviors coincide with values that are basically categorized as modern or traditional.* Yet I don't think the movie is saying "non-traditional is bad, look what happens to people when women stay single and have jobs alongside men, look what happens when a couple gets married without parental approval." There's something about the everyday-ness (at least, "everyday" by my own personal standards) of some of these scenes that drew me into the story and the characters much more than I would have thought a 1970s movie about temptation and complicated relationships would. We see a young newlywed trying to buy condoms, the couple rolling around in bed,

a man visiting a woman who is not his wife as she steps out of the shower,
a lechy older husband who gropes his young female students,

and, most interestingly, a wife who, marching into her husband's workplace to find out what he's been doing all those late nights, seems to wear as a sign of her independence the flared pants and tight shirts that she earlier ditched for salwaar kameez at the husband's request.


It's very difficult to say much more without giving away the whole story, and for once I really want to respect that, because I would love for more people to watch this and talk about it with me, and I know most people don't like knowing the plot before they see the movie. If you're really skittish and think you might like to watch this - and you should, as it's really interesting - then you should probably play it safe and not read any further, although I'm not going to say anything that isn't in the imdb plot summary.

The title alone tells you quite a bit about what's going on. Translated as either "the other man" or "the second man," so I am told by Hindi-speakers, you know there are at least three people in this love story. In fact, there are four people: Karan (Rishi Kapoor) and Timsi (Neetu Singh) are impetuous newlyweds, and he hires Nisha (Rakhee) to work for his advertising agency, but she's got a mysterious past that involves Shashi (Shashi Kapoor, who is my new FPMBF runner-up, by the way - I simply cannot get enough Shashi).

I find it really interesting that the title refers to the second/other man, shifting the focus of the story to Nisha, instead of the second/other woman, which would make it centered on the Karan-Timsi marriage, which is what you'd expect from Bollywood. The movie opens with a long stretch of nothing but scenes of Karan and Timsi falling in love and getting married (despite his father's disapproval), which I think sets the viewer up to assume the movie is primarily concerned with them, but after finishing it, I think the story was really about Nisha, and it is surprisingly sympathetic to her, even though she's got her sights firmly set on a married man. Though she is technically the instigator, Nisha clearly has a lot of heart and does not mean to do anything wrong - she's just blinded by pain. She also has the tough love of Shashi's best friend, who eventually gets through to her that she cannot try to re-live her past with someone new, especially when said someone is married.

As uncondemning as the movie is of Nisha, it is equally tolerant of Karan, who is foolish, bossy, selfish, rash young man. He's also...I can't think of the word, but "easily swayed by appeals to his ego, his feelings of success, and his love of a good time," a gadabout. He's an ethical lightweight, that's what he is, who seldom thinks before he acts. Karan responds quickly and in kind to Nisha's advances, so he's certainly not a quivering victim of a predatory older woman - she may have started it, but he was more than willing to finish it. I mean, I ask you, is this the behavior of an innocent man?

Karan is chastised by his father for his dubious behavior, but the ending of the film is completely filmy and far too easy to follow from the difficult emotions everyone is feeling - and of course Timsi has to capitulate, even though her husband was behaving as above, apologizing for something that is completely self-preserving and reasonable. Timsi and Karan don't even have a discussion at the end - they voice-over their thoughts, as though they are reading each other's minds. Highly unsatisfying. Anyway, Rishi Kapoor played this role so effectively that I really disliked him - and began to wonder if maybe he's just actually like that, so easily did he pout and whine and break when his sense of pleasure was restrained.

So: please see it and tell me what you think. I think there are many interesting bits going on here, but maybe I'm making too much of things.

And now for some silly photos. It was 1977, so it was bound to happen.

  • Karan clearly wears way too much cologne, since we can see it on camera.
    This goes on for several seconds - I can smell it from here.
  • Shashi offers Nisha some romance advice.


    I think he's reinforcing the idea that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Interpretations welcome. Bollywood love advice is bound to be good.
  • You can check out Bollywood Fugly for the movie's few wardrobe problems, but I refuse to say that these particular sunglasses are anything other than superfly.
* Feel free to point me towards articles that discuss better terms than these to use; until then, though, I'm using these, because I think everyone will know what I mean by them, even though they're probably flawed and don't hold up to ethnological scrutiny.

14 comments:

trupti said...

I am going to watch this...Just cos of Shashi Kapoor...I agree, what a babe, eh?

Have you seen him NOW though?

Nina said...

Hi Beth -

I have little to add to your analysis -- I felt much the same way when I watched Doosra Aadmi. I was surprised and pleased by some of the less conventional themes they brought into the film, but then was ultimately confused by more traditionally 'filmi' moral judgements.

But so many Bollywood films are like that, and I am torn between two interpretations: either the film-makers 'cop out' at the end so as not to alienate what is presumed to be a socially conservative audience, while subversively presenting new morals, or Bollywood really operates on a moral plane that Western viewers just don't get.

I choose to go for interpretation 1, and therefore continue to hold films like Doosra Aadmi and Swarg Narak as faves, but with endings/morals which to me seem flawed, though I accept that they are the 'correct' morals for many other viewers.

(Have you seen Swarg Narak? Same period, and it elicits a lot of the same sociological questions as Doosra Aadmi. It lacks Shashi, but somewhat makes up for it with a young Shabana Azmi)

Beth said...

Trupti - watch it, watch it! He's scrummy in it! And yes, someone posted a link of a current photo. Unrecognizable (though the photo was small). That's okay - I'm living in fake-pretend land anyway, so what's the small matter of reversing time?

Nina - you have said exactly what I was thinking and have done it much more concisely. I don't know if Bollywood's moral plane is all that different, but there does seem to be an emphasis on - or even a need for - restoring some sort of moral order to the movie's world, and doing so along fairly conservative, "traditional" lines. I also think that that kind of ending is perhaps the most efficient one. So I do think such endings are an easy way out, but I understand that there are reasons other than ease for choosing such an ending.

I was just delighted that Timsi doesn't loose all her strength and that Karan apologizes. I was livid that Timsi apologized, though - her husband left their relationship before she did, after all.

And I'll look for Swarg Narak - sounds good!

carla said...

Thanks to both Beth and Nina for fascinating exposition that makes me eager to see this film.

Perhaps needless to say, I've got *Swarg narak* in my collection awaiting viewing and will perhaps bump it up as well.

*sigh* so many awesome movies ...

Darshana said...

Shashi Kapoor was my pathway in to Bollywood so I'm happy to join in "wishing him on his birthday."
I still find him in his prime maybe the handsomest Bollywood screen presence there is.

Looking forward to Doosra Aadmi. I like Jab Jab Phool Khile and Bombay Talkie, a Merchant-Ivory film - so-so story, beautiful Shashi & real-life wife Jennifer.

Darshana

Beth said...

Hi Darshana - agreed, agreed, so very handsome - and, like you say, a real presence, unlike some other pretty boys (and girls) we could name.

Thanks to all for the movie suggestions! I have so many things to hunt down - and what a good problem to have.

Angry Brown Man said...

once again, wrong. There is a separate moral universe, one dominated by Vedic philosophy that informs much of bollywood, governed by the concept of dharma, which does in fact dictate that the highest virtue is in self-sacrifice and fulfilling one's duties to the family and society. Just because you hold certain values to be dear, do not push your Occidental values onto a completely different society.

Beth said...

When have I pushed my values on Bollywood? I have looked at Bollywood through my own lens, which includes my own values, which is what anyone watching a movie does, even if their own values include those of various other cultures, years of study, years of experience, whatever. I feel you're implying that I think I'm right. I don't think I'm right. I think I'm right for my own experience of the movie. And of course I know there is a lot in any Hindi film that I don't get. I'm working on trying to understand more (which includes studying Hindi, admittedly slowly), discussing more, etc. - which is why I bother to write and discuss all of this in public. If I weren't interested in expanding my experiences, knowledge, etc., I would just keep to myself.

Aspi said...

Actually if you think about it, Vedic philosophy is just one among many that Indians understand, assimilate and guide their life by. There are other philosophies that hold different values dear. And that's just in Inida. And that is what I like about it most of all - many philosophies, all absorbed, enhanced and redeployed. It's a brilliant playground to be playing on.

a ppcc representative said...

I've been doomed by crap Shashi lately (Mukti! Fakira! OK... Fakira was better...) and I think I'll go for this next. Also, can I steal the last pic (Shashi, Rakhee) to Photoshop it and possibly make it the logo of a new PPCC project? Thanks!

Beth said...

You certainly may! Email me if you want more.

Crap Shashi MUST be overcome! My personal choices for such a cause would be Sharmeelee or Do Aur Do Paanch, but he's great in this too.

Shalini Razdan said...

It's been a while since I last saw Doosra Aadmi, but I think it might be my favorite offering from Yash Chopra. I like your thoughtful analysis, Beth and responded to the film in a similar manner.

I think your point about "Doosra Aadmi" really being about Nisha and her emotional journey is really interesting and makes the ending, which has always frustrated/puzzled me, more palatable. While I was pleased that Nisha got a credible, sympathetic resolution, the Timsi/Karan thread felt like it was tied-up half-hazardly. But, if you approach it from the Nisha-as-the-main-protagnist angle, then the cop-out ending for Timsi/Karan may have been more a matter of expediency in wrapping up a secondary (and perhaps less interesting to the filmmaker?) plotline than a deliberate concession to a conservative desi audience.

I think I need to see the film again.:-)

avdi said...

I liked the character of Satyen Kappu, the boy's father as well. He is non-interfering in his son's life, but steps in to point him in the right direction with great tact when necessary.

Of course I loved the movie.

As for fashions, how was that silver neck peice that Rishi gifts Rakhee? Cool eh?

Erin Georgia said...

Oh you were sooo much nicer than I was. The combonation of the evil Rishi and the self-serving Nisha just iked me to no end.

And yes! The ending was SO unsatisfying! And Timsi apologizing first! NO! Ugh.

I mean, on the whole I liked the moive, it's interesting and thought provoking but something just left a funny taste in my mouth, so to say...