Banging “The Bachelor”

*WARNING: LONG RANDOM RANT AHEAD, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK*

Nobody ever forgets their first time doing anything do they? Their first bicycle ride. The first agonising burn of teenage love. That hormone-fuelled wildfire of a first kiss…whatever. On the other end of a spectrum are their worst memories. The first time you farted in public company. The first rejection. The first time you sat down to watch a show you loved only to realise I am a fucking idiot. What the hell is this crap?

Only last week was I introduced to the incredibly obnoxious Bachelor series. My mom is a huge fan apparently (gee thanks mom) and yeah I came on the scene a bit late because this stuff has been around for years. Never being a big fan of reality TV even as a kid I was mercifully spared but I have heard of The Bachelor. Occasionally. The way you hear of accidents on TV and furtively hope that you never get to experience it first hand. 

The Bachelor for those as uninformed and ignorant as me, is a show where 20 women shamelessly rip each other to shreds in order to become the married property of a passably attractive man who stands around looking passionately anguished. Oh and they get given a rose too if the bloodshed pleases him. Okay maybe I exaggerated a bit but most of the show is really like this and I’m only through 4 episodes of season 19. Oh and this time there are 30 women because…because..um…???????

Over the course of 8 weeks the audience is made to endure an endless series of awful dates, catfights, fountains of tears, clichéd lines such as “This is hard!” and “I thought I had a real connection with him” and the worrying “She’s not here for the right reasons obviously.”

Sweetheart you are all there for publicity, the chance to get married to some square-jawed hick/tortured billionaire and live the rest of your lives out in the light of a thousand camera flashes. There is no such thing as the right reason. 

I know I’m definitely not alone in hating this show and there are millions of people worldwide who do hate it but there are millions more who watch it. Who invest themselves in the lives of these unfortunate men and women – and I say unfortunate because being paid to be reduced to caricatures of yourselves in order to please the audience is unfortunate. Its a more evolved form of getting ripped to shreds in an arena while the crowd boos and the emperor eats dates. 

The particular episode which really tripped my fuses was one where the current bachelor Chris Soules gets to go on a date with two of the women on the show Kelsey and Ashley (side note: them Barbie names just spell trouble). This um double-date thingy is set in the Badlands which is a really cool landscape set in rugged rocky terrain and prairie-looking land with some dramatic cliffs. You kind of wonder if it’s to inspire someone to jump off when Chris rejects them. 

This is supposed to be a date? Why do you have a four poster bed set up in the middle of goddamn nowhere? Combined with the “2 on 1 Date” title this whole scene looks like the worlds most expensive and ambitious porno shoot…

It isn’t long before the drama starts when Ashley takes Chris aside to confess that she and the other girls think that Kelsey is very fake and that she isn’t there for the right reasons (whatever they may be). Chris, who obviously has rocks for brains, immediately proceeds to tell this to Kelsey.

He then proceeds to sit around looking ruggedly heartbroken and surprised that everything and everyone seems so upset. His genius solution? Send one woman home for being fake (a sentiment which he has previously never expressed) and send the other one home too presumably for being a tattletale. Or maybe because he realised he couldn’t afford her makeup costs.

Before I go any further – I am so frustrated at the utter vapidity of this show. This dude can’t even be bothered to see the conflict and misunderstanding simmering in his cabal of women – seriously dude you’re trying to find a wife and partner use whatever is in your head. All he has to do is pick the last one standing – he can kiss and screw his way through the women and leave them to sort out their own mess of feelings. Nitwit. No wonder he has to resort to reality TV to find a life partner. He talks to women the way he probably talks to the sheep and cows on his farm.

In the end Kelsey and Ashley are left alone in the magnificent landscape of the Badlands to watch The Eligible Bonehead fly away in a helicopter, looking pained and devastated. Or possible constipated because I didn’t see a single toilet in that place. 

Meanwhile back in “Bachelorland” the women recieve news of the elimination. Scenes of extreme devastation at the humiliation of two women followed. Brought tears to my eyes I tell you.

Ladies you are not in the world of a Beauty and the Beast. Your fates are so much bigger than a single rose. 

I even did a bit of research and I am now fully convinced that the shallowness in the show is not restricted to the set alone but even into the lives of the winners. Barely any winning couple has lasted beyond a couple of months of engagement at best and most invariably end up with someone else. This even extends over to the sister show The Bachelorette (presumably named because that atrocious feminisation of the word looks better than The Spinster). How can they last? Usually marriage is just a precursor to drama. In this all the drama is exhausted before the marriage and when the crew packs up and the lights go off the winning couple probably just look at each other and go “…Now what?”

What a waste of roses.

Oh and just to drive you nuts, here are a few words of wisdom from the show.

I’m looking Ashley. I’m looking. 

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Achayans Review – Don’t Take This One For The Team

                            “Achayans”

Honestly speaking, I think I am a very shallow person because the only reason I wanted to watch Achayans was because of the dishy Adil Ibrahim, former anchor of the equally shallow D4 Dance show on Manorama. The show is pretty crappy but Adil usually managed to make it more interesting – which is what I thought he would do in Achayans. 

Ladies, I’m sure you understand by now.

Achayans is Jayaram’s third outing with Kannan Thamarakullam after his annoyingly shrill Thingal Muthal Velli Vare and Aadupuliyatam. He must have been really hoping for a hit because Jayaram has had a disastrous spell of late with poor movie choices and equally bad acting (Remember Ulsaha Committee? Maanthrikan? Sir CP? You get the idea). Sathya also bombed at the box office and received some cutting reviews from critics who labelled it as pretentious and underwhelming (and those are only the more polite comments). This movie had to do well which is why the promotional activity was amped up a bit, including some special focus on Jayaram’s ‘special look’ for the movie. You can watch the trailer for  Achayans here.

Maybe ‘special look’ means that he forgot to use hair dye?

Achayans delves into the lives of four ridiculously rich man-children namely Roy (Jayaram), Eby (Adil Ibrahim), Rafi (Sanju Shivaraman) and Tony (Unni Mukundan). Tony, an out and out alcoholic and jobless man-child, is the only child of a doting older couple. Eby is the cliché ‘young turk’ whose political activities are restricted to making lots of noise and cowering behind his seniors when the action gets going (in this case, it’s P.C George who makes an actual appearance in the film). Rafi is their sidekick and best friend while Roy, the oldest of the lot and in the grips of a possible mid-life crisis, attempts to find new ways to have fun and enjoy life while maintaining an appearance of decency in front of other family members.

                                              Eby, Rafi and Tony

The first half of the film is filled with something I have unfortunately come to expect from Jayaram films of late: crass humour, bad acting and a seriously bad plot. Unni Mukundan is terrible in this movie; his beard has more screen presence than he does! There are occasional glimpses of humour but most of the film makes us roll our eyes and yawn. There is even a weak attempt at a love interest- the usual trophy female who is irrevocably in love with Tony despite him missing his own wedding due to the fact that he was lying dead drunk somewhere. In a scene reminiscent of Thoppil Joppen the four miscreants are sent off to a counselling centre which is run by a strict priest (amusing cameo by Ramesh Pisharady). They get kicked out because Roy manages to smuggle liquor in using watermelons injected with alcohol (like Malayalis need more ideas on how to drink). In fact the biggest pitfall of this movie, like many Malayali movies of late, is it’s overblown portrayal of drinking and alcoholism. Honestly it gets boring to watch irresponsible men drink and drink and drink and then get up and do a song and dance routine like hangovers don’t exist. 

You see that Harley? It is the best part of the movie.

Enter Amala Paul as the stand-offish and touchy Reetha, along with her friend Prayaga who are on an impromptu road trip. A bar fight leads to them hitching a ride with the four heroes to a hotel for a New Years party. The four braniacs decide that they should celebrate the remaining days before Tony’s retry at marriage. The following morning, Reetha is found dead and the police are called in to find the suspect. Prakash Raj is the head of the investigating team. 

I would love to say that the movie got interesting after this but sadly it only gave me an even bigger headache. I love Prakash Raj and he did fairly okay in this film but countless slo-mo sequences and his cop BGM (which somebody in the film crew liked because it popped up every five seconds) detracted from what little flow the movie had. The suspense was cooked up and thrills nonexistent – in fact what humour there was came from scenes that were actually meant to be taken seriously. 

“I don’t know why she loves me Ichaaya,” Unni Mukundan sobs after a phone call to his bride (whom he conveniently left behind to go on a joyride – now he won’t make it back for his second attempt at marriage. Such a responsible fellow).

Needless to say the climax is a gift to the watchers because it means that we can finally see the end of the long, dark road we are on. However there was one point that niggled at me – I felt that Amala Paul had the most interesting character out of all the others and her character was not explored enough. How does she develop borderline- personality disorder? What is her past? Who blew up her Harley? Where is that exquisite leather jacket from? 

In the end though you’ll be exactly like me and the rest of the unfortunates who went to the theatre to watch this trashy piece of filmmaking – glad to get out of there. Achayans is a hodge-podge of cheesy lines, awful editing, worse music and acting that leaves you with a great need to facepalm (or in my case, to rant).

Do yourself a favour. Don’t watch it. 

         When you just need to forget. 

When The Beef Gets Going…

Kerala has always had a long and passionate affair with beef. At night you can walk through it’s busiest streets, hearing and seeing the sizzle and pop of chunky beef in dark brown gravy, the heady smell of it weaving itself into the dusty darkness and smoke of the evening air. Men and women call their wares from street stalls and chat in the steamy lights of naphthalene or electric lamps as customers pour in by the dozen to sample beef fry, beef curry, beef roast…

Is it any wonder then that the latest series of moves by the Central Government in India to regulate and curb the trade of beef is causing Keralites from all walks of life to take up their ladles and pots and cry “Foul!”? Kerala has never really been touched by the cow worship fever that has gripped other parts of India. Zealous “Gau Rakshaks”, self-proclaimed protectors of cows that roam Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra would find little place in this state – indeed their zeal to protest against beef might result in being lynched themselves (poetic justice that would be). 

Many politicians are claiming that Hindus are simply getting their due in terms of rights and recogntion of cultural practises and to those well-meaning politicians I would pose a question – who is a Hindu? What is Hinduism? Unlike Islam and Christianity we do not have a specific text to follow or a specified set of commandments by which to live our life by. The word “Hindu” itself was coined by Britishers who sought to stuff the entire Vedic way of life into their neat little administrative boxes – it was originally used to refer to settlers in the Indus Valley. There are mentions of beef eating in the Upanishads and certain Vedic rituals which mentioned sanctified offerings of beef to the gods. One of India’s greatest Kings, Ashoka, banned the existing practise of cow-sacrifice upon his conversion to Buddhism. The meat of cows was consumed by many lower-caste Hindus who were considered unclean for their slaughtering of cows by upper-castes (who used the leather and other products of slaughter guiltlessly while condemning those who provided it). Many upper-caste Hindus still spurn the eating of beef though this is more common in the North of India. This does not mean that all Hindus spurn beef. This does not mean that every Hindu must be lumped with the extremist or orthodox beliefs of their society any more than being Muslim should be identified as being a part of ISIS or Al-Quaeda or every Christian with the KKK. The simple fact is that India would not exist without Hinduism – not the Hinduism of cow-worship and caste snobbery but the pluralistic, accepting and nurturing creed that embraces all religions and cultures across the length and breadth of the land. The same words were echoed by the universally revered Mahatma Gandhi whom all Indians regard as the Father of the Nation. What boggles the mind is that this issue of banning beef was vetoed during the formation of Independent India but it seems to be making a worrying comeback now. A few years ago, Malayali MP Innocent made a cutting remark in Parliament about how the government should focus more on the welfare of the people in India rather than what they were cooking in their kitchens. 

Under new laws in certain states, a person found guilty of cow slaughter or consumption can face up to 10 years (Jammu and Kashmir) or seven years and a fine (Madhya Pradesh). What a day and age to be a cow in India! You will be fed, worshipped and protected by gangs of armed thugs who will lynch their own mothers if they are suspected of looking at a cow in the wrong way. You will be defended in Parliament by the highest ranking politicians and laws will be passed in your favour by gloating MP’s sure of their place in heaven. 

“We will build ‘cow hostels’ in cities, ‘cow pension’ will keep farmers from selling old animals to slaughterhouses, a ‘cow protection force’ will be mobilised to rescue cows…” – Mayankeshwar Singh, National Convener, Cow Development Cell, BJP 

 You will in short, be safer and better equipped to face life than the women in this country because a man will actually think twice before pulling out your intestines or violating you with an iron rod because he has a higher risk of being prosecuted for killing a cow than raping and violating a woman or child. Oh and, no one will blame your looks or body if by chance you are slaughtered – which is more than women who have been raped can say. Has India become the birthplace of Hypocrites rather than Hindus?

To those who are labelling this as a purely BJP move – a reality check is in order. Beef bans have been enforced by Congress governments way back even in 1964. Its true however that some extremist groups have been emboldened by the surge in popularity thanks to Narendra Modi. This does not make Modi responsible personally because it is silly to expect one Prime Minister to change the attitudes already entrenched in a society. 

If this was a move to make slaughtering of cattle more humane and modern then we would be in full support. If this was about regulating trade and making sure the meat distributed was of good quality then this too we would have supported. This insufferable pushing of beef bans and beef regulations as a Hindu agenda, promoted by so-called Hindu politicians? No. It’s time Indians – not Hindus, not minorities but Indians – took a stand. Kerala has already erupted. We need to remind politicians of the original meaning of democracy – “Rule of the People” and the that the country is not a chess board where they can play their little games for a few more years in power.  It is not the playing field of disgruntled casteists looking to impose their views upon the “lesser” meat-eating populace. 

This is India. And we love beef yo. 

                                  “Beef Chilli anyone?”

Mirror Mirror On The Wall, Who Speaks The Bestest English Of Them All?

“How many times have I told you,” the mother in the supermarket says in a tone of great exasperation, “that you must be speaking English in public? Don’t you know you are sounding like a local?! You speak English you hear me?”

Her small son nods as she talks. 

“Sorry Amma – Mummy.*

                                  ***

On the 15th of August 1947, India took the reins of it’s future in it’s own hands and officially declared itself independent of the former British Empire, to be self-governed forthwith and for all time to come…

Or so we thought, because reality was quite different. 

The second skin of colonialism clung to the newly-formed republic much like afterbirth seen after a bloody delivery. It would take decades to scrub off the thousand ingrained tenets that had been inculcated into the Indian mindset by their former masters…one of them being their greatest and most divisive gift – the English language. Under the British, Indians who spoke and write English were given higher priority in jobs and education. The language of the master became the ambition of the slave – English schooling was sought after by sycophants of the English regime and became associated with class and wealth. Even luminaries like Raja Rammoham Roy and Ambedkar supported the spread of English medium schools  and missionaries propagated the language thoroughly. It slowly sank into the minds and hearts of Indians that a dark-skinned person speaking a white-person’s language was the only way to rise out of the “barbarism” of their native land. 

Fast forward to 2017. How much has changed? I am not going to provide facts and figures because this isn’t a lecture but I am going to tell you – not much. Even though we changed Bombay to Mumbai and clamoured for the rejuvenation of local languages, in the heart of hearts of this huge nation hides a cancerous little tumour of an inferiority complex when it comes to English. Nowhere is it better demonstrated than Kerala where many Malayalis, educated and otherwise have a sort of love-hate relationship with the language. If you know it well and speak with a degree of fluency and skill you are either lauded (as Shashi Tharoor was in his marvellous takedown of colonialism in the (in)famous Oxford Speech) or heavily trolled on social media (as Malayali superstar Prithviraj obviously knows about seeing as he faces it every time he posts a status). 

The conversation I witnessed above reflects many such conversations that I have seen parents having with their kids after coming to India. I was just about good as born and brought up in Southern Africa. I speak English as a first language, I think in English and I love English as a language. I also love Malayalam. I love Malayalam because it’s so lush and verdant like the land it comes from, filled with quick sounds like silvery darting fish and sometimes as thunderous as angry breakwaters on the beach. The music of the language sometimes fails to convey itself in something as prosaic as English. I speak it with a fair degree of fluency but I will never be a great speaker. 

I known there are many things wrong with the people of Kerala (where can we find a group of people that isn’t messed up anyway?) but with a language as beautiful as Malayalam, there should be some innate goodness in them too because a language is a mirror of the people that speak it. 

I have watched people greet me with a smile only for that same smile to become frozen and masklike when my Malayalam fails and I request something in English. I have watched them cover up their lack of understanding of my accent with silence and distance. I’ve been the butt of jokes at my college, the bearer of the label of “arrogant NRI girl”. In the same way I have seen how magical Malayalam is; how my classmates warmed to me when I could talk to them about things and people they knew, when I could catch jokes and ribald banter in Malayalam movies. I’ve seen how patient the people here can be when I have lost the words for something and request their help to find it. I watch the great Malayalam film Manichithrathazhu with the same breathless excitement and shivers that I had when I was three. 

Most of all I have understood one thing that many Malayalis do not – English is not a weapon. It is not a sword of Damocles to hang over the heads of those who have not learnt to speak it well. It is not something to be used to make fun of those who cannot understand. No language should be degraded in such a way. It makes me terribly sad to see English speaking individuals beug portrayed as villainous schemers in Malayalam movies because it reflects the greater insecurity in the heart of the ordinary Malayali: their perceived inferiority in front of the language of their former oppressors. The flip side is also just as sad – Malayalam speaking locals being derided for their accent and “country” looks reflects the hypocrisy at the centre of this controversy. 

I have also seen Malayali people who speak English (and Hindi too) very loudly in supermarkets to assure themselves and the world around them that they are educated and classy individuals; people who claim extraordinary degrees and education and speak pidgin English; yet more people who plaster on nauseously fake accents to mask their dubious English…the list goes on. It is very interesting to note that in many of these cases, when I instigated a reasonable conversation in English, many of them immediately sought refuge in their much more fluent Malayalam. Why fake it? English doesn’t make you a better person. Speaking bad English to make others feel bad only makes you a bigger fool. 

 Maybe what this era needs is more people like my grandfather who quietly threatened my parents into teaching me Malayalam. 

Maybe we need more parents and teachers who give less importance to language and more importance to communication and understanding because what matters is connecting with people, not showing off. 

Maybe we need more dedicated Malayalam and English teachers who know and respect the language and are willing to question their own knowledge of the language to better themselves and their students. 

Maybe this will produce a generation without the searing subconscious need to denigrate somebody simply because they are “other’. 

 

The Great Toilet Cover-Up

My “college” if it can even be addressed as such, is a two-storey building situated in the middle of a school compound. Its fairly recent – only two years old and with campus under construction. We, the students, have all the difficulties associated with such a college such as schoolchildren screaming bloody murder outside when we have our semester exams and looking wistful whenever one of our friends talks about hanging out on their huge campus. Occasionally, when one of us dares to pipe up and ask when the college campus is going to be completed we are treated to a lecture on the virtues of patience and the sanctity of struggle in human life. If more than one person asks the tone abruptly changes to one of disdain, telling us that if we wanted good facilities we would have studied and gotten into better colleges then.

One of the main issues that came up recently was about the girls bathrooms – more accurately, the girls bath-sheds – which showed an even greater lack of facilities than seen on average at our college and believe me, that shit is bad. No running water, no electricity and minimal cleaning. Every time you step in one and close the door you are immediately plunged into horror-movie darkness which means that every bathroom venture for most of the girls is an exercise in blind fumbling and awkward adjusting; you just hope and pray that everything is positioned correctly and there are no, um, overflows which is a viable risk in Indian-style toilets. Not that you can see it but you can certainly smell it. Many girls go to the toilets in pairs or groups, which I never understood – I actually assumed it was so one person could stand outside and rescue the other if she fell into the toilet or slipped.

 

  Waiting for stuff to happen in there like….

Having grown up abroad I understand that maybe my reaction is a standard one for someone who has grown up in privileged surroundings. Most of my classmates are used to such conditions and rarely complain even when they have to visit that damn place on their periods. If this is the state of our bathroom I can only wonder what the state of the boys toilet is…

Nevertheless, things got really bad so the leaders of the classes got together to request the administration to install a couple of lightbulbs. We even got together to write a nicely-worded request with the signature of girls who supported them move. The request was sent in the hands of our bravest emissaries (chosen for their exceptional capability to withstand bullshit and yelling) to the administrator.

“He said putting up a lightbulb wasn’t possible but if we wanted, he could have the roof removed and replaced with transparent sheeting,” one of the girls told me later.

                                              Wut                               

Time for a little lesson on India – a report published by the Times of India revealed that 23% of girls dropped out of school thanks to lack of access to basic sanitary facilities (read: functioning toilets). Millions of people defecate in the open or use sub-standard facilities which are bad for hygiene and worse for the environment. The most horrifying aspect however is the fact that many girls and women with little to no access to bathrooms are forced to sneak around at night to relieve themselves which puts them at risk of accidents, attacks from wild animals and worst of all, rape and harassment (including voyeurism because apparently watching a woman pee or shit is super sexy). Don’t believe me? In 2014, two teenage girls from Katra were found raped and murdered after they had gone out at night to relieve themselves. It gets worse: toilets and changing rooms have become increasingly unsafe thanks to the advent of spycams. In Mumbai, a woman sold her mangalsutra to pay for a toilet in her house after her in-laws refused to so. The problem is so widespread that it was one of the focuses of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” campaign.

It’s not just girls who suffer from lack of resources but boys too, to an extent. Although boys toilets are more common than girls, many schools do not have functioning bathrooms for either sex. Access to sanitation is a basic human right and men deserve to have working bathrooms too so that they can relieve themselves with dignity. Unfortunately, like the boys in my college (whose bathroom is in the same condition), many other boys have to use toilets that are neglected because well, they’re for boys, they’re tough and manly and stuff and thanks to biology they have an easier way to relieve themselves. It’s gloriously funny how the patriarchal mundset cuts both ways.

You might be thinking that this entire article is an overreaction to a situation which is completely different – I am in Kerala which has better facilities and is more developed than more northern states. I am also in a position where I am privileged enough to have access to proper toilets and sanitation which many poorer girls cannot afford. So why am I sitting here whining about something as minor as transparent roofing sheets?

The attitude of the administration towards our request clearly reflects the larger prevailing attitude towards allocation of resources that would benefit women and children. It isn’t at the top of the list, only on the top paragraph of political speeches. This whole roofing sheet business was do hilariously awful that everyone – girls and guys – were up in arms against it (some even asked if it was so that the administrator could have a peek himself). Few people realise how much privacy matters to someone especially in matters of the body. What privacy or safety can be assured to the girls who use such a toilet? If something happens to a girl, who will be responsible? If the college can’t be bothered about something as small as a lightbulb then what on God’s green earth are they going to do about harassment? I’m glad that we don’t have to use an open space or a pit but that doesn’t mean that we have to shut up and accept substandard conditions either. I’m not ashamed of my biology. I need to urinate, I need to defecate and I bleed for seven days every month which requires a little extra in terms of toilet facilities.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of open space architecture; just not when I’m squatting over a toilet.

Smackdown: Godha VS Dangal

Sports films have become the flavour of the year in cinema if the last few years are anything to go by – Bhaag Milka Bhaag, Mary Kom, M.S.Dhoni and of course Dangal did great at the box office, winning accolades from critics and moviegoers alike. The Malayalam film industry too has had a few notable sports flicks – 1983, Karinkunnam Sixes and now Godha.

Godha in particular has been attracting quite a lot of comparisons to Dangal and since I went to see the movie yesterday, I decided that something had to be written about that. I know that Malayalam films rarely earn the fame and global reach of their Bollywood counterparts, especially since the latter are better funded and more publicised. Of course, not many people understand Malayalam either which is pretty sad because Mollywood makes some pretty kickass movies…

So some of you may be wondering – what possessed me to compare some Malayalam movie with Mr.Perfectionist’s latest delivery? Have I gone mad?

Can’t mess with that!

Nope. You see, Dangal pissed me off on some very fundamental levels. Most of my irritation comes from the fact that it portrays itself as a feminist movie – which it isn’t. Yes you read that right: stop searching for your glasses or foaming at the mouth if you’re a AK fan. The funniest thing is, I’m not even the first to point this out; please check this article since it’s written by the Hindustan Times and might be a bit more trustworthy than a first-time blogger.

Diehard Aamir fans right now

I’m not here merely to point out the pitfalls of Dangal – that has been done already and what I really want to do is compare and contrast it to Godha so that it can be seen that Godha isn’t a copy of Dangal as many people have been complaining but the exact opposite – it’s a much better film overall.

*SPOILER ALERT* (But not much, pinky promise.)

The film begins with a cricket-loving youngster named Anjaneya (Tovino Thomas) by his former pro-wrestler father “Captain” (Renji Panicker) who is known for two things – beating the living daylights out of those who play cricket on the open field formerly used for wrestling tournaments and being one of the best pro-wrestlers ever to come from Kerala. The golden age of wrestling in their district has long passed and Captain and his cohorts languish in anonymity and despair. His son no longer practises pro-wrestling due to ideological differences with his father and the youth no longer come to the akhada. Anjaneya’s aimless life and lack of initiative lead his father to send him to Punjab to attend university where he meets the indomitable yet strangely vulnerable Aditi (Wamiqa Gabbi) who lives and breathes wrestling much to the chagrin of her conservative brother who constantly seeks to sabotage her dreams. Aditi’s and Anjaneya’s lives cross paths and the film develops from there. You can watch the trailer of Godha here.

Still not convinced? Obviously not, the best is yet to come.

 You see all through Dangal, I was thinking one thing – what do these girls think? What did they actually want to do? Probably not much, getting married early and having kids seems to be the only option in their village. Nevertheless the whole movie never once focused on Geeta or Babita’s dreams and hopes only that of Khan’s character. His struggles define the film; his character casts a looming shadow of aspirations and often brutal expectations over the girls. In direct contrast, Aditi from Godha is both eerily similar and yet poles apart. Her father too was a wrestling coach but rather than force and rough handling he raised her on the akhada with love and passion mirroring her own. The biggest difference between the two movies is that in Godha, Aditi loves wrestling and she chose it. Her father nurtured her aspirations but he never tried to live his own through her, only supporting her against disapproving family and society and encouraging her to not cry but fight her way past obstacles – in Dangal  we only ever really see Khan struggling with life.

Wamiqa Gabbi as Adithi in “Godha”

Funny thing isn’t it how hard it is for a woman to be able to choose.

Similarly, Anjaneya’s father never tries to force him back into the akhada after he quit. Both the father characters in the film understand and appreciate their children’s choices and aspirations. If that happened in Dangal I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been the Aamir-centred ego trip it is.

Tovino Thomas as Anjaneya in “Godha”

Even the aspect of femininity in wrestling is dealt with differently. Aditi is pretty tomboyish but wears her hair long and is not afraid to express herself as a woman. In Dangal, Geeta and Babita are often made to repress their femininity on order to appear more masculine and focused. Obviously, looking like a woman is not to be encouraged by Papa – which is why Geeta is “punished” by the plotline for not following her father’s training methods and daring to grow her hair. She fails as a wrestler and only bounces back when she accepts Papa’s way. A friend of mine remarked that Dangal was the sports person version of “Beta, doctor/engineer ban ja or else you will be a failure in life.” Why this was shown in the film I have no idea – the real Geeta has always worn her hair long so the only reason I can think of is because they wanted to hammer home the lesson that Papa Khan knows best beta, so stop rebelling and come back or else you will be a failure your whole life. Much feminism!

Yet Aditi is a purely human character by turns strong and unafraid and at times very vulnerable. In a heartbreaking scene delivered with appropriate pathos, Aditi receieves news that her brother has fixed her marriage without her knowledge or approval. She confesses that her whole life she has been trying to act like a boy but in the end she always realises that she is “just a girl”. Heck yes, any red-blooded woman has felt that. Her helplessness and anguish are conveyed beautifully. We see her turn indecisive in the presence if a brother who she loathes for his restrictive views on her life and yet loves. The struggle of a woman to choose her way in life in the face of a world which debases her for who she is is presented sans filters. This was explicitly missing in Dangal because like I said, it isnt about the women at all. There is even a humorous yet striking scene in Godha where Captain attempts to find female wrestlers to pit against her only to discover that his old female students are all married, pregnant or unable to return to the ring thanks to family. I applaud the film for bringing home such a sad fact to the audience in such a subtle manner.

Aditi’s fieriness is not limited to the ring – she does not hesitate to confront those who harass her even when it is her closest friend Anjaneya. She refutes his protests of “good girls don’t wrestle and physically interact with men” and firmly informs him that his affection for her does not give him ownership of her life or body. Her passion and dedication is for wrestling and if he can’t deal with that then too bad.

Did some comparatively low-budgeted Mallu film just tackle male entitlement and sexism head on without mincing words?

It gets better. Captain, after hearing his son’s botched proposal comes out and gently gives his son a dose of Real Life 101. He tells his son that love isn’t a crime – in fact it was his no-nonsense gruff schoolteacher mother who proposed first. That Aditi was a girl with a dream and he was a guy with no goals in life and no passion. That first of all he had to find his goal in life – and then stand tall in front of Aditi and then tell her that he loved her.

“That’s what being a man is really about,” Captain says.

You mean that a man actually has to earn a girl’s affections and cannot simply expect her to love him until her shows her that he can treat her as an equal and not a trophy object? Her right to reject or propose is normal and guilt-free? What a novel idea! Why haven’t more Indian movies shown that before?!

I was so goddamn happy during this scene that I almost got up and danced in my seat. It only got better from there with Anjaneya quietly accepting the wisdom of his father’s words and reclaiming his lost wrestling career – but not at the expense of Aditi’s. In fact he does nothing but support her quietly, practise in the ring with her and cheer for her during her rematch with her most hated opponent. The movie even ends with Aditi’s brother arriving for the match and finally embracing his sister’s dedication and persistence.

No shouting from the stands. No overbearing and controlling coaches (or fathers). No last minute effing drama between said coaches and fathers (which was the only time in Dangal where Geeta gets to make her own decisions about how to fight and win). No one – not Captain, nor Anjaneya attempt to interfere wirh Aditi’s fight, leaving her to make her destiny alone. With a tight plot, an excellent cast and great music, Godha left me feeling like a winner even without the excellent wrestling scenes Dangal showcases.

For those Dangal fans out there – if you’re reading this, I’d like to tell you that Dangal was a good movie. Just not a feminist movie. Not even remotely.

I would seriously recommend Godha not just because it is a good movie with great commercial elements but because it is also a surprisingly philosophical movie with phenomenal acting by its cast and characters. It’s not just about feminism but also courage, persistence and building a life for yourself. Oh and wrestling too.