Two of a kind
Feb 21 2014
Hasee Toh Phasee and Fandry, though dissimilar in treatment, share similar concerns by exploring the concept of marginality in their unique styles
Hasee Toh Phasee (HTP) marks the assured debut of ad-filmmaker Vinil Mathew and explores the romantic comedy genre with a deftness that cuts away all the flab usually associated with the big fat Indian wedding that has been done to death by this genre, and directly addresses the story of a regular boy who falls for an irregular girl, who happens to be the younger sister of his fiancé. The film traces the romance of these two mismatched people in the seven-day run-up to the scheduled marriage.
Parineeti Chopra’s character who speaks in a rapid-fire style that flummoxes the male protagonist with its no-nonsense practical implications and solutions is amongst the best written roles for any female lead in recent years. Parineeti, deglamourised in cropped hair and over-sized shirts is a genius who doesn’t hesitate to steal her father’s millions to pursue her scientific aspirations — she is an IITian, specialising in chemical engineering — and that’s the root of her problem. Instead of recognising her talent and helping her, her family is aghast by her non-conformist lifestyle and tries its best to keep her out of social gaze.
Young Jabya, the protagonist of Fandry is also a marginalised character but unlike Parineeti, his marginality is class driven and not personal. He belongs to the pig-hunting community that literally lives on the fringes of a caste-ridden village in the interiors of contemporary Maharashtra. He fancies a high-caste girl from his class who till the end remains unaware of his amorous inclinations.
In the wealthy urban society depicted in HTP, with a budget of Rs 25 crore, backed by some of the biggest players in the Hindi film industry, and of course, respecting the parameters of the popular genre, it is imperative that not only does the boy get the girl, but her family also recognises her worth so that all ends happily. So we have the ubiquitous scene where the young and grumpy heroine tries on a backless choli, with a little help from her newly-acquired boyfriend — indicating her journey from the marginal to the mainstream.
There is no such redemption in Fandry. Despite its lyrical tone and tender and witty moments that sprinkle the sparse, episodic narrative, there is a sad undercurrent that runs through the entire film. The beautifully composed vast landscapes and elaborately shot crowd sequences notwithstanding, the film is layered with a subtext of claustrophobia where the efforts of the protagonist don’t pay off through a satisfying, viewer-friendly climax, like it does in HTP.
Director Nagraj Manjule — who also plays an important role in his debut feature film — hits us hard with his indictment of an ugly reality that is very much a part of our pan-Indian fabric. The parallel between the film’s young protagonist and pigs is obvious — Fandry means pig in Marathi — and his struggles to negate and transcend the role that his caste has imposed on him, poignant. To be a rebel within a marginalised community underscores his marginality even more.
HTP explores the concept of marginality within a contemporary urban milieu, sanitised and made palatable by the boyish charm of its female protagonist. She poses a threat to her family only, and not to society in general, and with a little bit of understanding and tolerance from her family, she can be co-opted to conform to dominant ideology by providing her the space that she deserves, in her own terms, unlike heroines of yesteryears who needed to be ‘tamed’.
Fandry offers no such hope. Marginalised characters, if they dare to dream, can only provoke the wrath of dominant society, an unchanging social pattern that we seem to have inherited from time immemorial, and despite our pretense to modernity, it took a gem from Marathi cinema to shake us out of our self-induced complacency and ignorance.
(Ranjan Das is a Mumbai-based independent filmmaker, film instructor and writer)