Polite Society

Mahesh Rao’s Polite Society is a viciously funny black comedy of manners whereas in Austen’s Emma nothing really bad happens. Polite Society is the darker cousin of Austen’s Emma – you know the talons will come out at a point and the characters will get hurt. In Austen’s world, there are allusions but here we see the ugliness that lies behind picture perfect lives. I liked the book for its refreshing lack of morality, and there certainly is no redemption. By now you know not to expect a happy ending. A biting social commentary for the 21st century set in the snobby upper echelons of Delhi, just as segregated as Highbury.

All the characters from Aisha danced around in my head merging with the brilliant adaptation of Emma by Autumn de Wilde (that’s really her name!) plus the original characters from Austen’s Emma which I finished in lockdown (with a little help from the brilliant audiobook which made me feel as if I was listening to a radio dramatization). In 2019 I read a contemporary adaptation by Alexander McCall Smith which was neither here nor there. I had my bases covered, you see.

Ania Khurana, our Delhi Emma, is as vapid as Sonam’s Aisha. (Many people trashed the film but I liked it except for the trite ending.) Ania lives in a bungalow teeming with servants but there’s no one she can be honest with. The paparazzi track her every move. For all her material trappings, she is terribly lonely. Ania is rich but not really the daddy’s girl like Emma was. Ania and her father don’t have much of a relationship even though they live in the same mansion. The affection that Emma lavished on Mr Woodhouse is absent here perhaps because Dileep Khurana appears to be a cold father (it takes two to build a relationship). All we want in life, whether rich or poor, is to be accepted for who we are, and feel a little less alone.

A character I wanted to know more about was Dev (it will always be Abhay Deol in my mind). He has a fleeting presence in the book hovering in the background. He never shouts at Ania just teases her or ticks her off gently (No mansplaining like Mr Knightley). Where Mr Knightley remains superior to all and sundry, Dev’s pursuit of intelligence and appreciation of intellect lands him in a quandary many a time. In short, Dev is Mr Knightley, who has been humanized and hence more real.

Renu Bua is the unmarried older woman modelled after Miss Taylor. She may not be treated with outright contempt but she has a lesser importance both inside and outside the house until she gets married and moves out. Old maids are still a thing. So much for all our modernity.

The author writes women well. (I am always surprised when men write women well!) The characters’ inner motivations are revealed in the chapters given to them which was quite interesting and a departure from Austen’s Emma. You see what they think about themselves, where they are really come from, and how it contrasts with the facade they have built for the world.

Continue reading “Polite Society”

The Big Sick

I had wanted to see The Big Sick since I heard the name and now I want to see it again for the razor sharp dialogue and the insights it provides. And, of course the humour.

Love isn't easy. That's why they call it love I thought. Maybe staying untethered isn't all that bad. But at the same time it has given me unrealistic expectations and hope that other than my parents and friends someone significant will stand by me.

Spoilers ahead. 

Would you stand by a very sick if not dying (but the threat is imminent) girl when you have just dated her for a couple of months, and broken up with her because you could see no future with her? Then, while waiting for her to wake up from a coma you realize you are in love, and willing to go that extra mile for her. I know! Truth is always stranger than fiction.Can this happen for real? Isn't cinema the fantasy that we escape to? The ideal. And then I found out that this was the story of the writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily  Gordon around the time they started dating. I was done waiting for Augustus and now here comes this guy. How will real people match up to their standards? I realized that if I have to watch movies and read books I have to believe in things working out, realistic fairy tales in other words, and not be sister grim(m.

Emily doesn't magically go back to Kumail because she heard from her parents he was there for her during her illness. She takes her time to figure things out. He was there but she wasn't there there to witness it. In a relationship two people have to be on the same page for it to work out.

The intense scenes were done well by Zoe Kazan whereas Kumail Nanjiani looked like he was a throwing a fit or having a nervous breakdown but I have to say signing up with an acting coach was a good idea.Her parents played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are superlative as Emily's parents.

The jokes about 9/11, ISIS and religion were really out there and it was brave of them to put it in the movie.Family, rejection, heartbreak,the question of race - all so wonderfully handled with humour. 
 
I realized as a writer you cannot be embarrassed about using things in your life as fodder in the most obvious way as long as you don't really break someone's heart. I know asking for permission or waiting for it to be granted isn't realistic but you could at least avoid the heartbreak.
  
This was my first white movie which had a Pakistani protagonist (Next will be The Reluctant Fundamentalist which has been on my watchlist since I read the book). The family values are very similar and their expecting you to do certain things or you will be kicked out of the family is quite relatable. India and Pakistan have so many similarities because the germline is the same. Anupam Kher played the father without making it desi. You will know what I mean when you see the film. 
  
Ray Romano seemed familiar too but I couldn't put my finger on it and then I found out he's the voice of Manny the mammoth in Ice Age, and later on when I saw Parenthood, he plays a rare character on TV who's a loner and very comfortable in his own skin.

Go watch it for the cast if not the subject matter.