Why didn’t you understand?

‘You were supposed to understand. Didn’t I tell you how much I needed someone to understand me? No one ever understood. My family had their own problems, I was supposed to understand them and behave accordingly. At work they would not give me what I deserve and I was supposed to understand because I needed the money. You were the only one who got me. Didn’t I tell you how much I cared for you because you understood?’

‘I tried, I really tried you know. I tried being nice to you. I know you had your own problems, wasn’t I sweet and romantic when necessary? But you weren’t satisfied. You wanted more of my time and attention. WTF? How was I supposed to give you more, when you knew that I had so many problems. You should have understood dammit. Now look what you have done to yourself?’

Right in front of him, she lay motionless. The baseball bat was just nearby and the blood was still oozing out of her head.

‘I didnt want to do this. Its you, you made me do this. Why didn’t you just understand? If you had just stayed quiet, not questioned me, we would have been happy. But you really had to do this didn’t you? You were also like the rest of them, just not ready to understand me, accept me. Why, why didn’t you understand?’

(P.S. my little attempt at explaining the reverse thinking of psychos and a major trait of theirs called psychological projection)

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Crazy love explained in Mahesh Bhatt movies – 2

Part 1 of this post can be found here

Another thing Voh Lamhe explores is the period when Bhatt and Babi had been ardent Osho followers. Though this part has only been touched upon. But Bhatt’s interviews to publications over the years, confirmed a belief that I had held for long. Following a cult is another form of escapism. When you don’t know who you are or what you want, that is the perfect time when a Narcissistic Godman can enter your life. I for one believe that God is not so insecure that he has to declare to the world he is almighty, whereas most Godmen do declare that time and again don’t they? In all religious texts if you read closely, it is said that your God and peace reside in you, but in our dysfunctional relationships with ourselves and the world, we tend to seek God in others and become fresh meat for cult Gods.

A similar escapist way of dealing with the chaos in life is shown very briefly in one of Bhatt’s most brilliant movies – Zakhm. Pooja Bhatt’s character is shown to shut the door to her room and excommunicate herself from her sons whenever she is in great mental distress. It is later revealed in the movie that at such times she would fervently say her prayers to get over her distress. Another passive and escapist way of dealing with the issue of the illegitimate relationship. The less spiritually inclined might go for the numbing addiction provides. No wonder Marx equated religion with addictions.

Movies tend to make us believe that love just happens, that no one can control it. Actually it’s the animal instinct of attraction that is uncontrollable. Love is a set of choices you make everyday. Love they say is an action, and no amount of praying/drinking is going to change anything unless you make the decision to act. And being in an illicit relationship is a choice, one that I have seen some people walk away from, once they realise how crazy it is to be in those shoes. Granted you don’t always know what are the consequences of your actions, but once you know, you can always make the effort to change, rather than chanting “I cant”. Cannot I believe is an unnecessary word in English, there is no cannot, there is only wont, because each of us makes our own choices.

Arth, the first in the Bhatt-Babi trilogy was a story more suited to the moralistic landscape of the time. The characters were black and white, good Shabana and Raj, weak/bad Kulbhushan and Smita Patil. Even Aashiqui which was semi biographical, had the evil hostel warden and good orphan. It was in the later movies that Bhatt experimented with the world and its craziness as it was, without offering justifications for why his characters did whatever they did. They were weak/twisted/evil and though he did give the psychological background of the troubled childhood, he stopped justifying why they were who they were. And Zakhm is perhaps the best example of this. Ajay Devgan’s character doesn’t judge his parents or blame them for his problems, its an acceptance that only age and maturity can give you.

Jism and Murder on the other hand explore the fragility of purely hormonal love as opposed to love based on genuine understanding. Bhatt’s characters in these movies show the darker side of the passion in illicit relationships – the basic uncertainty of them. Mujhko dil se yahi shikayat hai, jo usko mil nahin sakta kyun uski chahat hai goes the song in Jism. Nothing is more draining for the human soul than getting attached to something that rests on a shaky ground. Again separation and starting life afresh requires a lot of courage too, something depicted very well in Arth, but many extra marital affairs are escapism, and if that is what it is, both the parties tend to stay stuck with their partners while playing victims constantly crying if only things were different. Of course since it’s a movie, there is murder, mayhem and lots of drama. Paap on the other hand depicts the flip side of morality and impulse control. A day to day example of this could be how children from extremely conservative families tend to turn out to be the most experimental when it comes to relationships and addictions, the moment they start living in a different city because of work or studies. This movie also explores parental influence in our life choices and also expresses that needless denial of impulses to gain salvation in an after/future life is just pointless.

According to my own understanding most of us make only two mistakes that create all the madness in life. One is refusing to take responsibility for our own actions and the other is denial of reality. Bhatt’s semi autobiographical movies frequently have such characters and Bhatt also reiterates the fundamental truth that no one is good or bad, it’s the choices people make that make them good or bad. Though a lot of the reality gets watered down because of the over dramatisation, characteristic of Bollywood movies, Bhatt still manages to get in some honesty and anyone who has gone through the pangs of growing up to a reasonable level of maturity can see the patterns of thinking that guide his confused/weak/crazy characters.

Many of his central characters have a victim mentality and keep rolling in the muck of self created disasters, something Bhatt depicts taking a leaf out of his own mistakes. On the screen its all a rosy picture, but for Bhatt and the people he touched, living it might not have been easy. And though he probably took a long time to himself own up to the responsibility of his life, in the process, he learnt how to serve up the psychological struggles within his mind with a generous sprinkling of song and dance.

Any successful author would tell you that the best stories ever told are the ones that you lived and Bhatt used this formula film after film. It takes great courage to put up your life under scrutiny for the whole world to see. It may not be the whole truth, but the movies do talk of a life of making mistakes and learning, of being human and fallible.

Crazy love explained in Mahesh Bhatt movies – 1

Since I can remember, my favourite song of all time has been Tere dar par sanam from Phir Teri Kahaani Yaad Aayi. This was Mahesh Bhatt’s second cinematic exploration of his relationship with Parveen Babi. While the first movie Arth focussed on the dynamic of the other woman, Phir Teri was about Parveen’s mental illness and the push-pull of their relationship. As a teenager, Tere dar par seemed to me like the ultimate declaration of love. Its only recently have I realised what a self defeating song it actually is. Many songs of the 90’s had a pining away quality to them, but Tere dar par was probably one of the best/worst examples. Tu na aaya toh ham chale aaye it goes, perpetuating the myth that one doesn’t have any self respect when one is in love. The trouble was that for a lot of people like me who grew up then, this song did not mean a lack of self respect, but a sacrifice of pride, because after all there is no place for pride in love is there?

But if you look at the song in the actual context, you realise it is apt, Pooja Bhatt who plays Parveen’s character, in the movie, is mentally ill and for her Rahul Roy is her only confidante, she is shown as needing him. And Rahul Roy’s character keeps running around in circles with the relationship, knowing fully well that he cant ‘save’ her and yet trying to save her. It’s the classic dysfunctional relationship dynamic. The person who ‘saves’ the lost soul feels good about himself being noble and the person who needs ‘saving’ controls by being helpless and angry alternately. The psychological dynamic is called Karpman’s drama triangle and a lesser known phenomena called codependence.

As I was listening to this song last evening, I was suddenly struck by the number of Bhatt movies that have supposedly star struck lovers. Another movie the songs of which I liked a lot at that time was Gunaah. It had Bipasha Basu as a cop with a troubled past falling in love with, you guessed it, a criminal with a troubled past. Both have a lot of unresolved issues that they hope their love can resolve, an idea which is at best a delusion because like they say even God helps only those who help themselves. The song goes Hamne tumko dil ye de diya ye bhi na socha kaun ho tum. Typical hormonal reaction, jumping into a relationship – the hallmark of the beginning of any dysfunctional romantic relationship. And true enough, Bipasha who is sent to arrest him, is mesmerised by him because of a sudden hormonal reaction. Dino hardly speaks a word in the movie and yet you are led to believe that both of them have fallen in true, undying love.

In fact a lot of our ideas of love as teenagers are fed by these Mills Boonesque ideas (plead guilty of reading many of them) of how love is all you need to ‘save’ the other person. But what happens when the person you are trying to save, doesn’t want to be saved. A lot of people are more comfortable in identifying with the victim mentality, because when you are a victim, nothing you do is your fault, you are not responsible, its circumstances/destiny/God that made you like this. (Remember Bruce Almighty?) Its an easy way out, you don’t have to responsible or go through the actual pain of growing up and taking responsibility. But in real life, if your hurts decide your life, you push away the very people who are closest to you, a self fulfilling prophecy, where you end up exactly at the place you wanted to avoid.
Perhaps a more honest take on Bhatt’s relationship with Babi, was Voh Lamhe, though it still was highly romanticised. It has Bhatt almost admitting to the fact that he in some ways did ‘use’ Babi’s emotional turbulence to further his career (the financial aspect of this was dealt with in Arth) and in turn got entangled in a tangled, haunting relationship. Kangana is trying to run away from the cloud of darkness that her illness is casting on her thinking and anyone who offers her a little attention is instantly her soulmate, so Shiney Ahuja’s character just has to appear to be nice. Shiney on the other hand is trying to run away from his failure and Kangana provides him the reflected glory. Most emotionally disturbed relationships are an escapism, one or more of the person’s is actually running away from other realities in life and trying to find ‘solace’ in the ‘sanctuary’ of a relationship. Perfect recipe for disaster. The songs in this movie however did not have the intensity of relationship dynamics that Phir Teri had.
Continued in part 2 here