On Independence Day, Queen, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and other films that set your soul free
On the occasion of celebrating 70 years of Indian independence, I got thinking about freedom and what it means. It started off with the generic definition of the word tinged with a patriotic tone, owing to the occasion. However, the longer I mused, the more kaleidoscopic the meaning became. Because freedom means so many things. What makes the word even more versatile is how each interpretation of this concept is individualistic.
Freedom to me is to be unshackled. By society, by family, by relationships. To not be held back by anyone else's thoughts and opinions. A complete autonomy of the soul.
The next obvious step in my musings was to co-relate freedom to cinema. Movies that have depicted a complete disregard for norms, and what's considered right or wrong, good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable.
So here is a list of films that I thought took the concept of freedom and independence, and translated it onto the silver screen leaving the viewers inspired and motivated. Movies that had a huge impact on one's very being, and left the audience feeling like they could summit the highest mountain that there is. Cinema that left me feeling unapologetic. Some films on this list tackle serious issues, while some come from a lighter space and a more casual setting.
All of them however, show you what it truly means to just not give a f*ck and do what works for you.
If ever there was a contemporary film that described liberation, it would be this soul stirring Kangana Ranaut-starrer. With Ranaut being the powerhouse that she is, Queen, directed by Vikas Bahl is a balm to the self-doubting self. Rani, after being left at the altar — desi style (Man: I have lived e-broad, cennot marry traditional mentality simple gal, sowwz) goes on her pre-booked honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam, alone. Over there she makes lifelong friends who impact her in unimaginable ways. The simple girl from Rajouri, New Delhi finds a new lease of life as she lives like a free spirit for the very first time. Rani also travels solo — dealing with all the intricacies and complications that come along with that (accommodation, transport, unknown places and faces). However, it is this very journey that she embarks upon alone in which she regains her self-confidence, no longer needing validation from her almost husband Vijay (Rajkummar Rao). Truly a queen, Kangana is unapologetic as she rejects Vijay's re-proposal of sorts, and thanks him instead — for he is the reason she finally learnt how to live life, queen size.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara
So many kinds of freedom in this Zoya Akthar directed movie, where should I start from? Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Abhay Deol and Katrina Kaif take us on the ride of our lives — one that we haven't recovered from even six years after the film's release. We have Abhay Deol, who freed himself from a suffocating relationship (almost turned into marriage) that was doing nothing but restricting him and taking away from his life, rather than adding to it. Next we have Hrithik Roshan who was a slave to his job. A man who had it in his heart to live as carefree as a bird, but somehow found himself shackled to laptops, conference calls and money. Roshan found a way to break these shackles — both from his mind, and his life — with the help of Katrina Kaif in her diving instructor avatar. Kaif proved to be the foil for Roshan's tightly wound up character, as she taught him how to just let go. Then we have Farhan Akhtar, the creative soul who was heavily into poetry and eventually wanted to make a career out of writing and being true to his thoughts. Akhtar should have technically been the one character who was not bound by anything, by virtue of being the artist in the group, but he was haunted. By a father he had never met, and the ghost of the relationship they never had. Through the course of the movie and a couple of meetings with his father, Akhtar's poetic yet anguished soul made peace with the fact that some people just aren't cut out for the rules and relationships that are expected of them. His father was on his own journey, one that Akhtar could not be a part of, and eventually he accepted that, freed himself from his expectations, and set off on a journey of his own.
A groundbreaking performance by Alia Bhatt, and a stellar script by Imtiaz Ali, Highway brought to us the story of a woman who was kidnapped a night before her wedding, and who eventually falls in love with her kidnapper (a case of Stockholm Syndrome), something that would be massively frowned upon and not accepted by the society that we live in. Her kidnapper, the brilliant Randeep Hooda, and the journey that they embark upon set her free from the horrors of her childhood. Bhatt's character is shown to be abused as a nine-year-old by her uncle, something that she has had to live with all her life and which has left a deep and damaging effect on her psyche. Her abduction and the subsequent travelling with her abductors take Bhatt on an emotional journey by the end of which she finds peace (even after the man she loves is killed). Her famous monologue towards the end of the movie will be remembered and lauded for years to come, as will this story that in my opinion, shows freedom from the demons of one's past.
Shudh Desi Romance
Marriage is one of those age old social constructs that runs deep in India's veins. While it may suit some people, for others, it's just not their cup of tea. Shudh Desi Romance with its multi-star cast comprising Sushant Singh Rajput, Pareeniti Chopra and Vaani Kapoor and directed by Maneesh Sharma took the bull (marriage) by its horns, and rode it like a pro. With many promises of marriage (none of which are followed all the way through) forming the foundation of this movie, this light-hearted romantic comedy taught us that it's okay not to cave into societal pressure and follow the norms and rules set forth by our society. It is expected of you to get married; however if that doesn't work for you, then to hell with it — which is exactly what Singh and Chopra's characters did in the end. They decided that they loved each other, but didn't feel it necessary to be bound by law in their relationship. They chose to live-in together and keep their love as it is — because why fix it what ain't broke? The movie gave courage to its audience, to do what they feel is right and what works for them, without bending to the pressure that is put on them by their surroundings.
This Sridevi-lead movie raised a big middle finger at all those people so influenced by western culture that they have forgotten their roots. Playing a woman who is often ridiculed by her English speaking family members, it stars Sridevi in the role of the bada** that she is, who goes out and learns the English language all on her own, passing her course with distinction, and blowing away the minds of all her friends and relatives as she delivers a flawless speech in English at her niece's wedding. Sridevi liberates herself in this movie, which has a much deeper message than one would think at first glance. As she tackles the big bad city of New York along with its English speaking residents on her own, Sridevi's character finds solace in a group of non-English speaking individuals who are struggling with the language themselves but find support and comfort in each other. Directed by Gauri Shinde, this movie touched a chord somewhere deep within the corners of my (cold, cold) heart.
Dil Chahta Hai
It would be almost criminal to leave this movie from my list. Dil Chahta Hai, directed by Farhan Akhtar was the first time that Indian audiences got the taste of what it's like to actually live a life that's worth looking back on. Immortalising friendships forever, this Aamir Khan-Saif Ali Khan-Akshaye Khanna starrer redefined bromance, and also gave us the idea of freedom-signifying road-trips to Goa.