Watching Ae Dil Hai Mushkil first day first show: Indian patriots owe me 390 bucks
Indian "patriots", the kind who send messages to the Indian Army but ignore its recruitment ads, owe me Rs 390 plus the ransom paid for a bucket of popcorn.
But for them, I would have never been forced to pursue a hobby given up since Amitabh Bachchan's Desh Premee: Watching a movie first day, first show. Word was out that Ranbir Kapoor shows the middle finger to Anushka Sharma in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Somebody had to do the same to the bullies who want films banned and boycotted, divide art in the name of country and religion.
I and my Rs 390 volunteered.
If you are expecting this to be a review of Karan Johar's latest film, then here is a spoiler alert. Like Eggsy says in Kingsman: The Secret Service, "This ain't that kind of review, bruv." The only secret I can divulge is this: Tere chehre se nazar nahin hat ti, film hum kyan dekhen? Go, figure out yourself who deserves Sahir Ludhianvi's immortal compliment.
Indian keyboard warriors have an interesting history of fatwas. In the past, they have threatened to not watch many of Salman Khan's films, outraged against Aamir Khan's PK, not shop at Snapdeal and boycott Chinese products, an act of patriotism typed out on handsets made in China.
The Ayatollahs of India may want to ponder this: Their fatwas have invariably had the opposite effect. Salman's films routinely gross more than Rs 200-crore, PK is among India's highest grossers, Snapdeal's bargains attract thousands of consumers and, while the warriors rage against Chinese products, Xiomi runs out of stock the moment it announces its latest product.
While they unleash their anger on one social media platform, on a parallel platform, Youtube, Indians go ga-ga over promos of Aamir's Dangal, watching them several million times.
And so it was at a multiplex where I saw Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. I went there on an early-winter Friday morning half-expecting a group of slogan-shouters dissuading people to avoid the film because (spoiler alert) it has Pakistani actor Fawad Khan speaking exactly two lines and consuming five minutes of footage and a vacant theatre. But, the only crowd of slogan-shouters visible was that of youngsters chanting: Bhaiyya, peeche ki seat, corner. Maybe, convinced by the prowess of our social media patriots, they too were expecting an empty theatre. But, most went back home disappointed.
If the queues at the counters are any indication, the film featuring a Pakistani actor is giving tough competition to our desi superhero's Shivaay, a big surprise since one would have bet on the double opium of nationalism and chants of 'Har, Har' — sound familiar, no? — that announce Ajay Devgn's advent on the screen would have taken the collections to a new high.
But, at the moment, pseudo-nationalism is getting bludgeoned by the Indian viewer's desire to judge cinema on The Dirty Picture criteria: Entertainment, entertainment and entertainment.
Johar's film may go on to mint a few hundred crores, it may bomb at the box-office. Some may hate it, some may call it mere time-pass, others may love it. A majority may come back with a feeling of deja-vu, of Johar repackaging his old plots in a film without feeling or depth.
But, the initial response to the film shows Indians do not get swayed by jingoism; that they reject the weird argument that boycotting films or sport will "honour" our soldiers and closing borders to artistes makes a country safe.
And, like Kapoor, they know when to raise the middle finger.
The film's successful release would hopefully remind India's fatwa brigade that in a democracy, it is best to leave everyone to decide what they want, respect individual freedoms, keep politics out of art and culture. They would, perhaps, understand what Howard Roark says in Ayn Rand's 'The Fountainhead': “No individual should recognise anyone’s right to one minute of his life. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number or how great their need.” That, if you love the Army, go and join it, fill up the vacancies that have existed for years, instead of firing from your keyboards
In case they don't, Dangal is coming.