Some films are supremely maddening. I remember watching Baghban on VCD exactly a year ago, and it provoked me enough to begin this invective (and I think it has sufficient bluster and fire to make it enjoyable even in its incompleteness):
The premise is sweet: a nearing sixty couple are so madly in love with each other even forty years of after marriage, that teen-agers find them a bigger inspiration than Laila-Majnu or Heer-Ranjha. Their love story finds a gushing publisher, becomes a blockbuster and bags the “Booker’s Prize”.
So why doesn’t it work as a film? Maybe because it manages to perpetuate, while ostensibly being a movie about two old people, the same stereotypes that almost every successful Bollywood film has flogged till now. A breathtakingly beautiful woman jisne samay ko mutthi mein band kar ke rakha hai, and who is therefore adored by her husband, the patriarch. Saif and Rani, perhaps, forty years hence? What has changed but the wrinkles and the white hair? If the love between a couple married for forty years is shown as still dependent upon her beauty (you may argue that Hema Malini’s good looks are peripheral to the issue, but catch Zohra Sehgal playing the role of Pooja – even a Zohra of thirty years ago), the Hindi film audience would surely lap up the movie, it is so in accord with our candyfloss desires! This, then, is not the reason for the film’s collapse.
Perhaps it is the excessive brand propaganda. Hema with a Tata Tea packet every two minutes in the initial half hour; the “chhoti-moti” company ICICI; the Archies Gallery which is a café; the Ford which Amitabh is compelled to test-drive around town. But almost every recent film has done this, and sometimes with less panache, so this is not what gets hackles up either.
It must, then, be the way Amitabh sidelines Hema in conversations: “yeh hamare-tumhare beech mummy kahan se aa gayi?” when their son talks to his mother first about money; removing the receiver from her hands when she is on the phone with another...