Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Some thoughts on 'Baghban'

When I last saw the movie Baghban, perhaps a couple of years ago, I was, predictably, moved by it. Hema Malini had never looked more beautiful, and the romance between the aging protagonists appealed greatly. Their sons and daughters-in-law were all expectedly villainous, and Amitabh Bachchan's powerful and emotional speech near the end was extremely moving. Nothing but nothing could justify the sons' cruel behaviour. The kindness of the Gujarati couple played by Paresh Rawal and Lilette Dubey, of their adopted son and his wife(Salman Khan and Mahima Choudhry), and even the bank manager and their old landlord stood out in marked contrast- those with no blood ties proving to be far kinder and more compassionate than their own offspring. The aged are often, sadly, ill treated, and it is indeed tragic to see what cruelty their own children can perpetrate.

However, being my nitpicking self, I did start worrying about this film. Even when I first saw it, I wondered at the protagonist's utter lack of financial acumen. Even though he worked in a bank, he had virtually no savings by the time he retired, since he'd been so busy fulfilling his sons' needs. What kind of lesson was he teaching his sons anyway? To be dependent on your parents beyond your basic education? To be unable to delay gratification
(the youngest one needs to buy a car) until you yourself can afford something? Even if he needed funds for the down payment on the car, there was no talk of repaying the parents at a later date. If Raj Malhotra was infantilising his sons to such an extent, how on earth did he expect them to be a support in his old age?
I then started worrying even more about the lack of family history in the film. Maybe the senior Malhotras were both orphans, and the kids had never had any dealings with any of their grandparents. Their terrible behaviour isn't justified even if they lacked role models, but it did make me wonder. Surely if they had seen tenderness towards the aged in their own childhoods, some remnants would have stayed on with them. The saddest thing was that the Malhotras were not actually old, with any of the attendant genuine problems of old age, which can make dealing with the aged rather difficult at times. They were merely inconvenient, by virtue of basing their lives on a false premise of expectation.
Although they adopted a fifth son, he is educated in a boarding school, and then makes his way abroad for higher education. We don't know if he shares any closeness with his 'brothers'. His attitude towards the Malhotras is one of gratitude, love, and respect, as he knows that his life has been transformed by their intervention. The other sons, in contrast, take their parents for granted, which most of us do anyway, to a greater or lesser extent. I really hated it that when the kids come over for their parents' fortieth wedding anniversary, the parents sleep on the floor. They seemed comfortable enough, but it didn't seem right to me.
I wondered at the parent-child communication in the film. The father's desire to stay with his sons seems to come across to the sons (and their wives) as a huge, unwelcome surprise when he retires, though he has broadcast this idea to his friends and well-wishers often enough. Raj Malhotra's response to the suggestion that he and his wife stay apart, in different cities, for prolonged periods of time, is authentic. Unfortunately his wife's 'kasam' prevents him from speaking his mind and brushing off this ridiculous suggestion for the patent nonsense that it is. The 'maa-ka-dil' once again shows itself responsible for much that goes wrong in our society.
As my eldest child says, why couldn't she prioritise and think of her life with her husband before the kids?
The parents are shown living in a huge and beautiful house in an unnamed small town. The landlord is so kind to them that he refuses to rent out the premises to anyone else, when they are leaving. They seem to be so out-and-out prosperous and privileged, with their huge house, garden, and beautiful dogs, that it is hard to imagine them as virtually penniless.
There was so much in the film that was genuine. If the parents had been stricter and more practical in their earlier days, perhaps they would not have needed to disown their offspring later on.

As you can see, this was indeed a thought provoking film!

13 comments:

starry eyed said...

You're bang on , Dipali. This infantilising of adult children is so so common. I've seen it with my relatives and in-laws...the older generation needs to let go and let the 'youngsters' learn the hard way about responsibility and independence, but no, they want to do the backseat driving.

And yes, the priorities are so mixed up often.

And you are so right, that modelling for the kids often instills values better than lectures do. I've seen older people who were brought up as orphans and the resultant flaws in their relationships with the next generation.

B o o said...

"Surely if they had seen tenderness towards the aged in their own childhoods, some remnants would have stayed on with them." - This line is so true, Dipali. So true.

neha vish said...

Oh that film really confuses me everytime. I get why a lot of my older friends get very involved with the film. But I could never understand how such important decisions were randomly made during an after-dinner conversation.

Surely he'd have communicated his expectations. Saved for himself. And the maa-ka-dil bugs me. Doesn't she have a dil that dhadkos for herself? I mean didn't she ever look into their finances...? It's funny, considering most women I know - regardless of their age - have a very firm grip on finances in the household.

Though in the end - it does make you feel awful. More so because I've seen similar instances in real life, where the presence of tenderness in family (through grandparents or otherwise) is quickly forgotten anyway.

ChoxBox said...

didnt like that one dips. too much of black and white with no shades of grey at all - but thats bollywood for you i guess.

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

Spot on Dipali! When I first saw the film, I got all teary-eyed and sniffly.

When I saw it again I was like, 'Hmmmm....!"

You've brought out the problems with it perfectly. My biggest problems with the film were also the fact that he worked in a bank yet had no savings and how could he afford such a palatial house?!?

apu said...

Perhaps it says something about what a sceptic I am, but the very frst time I saw it, I was like, wtf! I mean - an educated, affluent man - doesn't have anything at all put away for himself? His sons have no clue at all that he wants to live with them? 4 prosperous sons - and not one can rent a larger flat so that the parents can have a comfortable room? Just 60 and in good health and he and his wife "must" live with the children? There were just too many loose ends there...

The Soul of Alec Smart said...

Very nice post. I agree with M4. The first time, I got very emotional about the movie - it doesn't help if your mother is recalling the similar plight of her various relatives in the background and sniffling away too. But every time after that - and it's on TV a lot! - I notice the same things that you did and then some. The wife (Hema) on a spree of sacrifices, it seems, like is abusing her own intelligence and patience. The lack of anger till the very last scene! The fact that they glorify their relationship with their kids (all in their minds) beyond some others like the ones with their landlords, cafe-owners, pets.. such that they are willing to lose those for that elusive guaranteed-at-birth bond... not saying that they should not expect anything from their children, but not at the cost of everything that holds meaning for them, if it unfortunately comes to that.

Rohini said...

Authenticity has never been Bollywood's strong suit. It would not have been adequately glam to have them live in a two-bedroom house and wear everyday clothes like regular people...

Bubble Catcher said...

Long time reader, but delurking first time.Am with chox on this.too much black and white and no shades of grey(which is what real life is all about).
And everytime MIL watches this movie, she gets all sentimental and for about 2 weeks spouts emotional dialogue about the elders not getting respect if anyone as much as contradicts her.So obviously the movie is not on anybody's 'Must watch movies' in the house :)

eve's lungs said...

So right Dipali - . But I found the treatment a bit infantie . People dont act like that in real life do they ? Or maybe they do - you read in the papers about sons throwing the parents out of the house .And the couple dress like there's no tomorrow - nice but not authentic

indianhomemaker said...

I blogged about this movie too!! Agree with everything you have written - the sons and daughters in laws are shown as all black - they are bad parents too, and Hema Malini is the perfect grand mother and wife but remains dependent till the end.

Generally parents have (and should have) an idea about their children, but in Baghban, they have been shown to be totally unaware of how their children feel.

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

Dipali.. this movie was based on Award winning Kannada movie "Post Master" ... and old movie from perhaps 60s. I think a lot of the flaws you have pointed out like the lavish life style shown are addressed more realistically in the original.

I couldn't agree more on "if they had seen tenderness towards the aged in their own childhoods, some remnants would have stayed on with them"

Uttara said...

Didn't like that film at all. Found it manipulative and with a lot of holes.