Director’s Special : Onir

Every director has a pattern, a lens through which he visualizes his/her movies. The lens could be a prime one or a one with rotating zoom, depending on how he/she perceives the society at large. Huge chandeliers, extravagant makeup, larger than life sets or daily struggles, injustices, real issues – we need fantasy at times to relieve ourselves from the daily bread battle, it empowers our imagination and sprinkle glitters on our polaroid view. But, at the same time, movies also reflect the reality, and some directors take this unconventional route to magnify the disturbing facts of life with nuances.

Director Onir is one of them, with movies like ‘I Am’, ‘Sorry Bhai’, ‘Bus Ek Pal’, and ‘My Brother Nikhil’ – he tried to coherently sabotage the higher status that patriarchy enjoys in a society like ours. So, all his movies have a few common elements, like –

Social Issues: Onir has raised issues like LGBT rights, child abuse, molestation, women empowerment,the plight of the people of Kashmir in his movies. He has dedicatedly immersed himself in the flowing ripples of societal bondages.



Insecurity / Complicated Relationships: ‘Sorry Bhai’  narrates the story of a complicated relationship between a girl and two brothers who are in love with the same girl, although it looks like a normal love triangle, the twist in the story is that the girl had been already in an established relationship with one of the brothers and everyone knew about it.



Minimalistic Approach: All his movies are economically made without expensive production elements. Shadows and murmurs highlight the depth in the story and not the blinding lights.


A still from ‘Chauranga’, Produced by Onir, Courtesy:


Gyno-centric : The female leads are always powerful. Thinking from a women’s perspective his movie was named ‘My Brother Nikhil’ and not ‘My Sister Anamika’. Against all odds Juhi’s character supports her brother and fights against the phobic society, where sex is a taboo and a person affected with AIDS is considered an anathema. In ‘I AM ‘, Nandita Das decides to become a mother using a sperm donor. The movie was released in 2010 but still a decision like this in our society is explicitly difficult for a single mother.


Courtesy :

Defying Heteronormativity – Onir’s movies break stereotypes of males and females of the society having predefined roles. It is individuality that matters and not the gender.



With all these common features we are looking forward to ‘Shab’ which is set in the cosmopolitan city of Delhi, about people coming from different walks of life –  some in the search for love and some towards realization of their dreams.

Let’s see how differently this movie has been treated, where we are again expecting the bold characters to defy societal norms.

Shab is slated to release soon

Trailer : Shab





Movies That Came Ahead of Their Time

Here is a list of movies that we think would have done much better if released later –


Pyaasa: The whole concept of existentialism was dug and presented in the soulful song of the movie “Yeh Duniya agar mil bhijaein to kya hai”. The words of Sahir Ludhianvi transcribes Guru Dutt’s tragic take on this materialistic world that repels soulful emotions. Pyaasa (The Thirsty Poet) runs after recognition and spiritual fulfillment. Waheeda Rehman plays a prostitute who admires his work and helps him in getting his poems published. The lead character played by Dutt is a poet who understands in depth emotions and can truly express the same through his words, but rejected by publishers, his family and the love of his life, he becomes a man of self pity. The narcissism in him takes a front seat. Although a box office hit, we say that the film came much ahead of its time because it was an experimental movie that explicitly exhibited the many aspects of human behavior and possibly the audience was not ready then to take in so much at once.


JhankarBeats: “Boss Kaun Tha, Malum Hai Kya” – Remixing of the old classics with the western beats is what the title stands for.  The different sides of relationships among friends, family and lovers were given a different treatment and simultaneously the film is a fine tribute to the maestro of music – ‘R. D Burman’. The dialogues are witty and real with a cast unforgettable – Juhi Chawla, Rahul Bose, Sanjay Suri, Rinke Khanna, ShayanMunshi, and Rinke Khanna. By integrating the sub-plots of the movie that refers to a nagging mother in law, a frustrated wife, a condom ad and a lover who cannot confess, the filmmakers never tried hard to take away the third world problems and keeping it real – the three male protagonists are after winning the competition called ‘Jhankar Beats’, which is not in any way equivalent to ‘the Grammy’ but is important to them just because ‘it is’.


Ijaazat: Who could have ever thought of capturing the complexities of relations with such ease and beauty! Characters are not complaining and their silences are audible. Journey from the waiting room’s darkness to the past life and back to the waiting room was a graceful poetry in itself by “Gulzar Saab”. Maya’s (Anuradha Patel) character -that too in the era of 80’s was even unthinkable. She is the flowing poetry of the movie. She was the beautiful crazy spirit who balanced the abnormal society, even her death signified her radical lifestyle. When Sudha (Rekha) returns Maya’s belongings to her, she enticingly and emotionally asks her unforgettable moments back – ‘MeraKuchSaman ‘- the ultimate amalgamation of lyrics, music and singing for Gulzar, R D Buraman and Asha Bhonsle which can be never resurrected. The mature subject was delicately handled. This movie enhanced Rekha’s elegance and Naseeruddin’s individuality as a person.

Even the ending, when Sudha asks Mahinder for his permission to leave, gives it a perfect start(for a new life)’Ijazat’ to leave him forever (this time). We say, Ijaazat came before its time because Maya’s eccentricity, Mahinder’s interpersonal struggle and Sudha’s mature outlook towards life was too much to take in for the audience then.


Dor: It released way before ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ and claimed feminism in its most simple form. The bond between Gul Panag and Ayesha Takia disregards the popular notion that only boys can be friends, rather friendship as a concept is far more superior to gender, and no matter what gender, one can get motivated to spend some quality time with the other person, irrespective of any reason. This movie based on the lives of two women is intricately woven around overcoming adversity. Released in 2006, the movie was critically acclaied but was unable to drive audiences to the theaters as subtle feminist themes were still unheard of.


‘My Brother Nilkhil’: It was the path breaking film when the mainstream cinema was all about love triangles and romance. Director Onir decided to experiment with the concept of homosexuality and AIDS. With no over sensationalization, the film delayers itself from different angles – how one thing or ailment can change people’s attitude towards you. The movie came as a ray of hope in the country where everything and anything unknown becomes a taboo. However, if the movie was released today, it might have gained a lot more viewership than it  had upon its release in 2005.


Monsoon Wedding: Aptly showcasing the madness of the Indian weddings, this movie was way ahead of its time when it released in 2001. The movie has around 5 subplots running simultaneously- a bride still hung up on her lover, a groom who does not know what to expect out of marriage, budding romance of the wedding contractor (an amazing Vijay Raaz), a struggling father-son relationship, a crumbling husband-wife relationship, younger cousins flirting with each other and most importantly, child abuse. The subplot involving Shefali Shah and Rajat Kapoor was wonderfully handled and went on to show how child abuse is a common reality, we do not want to face. With the subtle movies like ‘Kapoor & Sons’ winning the box office, this movie would be a definite success if released today.


maxresdefaultSocha Na Tha: This is the most realistic a romantic comedy ever got in India. No virtuous or perfect characters, totally confused protagonists and essentially, no villains or big dispute keeping the lovers apart. It is only the confusion they themselves created that lands them in a mess and both the protagonists actually end up hurting a few people in their quest for love.This is perhaps the first movie in which lovers are not cocksure about whom they love, the importance their lives and family. The debut movie of Imtiaz Ali, this one might have struck a chord with the audience now rather than a decade before when characters were largely black and white.


Lamhe: The bravest movie by Yash Chopra ever! A young woman falling for an older man who was actually smitten by the girl’s mother. The topic itself is a taboo in India where woman taking charge of their own sexuality is unacceptable, the people with younger partners are frowned upon. Even ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, released a decade later, which had a subplot of a young man falling for an older woman, took the safe path wherein the old woman does not reciprocate the man’s love and conveniently dies before the situation needs to become social. Yash Chopra on the other hand makes the protagonists battle their social and moral issues, involves the friends and families in this hot mess of a relationship and gives us a movie which is perhaps still ahead of its time.


No Smoking: The Kafkaesque movie featuring John Abraham and Ayesha Takia might be the most abstract project by Anurag Kashyap. There is no time space continuum, the line between reality and fantasy is blur and there is a hell like place resembling the concentration camps. As per Kashyap’s own version, smoking in the movie is akin to freedom of thought. The wife (secretory in fantasy/ alternate reality) wants ‘K’- the protagonist to stop smoking and ropes in Baba Bengali to make him quit smoking. As per Wikipedia, “the film has an unusual storyline comprising with elements of surrealism, fantasy, dream, reality, horror and dark humour which left critics and the cinema-goers baffled, this was frowned upon by Indian audiences, as it was unconventional, pretentious and they had never seen anything like it.”


JaaneBhi Do Yaaro: A cult classic, this movie bombed at the box office when it released back in 1983. However, it has gained a tremendous fan following in the later years and is considered one of the best movies in Indian Cinema. A black comedy on Indian politics, media and corruption, this movie boasted of an extraordinary ensemble cast with unforgettable performances by Naseeruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani and Bhakti Bhave. How can anyone forget the hilarious Mahabharata scene towards the climax which had a Wodehouse like innocence to it? And maybe that’s what lifts the movie above the ordinary – the courage to laugh at ourselves. Re-released in 2012, it received an enthusiastic response from the fans.


Love Sex AurDhokha (LSD): Released in 2010, LSD is an experimental movie shot entirely on digicam and presented in the found footage style. There are 3 largely unrelated short stories on the themes of ‘Love’, ‘Sex’ and ‘Dhokha’ in the movie. The themes of the stories involve honor killings, voyeurism, modern day relationships, media ethics and moral values. The themes as well as presentation of the movie is extremely dark. The typical Indian cine-goer still sees the movies as a form of escape and might not be able to digest such a big dose of reality in a movie. An important film nonetheless, which will leave you thinking for days.

Love Letter To Gulzar Saab

I vividly remember the Sunday when I was jumping and singing

“Jangal jangal baat chali hai pata chala hai

Chhaddi pehen ke phool khila hai phool khila hai”

And my parents thought that I was just making up the second line, they didn’t believe me, till they actually heard the song on television. I think that was my first encounter with you and your magical words, I innocently fell in love with the way you so subtly and simply juxtapose the words in your sentences. If you happen to be with me that time, I would have happily shared my ‘Kiss Me’ bar with you that I used to get from my grandfather, after his long walks. I never missed Mogli and I made sure that I never miss the title track too.

An average student from a middle class family, I wasn’t surrounded with any unique literary element, and I was never introduced to the world of literature other than what I read in my course books, not that I had any encounter with the “Dead Poet’s Society”, but as I  was growing up, your songs started marking my mind innately. Each and every word of yours felt like mild susurrations, whispers, or a blow of fresh air. I started craving and searching for more.

Those days I wasn’t well equipped with internet, so during long classes I would ask my friend to write down your songs for me.  I still have the dairy where I dared to steal your words to preserve them in ink; I could wait for a life time for those words to come out from the well wrapped pages of the diary and flow rhythmically around me. And If I happen to cross you then I would intentionally let my diary fall –

“Kitabe maangne, girne uthane ke bahane rishte bante the”

I was surprised that there could be so many beautiful ways of saying the same thing. I was naive and ignorant, but you brought sensibility, love, anger, sorrow and every other possible emotion to my life. And I want to grow old with these feelings; I want the lines on my wrinkled face to reflect a life that was full of emotions.

“Dil to Bachcha hai Ji, Thoda Kachhaha iji”

Discussing your songs with my friends became my favorite topic of discussion. Your poetry appears fascinating to a layman like me and to critics who look to decipher the depth of it. Your words capture all my emotions and induce a beauty in them. It gives me sense of fullness, inertia and a battery backup for emergencies.

College days will forever be – “Copy ke panno jaise, jahan din palatte honge”,

Missing someone is “Tere bina zindagi bhi lekin zindagi to nahi”,

The sorrow that’s incurable is “Dil agar hai to dard bhi hoga, iska koi nahi ha hal shayad”,

Blissfulness of daily life is “Ek hi khwab kai baar dekha hai maine”

And what fun is praising a sexy woman by simply calling her hot; it has to be “Doodh ka ubaal hai”.

Proposing someone is “Takiye chaadar mehke rehtein hai, jo tum gaye, tumhari khusboo soongha karenge hum”

 And I cannot possibly feel the pain but it gives me goose bumps, every time I listen to “Yaad hai Barisho Ke Din Pancham”.

 Through one of the discussions when I came to know that your song, Satrangi Re is based on the seven stages of love, I felt enlightened and spirited as if it was the key to open the box of wisdom. And I was equally amazed when I found out that you used Gulmohar to signify love and blood both, in the song from ‘Omkara’:“Jag Ja ree Gudiya …………..tera bichauna, bhar bhar ke  daaru, gulmohar ka tokra”

I would have never imagined ‘Chand’ in so many forms, if it wasn’t because of your songs. As Saba Bashir has explicitly written in her book I swallowed the Moon’ that you perceive moon differently every time – “if it is a fifty-paisa coin, it is a bundle of clothes as well”. And moon was never the same for me either, it was the symbol of beauty (Chand ki bindi wali ratiyan), it was waiting (kuch chand ke rath to guzre the, par chand se koi utra nahi), it was the symbol of dreams (kabhi kabhi aas paas chand rehta hai) and it was love itself (Kya chand aur zameen me bhi koi khichaav hai!).

I so wish I could hold your hand and take a walk on a moonlit night where you can tell me about the different forms and I could just listen to you without even a blink. I so wish to become an invisible soul who can just observe you, when you write, sitting calmly, in your white shimmering kurta. I so wish to go for an astral projection when I shut my eyes and start listening to your recitations. I so wish to go through your personal notes that you pen down in Urdu. And once in my life, I so wish to go through your collection of books.

I wanted to be like Maya from your film ‘Ijazzat’, that you so perfectly sketched, I don’t even think she was human but poetry in motion .She was the beautiful crazy spirit who balanced the abnormal society. And if I were Maya, then I wouldn’t be writing you a letter but only poems. If I were Maya I would ask you to buy me some moments of belongingness, if I were Maya I would draw your sketch with your words and send it to you. But Alas! I am not- and I still don’t have the courage to become bohemian but deep inside I know that my heart belongs to everywhere I can go.

I would say that I love you only for your written word, but there is so much more. That voice which induces music to most mundane of utterings. Once I hear anything in your voice, I cannot read it or think of it in any other voice. Be it “Kitaabein   jhhankti  hai band almariyon ke sheeshon se” or “Wo bheeg rahi hai baarish me aur aag logi hai paani me” or “kisi mausam ka jhonka tha jo iss deewar par latki huyi tasveer tirchhi kar gaya hai”

Then is your sensibility towards the issues like patriotism, war, religion and riots (Lakeerein hain, to rehne do, Kisi ne rooth kar gusse mein shaayad khainch di thi..inhiko ab banao paala, aur aao, kabbadi khelte hain). Rarely has there been a more mature and sensible approach towards the topic and this increased my respect towards you manifolds.

Gulzaar Saab – I can go on writing about all the revelations, I came across because of you, your efforts to translate legends like Amrita Pritam and Tagore, the biography of Ghalib, your work on the despair of partition, your poems on Women Empowerment “Kitni Tarah Mai Jakdi Gayi”

but just one thing that I specifically want to confess –

“Mukhtsar Si Baat Hai, Tumse Pyaar Hai”