IFFLA Diary 2011: That Girl in Yellow Boots

By Shekhar Deshpande • Published on April 17, 2011

[H]ere is a scriptwriting exercise for you. A British girl lives by herself, all alone, in Mumbai as she is intent on finding her father who left the family a while ago, after the death of her stepsister. Remember she lives alone in the city, securing her visa renewal from time to time. The question is what vocation would you give her? If you have two guesses and one of them says that she is a masseuse and often indulges in giving cheap sexual pleasures to her clients, then you got the prize. You are on your way to writing the script of thisThat Girl in Yellow Boots, a new film by Anurag Kashyap. Don’t all white skinned girls make themselves available for some kind of skin trade? Don’t we look like we are kicking the stereotypes on to the stage with repeated force?

True, Anurag Kashyap is a formidable director working on meaningful films and one would expect this to be just that kind of film. It does deliver on that count. The film handles the taboo issue of incest. It is suspenseful; it is set in the underworld of seedy drug dealers and the dark lives of individuals who have no hesitation of seeking cheap pleasures with their surplus income. Let us hope the film succeeds in catching large revenues. The script was co-written with the main actress in the film, Kalki Koechlin, who has had award-winning credits to her writing achievements. Despite the very many non-necessary forays into spinning out the details of events and motives, the film moves along at a good pace, and brings it all together in the end in what would be a shock to the sensibilities of those who want to hide issues that trouble too many families and relationships.

The film is a thriller of sorts, though in thrillers there isn’t much room for pathos. Pathos makes you pause and the thriller wants you to move. The relationship between Ruth and her boyfriend is spun out possibly to align the film with similar pathos-filled events in Hindi films. Nothing really changes for Ruth in this relationship for all we need to know is that she is looking for some warmth and security of a stable relationship. The insistent search for her father and the kind of work she is engaged in are ample proofs that she is looking for the warming presence of her father or father figure. Prashant, her drug-wasted boyfriend, slows her down wallowing in his own troubles that have little do with the movement of the narrative. Like too many films from our industry, this film could serve some tightening and it would work wonders to grip the audience.

The director deserves credit for bringing the issue of incest to the screen. The more we handle issues like these, the more we will see films carrying out their function well beyond rattling the nerves of entertainment and making a profitable industry out of it. Kudos to NFDC for financing some of the film. All things considered, there is a bigger responsibility on someone who showcases a problem of this magnitude in front of millions. While it is true that incest and other crimes continue in our (and all) cultures, it isn’t true that these crimes are somehow related to social class or that they seem to fester at some lower, crime-infested, pathological families which have more cosmopolitan identities (Ruth is a mixed race child). That association of morally deplorable crimes with the lower social class carries with it a larger burden of holding the whole social class responsible for such morality. It is an easy escape from real confrontations with our social mores. That was precisely the force of Roman Polanksi’s Chinatown in 1974. It was a bone chilling revelation that a rich, accomplished, well-motivated citizen-leader of a major city could be indulging in such vile crimes. Then there is the middle class morality, which always claims a higher ground because it has the language to protect itself and to point fingers at others. If we have to open up the door to these issues being discussed in our public sphere, we also need to sharpen our tools and see where the crimes are making their most insidious marks. We ought to turn those sharp tools on everything but opening up a debate carries with it bigger responsibility. It ain’t any point kicking those who are being kicked for everything else.

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