My Name is Quark

For a change I quite liked Karan Johar’s de-Punjabification in My Name is Khan. Having learned beforehand about depiction of a person with Asperger Syndrome I waited for hamming like Black but found none. Rizwan’s interaction with his family and rest of the world was done well. Not for a moment harking on rest of the world’s cruelty to emphasize his suffering but letting us peek in Rizwan’s persona bit by bit. His disconnect with rest of the world was indeed touching and humorous at times. For me the movie as a work of craft went down the drains after Mandira lambasted Rizwan for her child’s death. Well there are more things in cinema (esp. Indian cinema) dear Blogger than are dreamt of in your philosophy. This is neither a movie review nor a piece of satire hitting at suspensions of belief. In fact I would like to take flights of fancies seriously. As I claimed for 3 idiots, popular filmmakers are pop psychologists more than craftsmen.

Protagonist in Hindi cinema have to come out of their skin and become a superhero and that is why movies like Rocket Singh, Shwaas stay in fringe and 3 Idiots, MNIK are blockbuster hits. An entire subcontinent can not rejoice in banalities of the characters. There has to be a transgression not a mere culmination. Greater the transgression, greater the accolades. Jamal Malik, a Muslim slum dog has to win the competition and not only but defy all odds to show weight of his transgression from slum to call center to millionaire. (I liked the movie for its democratization of slum as a knowledge society)

We had popular superhero comics so late in India probably because Amitabh Bachchan could eat a thousand bullets and still manage to save family, kill the villain and probably visit market to procure Aloo, Bhindi in between. Indian heroes were and are generalist specialists unlike Batman or Spiderman who have to take it as a full-time career. Unlike superheroes of occidental imagination which had their reality grounded within the comic (Clark Kent the reality of Superman, Bruce Wayne for Batman and Peter Parker as SpiderMan), Indian super-heroes had their imagined reality grounded outside cinema. Amitabh Bachchan, the Angry Young Man, savior of poor would reincarnate in different roles as Vijay and Shah Rukh Khan as the emotional, dripped in family values Rahul. An undiscerning eye would add tags like ‘playing himself’, ‘creating an image’, a mantle which Shah Rukh has taken from Amitabh Bachchan. Whereas Amitabh took a decade of pathetic movies and a game show to change this ‘persona’ Shah Rukh did not take that much time to veer away from dark hero roles (which carried misnomer of anti Hero) at the apt time. And MNIK might prove to be another switch.

As a ‘socially relevant’ movie it offers its own solution to popular fears. RDB promoted vigilantism, 3 Idiots found it in search for excellence, Munnabhai in Gandhigiri. MNIK tries to find solution of the terrorism within the Security Nation State, a state where social contract between nation and its citizen relies heavily on security. The movie roots on innocence, innocence of Rizwan who can not understand small talk or guile of smart people. Towards the end the innocence turns into itself and becomes a caricature. His innocence is used as a façade to prove his actions. It would be hard to imagine a suave, romantic, smart “Rahul” to go at lengths to convince the nation he is not a terrorist to get back his love, so let’s make him have a mental condition. The moment he gets kicked out of his house, the character of Rizwan Khan becomes Tulsidas without the renunciation and the movie fails to be a story.

4 Responses to “My Name is Quark”

  1. 1 SEV
    2010/02/22 at 3:32 pm

    Rizwan’s interaction with his family and rest of the world was done well.
    This was exactly where I started disliking the movie. What they show is too watered down to be real, and too random to be acceptably unreal.

    Protagonist in Hindi cinema have to come out of their skin and become a superhero..
    Exactly. Well put. And accordingly, Rizwan cannot be a superhero – his character does not have the wherewithal to pull it off. Consider a possible alternative: that in Rizwan’s efforts to meet the President, Mandira realizes that the only way to beat racism is not to demand an eye for an eye. She goes out to (hopefully more realistically) help people affected by the hurricane.
    Now the characters are better developed. Rizwan is the tool through which others realize – his naivete is taken advantage of. But this storyline could not have happened – KJo loves SRK too much.

    As a ’socially relevant’ movie it offers its own solution to popular fears.
    If you ask me it didn’t offer any solution at all 🙂 Just pandered to cliches of the worst kind.

    • 2010/02/24 at 7:19 am

      What I meant by interaction with family was jealousy with his younger brother, mother’s support. A horror/exploitation movie was not made out of school kids harassing him.

      By superhero I did not imply “super powers” but something more than a hero, something more than a man that a man can’t possess. What differentiates hero from the super one is this exaggeration. Harpreet Singh Bedi of Rocket Singh was a hero because he stayed within his reality. Rizwan was a superhero of “sorts” because his unique ability of innocence and engineering brilliance made him beyond his contemporaries (the Motel owner, security officers, FBI, etc and many etc)

      It would have been better on my part to say “tried to offer its own solution” or “implicitly offered solution” or it tried giving some catharsis, it is Rizwan Khan’s innocence. Remember Dev was also “somewhat” related to same issue of stereotyping minority (Om Puri’s character) but rather than solving problem it tried painting picture of different facets of the society.

  2. 2010/02/23 at 6:07 am

    Well, despite your interpretation of the movie for me it was “Forrest Gump lost in translation”.

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