The movie Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish directed by Deepti Naval (2009, released on Netflix in 2019) is more or less realistic and claims to be inspired by a true story. It might seem like the most typical plot: strangers bumping into each other and changing each other’s lives with their perspectives. But the strangers in this story have more to them than meets the eye. Their lives haven’t been simple, nor do they become simple after they meet. Rajit Kapoor (Debu) and Manisha Koirala (Juhi) meet in the most clichéd way, in a taxi, and the movie starts unfolding on multiple levels of sexuality, gender roles, and intimacy.
From previous scenes, we know that Debu is gay and has recently been ‘dumped’ by his boyfriend. He has nowhere to stay because he is low on money, has been thrown out of the house, and his subtle poetry is not taking him anywhere in the blingy world of Bollywood lyrics. He appears onscreen like someone who will begin crying, mostly because he is overwhelmed by his breakup, his being homeless, and the bumpy ride of his career. A heartbroken Debu meets Juhi, a not-so-young sex worker, in a taxi in true Bollywood style. She mistakes him for a client who’d like to have good time. After some twists and turns in the next few minutes, Debu lands up in her house to be a caretaker to her child, Kaku, who has a disability. The story is simple hereafter. Honestly, although it appears quite predictable, it is tastefully handled.
A delicate corner of the movie is the complicated relationship between Juhi and Kaku. Kaku cannot speak but his eyes express all. There seems to be a silent agreement about her work, her taking care of him, and them loving each other. He disapproves of Juhi’s work but finds himself helpless. He cannot handle someone entering his mother’s bedroom in the middle of the night. The love between the mother and the son grows through the film even during high-tension scenes. During a few such intense moments, when Kaku demands to be heard and shows his anger by banging and breaking things, Juhi simply ignores him and goes on with her work. She knows that she won’t be able to earn otherwise and won’t be able to take care of Kaku’s needs. Such a portrayal of a strong woman is a little unconventional for an Indian audience. Later, as the movie unfolds, Kaku’s understanding of her need to work grows and he starts accepting her work. Debu plays an important role by taking on the role of being Kaku’s caregiver and managing the house. Both Juhi and Kaku understand their place in each other’s lives and respect each other’s boundaries. Although, when Kaku calls Debu Maa(mother) Juhi breaks down and thinks of herself as a failure for not being a ‘typical’ mom. From Juhi’s point of view, Kaku seems more emotionally attached to Debu than to her. Her strong sense of the ‘mother’s’ role makes her miserable even when she has accepted that she is not the caretaker the world expects her to be. At such times, Debu also thinks of himself as being guilty of over-stepping boundaries. However, acceptance and love grow through the film. Juhi, Debu and Kaku realise their roles in each other’s life as caregivers and supporters, and develop a respect for each other.
The movie tries to portray gender roles and the exchange between Juhi and Debu through dialogue. The visuals do not force it. It just slowly unfolds through the portrayal of Debu’s neatness and Juhi’s messiness which keep showing up in all the frames. The change from a ‘house’ to a ‘home’ when Debu starts taking care of things is smooth yet noticeable. Debu happily accepts the role of homemaker and follows Juhi’s instructions. The change in tones and colours of the entire backdrop indicates the happy shift in each of their lives. While Debu still struggles with his career, he also helps Juhi by teaching her how to dress better, use subtle make-up and gives her tips on getting more clients.
The movie was criticised for its stereotypical portrayal of Debu as a gay man. But, the beauty is that it also highlights the reversal of gender roles. The smiles, and the laughter sounding throughout the house, create a cheery note in the movie. In one such moment of contented togetherness, Juhi finds herself attracted to Debu despite knowing his sexual orientation. One time, she even tries to get Debu to bed and he gives her an ultimatum for doing so. Such a delicate moment is handled carefully without sensationalising it or making judgements about Juhi. She finally accepts Debu’s sexual orientation and lets her own desires fall away. The understanding of consent on her part is highlighted in a humorous way. She also takes on the role of Debu’s ‘stylist’ and smartens him up when he is going to meet his ex-boyfriend. Although heartbroken, Juhi and Kaku let Debu go to meet him, knowing that he may never come back to them.
The platonic relationship between Juhi and Debu offers a lot of wisdom about relationships, self-acceptance, and life. One of the most romantic scenes is where both of them complete each other’s poems and songs. In this moving scene, the film shows Bollywood’s influence on people, expressions of their love, and attraction(s). It keeps one longing for the conversations between the protagonists, making one search for more meaningful lines every time. Especially when they talk about relationships and the illusion of permanence, one realises how deeply relationships affect us. Through some brilliant dialogues and give-and-take on screen, the movie redefines intimacy in the most non-physical way. The movie changes the way one looks at togetherness between two people, beyond their gender, and perhaps sexual orientation as well. This kind of portrayal may not be very novel for a western audience but it is definitely a fresh visualisation of such relationships in an Indian context.
इस लेख को हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए यहाँ क्लिक करें।
Cover Image: Wikipedia