Paa – The Self-Absorbedness Of Bachchanalia


HT Cafe’s summary of Paa goes as follows:

Auro (Amitabh Bachchan) is an intelligent, witty 13-year-old boy with an extremely rare genetic defect that causes accelerated ageing. Mentally he is 13, but physically he looks five times older. He lives with his mother Vidya (Vidya Balan), who is a gynaecologist. Amol Arte (Abhishek Bachchan), is a progressive politician. Paa is the story about a father-son.

I should have read that summary thoroughly. Or perhaps, by some inspired stroke of genius, read only the last line. Because the only thing that’s been on my mind, this past hour (I walked out of the hall roughly an hour ago), has been,

What was that movie about?

To be fair, I only focussed on the first two sentences of the description, which made me immediately think of another movie, more than a decade older – Robin Williams’ Jack. That was a movie about a genetic condition, one that was almost Daliesque in how surreal the patient’s life became. Robin Williams essayed the role of a ‘regular boy with a body 4 times its age’ to perfection.

That was the only thing that intrigued me about Paa. I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that ‘it’s Bollywood so leave your brains behind’. This is the industry that has given us Iqbal , Prem Rog, Taare Zameen Pe, Amar Prem and Khamoshi (the 1969 one as well as the 1996 one). If you’re wondering what the above have in common, they are all stories of people in difficult circumstances – social, mental and physical. All of these movies were mainstream cinema, they had commercial actors and they were portrayed realistically,boldly but also sensitively. And they all enjoyed varying degrees of commercial success as well.

I think it is quite fair to expect that the same industry provide good entertainment and if, a ‘serious’ topic is taken on, it be dealt with sensitivity, intelligence and maturity. Sadly I found none of the above in Paa.

To return to the story itself, was this a story about progeria? The introduction shows an lengthy description of the disease with some statistics thrown in and illustrated with photographs of victims to make the disease come alive, so to speak, for the audience. And then, abruptly there ceases to be any further mention of the problem, other than to provide convenient hiccups in the plot (a holiday on a whim, a 12-yr-old boy falling sick in the middle of the ground suddenly).

Meetu points out the over-simplification of various critical points in the movie:

Like the overall compassion with which people from all ages and backgrounds treat an abnormal child. Also, the social acceptance of an illegitimate child and his mother was a tad too uneasy to digest. It is obvious that these issues were intentionally left out of the equation to help focus on the characters and their relationships. But these issues are conspicuous by their absence.

Similarly, the whole comment on parents’ complete disregard to anything creative as a source of living was in bad taste. A wee bit exaggerated it was, in order to get those extra laughs. Also, the maturity that 12-13 year olds show seems a bit beyond their age. The climax too seems a little too melodramatic compared to the tone of the rest of the film.

I agree with WOGMA‘s analysis as far as this. But it stops right there.

If the story wasn’t supposed to be about the disease itself, then why bring it in? It seems contrived and hence insensitive to toss in a word like ‘progeria’ just to build up the intensity of the plot. Most of the movie revolves around Auro’s relationship with Amol.

If then, the movie was supposed to be about the father-son relationship, then why not a regular child actor to play Auro?

I came out of Paa feeling like I had been subjected to the extremely self-absorbed whim of Amitabh Bachchan to play a ‘different’ role. Just the way I felt forced by Sanjay Leela Bansali to believe that making Black made him a ‘sensitive’ story-teller. Or for that matter, Madhur Bhandarkar for making Jail.

All of these reek of people trying too hard. My tweet-review elicited an immediate response from Bolly-blogger Sakshi, who asks me,

Why not AB?

The point is because he is not a 12-year-old boy with progeria. And more importantly, he didn’t depict Auro to tell a story about the disease. It was an attempt at blatant self-glorification and it came off in bad taste.

Maybe, as Sakshi points out, he is a box-office success. But then so was Lata Mangeshkar. And it is also a fact that no other talent (not even her own sister Asha Bhosale) was permitted to flourish as long as Latatai ruled the roost. The distinction I’m making here is that there is no dearth of talent. But such self-promotional antics come across as crass and materialistic. Really, there’s no need to mask all that under the garb of artistic greatness.

At the end of the movie I’m left with a feeling that I wasted 300 bucks and three hours of my time watching an extremely self-centered old man trying to prove that he has talent. Like decades of showcasing it and all the adulation of this country haven’t been enough.

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5 thoughts on “Paa – The Self-Absorbedness Of Bachchanalia

  1. M December 20, 2009 at 23:30 Reply

    He’s not going to spare anyone till he wins that elusive bastard of an Oscar. Maybe he’ll win the “vulgar self-promotion” category.

    Like

  2. Ms Taggart December 21, 2009 at 15:28 Reply

    I feel the same about him.. No doubt he is a good actor, but I am now tired of his attempts to prove himself to the world, and his family being called the first family… Thats totally irrelevant here, but it adds to the irritation, you know!

    Like

  3. D December 21, 2009 at 17:12 Reply

    I’m not part of the anti-AB club but I’m just wondering if he really acted in the movie at all – I mean with all that make-up, were we really seeing Amitabh Bachchan act or could it have been anyone else?

    Like

  4. Darshan Chande December 22, 2009 at 18:45 Reply

    At the end of the movie I’m left with a feeling that I wasted 300 bucks and three hours of my time watching an extremely self-centered old man trying to prove that he has talent. Like decades of showcasing it and all the adulation of this country haven’t been enough.

    Loved to hear that!! Besides that, I am in total agreement with your review of the movie.

    Like

    • IdeaSmith December 31, 2009 at 13:54 Reply

      @M: Now I wish ‘Black’ had won and done us all that favour! *Sigh*

      @Ms Taggart: Absolutely!

      @D: That’s a valid point. I wonder too.

      @Darshan Chande: Thank you for visiting and commenting! I hope to see you around the Idea-smithy again!

      Like

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