Saturday, February 05, 2005

Page 3

Urban India as it is inhabited by the rich, beautiful and famous can be a shocking discovery for a middle-class person. Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Page 3’ is cinematic criticism of the murky world of any big city’s socialites at its best. I’d heard so much about the movie that I wanted to watch it, if for nothing else than its curiosity value. And like it or hate it, ‘Page 3’ will not fail to make you think. Think about today’s celebrities whose heights so many people aspire to reach. Think about the drive for success and the endless search for money and fame that even an average Indian indulges in.

‘Page 3’ is not what I would call a brilliant film. But it rings true somewhere and its characters, from the socialite’s driver to Konkona Sen Sharma’s middle-class journalist, make the film feel real. Fiction it may be, but it also holds up as a mirror of high society today.

Most people, in some way, want to be a part of Page 3. At the end of the day, for many these opulent parties may just be a way of letting go of stress, but for the majority, it is a chance to indulge in hidden fantasies, a chance to climb the ladder of success by being seen and by talking to the ‘right’ people. Drugs, sex, swapping partners - anything goes here, amidst the smoky haze and the loud music. At its most harmless, these parties are a gathering of people who make vacuous or scathingly hypocritical conversation.

Today, go to any glamorous party in any Indian metro and there’s a pretty good chance you will see some of the Page 3 phenomenon at work. Of course, not everyone thinks so. Lillette Dubey, Indian actor and theatre person, has commented in ‘Outlook’ magazine that the movie had the potential to ‘go for the jugular’ and shouldn’t have been so black-and-white. Well, any more jugular and the viewer would probably die!

So sociologically, what does this herald? An urban arena where money and fame are creating people with the minds and hearts of monsters, never mind their looks? Or one where the system makes people so cynical that they finally give up their long-held values for a more glamorous dream? Or worse, where that cynicism leads to apathy? I’ve grown up over the past few years and have come to believe that the sooner you come to terms with life as it exists and not as you think it should be, the better your life will be. That’s what Sharma’s character as the journalist who makes the transition from an idealistic young girl to a harder, stronger person eventually does. Also thought-provoking is Atul Kulkarni's character, who as a crime journalist in the film says, ‘To beat the system, you have to be in the system’.

Life, after all, isn’t all ha-ha-hee-hee.

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