Saturday, August 03, 2013

BA Pass 

More Desperate Housewives

 Behind the well-appointed drawing rooms of upper class Delhi, is a world of violence and lust, is what Ajay Bahl’s film, BA Pass says, and outside, is another ugly world of desolation. Most films looking into sex and sleaze use the male point of view, this one, based on Mohan Sikka’s short story Railway Aunty makes women equal opportunity exploiters of the weak. 

It also emphasises the popular voyeuristic view of middle-aged housewives preying on young men for sexual gratification-- a bit disturbing since it feeds boys’ pornographic fantasies of being initiated by sexy older women, or these Savita Bhabhi types being available for both sex and money.  At a time when even little girls are being sexualised, one could do without this kind of laundry hanging out to dry. This film is shot beautifully has a grain of truth in it, but in spirit it’s not too different from the soft porn churned out by the seedy studios in suburban by-lanes. 

The erotic scenes may be bold by Indian standards (since censors won’t allow nudity, there is just lingerie on show, and some dry humping), but the story of young Mukesh (Shadab Kamal), being lured by a deadpan older woman, Sarika (Shilpa Shukla), is as narrow-minded and judgmental as the old woman who curses her randy daughter-in-law with all the words used to describe women who break patriarchal rules. So, BA Pass is clearly not on the side of the aggressive woman.

The boy, farmed out to other wives, is hardly an object of sympathy, and what’s with the whiny sisters in the background?  There’s a typical virtuous wife (Deepti Naval), who comes to the boy, not for what he offers, but for a sympathetic ear. The chess-playing gravedigger Johnny (Dibyendu Bhattacharya) seems to belong to another film.

The dark, tragic, cautionary tone of the film seems a little out of sync with these out of the closet times, when all surveys point to a sexually adventurous India.  The film could do with some humour and a lot more depth, particularly in the portrayal of Sarika’s world; boorish husband, no kids, idleness, boredom—could the desperate housewife get more clichéd? Also, Shukla plays the character without any variations to her one haughty expression.

A film like this, which looks real on the surface—glossy or seedy as required by the scene—is hailed as bold and dark, and that it is, in the midst of Bollywood kitsch. Pity, it’s also hollow and needlessly moralistic.


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