Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Walking in Yellow Boots into Strange Rooms

It’s strange that in the span of a week, I see a film and read a book, which are so similar. That Girl in Yellow Boots and In a Strange Room are both of genres which ostensibly have nothing to do anything with the other: one is a film of a search and the other a travelogue spanning 3 continents. But the journeys in both are through bleak landscapes of despairing lives.
That Girl in Yellow Boots is Anurag Kashyap’s least complex but the saddest of his films. Spare in its structure, linear in its telling, its characters, its atmospherics are all claustrophobic. It’s almost pre-ordained that none of its characters can ever find happiness, in spite of it’s protagonist, Kalki’s desperate search for it. For there seem to be some cycles which never seem to break, some lives which are forever condemned to penumbra.
Kalki’s search for her father in Bombay on the basis of a letter which she’d received from him – a tender soft missive which spoke of remembrance and ache - brings her into a hunt for the only glimmer of love she can see in her life. Progressively, the journey becomes one into her own self and her past and into those grey zones of our own lives which we hate to delve into. Her choice of a boy-friend – an abusive deranged drug-taker – is not just unfortunate, but one with her life’s story. Her choice of profession – a masseur who also gives ‘hand-shakes (a euphemism for hand-jobs) – is just another indication of the self-defeating choices she makes. Hence her search for a father who had left the family to fend for itself, is also one which is doomed right from the beginning. For isnt it true that deep inside each one of us reside the premonitions of the outcomes of the choices we make.
No one can ever leave the hall without carrying the pain and haunting despair of Kalki’s eyes in the final scenes.
In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut (which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010) is a journey through desert, greenery and the sea, allegorical as it refers to our life’s progress -sometimes as followers, sometimes as a lover, and a guardian at times.
What we do with each one of these roles in our journey is a matter of choice, a matter of who we are, or a matter of life running away with the choices before we make them.
Damon, the protagonist, is damned to be the hand-maiden of other people’s wishes. His destiny is defined not by the choices he makes but by the nature of the people he is with. It’s a tragic life, where every change he makes brings him to the prison of his weaknesses. We are ultimately slaves of our natures, and every step of our journey, however far from our moorings we go, brings us back again and again to the black holes of our souls.
Damon readily agrees to be a follower, but comes against the selfishness of his companion, who is obsessed with his own needs, and uses his partner to serve himself. Isn’t it true that we subsume ourselves ever so often in our lives merely to maintain equilibrium, which finally is just a chimera?
And then he falls in love, goes miles to be with the man he falls for. And then he just doesn’t have the guts to say the precious words and take the next step. In an internal world of fear of consequences, however far the journey, the man does not move an inch.
And then when he becomes a companion, a true faithful one at that, to a girl beset with psychological problems, his trust is stretched and belied. He saves her life again and again, only to lose her finally to a selfish whim.
Our lives are an accumulation of our internal demons and the consents we give ourselves to do things which we know are wrong, but which we are unable to resist saying ’yes’ to. There are sadnesses and happinesses, but the greenery or the famine which we find in every step is invariably out of the seeds we sowed – or we didn’t. And the ideas of travelling, of going away, of coming back, all become attempts to merely escape time...