Mostly Sunny (2016) – A Documentary Review
The opening dialogue is “I don’t know how I will be remembered or what my legacy will be, but I will always be known as the girl who knew the art of turning a quarter into a dollar.” That one statement defines Sunny Leone, currently a rage in India in her new avatar as an actress, dancer and entertainer. We love her and her rising fan following coupled with awe numerous films and endorsement make her a star to reckon with. She is a smart cookie as she says “If I have to take off my clothes, I might as well do it for a million bucks”.
We see Sunny take us to her old town in the US where she grew up as Kuljeet Kaur Vohra. Her first baby steps into the world of adult videos and pornography. Her traditional family and the battle she had to go through to do what she wanted to do, to make a living for herself. We see her tenacity and spirit, I mean, how this woman did what she did in full view of the moral majority is an achievement.
She comes across as a loveable, lost girl craving for the love of the world, something she had lost when both her parents passed away. She got this love from India as a contestant of Bigg Boss where she was seen for the first time in the traditional Indian home and her meeting with Mahesh Bhatt on the show. That was the beginning of a new Odyssey of once-a-pornstar turning into a Bollywood actress and entertainer. In her new avatar, Sunny doesn’t shy away from her past and acknowledges it openly. But this time, she has a husband and a partner in Daniel Weber, so she is the pornstar who has already been hitched. We have a business and brand expert Suhel Seth analyse her and her brand power and no less than Kiran Bedi talks about the harmful impact of Sunny Leone on our society. The super cop being a woman says that pornography and her videos have led to rapes in India as they have fumed the passion of the men. Whatever said and done, the porn queen has caused an avalanche in the land of the Kamasutra, she is dividing opinions, tongues are wagging and the Indian male is losing his morality, not to mention, the control of his pleasure centre all because of one woman.
To her staff, she is the kind and warm-hearted didi who is to be looked after and pampered. Her husband is her love and her business manager. At all time, Sunny knows that she is a brand first and a private person later. Even King Khan couldn’t visit to dance with her in his latest hit film Raees to the tune of Laila men Laila.
Like an Indian Goddess, she is bathed with milk in her film Ek Paheli Leela, she is chewed in weddings as she dances away, men glued to her figure watch wide-eyed as their wives try and shut their eyes. Yes, she is a moral ticking bomb this girl.
Most of all, one remembers this documentary when Sunny tries to answer how she would talk about her past to her daughter. We see her think but fumble for words, she is a bit confused and acknowledges that she has no clue how she would deal with it. You can’t help but feel for this fiesta girl who has tread her own path and man! What a blazing path she has tread!
Aligarh is a powerful film by director Hansal Mehta who dabbles with the controversial subject of homosexuality and it being proclaimed as a criminal act according to section 377 of the IPC. It was subsequently decriminalised under the Indian constitution in 2009. The story revolves around the suspension of a Marathi professor Siras played beautifully by Manoj Vajpayee at the prestigious Aligarh Muslim university. The professor has been caught having sex with a rickshaw puller in his room by some people who did a sting operation on the two men. The university is ablaze and people want the professor suspended for his unnatural sexual behaviour.
The news reaches Deepu who is a trainee reporter working for a newspaper. Deepu wants to cover this story and get to the bottom of the truth. He, along with a photographer friend, reach Aligarh University to meet Siras. He sees the real man behind the mask of his sexual preferences and identity. Manoj Vajpayee beautifully plays the tragic figure of a man caught up between the devil and the deep blue sea. He is evicted from his quarter, his electricity is cut and he is humiliated by his own colleagues and fellow professors. They are nasty and vengeful towards him and victimise him. The director then delves into the questions of morality and the rights of a homosexual person, his abandonment and rebuke by an insensitive society that fails to understand his sexual urges and preferences and has no regard for his privacy. We see some professors who are also sympathetic to his plight. These are the liberals, the poets, painters and the intellectuals who make an effort to save Siras from suspension. Manoj Vajpayee plays the character of the confused, at times, timid. He is no-loudmouth, bombastic and a chest thumping fighter who is fighting for his rights to live and keep his sexual identity in a society that sees him as a disease and a scourge.
He is, at times, unsure of what to do and, at times, scared and also tormented due to what is happening around him. He is uncomfortable with it all and it’s as if he is begging us to let him be. But we keep hammering him. The fight to cancel the suspension of the professor reaches the courts. This is the introduction of another powerful artist Ashish Vidyarthi who played the no-nonsense lawyer who helps Siras fight his case. Siras, for his part, is mostly intoxicated by whisky, old Hindi songs and his book of Marathi poetry. The loneliness of a 64-year old man trying to salvage some dignity and pride in a society that has forsaken him is a theme that plays throughout the film. The way he is beaten with sticks and stripped during a forced sting operation, how he is kicked out of his quarters and asked to leave from every home he tries to stay in, you feel for his character all the time and want his agony to end. The film has its lighter moments when Sira is the guest of honour at a gay party full of artists and intellectuals.
This tragedy comes to its grand finale when we find Siras dead with an overdose of poison. A final act of a sensitive, learned and a poetic man hounded and stigmatised for being a homosexual. His last words to Deepu “I think I should go to America. Maybe people like me will get more respect there.”
The People vs. Larry Flynt
The spectacular film directed by Milos Forman on the life of the charismatic publisher Larry Flynt is fascinating and pure riveting drama. A ride of colour, revolution, freedom of speech and, of course, smut and pornography. The film charts the journey of Flynt played by the bizarre, wacky and out of the box actor Woody Harrelson. It is about the evolution of Hustler magazine and how one man pushed the obscenity envelope of the nation a bit too far. The highlight of the film is the love story of Flynt and his wife Althea played by Courtney Love who matches Woody Harrelson toe to toe with her energy and style.
The film has many twists and turns as we see Larry Flynt’s battle for the right of freedom of speech and that ignites the debates in America about the First Amendment. The latter half of the film focuses on the Hustler magazine chiefs legal battle with the reverend Jerry Falwell, the head of the Christian Angelic Movement. Flynt takes out a parody of a Campari advertisement ridiculing Falwell for having sex with his mother in an outhouse. The case goes right up to the United States Supreme Court. Suddenly, the entire mainstream media gets interested in the outcome of the case because if Hustler magazine lost, it would introduce more legislation suppressing the freedom of the press and the right to offend public figures. The victory cost Larry Flynt his legs as he gets shot outside the courthouse by a white supremacist serial killer. As if that was not enough, Larry and Althea retreat to their private mansion in a haze of drugs and painkillers. Larry Flynt, the most notorious pornographer in the US has been paralysed waist down. The porn king can’t fuck for life.
But for all his vulgarity and smut, you can’t but like Larry Flynt and feel for his cause. His flamboyance and some of his antics during the trial are hilarious and one can’t help but admire the man for his creativity, wit and satire. Flynt is portrayed as an enigma, a chameleon who changes his hide. At first, he says he has become a born-again Christian after having a profoundly touching spiritual experience. But later on in life, he refutes it as the work of messed up chemicals in his brain.
Flynt is suddenly now the champion of the free press as he wins in the supreme court. He is hailed as a hero though Flynt refutes that and says the real hero of the film is the United States Supreme Court which actually upheld the first amendment. He becomes a national figure and stands for the President of the United States. Currently still running the Hustler magazine, this self-confessed pervert and his over the top, passionate and colourful life is portrayed in all its hues by the director Milos Forman.
The movie is shrouded in controversy and attacked by feminist groups for promoting pornography and glorifying Flynt. The film has been also criticised by Christian religious groups. But as Flynt says, the entire fight is to stop people and government from legislating morality. The government and religious groups have had their grip on the common man’s pleasure centre and that’s not a good thing. It’s no one’s business what I do or read in my bedroom. All in all, it’s a peek into an extraordinary life of a politically incorrect man. I, for one, have my sympathies for Flynt and was dazzled by Woody’s acting especially the way he coped with the wheelchair and the muffled accent at the same time in the film. So go on to YouTube or download the film from the net. This is a must see film blessed with golden globe awards. No one can doubt this entertainment powerhouse of a film.
The Man Who Knew Infinity
The flight to Delhi from Srinagar was three and a half hour long with a stop at Jammu. I whisked into the comfort of an air conditioned Meru Cab as I exited the airport. I gave my home address to the driver and settled into the cab. An hour later I was in the comfort of my home. The heat, my lord it hit me and a quick flick of the air conditioner was what it took to get things to settle in.
Next day I decided to watch “ The Man Who Knew Infinity” a movie on the life of the South Indian Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujam. Dev Patel played the genius mathematician and the even more interesting character of Prof.Godfrey Harold (“G. H.“) Hardy played by Jeremy Irons. It is Hardy who invited a little known Indian clerk from Madras to come to Trinity College in England . The movie moves into a love affair between the two men . Hardy an atheist and Ramanujam who say’s “ God speaks to me.” As both men grapple with their inner demon’s , one want’s his work to be published the other asking him for the proof’s of his mathematical formula’s and equations. Hardy wants Ramanujam to succeed but can’t understand how he does his mathematics and the source of his intuition and his genius. He takes a liking to the young Indian as both are bound to their work and their passion. We see a glimpse of Stephen Fry as the boss of Ramanujam at the beginning of the film.
The interlude between Ramanujam’s wife and mother also make for interesting viewing as both quarrel over one man but are also proud of his achievements’. As for Hardy, he fights hard for Ramanujam to get a Fellowship in the college. But the Indian’s failing health and his battle with Tuberculosis leads him to depart for India to be with his family. It was a touching film and show’s the unraveling of a genius and how it flourishes through this extraordinary bond the two leading characters share with each other.
A good movie after a long time followed with a chicken shawarma and pop corn and my day ended on a fine note.