Abida Mian's Blog

An outlier that's living, learning and being myself…

Archive for Films

Baghban – getting older, becoming wiser

A few times a year, I’m subjected to watching a Bollywood film on one of Sky’s Asian channels. Last year, I was suitably impressed with Jodhaa Akbar and again with last night’s choice of Baghban. I may not be a regular Bollywood films enthusiast, but I immediately recognised the main character in Baghban, it was played by one of Bollywood’s finest A-list stars, Amitabh Bachchan, so I immediately knew it was going to be good.

Baghban is a Hindi film about a husband (Raj played by Amitabh Bachchan), his wife (Pooja) and their four sons. As selfless parents, Raj & Pooja foresake their own desires as a couple, and instead spend their money on educating their four sons, in the hope that each of them can have a good life. One day, a poor young child (Alok) comes up to Raj offering to clean his shoes. Raj takes pity on Alok, who’s an orphan, and provides money for his school fees. Years later, Alok has turned from an orphan with no prospects to a successful man; he worships Raj for his help and being the father that he never had.

By now Raj is an old man and retires from his job. Him and Pooja now look to their four sons to look after them, as they didn’t save any money for their retirement, instead Raj spent his money on educating his sons. The sons are all grown up, married and have good jobs. Raj & Pooja have no money to stay in their home, so have to move in with their sons. Instead of being kept together, they are separated with different sons who consider them a burden. Their sons wives dislike having them in their house, and the sons side with their wives rather than their mother and father. Whilst Raj & Pooja are separated, they both miss each other terribly (it’s romantic to think that after years of marriage that a couple still have that much affection for each other). So, Raj starts typing his thoughts of being separated from Pooja, but his son’s wife dislikes the noise of his typewriter and is told to stop. By luck Raj makes friends with a married couple who own a cafe, who become fond of Raj and allow him to come into their cafe anytime to type away.

One day the couple that own the cafe become so taken by Raj’s unhappiness from being separated from Pooja, that they give him money so that they can go away for a short trip together. For once, Raj & Pooja enjoy being able to do couple things like staying alone in a nice hotel, going for a romantic dinner. As their trip comes to an end, Raj realises that he can’t bear for them to go back to living separately with their sons, but Pooja reminds Raj that they don’t have the money to survive. Whilst pondering what to do, Raj & Pooja spot an ice-cream stall, and like heady teenagers, stroll around with ice-creams and end up at a car showroom, where Raj admires the cars on display. 

It’s by chance that they bump into Alok (the orphan) who owns the car showroom. Alok had been searching for Raj & Pooja for ages, but didn’t know about Raj’s predicament. Alok is beyond happy to be reunited with Raj, and invites him & Pooja to his home. Unlike Raj & Pooja’s son’s wives, Alok’s wife (who’s ridiculously stunning) is delighted to meet them and bows to their feet. Alok makes sure that Raj sits at the head of the table, as he thinks of Raj as his father, a man that he respects.  Alok insists that Raj & Pooja live with them, but Raj is adamant that he wants a place for just him and his wife. Before he leaves, Alok surprises Raj with the gift of the car he’d admired at his showroom.

Raj, Pooja, Alok and his wife go to see Raj’s old home. Suddenly they’re greeted by Raj’s friends (the couple that own the cafe). Unbeknown to Raj, the cafe couple read his written work regarding his feelings about being separated from his wife and the treatment of his sons to them, and submitted it to a publisher. The book was named Baghban (“Gardener”) and became a huge success – unsurprisingly, but we all love a happy ending 🙂

Raj’s sons & their wives read an article in the newspaper regarding Raj’s book and his success, and with rupee signs in their eyes decide to turn up to a special evening for Raj which is hosted in his honour. Raj gets up and asks that his son comes and makes a speech, so his eldest gets up until he hears his father say the name Alok. Alok gets up and thanks Raj for making him the success that he is now, and then Raj does his speech regarding his disappointment that him & his wife gave all their money, love & affection to their other sons, only to be treated without respect. His sons beg their father for forgiveness, but Raj & Pooja shun them. They disown their ‘real’ sons, and although he’s not blood-related think that Alok is a real son to them. Raj & Pooja can finally go back to their home.

I enjoy films that you can relate to. As I get older, I appreciate the sacrifices that my dad made to ensure that my brothers & I had a good education. Good parents are those that put their children first, but equally good children must respect and look after their parents. I used to think that my dad was pushy when he kept trying to enthuse me with Maths as a child, now I think I’d do the same if I had kids. I like the values of Asian culture, look at Chinese & Indian children, their incredibly bright, because their parents push them to work harder. Conversely, in Western society, we’re obcessed with footballers who get paid an obscene amount of money, and countless talent shows about being famous, and our education system in the UK is poor. When I read a newspaper, I want real news not some expose on who’s cheated on who – I really don’t give a ****

The story of Raj, Pooja & his sons made me think of an elderly couple that are neighbours of mine. They’re in their eighties, very chatty, but are frail. They have one son that lives in America with his family, but he never calls his parents or comes to see them. So, I go round and help them with their shopping and chat with them. I don’t want anything in return, I’m just fond of them. The sweetest thing was when they said that they’d wished I was their daughter  – sometimes blood isn’t thicker than water 🙂 


Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi – the film that keeps me grounded

Jinnah & Gandhi (by South Asian Foreign Relations)

Jinnah: India- Partition- Independence by Jaswant Singh, originally uploaded by South Asian Foreign Relations.

I first watched the film Gandhi with my dad when I was a young child.

Despite my youth, I remember being transfixed to the screen and feeling nothing but admiration for Gandhi’s struggle. The film scene that is still etched in my memory is when Gandhi is fasting to protest against the violence of the Muslims & Hindus killing each other. A distressed Hindu man arrives with food and then subsequently confesses to Gandhi that he killed a Muslim boy in retaliation for his son being killed by the Muslims. Gandhi sees the Hindu mans grief/remorse and suggests that he adopts a Muslim boy whose parents have been killed and raises him as a Muslim not Hindu. The moral was that the true test of redemption was to learn to love his ‘enemy’, and that did not have to mean forsaking his own religion, but to lose his hatred and become an understanding, tolerant Hindu – such a thought provoking scene.

Once the film had finished, I recall tears coming from my dad’s eyes, in fact it’s one of the few times that I’ve ever seen him cry. For him the film was poignant, as he was a Muslim born in India and was a small child during the partition. He remembers walking for days at a time without food, being separated from his parents (not knowing whether they were dead or alive), seeing dead bodies along his journey, wondering whether he would survive, and after all that having to start all over again in the newly formed Pakistan.

After failing to find the old video, I decided to buy the DVD from Amazon, because this is such a wonderful historical film that engages viewers to appreciate the complexities of mankind, and what a difference one person can make. The film won 8 Oscars and was number 34 in The British Film Institutes top 100 favourite British films of the 20th Century. The acting is superb, particularly Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of Gandhi. My dad rates this as one of his favourite films, even if it does make him cry!

I now understand why my dad made me first watch this film all those years ago. One of Gandhi’s quotes succinctly sums this up (he was speaking of the conflict between Hindus and Muslims):

“Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take a different road, so long as we reach the same goal. Wherein is the cause for quarreling?”

Jodhaa Akbar

I must admit that I haven’t watched a Bollywood film in years, and when I have, the theme has always been the same – good triumphs evil and lots of singing and dancing! So, when I was at home with my family at Christmas, my eyes rolled when my mum said that she wanted to watch an Indian film that apparently had won lots of awards. As I rarely get to spend much time with my parents, I thought what the heck I’ll sit and watch it with them, but had a book by the side of the sofa just incase 🙂

Jodhaa Akbar is a sixteenth century love story between Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar (known as Akbar the Great) widely considered to be the greatest of the Mughal emperors, and his Hindu wife Jodhabai.

When Akbar won the allegiance of the Rajputs, in order to further strengthen relations, the King offered him his daughter to marry, Jodha, a fiery Rajput princess. Jodhaa initially resented the political marriage of convenience; she was strong to her faith and continued to practice her religion and was clear to point this out to Akbar. Akbar allowed her to practice Hinduism despite protestations by his Muslim entourage. The film revolves around Akbar’s challenge to win the love of Jodhaa. Of course there are people who try their best to spoil things between them, but lo and behold they get there in the end!

I never thought that I’d sit through the whole film, but it was a pleasure to watch. The actors, Hrithik Roshan (plays Akbar) and Aishwarya Rai (plays Jodhaa) were not only pleasing to the eye but superb. I can only imagine that this film must have cost a lot to make…

My mum & dad enjoyed it soo much that I bought it off Amazon for them to add to their collection of films.