Bangalore Days @ 6: When Relatability Met Blockbuster

As I write this article, Bangalore Days written and directed by Anjali Menon has completed 6 years of its release. It was one of those rare multi-starrers in the last decade that created so much hype and managed to live up to those expectations. I have seen this movie twice from the theater, once or twice when it came to TV and the last day also I saw that film on Hotstar. And even today it made me happy when that end titles rolled. It has this quality of being a happiness-pill for a lot of people. So, beyond the whole multi-starrer attraction, there was something in this movie that sort of makes even a very private viewing of this film a happy experience. So what is it exactly?



A couple of years ago when I was watching this film with a different set of people I found someone who showed empathy towards the character played by Kalpana. Even though it was Anjali Menon’s way of taking a dig at the attitude of similar people who are extremely fond of the western culture and luxury, this particular person’s emotional support for this particular character sort of gave me an answer to that question; it was that relatability factor. And in most of the characters in the movie, you can sense a loneliness element or them wishing to have the presence of someone who understood them.

There are almost 5 main characters in the movie who share conflicts or issues that many of us may have gone through in life. Let’s just have a look at them.




Kuttan aka Krishnan PP

Through her first film Manjadikuru, Anjali Menon had already shown us her love for the nostalgic childhood days in that ancestral place. Kuttan is like a brand ambassador of that movie. Kuttan’s character arc in this movie is perhaps the simplest and the less nuanced one. But he is also a loner. He loves staying at his home. For him, Bangalore is almost like a bucket list wish. But his mother never appreciates that love he has for the home. Even his cousins are making fun of his orthodox partner thoughts. While the other characters evolved with the emotional support of others in the story, Kuttan is perhaps the only person who took inspiration from the people he saw in a city like Bangalore and evolved for the better. From being the guy who was looking for that typical Malayali housewife as a partner to marrying a foreigner, Kuttan’s transformation is the most drastic one in Bangalore days. And if you look at it, Michelle was perhaps the only one who appreciated his love for traditional values. Kuttan is actually someone who experienced a culture shock in Bangalore and his journey might well be relatable to a lot of people who haven’t gone to a different city prior to getting a job.



While the other characters evolved with the emotional support of others in the story, Kuttan is perhaps the only person who took inspiration from the people he saw in a city like Bangalore and evolved for the better.

Divya

Divya is perhaps the most empathetic person here. When Das’ questions caused discomfort to Arjun, she tries to change the topic. When she knows about the past of her husband she decides not to leave him and she also makes an effort to make sure that Das gets the support from her end in fighting his emotional trauma. Even though Divya was an ambitious student, her ambitions weren’t that strong as we see her agreeing to the marriage without too much disappointment. It is the lack of acknowledgment and lack of care in the married life that made her a lonely person. The absence of a real aspiration prior to marriage and the struggle to adjust with someone for the rest of their lives is a relatable fight for a lot of women and the decision of Divya to study post marriage is like a simple and effective solution and the support of Aju and Kuttan at this point is what perhaps every woman is looking for during such a phase.


Arjun




Prior to his preparation for the race, we hear this voice-over of Arjun’s parents that clearly indicated that they never wanted a child in that relationship. Arjun has clarity about relationships and even though he is this brash guy on the outside, there is a fear in him when it comes to relationships. He scolds Divya for marrying a guy without even knowing him properly, he wasn’t expecting Kuttan’s relationship with Meenakshi to last long and when it comes to Sarah, the poor guy doesn’t know how to move on. It’s the questions that made Arjun uncomfortable. Arjun is looking for people who appreciate him for what he is today. The tone of the questions like what do you do? what about your parents? What did you study? Etc is like filters people used to avoid him. The fact that his parents never wanted him has already made him feel that he is a rejected piece. Kuttan and Divya are the only two people who wholeheartedly accepted him. Even his interest in Sarah began when her lines helped him to apologize to Kuttan, a person he loves a lot. The lack of acceptance Aju faces can make the movie relatable for some people, but what I feel might have worked for a lot of people is that terrible pain he had to go through after realizing that he can’t really force Sarah to be with him. Sarah’s mother was giving her all the attention and as a mother, she was proud of her; something that Arjun never experienced in his life and he might have craved it. It was when he got that biggest acceptance he realized that more than being that champion rider, he wanted Sarah in his life. Rather than making him the cool guy by giving great outfits and sporty rides, Anjali Menon made Arjun, a character for whom you will feel.

The lack of acceptance Aju faces can make the movie relatable for some people, but what I feel might have worked for a lot of people is that terrible pain he had to go through after realizing that he can’t really force Sarah to be with him.

Das

Das is the most obvious loner here. From the beginning itself, we are clear that he is not that comfortable in opening up. He prefers to be less social and he wants his space. He is that guy who is struggling really hard to move on. Meeting Natasha’s parents and apologizing to them is a herculean task for him as he holds himself accountable for their sorrows. Within the span of a few scenes, we get to feel the warmth in the relationship between Siva and Natasha. And in a way through the character of Das, Anjali Menon is telling us not to judge someone so quickly. The intensity of the lonesomeness faced in life by Arjun and Das have similarities and Anjali smartly uses both these characters at different points to back one another. Das understands Aju’s emotional turmoil perfectly, perhaps better than Arjun’s cousins.

Das understands Aju’s emotional turmoil perfectly, perhaps better than Arjun’s cousins.

Sarah

Sarah is a person who always felt the care from everyone around her. Her mother takes care of her, she wants to choose the best for Sarah, everyone in her radio station loves her and her birthdays are celebrated grandly.  So what made her fell in love with someone like Arjun? Maybe the answer to that question would be the difference between the words sympathy and empathy. While others are showering sympathy to Sarah for her physical disability, Arjun was perhaps the first guy to follow her because of the positivity she spreads. He knew her only as a voice that healed him or helped him before seeing her in that wheelchair. Sarah was also looking for someone who really needed her. Sarah’s issues might not be relatable to a vast majority, but the way she becomes a complementing force that restores faith in Arjun’s life is perhaps the most heartwarming portion in the whole movie.

Sarah’s issues might not be relatable to a vast majority, but the way she becomes a complementing force that restores faith in Arjun’s life is perhaps the most heartwarming portion in the whole movie.

These are 5 characters with a good amount of screentime in this movie. Just like the character played by Kalpana, there are other small characters here and they all are going through emotional struggles of different sorts. Coach Zachariah talks about his drinking problem and other regrets to Arjun. Natasha’s parents are trying to make peace with the reality that they lost their only child. There is a justification the makers of commercial potboilers say about making escapist cinema that people are not coming to theaters to see the stress and sadness they are already facing in life. I think Bangalore Days cleverly breaks that notion by showing that you can make an entertaining cinema by addressing issues that resonate with people, that too without much preaching.

Well, some of you may feel that isn’t it the same with almost every so-called feel-good movie we see. And you are absolutely right. There is this being alone factor even in a movie like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara which a lot of people watch to relieve their stress. But to me, Bangalore Days had a wider range of emotions and characters that made it a lot more eventful. It was your typical entertainer with dance and songs but yet it somehow managed to talk about vulnerable characters. The loneliness, vulnerability and the hope to find someone who understands us are emotions extremely personal to us. And Bangalore Days is a movie that earnestly approaches different dimensions of these situations with that evident texture of entertainment. Maybe that’s the reason why we don’t really need a crowd to enjoy this movie.

Final Thoughts

Movie Signal

Green: Recommended Film

Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films

Red: Not Recommended