Introduction that Imtiaz Ali Needs to Read
Imtiaz Ali should really look for a change in plots. Really, how many times will you keep telling the story of a man and a woman – strangers, meeting, falling in love, discovering inner selves, face crises and then the inevitable denouement? Don’t you get bored doing that? We heard that you think that it’s surprising that women can be smart. Ever struck you that directors could be utterly boring?
It’s Different. For a Reason
That being said, this film, surprisingly, has something to take away. It’s not every day that happens in Bollywood, you know. Of course, it has major issues. It’s sexist, Islamophobic and everything that every mainstream Indian film is. The place where it differs and offers a welcome change is in the dynamics of Harry’s and Sejal’s relationship.
We are used to seeing abuse in relationships. In fact, thanks to our films normalizing it, we even think that abuse is love. We are the audience who laughed when a woman was getting raped by her husband. Stalking, emotional blackmailing, domestic abuse all these come as a package in our film culture. In Harry Met Sejal, there is the promise of another possibility.
This is how it works. Harry is a self-proclaimed womaniser. He is a tourist guide in Europe. He has been in trouble a lot many times due to his woman-problem. It is not clear what exactly he has been doing with women. We get a glimpse only through certain loosely scripted scenes. [Loosely scripted scenes are not cool, by the way, Mr. Director]
- A woman, with whom he seems to have been having sex, throws him out of her room in the middle of the night.
- He looks at women like how most men here look at women. Scanning their anatomy. Lewd.
- He meets a woman for the first time and pokes his finger into her belly button. [Umm… what on earth was that and who does that?]
- An ex-girlfriend/sex partner gets angry when she sees Harry at a restaurant unexpectedly. We are told that she was just angry that he had left her.
As for the complaints made against Harry by his customers at the tourist agency, we don’t know their content. So what we have is this. A man who sees women as sex objects. As for the tag womaniser, sorry guys, but it’s true, it is an overrated term. It just denotes a heterosexual male who has sex with a lot of women. Do you call a person who has sex with a lot of men a ‘maniser’? Oh wait, depending upon the sex of the person you call them a slut or a faggot.
Now what happens to this man who sees women as sex objects? A woman renders him absolutely powerless. Even amidst all the sexism in the film, I must say that that was delightful to watch. It does not happen every day in Bollywood.
Sejal stays back in Europe after her trip that ended in her engagement because she has a stupid excuse of looking for her engagement ring. [In a parallel world of the character Sejal, that I am sure defies all of Imtiaz Ali’s script, she had it planned from the beginning.] She seeks the help of Harry, the guide, to look for the ring, all over Europe.
Harry refuses to work for her because he thinks he will have sex with Sejal. But when Sejal asks him if that was his fear, Harry gets scared and runs away from the word ‘sex’ like how Pahlaj Nihalani does. That’s where the dynamics of their relationship becomes lovable.
Sejal is a matter-of-fact woman. She puts into words, Harry’s fears of being with a woman and lay it naked before him. The major chunk of the film is a metaphor for an Indian man realizing that a woman is not a sex object. The layers of condition that engulfs a man from childhood, moults and there emerges a human being who is experiencing love, perhaps for the first time.
Like Marie Shear said, ‘feminism is the radical notion that women are people.’ Harry Met Sejal is the radical film in which a man falls in love, loses all the power that he thought he had by virtue of being a womaniser.
Sejal, on the other hand – in the classic Imtiaz Ali everyone-discovers-their-inner-selves – plot, discovers her ability to take decisions. Till the very end, she is a woman who stands by her choice and integrity. When it seems like her relationship with Sejal is coming to an end, she is the one who handles it like a boss. Renouncing marriage and at the same time, not attempting to get back with Harry. Wow! Tweaking the song from the film, [because how can we have Punjabi-Gujarati love story without a song in Bharat] it is Harry who, ek butterfly banke, finds freedom, in the end.
Kindly Get Rid of:
This uncontrollable sexual urge that only men seem to face and struggle with – that people often attribute to the reason behind rape. That’s a lot of cow dung. Please stuff it up your mouth or other orifices.
There was just one criminal, illegal immigrant character that could pass for some sort of a villain in the film. The only one who has a gang and a gun. His name is Gas and he had to be Muslim, didn’t he? How not stereotypical.
Layak – the word repeated in the film as if you were on a mission to teach people what it meant. Harry, in denial, tells Sejal that she is not a woman who can be looked at ‘that way.’ Umm. Excuse me, sir, who are these women? Can you explain? You don’t poke a woman in the belly or look at her in a lewd way because she is ‘layak’ for it, okay? You do it because you are an asshole. It’s okay to be an asshole but please don’t say shit that means that the women were ‘worthy’ of such treatment. Duh!
A woman who tries to be deserving of that kind of treatment from a man. What on earth do you think of women? Oh yeah, we know. That it’s surprising that they are smart. If only typing could kill.
For heaven’s sake, don’t break into songs at the drop of a hat. Yeah, sure, it’s Indian cinema, songs are integral plus you have to do all that marketing but come on, Shah Rukh Khan’s voice changing to become processed studio sound in a second in 2017, really?