The movie seems to have been quite a different experience for the makers. Kalki concisely summarized it when she was on stage at the end of the movie with Anurag: "He (Anurag) thought about this movie for about a year, I wrote the script in 2 months, we shot it in 13 days." The shooting part of it is by the way amazingly done, but... it's definitely not my kind of movie.
But... BUT. Even if this is not a movie I would normally review in this space, I do feel that it's somehow our duty to talk about films that we have the privilege of seeing before the rest of the world at this Festival (we love you, Cameron Bailey, just had to say it again!). So with this duty in mind, I'd like to introduce my partner in Bollywood crime, Simran (@elegnt_hedgehg on Twitter), who was kind enough to review the film for this space. Simran is an even bigger movie buff than me, and also a great Kashyap fan, so she is far more qualified than me for this task.
"Anurag Kashyap’s That Girl in Yellow Boots is the story of Ruth (played by Kalki Koechlin) a half-English half-Indian girl who has come to India from England looking for her father. He left when she was 5 years old following the suicide of her half-sister, and she hadn’t heard from her father since, until recently receiving a very loving letter from him. Unfortunately he forgot to include his address. Ruth has an unhappy relationship with her mother who, she tells us, “went quiet” after the death of her elder daughter. She also seems to have taken comfort in religion, which further infuriates her remaining daughter. So Ruth runs away to India, where she has to pay a lot of bribes and rely on a lot of unreliable people, including a coked-out Indian boyfriend. She makes ends meet by working in a massage parlour where she gives the (exclusively male) clients hand jobs for an extra 1,000 rupees. And she searches for her father.
The movie was filmed using a digital camera, which makes That Girl in Yellow Boots feel both very contemporary (in terms of visual style) and very immediate (in terms of the plot). There is also an interesting use of sound in the movie, with a lot of obvious background noise in addition to a musical score, and a technique in which the volume of the noise and/or score seems to increase as the tension in a scene increases.
I have to admit that one aspect of the movie’s conclusion I had already guessed earlier in the film. So I was perhaps not as shocked by the climax as the movie wanted me to be (but I was still disgusted). Although it is a theme that has been covered by non-Indian television and movies, I believe it is a theme that is rarely, if ever, dealt with in their Indian counterparts. So while some might argue that the movie is needlessly sordid, I think it’s important to sometimes shine a light on the underbelly of life, rather than pretending that it doesn’t exist.
The movie isn’t unrelentingly grim, however. There is humour provided by the receptionist at the massage parlour, who is constantly chatting on her cell phone, by the Kannadiga gangster Chittiappa, who is alternately hilarious and horrifying, and occasionally even by Ruth’s boyfriend Prashant (an excellent performance by the actor of the same name). Naseeruddin Shah is typically lovely in a small role as one of Ruth’s regular clients at the massage parlour.
During the Q & A after the film, Anurag said that the idea for the movie was inspired by several (unrelated) stories that appeared in the Indian media. However, he wanted a woman to write the script because he didn’t want the movie to become the story of a girl as told by a man. I heartily commend him for that. So Kalki co-wrote the script with him. The movie is a good showcase for her talents - she is a wonderfully expressive actress and is equally credible while portraying vulnerability, cynicism, girlishness, anger, and determination. I look forward to the work she does in the future, which will hopefully include more collaborations with her partner Anurag, because I found that (presumably) under her influence, this movie lacked a lot of the machismo that characterized his other films, and therefore made it more accessible to me as a female viewer."
See, I knew Simran would do it more justice than me. Thanks, girl!
And just because, as someone I know always says about me: "she is nothing if she is not opinionated", I have to add that while I agree that it is a story to be told, I did not find it a story to pull me in. I blame it on the fact that much like in real life, I have problems relating to characters who cannot appreciate what they have in their lives. The whole quest of the girl in yellow boots, as is quite evident right from the trailer, is for the one person who will love her unconditionally, the one person she thinks cares about her without any expectations: her father. Meanwhile, she seems to have no respect for the two characters, one seen, one unseen who do genuinely care about her: her (admittedly strict) mother in England and Diwakar, the character played by Naseeruddin Shah (and what is it with Naseer who keeps doing these blink and you'll miss him roles? I miss the man!). Now where exactly Ruth figured that the man who left her and her mother when she was 5 and managed to only write one letter in 15 years, was the one who really cares about her... it's anyone's guess. But because my personal belief is that people who are not appreciative of the gift that is their life (and the people in it) deserve everything that's coming to them, the emotional connection to this character was lost on me completely.
Oh well... TIFF is over! It's been beyond awesome this year! But all good things come to an end, and the great thing about it is that as of next week I can go back to reviewing movies with both Dolce and Namak having a say, giving cheese ratings, being cheeky, and doing all the things that make this blog such a fun experience for me.