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Book Review

Trees Are From Eden

Raunchy poetry, austere prose—Suri dissects Bollywood’s Manichean need to veil desire

Trees Are From Eden
Trees Are From Eden
outlookindia.com
2019-10-12T10:39:37+05:30

With characters sticking on our minds and the songs staying in our hearts, Boll­y­wood has turned repe­titive scripts into a sub-culture of obs­e­ssive cinema from which there has been no esc­ape. More by des­ign than default, songs convey what the script cannot, in ref­lecting the overt and covert anxieties and aspirations of both characters and viewers. The combined eff­ect of these two parallel strands cre­ated cinematic possibilities of car­r­ying forward the moral overtone of post-­Independence reconstruct­ion of soc­iety on Gandhian princip­les of simplicity and celibacy. In his frame by frame decadal analysis of popular films, Sanjay Suri sets out to establish that their dominant idiom gets reinforced through moral obligations of the hero, reflec­ted in his retreat from wealth and des­ire. In this intriguing analysis, cin­­ema emerges as the creative paradox that triggers desire in the guise of austerity.    

A Gandhian Affair is as much exhilarating as entertaining in revealing a contrived method of film-making that cinematically projects the cultural nec­essity of rejecting desire. As viewers continue to identify with it, storytellers churn out much of the same stuff again and again. With slight deviation, however, desire in song and surrender in script makes our cinema stand out in its texture. Suri’s contention is it couldn’t have been any other way, and there are any number of examples—from Mother India to Naya Daur and from Ram aur Shyam to Lage Raho Munna Bhai—to show how cinema def­ined its boundaries for and in a conservative society. Yet, the linear jux­­­t­aposition is not without its share of ambiguity! While the heroine resting her head in the lap of a man she was close to had outraged audiences, prompting change in the ending of Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, the most sexual song, Aaj sajan mohe ang laga re, janam safal ho jaye, was curiously accepted by all.

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