Saturday 22 November 2008

Moments of Transcendental Aesthetic (3)

Ha ha! We found it!

Please see our review of Yuvvraaj for background. Basically, we came out of that film with a renewed passion for A.R. Rahman's glorious music and a newfound love of Anil Kapoor, the newest Hero Who Can Do No Wrong of the PPCC. We mentioned in our review of the film that one scene stuck out for us as being impossibly transcendental - so sublime, in fact, that it glowed like gold amidst the relative trashiness of the film itself.

Well, after a bit of snooping, we have found the scene! (Actually, we've found a 20-minute chunk of the film... in our eyes, the only chunk of the film worth watching.)

Yuvvraaj, Manmohini Morey

The Sublime in question shows up at 13:00, during the final bit of the song, Tu Muskura. Autistic Gyanesh (Anil Kapoor) has just intruded into Anushka's (Katrina Kaif) solo ballad. The song interrupts, she laughs at his enthusiasm, and beckons him over: "You wanna sing?"

"Yes, yes, yes!" Gyanesh exclaims.


They restart the song, with Gyanesh laying down some pretty phat classical Hindustani scats, and - just then - Anushka's orchestra boss wanders in. The older woman is amazed: such a talent! And we immediately cut to the second song, Manmohini Morey, which Gyanesh performs at an orchestra rehearsal under the approving eyes of the orchestra boss and Anushka accompanying on cello.

Why Sublime?: This scene was such an unexpected and wonderful surprise. We expected something along these lines was coming - the film's plot was advertised as being musically-minded and featuring autism, and so we were already cringing in anticipation of how these two things would be clumsily milked for maximum melodrama. What was so surprising, when this scene did come, was how delicate and touching it really is. Of course, the success of the scene rests entirely on A.R. Rahman's song and Anil Kapoor's performance - both transmit the emotional message authentically and powerfully, rising above the context. Indeed, the context breaks a fundamental rule of just decent filmmaking: two radically different songs following up on each other, with a jarring change of playback singer and tempo. The last rational thought we had (before we were blown out of our scenes) was, "Oh, Mr. Ghai, how sloppy!"

And yet - once the likable Manmohini Morey gets grooving - it is transcendental. Why? Because, as with all transcendental art, it hints at something much larger than its frame, its context. It's not just a delightful "coming out" moment when a hidden talent is revealed (though those are always great), it's about the fundamental joy of making music, about the promise of something better and the release from personal prisons. The character of Gyanesh is often side-lined, ignored or manipulated by his family members - he's the "goose that lays golden eggs," as the younger brother describes - and his autism adds yet another difficulty to things. People just don't listen to him. So when Anushka invites him to do his favorite thing in the world - make awesome music - he jumps. And what Anil Kapoor captures so wonderfully is the intensity with which Gyanesh loses himself in the music, and the way it almost freaks him out. He's completely vulnerable, and yet completely in control - finally, everyone is listening to him, and they're all loving it. It's like that cheesy-yet-compelling quote:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?" Actually, who are you not to be?
- Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

And, thanks to all those awed reaction shots, we can see that Gyanesh is pretty frickin' fabulous. When the song ends and Gyanesh comes down from his high, he rushes to shelter: finding his brother (Salman Khan) and thanking him with tears in his eyes. It's the sweetest moment ever.

For more PPCC moments of transcendental aesthetics, see our thoughts on SRK as an embodiment of loneliness and Rekha as an embodiment of Sufi pining.

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