Sunday, February 26, 2017


(This is not a review. I was so overwhelmed by the film and its layers, themes and characters that I had to put down what -- and how -- I saw few of them. This might read like I am trying to make myself understand the film. So, spoilers ahead, of course.)

A film set. Shooting crew – all male. It’s a musical opening scene, fantastic one at that. All are singing in the praise of one woman – Julia. Miss Julia.

Director cuts the scene. He approves it. Producer appears from the top, with unmistakable tyranny, and orders one more take to be shot, with altogether new and more daring actions.

Mujhe Mrs. Billimoria huey bina nahi marna hai,” tells Julia to him.

“You are Julia. Miss Julia… My Julia,” replies Rusi Billimoria, the producer.

Julia is the identity he has given to her. Her real name was Jwala Devi, we learn later. She was a gypsy, a street performer. Rusi spotted her and bought her from her mother for a thousand rupees, we learn this in a different scene even later.

These verbal details are spurted casually in a funny conversation. You gather these fragments and connect to know the character, their story. Even for a minor character of a Japanese soldier, we first see him singing, while held captive in a deserted church; later, he tells he is a music school graduate; even later we also see him playing a mouth organ.

Rusi bought Julia when she was 14. She is now star action actress of his studio. And he is in love with her. He calls her “kiddo”. Their relationship is very dominant-submissive. Patting his thighs, he asks her to sit on his lap. She submits.

And then there is Jamadaar Nawab Mallik. He comes in the picture as a personal bodyguard of Miss Julia. And with him, she falls in love… that spiritual kind. They realise that when they are away in a jungle and in deep mud. It’s perhaps a foreshadowing that their love story is meant to be doomed.

But as it turns out, in the second half, Mallik is in single-minded love with the nation (He is an INA rebel). Like how Rusi is with Julia. Rusi even divorces his wife. He tells his father, “Mohabbat jaan bujh kar toh nahi ki. Bas ho gayee.” We then realise that this tyrant might have a heart after all. He would let the dead body of an INA rebel rot in jungle, but cannot gather himself to hold a gun against a kid of another rebel, despite his loyalty towards British makes him call them traitors.

This torn and conflicted love triangle finds, right in the middle of the story, the oldest symbolism in the books – a bridge. VB makes it work – adding that melancholic ‘Alvida’ track. The second time these lovers assemble near the bridge, which is at the end, a lot of water has flown under it, and they are not the same as they were.

Julia now refuses to sit on Rusi’s lap. She is realising her own identity; where her heart lies. She tells him, “Tum uda lo toh main aasmaan mein, tum bula lo toh jaangh pe. Tum kaho toh main Miss Julia, tum bolo toh mai Mrs. Bilimoria.

Nawab’s devotion for nation has broken upon her. He tells her, “Tum apne jism me bandh ho.” She was only a fairness-cream applying actress, until then, who used to roam in her tinted car in Bombay, indifferent to the freedom protests happening around. We also see one early scene in a different light now, when Rusi offers her a ring and asks to wear once the wound on her finger is healed. She tells, “(Zakham) jaldi nahi bharega,” and wears the ring over it, as if covering every bit of her childhood injury with all the luxury that is coming her way through him. It’s when the surrounding and surmounting politics hits her personally, taking away her beloved as well as her dear Man Friday, she has her realisation. It’s like her coming-of-age.

Action star Julia comes out of the screen now. She hijacks a train (This is the Rail Ki Rani film that Rusi had denied her to star in). And we head towards the climax which could be a companion piece to Haider’s climax.

Haider's finale was covered in ice; this one takes place between fire and water. If Tabu’s character was symbolic of Kashmir there, Julia is India here. How both are lost in the battle. Shahid plays rebel in both the films, but with different fates (No, not talking about Kaminey here). It is in this last moment, we see Rusi having a change of heart. He does what he had perhaps seen Julia doing on street when she was 14 – maut ka rassa (Rusi had also starred in a film called Maut Ka Rassa -- we see the poster in an earlier scene). Julia walked tight rope all her life. (It is also for this reason that I wish it was Julia who gets to do that again with the sword. It would have been a proper coming-of-age, and of course, more than that). Rusi manages to do it in the finale. We don’t see him crossing it – film fades out and ends.

The bridge to Rangoon is burnt. The rebel for freedom continues.

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