Shala (2011) : Marathi Film Review

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

My Rating: 4.5/5
My Rating: 4.5/5

Shala (2011) is a bit of everything that will instantly make you miss your school. It does not matter whether that is where you met your first love, the first time you were being punished by your teacher, the times you spent with your classmates and friends or what grade did you flunked and cannot proceed to the following grade. This only happened at school. Joshi, the main character is a smart and hardworking boy in the class. He is surrounded by his friends (Surya or also known as Mathe, Chitrya and Favdya) who didn’t really do well in their studies. Prior to that, he’s ended up being a helper in their study and homework. He doesn’t mind it because they all are friends. After all, what are friends for? The friendship that they had is beautiful. When Joshi got bullied, his friends defended him. When Joshi got beaten by her teacher, his friends searched for a school guardian so that he could apply an ointment on Joshi’s wound. Joshi is looked up by his friends and whenever they play quizzes between boys and girls, they knew they can depend on Joshi. He always managed to get a correct answer.

Joshi, Chitrya (chitre), Surya (Mhatre) & Favdya
Joshi, Chitrya (chitre), Surya (Mhatre) & Favdya
Anshuman Joshi as Mukund Joshi
Anshuman Joshi as Mukund Joshi

Joshi is raised in a typical Indian family (but not very typical, I guess). He has a mom who does not working and a sister who just finished school and waiting to get married. The time setting for this film is the pre-emergency (set in the 70’s in the rural India). I don’t know much about India’s history but while watching the film, I saw many conversations led to how the time is not right and people are being extra careful to their surrounding because they don’t know when it will happen. The talk of ‘emergency’ suddenly become a sensitive issue and people avoided to talk about it in the open space. Joshi, being a very perceptive and a good listener, knew about it and felt it is not right. He discussed it with his teacher where his teacher pointed out that Joshi is right but he can’t talk about it any further due to Joshi is still young at that time.

Joshi and His Uncle
Joshi and His Uncle

Joshi has a very close relationship to his uncle. For him, His uncle is the liberation source of him. He learned English from him and even went to watch many English movies together with him. His uncle treated Joshi like friend but in the same time, insisted him to keep focused and motivated in study but never forget to follow his heart. In this film, it showed that Joshi dare to do many things due to his uncle’s advice. I remember one particular scene where Joshi met his classmate at Cineplex and scoffed her at the back for going out with a guy who is a lot older than her. His uncle then said to him ‘You were supposed to applaud her for her boldness. It is because of people like her that our country can move forward and progress. Her bravery to do something that people cannot do is something to be admired’. You’ve got to admit it is true. It makes sense if you heard it in the 70’s. It is the time where mostly parents are conservative.

Ketaki Mategaonkar as Shirodkar
Ketaki Mategaonkar as Shirodkar
Joshi and Shirodkar
Joshi and Shirodkar

In this film, Joshi’s age is 14. It is the age of teens. It is the time where people will say ‘boys will be boys’ and it goes vice versa. Joshi did like one of his classmates named Shirodkar but he can’t bring himself to confess to her. He was shy and so was she. They exchanged glance in the class but that was it. He then took initiative to attend extra tuition where he found out earlier that Shirodkar also attended. He was happy and tried to strategize on how he could talk to her. Later, he confessed to her. They became friends for a brief amount of time. Not long after that, one of Joshi’s friend, Surya wanted to confess to a girl he liked. Joshi does not want to accompany Surya but he was dragged along by him. Sadly, the confession went wrong and the girl rejected Surya right away. When they were in the class that day, they were called by the principal. The girl reported to her parent and her parent brought this matter to school. Surya and Joshi were being canned and were told to bring their father to the meeting on the following day. The fault is not so serious but the girl framed Surya that he held her hand and Joshi was his accomplice. They denied the allegation to the principal but the principal refused to listen.

Joshi told everything to his father
Joshi told everything to his father

When Joshi brought the warning to his father, his father remained calm and quiet. His mother and sister repeatedly scolded him and could not understand why his father didn’t hit him. It was quite a relief seeing his father and his uncle is very similar in educating the children. They communicated and talked first to know what really happened. Joshi told his father everything and swore that he and surya didn’t touch the girl’s hand at all. He told his father that Surya confessed his love to the girl and when he’s being turned down by the girl, they let the girl passed by. His father smiled at Joshi and hugged him assured that nothing will happen to him. We all know that to have a father like Joshi is one in a million ratios especially when you are from typical Asian family. You will be scolded first although you are innocent just like his sister and mother did to him. His father insisted that the girl told the truth and assured the principal that this was puberty case. They were growing up and they tend to do a reckless thing.

They met at the old building to discuss their homework and study together before school.
They met at the old building to discuss their homework and study together before going to school.

This film basically emphasized on the point that you have to cherish every moment in your life. If you don’t, you will regret later for not doing so. When everything is going so well in Joshi’s life, Shirodkar moved away and didn’t even meet Joshi to bid adieu. Joshi managed to get the fifth place in his 9th grade and will proceed to 10th grade. However, 2 of his friends failed the exam and another one is quitting school due to his family problems. At the final scene, Joshi sat on the big rock alone and sobbing that he’s going to face 10th grade without his friends. By the way, Shala in Marathi means School.

Wadjda (2013) : Foreign Film Review

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

“when the rules dont fit, find the courage to follow your own’

My Rating: 4.5/5
My Rating: 4.5/5

I watched this film like 3 days ago. I am still impacted by this movie. I know I am not supposed to criticize culture that I did not understand but I just cannot brain this one particular culture. The sort of culture that women build because their own men said so or otherwise. The sort of culture that shows a totality in conforming what their husband or father demanded. Trust me, I am a bit similar with those poor women and I am still trying to free myself ever since. I was raised in a household that upholds the tradition of man is superior to woman. It still is and I don’t know when we will evolve from this. I am still fighting the equality that I deserved from my parents yet they shoved it down my throat by saying ‘You are a girl’. The phrase of ‘You are a girl’ really get on my nerves, it just show the value of yourself in the family. Yes, I was given a chance to education because I was born in Malay Middle Class Family. As far as I am concern, middle class family values education above other matters. However, despite being educated, I still am expected to behave like a proper Malay girl. I am expected to do household chores and in their mind, I will somehow get married and settle down like a normal and ordinary girl would do. If my life was planned to be so dull like this, I don’t have to go to school at all. I should learn basic things only and prepare my entire life ahead to be a good housewife. I didn’t say being a housewife is not good; it is just not for me. The education that I received until now shaped the way I thought of this world even in small matters. For me, Marriage is a total submission to one man until you die (if your husband dies or you both are divorced, it will be another story).

It is so great to be born in Malaysia where Islam is practiced moderately. I feel lucky because I have access to many things though there are still culture restrictions on woman of we should do this and that. I read so many books featuring the story of my sisters in some middle-eastern countries that does not have access to education. Even if they have, they can’t because they are not supposed to. Why they are not supposed to? That’s because their dad/brother/husband said so. They have to live in total seclusion and barricaded themselves within 4 walls. They bear the responsibility of being a good mother and obedient housewife. They are taught that there is no other life aside from serving the family and dedicated their whole like being a proper woman. If you are ended up in this kind of life, you will teach your own daughter the same life values you had. You yourself can’t even teach your daughter to try other option because in your mind there will be no other option. The chain of this restrictive and backward way of life will deny your own daughter of what choice she will have in her life. That is why it is so refreshing seeing many activists in Saudi Arabia this year protesting loudly and bravely in against the order of woman cannot drive. We live in 21st century and we still have this absurd law in some country. Saudi Arabia is the only country that didn’t allow women to drive and places in a top position among other countries that score zero for not having any women in their political field. Anyway, I don’t want to talk much about Saudi Arabia, Everything is Google-able nowadays. You can type women’s rights in Saudi Arabia in the search box and read it yourself.

wadjda

The reason I watched this film because it shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the Director of this film is a woman. This film may focus on how one teenager struggles to buy a bicycle for herself. You might wonder why the story line is so simple. My friends, it is not that simple. In this film lay bricks by bricks women’s issues faced by the Saudi Women. Wadjda is a 10 years old girl who’s a bit peculiar and adventurous of her own. She often played with a boy around her age named Abdullah in their neighborhood. She got jealous seeing Abdullah can ride around it in his bicycle and want to get back at him once she got a bicycle of her own. She asked her mother to buy it for her only to be dismissed by saying ‘you can’t ride it, you are a girl and it will be not good for your health as a woman’. We have been playing a bicycle since we were kids and our parents can bought it for us without any hesitation but there, the girl around wadjda’s age did face this harsh treatment. Wadjda knew that begging her parents won’t change anything; she decided to enter the Quran Recitation competition that bears the money prize. She wanted to use the money prize to buy a bicycle. While I am writing this review, I actually didn’t finish watching this film yet. It is too suffocating to me. I didn’t face this much repression compared to Saudi women but I slightly face it when people often told me I can’t do it because I am a girl. It is so disappointing when those who often incite the gender differences are your own family members.

Waad Mohammed as "Wadjda'
Waad Mohammed as ‘Wadjda’
The bicycle that she wanted to buy.
The bicycle that she wanted to buy.

Wadjda may encounters her own problem in this film but her mother also faces another dilemma of being a wife who is no longer can pregnant and on that note, unable to produce son to her husband. When this happened, taking another wife is often the answer. Islam allows polygamy marriage and man can take 4 wife if he’s able to do so (he’s rich and can support all of them). In this case, her mother unable to produce another child due to complication of labor she experienced during Wadjda. Her Mother in Law already looks for another possible bride for her son and she knew about it because gossips spread around in the neighborhood. She tried to win her husband back by her delicious cooking and gorgeous dress but she knew it won’t help much. Sooner or later, he will still take a second wife. Back to Wadjda’s story, In School Wadjda known as a trouble maker. The Principal of the school always try to find any flaw in Wadjda. If she found one, she will keep talking how it is bad and threatened to expel her from the school. One day, Wadjda was playing around the field where 2 older students sat there doing their own thing. The principal passed by and caught the 2 girls in a suspicious act (both girls actually were doing a fake tattoo on their feet with a marker pen). Wadjda was called upon to be a witness by them because they wanted to prove that they didn’t do anything. Wadjda is so afraid that she can’t participate in the competition told the principal she can’t claim to see anything because she’s too far from them at that time. The principal is afraid that it will be root of Lesbian (which considers in Islam as a huge sin) imposed much strict rules regarding of no holding hands even you are both girls, no showing affection by giving cards or letter to each other and walk apart from each other. Can you believe how absurd it is?

Reem Abdullah as Wadjda's Mother
Reem Abdullah as Wadjda’s Mother
Wadjda and Her Parents.
Wadjda and Her Parents.
The Awful Principal
The Awful Principal

There’s another issue I find it so disturbing that I wanted to talk in this film. When Wadjda joined the religious club in order to enter the competition, the members of the club will practice together. In one class session, they are passing around some photos and joking around with their friends about it. It turned out one of Wadjda’s friend got married to a 20 years old guy. The teacher then entered the class and asks why the fuss that they are making of. They told that one of them is married and the teacher didn’t show any surprise emotion. She just told them that photos are not allowed to bring in class. When you see that kind of scene, you will be like ‘what the fucking fuck, she’s freaking 10’ or even though she’s older than wadjda, it may apart by 1 or 2 years. She’s practically still a kid to me. I just can’t accept any child marriage. The director of this film just shows us a glimpse of child marriage culture happened there. It’s a norm and acceptable there. Even Wadjda’s mother always joked around saying she will marry her off right away. There are certain codes that women should abide by and they are started from this school. There are one scene whereby the principal will nag any students whose laugh and giggling loudly by saying that they are not ashamed of themselves and try to attract attention of men. There is also a scene where Wadjda’s friend move from one location to another when they are playing in the school because male construction workers from another building can see them and it is not good for their honor.

Wadjda and Abdullah
Wadjda and Abdullah
Wadjda and her friends in Religious Club
Wadjda and her friends in Religious Club

I still have another 30 minutes left to finish this film but I chose not to. I can’t do it. I know it’s silly but I can’t help it. I am a bit emotional person, I must say. Overall, This film featuring a helpless girl in the oppressive culture and she try to do it in her way instead of abiding the rule it is so inspirational and in the same time, it is miserable because nobody will support her (not even her own mother). If you wanted to catch a glance what a Saudi women life will be in their country, this film is the good option to consider. Although I didn’t finish it, I read the whole in plot in IMDB. Later, Wadjda did win the Quran Recitation Competition but she didn’t get the money because it will be donated to a Palestinian cause. Her father get married to a second wife and in the end, her mother did buy a bicycle for Wadjda. Wadjda then used it to race against Abdullah. This one is among few films of Middle-eastern that I consider is good. The director didn’t use the film to downgrade her own culture but rather to let the audience think and interpret their own perception of the film.

The Patience Stone (2012) : Foreign Film Review

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

“Those who do not know how to make love, make war”.

Those who are close to me always knew that i have a very deep connection with Afghanistan. I dont know what intrigued me to love that country but i did love it. I watched its films, I read about them regardless what its all about. It can be about war, taliban, women oppression, life-changing moment and so many more. I even planning to go there one day, i dont know when but god willing, i will one day. I found ‘The Patience Stone’ by accident when i searching of Asghar Farhadi. Well, if you didnt know him, he is one of the top Iranian Film Maker. I watched his last film during 2011 and kind of wondering whether he’s already released his new film. That’s when i stumbled upon ‘The Patience Stone’. It was a bit disappointed seeing wikipedia didnt tell much about this film especially the synopsis and plot of the story. i, then followed my gut and downloaded this film.

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My Rating: 4/5

The story begins with the young woman, who are nameless talking to her husband whom twice his age at his side. She kept babbling but her husband didnt respond to any of it. It turns out that her husband is an ex afghan Jihadi militia. He has been shot at the back of his neck. He survived the injury but he is in a vegetative state. The war still continued at that time and the young woman does not have enough money to support his medicine and other necessaries at that time. She then run across the city searching for her aunt only to find that her aunt is already gone. She tried to find her mother in law and brother in law but it turn out they already fled the city together. She was left behind because she still has a husband and it is not their responsibility to take care of her. She was devastated. She was desperate at that time. The bombing is worsen day by day and she knew she could not stay at her house any longer.

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Golshifteh Farahani as ‘The Young Woman’

She took both her daughters out of their house right after the tragedy happened to her neighboir. Her neighbor going crazy because she found the body of her family hang in the tree infront of their house. Her husband and children had been slaughtered by another group of militant in the cross fire last night. Due to safety of her daughters, she left her vegetative husband behind and promised that she would come back once she found a safe place for them. She kept searching for her aunt until she found her at the brothel house. She seeks help and protection for her daughters from her aunt. Her aunt welcomed her family with an open heart. Every morning, she will go to her home to replace her husband’s medicine fluid, clothes and while she’s doing that, she will talk to him.

She talked to her husband continuously although she didnt get any respond from him.
She talked to her husband continuously although she didnt get any respond from him.

The real story began here when she poured her heart out to her husband almost every day. She knew her husband listened to her. She talked how she was so frustrated with their marriage, their dull sex life, their platonic relationship that involved almost no romance at all, her pressure of having to get pregnant and so many more. She enjoyed her talk with her husband because he didnt listen to her before. If she were to talk or to tell him what to do, she will get slapped or beaten or much worse. When she got this rare opportunity, she mentioned everything that she buried as a secret before. (THIS IS SPOILER) She revealed that both of their daughter are not from his seed because he’s the sterile one not her. However, She’s afraid that he might getting another wife, she seeks her auntie’s help to get pregnant.

Her aunt is the saviour for the young woman.
The young woman and her aunt.

She faced some danger while traveling back and forth to see her husband at home and attend to her daughter’s need at the brothel house. She was left no choice. She had to do it. On one day, she came across two militia man that barged into her home looking for protection due to cross fire they faced that day. The older man asked her what she was doing alone in that house. The young woman afraid of being raped by both of them, she lied to them by saying that she is a prostitute. She was cursed by that old man and get spitted because of her sin in doing that kind of job. Her aunt told her that what she did was a right action as “man didnt want to rape a hole that has been used for a thousand times”.

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The Young Woman and Her Vegetative Husband.

She returned to her house the next day to continue her routine as usual. The young man from the Militia that she met yesterday came to meet her. He then raped her and left alot of money to her. She was heartbroken and traumatized by the event. However, on the bright side, she could use the money to buy the medicine, to replenish the food and to pay the water bearer to fill the water in her house. The young man kept coming back to her asking for sex and in return, she was paid for it. She laid beside her vegetative husband and told him the experience of being with the young man. She enjoyed every moment with the young man as he is a gentle lover according to the young woman. He did what she told her to and didnt even get angry compared to her husband. The ending approached when the Young Woman confessed that their childrens does not belong to him. The old husband awake at that moment and try to strangle her wife but she managed to stab him first. While he was drawing his last breath, the young woman laid beside him with the eyes filled with tears and regret.

The story is adapted from this book.
The story is adapted from this book.

After watching this film, i swear if i find the book, i will buy it right away. I wanted to know what is the feeling of the young woman to young militia man. Is it love, is it empathy, or is it because of money? The is one particular scene that i really love in the movie is when the young man running to the young woman’s house and asked from her only one minute to talk to her. The young woman taught that he wanted sex and asked him to come back later but the young man insisted it right away. When they both entered the room, the young woman take off the young man’s clothes. She then understood that the young man came to tell her about his plight. He was abused by the older militia man and has been forced of being his dancing boy for so long. The young woman saw the burned mark at the chest and the back of young militia man. She then cried while telling her husband about the difficulty faced by the young man. She said with tears in her eyes ‘That bastard spitted on me when i said i am a whore but look what he’s done to the poor orphan, in the morning he is a militia man, in the evening, he wears bell at his feet’.

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When She discovered that he was abused and being used as a dancing boy, she hugged him tightly.
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Their ‘Forbidden’ Relationship
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Massi Mrowat as The Young Militia Man

This story is not for a weak heart obviously. In the War torn country, she survived the life of being a woman who is a voiceless and seen as a piece of meat by the opposite gender. She did whatever it takes to survive and to ensure that she could go on with her life and her daughters. The question of betrayal in marriage, forbidden love and belief is no longer relevant when you are in her shoes. This is one of amazing film that within it hides a various emotions and feelings when you are watching it. The title of the film which is the patience stone referred to the old tale of persian that the stone listened to all your secrets and you can tell the stone everything without being scared of being judged or mocked. In this film, we can see that the young woman treated her vegetative husband like a patience stone.