Musing over Cate Blanchett’s riveting performance, Queen and Bewakoofian

The only performer everyone was sure would win an Oscar in a long time was Cate Blanchett for her riveting act in ‘Blue Jasmine’. She could well have got up before the dreaded envelope was opened. Cate, clutching the coveted statuette made a heartwarming acceptance speech. After praising her fellow nominees she thanked Sony for bravely distributing the film. She took a jibe at those in the film industry, she included who thought women centric films were niche experiences. “They are not. People want to see them and in fact, they make money. The world is round people,” she exhorted to loud applause. The strange thing about film awards is that performers are judged for portraying different roles whereas in an examination in any other endeavour, say a debate the subject is the same and the opportunities equal. I mean if Cate had done Sandra Bullock’s role in ‘Gravity’ would she have won the award? How would Meryl Streep have interpreted Cate’s character? Random thoughts where there’ll be more questions left unanswered.

Anyway I was reminded of Cate’s speech when I ventured to watch ‘Queen’. On a weekday, ten days after it’s release the hall was full. I’d watched ‘Bewakoofian’ at an eerily empty house on the first day. The mildly amusing take on love in the times of recession never recovered at the box-office. The oft seen, typical Punjabi, pre-wedding revelry sets the tone. Hers is a middle-class family of unconditional love and trust with doting parents, a protective kid brother and a practical grandma. There’s little trepidation because he’s wooed her relentlessly. She traipses into a coffee shop when she’s summoned for a secret, pre nuptial tryst. He calls off the wedding. A couple of jaunts abroad and he’s decided she’s not his type. “You’ll find your type,” he says making her misty eyed. Did she have a premonition? In one of the flashbacks she refuses to get his name tattooed. She fidgets, leaves, returns and pleads but he’s more bothered about the scene she’s creating. There’re no hysterics. She shuts herself in her room to come to terms with her predicament. No one bangs on the door. They know she won’t attempt anything drastic. The grandma approaches the door and tells her it’s not the end of the world even as her grandson brings her a stool to seat her. There are many such endearing scenes. When he sees his sister weeping after the coffee shop tryst the kid brother waves his forefinger menacingly at the guy who would have been his brother-in-law. Heroine after ruminating in isolation realizes she has a Schengen visa and a ticket to Paris. She decides to go on her honeymoon, alone.

When the scene shifts abroad we can’t help being reminded of ‘English Vinglish’. The predicament of a small town girl in seemingly intimidating foreign shores is similar. Sridevi had her family but here Kangana is alone. She finds a sympathizer and friend in Vijayalakshmi (played with relish by the devastatingly dusky beauty Lisa Haydon). It takes liquor to loosen her tongue and shed her inhibitions. Her attitude changes gradually and so does her attire. She moves on to Amsterdam where she’s forced to room in, reluctantly with a trio of foreign males from different nationalities. It’s here that her fiancé, with a change of mind tracks her. “It was a mistake. We all make them,” he says. Does she accept?

‘Queen’ could well be Kangana’s story. From a sleepy town called Mandi in Himachal to the big bad world of Bollywood in Mumbai, she’s had her share of heartbreaks and probably realized that independence is priceless. Her’s is a close knit family too. She may not have shared screen space with the Khans but then she doesn’t need them.

You can’t imagine her playing a bimbo who’s more concerned about her appearance than her performance. There’s gossamer like quality to her personality but her large, translucent eyes can convey any emotion effortlessly. She reacts more than acts. Of course any actor is only as good as his/her co-stars and the casting in Vikas Bahl’s ‘Queen’ is faultless. You have to applaud the brilliant Rajjkumar Rao for accepting the small but crucial role of the confused groom and playing it to perfection.

A simpleton overcoming adversity and emerging triumphant is a proven formula. Vikas Bahl gives it a unique shade. If Shahrukh is the ‘badshah’ of Bollywood, Kangana is the undisputed queen.

sshivu@yahoo.com