Bewakoofiaan (2014)

Posted on March 16, 2014

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My favourite scene from Bewakoofiaan is when our jobless hero, Mohit (a credible Ayushman Khurana), arrives at his girlfriend, Myra’s (a surprisingly good Sonam Kapoor) house for her birthday party. She is dressed in a pretty and expensive dress (she tells him the dress is from Mango) and asks for her birthday gift. Mohit, who has been reduced to accepting money from Myra, hasn’t bought her anything and is a bit surprised that she would ask for it. As she waits for her present with closed eyes, he gives her a kiss; that’s all he can afford to give her. She opens her eyes, “Bas yeh?” He asks her what’s the point of giving her a gift brought with her money. She chides him “Birthday hai mera. Koi diamond necklace nahi manga, ek rose tou la saktey thay.” I think it is a superb little scene because it does so many things at the same time.

The film doesn’t blame Myra for expecting Mohit to give her a gift. Myra is a bonafide and unapologetic consumerist. She is smart, works hard and pays for her expensive lifestyle and the film doesn’t judge her because while she may be unashamedly consumerist she is not blind to the things that really matter. She continues to be a loving and supportive girlfriend even after Mohit loses his job; she lends him money, buys movie tickets and drinks for him, puts together a list of jobs that he can apply for and she does all this without making him feel small. A more conventional heroine would not have asked Mohit for a birthday gift and would have been happy with the kiss alone. But Myra refuses to condescend to him and expects him to bring her a birthday gift despite his reduced circumstances. You know right away that had Mohit brought her some flowers as birthday gift she would have been just as happy if he had bought her a diamond necklace.

Mohit, on the other hand, is so money-conscious that he doesn’t realise that even a simple, inexpensive rose can also be a lovely gift. Our first introduction to Mohit is of him learning to drive. He is going to get the promotion that he has worked hard for and the first thing he is going to buy with his raise is a car. He has also just got his gold credit card and he boasts about the credit limit to Myra. One gets the sense that even though he genuinely doesn’t have any issues with Myra earning more than him, he is in some ways trying to catch up with her. When he loses his job, he accepts money from her thinking that this is a very temporary situation and he will be back on his feet within a month. But as his search for a new job takes more and more time, her generosity begins to grate on him and he starts to feel self-pity. They have their first real argument about money when she tells him that she doesn’t have unlimited funds and doesn’t have money to pay for his rent. He, in a moment of unbelievable double standards, mocks her for not having the money to pay his rent but having enough money to purchase expensive tickets to a rock concert. This is the same guy who partied away his savings and maxed out his credit limit on an expensive trip after losing his job. Not surprisingly, after this argument, Mohit pays back all the money he had taken from Myra and instigates a break-up. It is an impetuous decision but the break up forces Mohit to take stock of the situation and do the sensible thing. He sells his car, vacates his expensive apartment, and takes up job as a supervisor at a coffee shop. Myra too decides to move on and takes up the plum Dubai assignment (perks include a plush 4 room, fully furnished apartment) that she had earlier rejected in order to be with Mohit. [Of course, at the end of the film, when they get back, she again rejects the Dubai assignment. This sort of thing would be upsetting — the woman sacrificing her career to be with the guy — but given how Myra is portrayed and how the situation is framed in the film, it doesn’t feel unfair. Myra is a valued and respected employee; she is career-minded but she is also intelligent enough to know when to let love take priority.]

They are bought back together by her father, V K Saighal (overplayed by Rishi Kapoor). Saighal understands that love alone is not enough; you also need money. Saighal tells Myra that he hadn’t been able to give her the things she wanted as a child, which is why he wants to make sure that the guy she marries can afford to gives her everything (never mind that his daughter is perfectly capable of taking care of her needs). So Mohit has to hide the fact that he is no longer employed and tries to win over the old man by losing to him in Squash, teaching him to operate a computer and motivating him to look for a post-retirement job. By the time Saighal is ready to give his approval, the couple has decided to call it quits. While we get the obligatory scenes of Myra and Mohit feeling lonely and missing each other, in an interesting touch, we are also shown Saighal missing the two, especially, Mohit. Saighal, despite his initial insistence that his daughter’s husband be wealthy, sets out to bring the two together when he realises that the two are truly well-suited.

The final act of the film is rather tame and disappointing. After Saighal provokes the two lovers and threatens to use the police and military (thanks to his high-ranking friends) to stop Mohit from meeting Myra, the actual meeting is pretty low key and the ensuing conversation terribly predictable. One wishes it was a slightly more eventful and fun meeting, something like the madcap climax of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Golmaal. Another weak link in the film is Saighal. Saighal is sketched too roughly and Rishi Kapoor fails to inbue the character with any depth or shades. He plays Saighal as an out-and-out comic character; he is too sweet and child-like to be the difficult, disapproving father who has to be won over with elaborate games and lies. As played by Rishi Kapoor, Saighal also comes across as fickle: he is too quick to disapprove of Mohit, too easy to win over, too willing to hate him when the truth about Mohit’s job is revealed, and too eager to bring them together again.

I liked that the film uses its setting really well. Although it can take place anywhere, Bewakoofiaan is a pucca Delhi story. From Saighal’s near-constant name dropping, to the class and brand consciousness, to the ‘work hard, party harder’ lifestyle of the young Gurgaon denizens. I am glad that Mumbai filmmakers have finally found Gurgaon. (Last year, we had the Shakespearean Aurangzeb, which had one of the best opening lines in recent memory “Gurgaon, merey baap ka gaon aur mera shaher.”) Myra and Mohit work in the glass and steel buildings that symbolise Gurgaon and the growing status gap between the two is literally reflected in those gleaming glass walls. In a scene set outside her swanky office, Myra is giving Mohit some money and he asks her if she will continue to love him if he has to work as a waiter, she is framed against a large Yes Bank banner and he is framed against the OLX (sab bech de) banner. It’s a nice visual gag and a sign of things to come.

The moral of the film obviously is that love is more important than money but it doesn’t entirely dismiss money and the pretty things and happiness money can buy to make this point. Even though the film pokes gentle fun at Myra for loving all things branded, in refusing to criticise her or punish her (it is not she who loses her job due to economic recession), the film doesn’t outright criticise consumerism. Instead it seems to suggest that as long as you don’t get too enamoured of it (which Mohit is, as evidenced by his unwillingness to compromise on his lifestyle) and don’t lose sight of what’s truly important, it is okay to spend on those Steve Madden shoes every month if that makes you happy. Even Saighal, who one would imagine to be a conservative spender, asks to be shown bigger and fancier engagement rings and happily pays 4 lakhs for the solitaires. In fact, in a clever bit of writing, throughout the film, whenever Myra tries on a new dress or shoe and asks Mohit for his opinion, he says “acchi lag rahi ho. Kha jaaun tujhko,” which is both an unsubtle and subtle joke. So conspicuous consumption is alright as long as your heart is in the right place.

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Posted in: Reviews