Greatness and Happiness: A Journey Through Cinema
The Class Legacy
Welcome to the second post in the Movies edition of the Rebel’s Newsletter. I am planning to make this newsletter exclusively for Movies. A newsletter exclusively for movie reviews, analysis, and discussions that might often be antagonistic to dominant perspectives. What’s your opinion?
Cinema is a powerful tool efficiently used by different movements across the globe to drive the discourse towards the direction they want the masses to think. In a way, this is the manipulation of one’s thought system, but if it is for the greater good based on facts, then it is the path towards empowerment of the oppressed.
In this edition, I will discuss three movies. Two of them are South Indian Movies, and one of them is a US-based English Movie. All of them speak of class struggle. So, let’s dive in.
Joseph [Available on Amazon Prime]
Joseph is a 2018 Malayalam Film that falls under the thriller/drama category and talks about the life of a retired police constable who is known for his special investigative skills. Directed by M. Padmakumar and written by Shahi Kabir, ‘Joseph’ is an intense watching experience with excellent performances from the lead artists who are not big stars. The pain of Joseph (Joju George) is his daughter’s untimely demise and happy married life that ended with a sharp turn of events. He is a drunkard who finds simple pleasure in solving mysteries for the police force then and there. Another tragedy hits his life after his ex-wife dies at the hospital because of an accident. However, Joseph’s mind again finds links that all others missed, and he concludes that his ex-wife’s death is a murder.
The film is melancholy from the start but as thrilling as it can be. It is a strange mix of tragedy and mystery that engages the audience. It appeals to the audience’s sentimental and thrill-seeking side at the same time. Joseph’s past, present, and future are echoes of his lower-class origin in a Christian society. His romantic life gets ruptured by this class difference, and his profession as a policeman in a lower rank is a culmination of this class difference. The bliss of his married life was destroyed by this class difference that made him a constable who often does the menial jobs in the police force, including stuff dealing with dead bodies. Joseph is a must-watch that speaks of the horrors of life and crime.
Pursuit of Happiness [Available in Amazon Prime]
This 2006 English drama film directed by Gabriele Muccino speaks of a financially broken father whose wife leaves him as he struggles to take care of his young son while always pursuing his dream. The film is a rag to riches story based on the successful Businessman Chris Gardner who was once a homeless man who wandered across the streets of New York with his son. The hard life of a lower-class individual and his family are depicted with clarity and intensity that it was a sheer pleasure for me to watch as I smiled through my tears while I was engrossed in the film. Will Smith is at his best form with an impeccable performance that is hard to match by any other actor. His son Jaden Smith as Chris Gardner’s son, is cute and gives away a stunning acting performance.
The beauty of the film is how it makes you feel the pain of a caring father bringing up his son on his own by not informing the latter of their current unfortunate predicament. There’s a scene in the movie when the father-son duo is forced to sleep in a public toilet of a Railway/metro station. Chris takes the child’s consciousness away from reality and makes the child sleep by making him live in a dream. As his son sleeps near him under his father’s shelter and warmth provided by the father’s body, Chris struggles to make his son have a sound sleep sacrificing his well-being in the process. Will keeps one of his legs close to the toilet’s door to stop it from being opened by people who come to use the bathroom, and on the other leg’s side is where his son sleeps. Somewhere in the middle of the night, someone knocks on the toilet’s door and pushes it, and Chris struggles to keep it closed. The struggle in this scene seems so natural that I couldn’t keep my tears rolling down my cheeks along with the father’s tears of struggle. It is hard for me to believe that the film is an entirely sincere adaptation of Chris Gardner’s life. There might be some fictional accounts to it. But, overall, the film is beautiful- a must-watch for every child and every parent. Perhaps, every parent’s life story of how they brought up their child is extraordinary.
Soorarai Pottru (Praise the Brave) [Available on Amazon Prime]
Soorarai Pottru is a 2020 movie directed by Sudha Kongara Prasad based on the book ‘Simply Fly: A Deccan Odyssey’ by G. R. Gopinath-an Entrepreneur based in Karnataka, India. The Tamil film depicts the life of a Kannadiga man who was born in a small village in Karnataka and dreamed of owning an aviation industry that is nearly impossible for a lower-class individual. The film stars Tamil star Surya who shines as the dreaming man-Maara who is reckless, ambitious, and fierce in determination. Surya is impeccable in his character and lives in the virtual world of the movie. Urvashi as Maara’s mother and Aparna Balamurali as Maara’s wife were breathtaking in their roles.
There’s a scene in the movie, which is probably one of the most discussed scenes of the film, in which Maara struggles to get back home to see his father, who is on his deathbed. He is so determined that he begs everyone in the airport to fly to see his father when the money in his wallet is not enough. His efforts were futile, and he reached his native place late after his father passed away. The emotional scene of how Maara realizes that he was late and how his mother scolds him for that through her tears is mesmerizing.
Maara is socially privileged but economically underprivileged. He cherishes a dream of making everyone, irrespective of their social, economic, political, or religious status, fly in an airplane. His idea is revolutionary not only because it speaks of equality but also speaks of equity. He challenges the norm that flights are only for the rich and makes enemies among the ultra-rich and powerful. How Maara defeats the odds with his sheer determination, and intelligent mind makes the crux of the story. Aparna looks beautiful, and her pairing with Surya was mesmerizing. The romantic scenes involving the two would be a treat for would-be lovers.
Maara’s dialogue delivery in two scenes is enough to prove his ideology- socialism based on negating economic barriers of class and destroying social barriers of caste. The film is inspirational for those who dream high and work hard to achieve no matter the odds.
This week’s edition discusses movies based on Class differences and how it hampers the life and dreams of individual humans. Joseph lives in the tragedy of such an individual but finds a higher social purpose for life that was painful to lead, and in the end, the Protagonist sacrifices his own life for his passion for solving crimes and seeking justice. The Pursuit of Happiness tells the story of a year of the Protagonist’s life when he became homeless and broke with a son to take care of. The key is how he excels in life by hard work, determination, a loving heart, and an intelligent mind breaking the class barriers. Soorarai Pottru runs on similar lines of breaking class barriers to achieve one’s dream but portrays the entire sequence of events of the Protagonist’s life that made him achieve greatness.
Both The Pursuit of Happiness and Soorarai Pottru are based on real-life events that might have fictional accounts. However, the idea that those are real people just like us in flesh and blood achieving greatness is a message to take home. Joseph’s idea of the Protagonist is also a reality, and many among us would have had a tragic life even though we are talented, skilled, and strived earnestly with all that we have got to achieve greatness. But, Joseph’s Protagonist was great when he was alive and achieved legendary status by his death. Imagine if Joseph’s life wasn’t tragic would he sacrifice himself? Would he nurture the same brooding mind that he used to catch an entire organ trade mafia that was previously unknown to public thought and consciousness?
Life is a mixed bag of highs and lows. Happiness is relative. Often happiness does not follow greatness and vice versa. Joseph, Maara, and Chris are individuals who achieved excellence. In my opinion, greatness is what matters, in the end, more than being happy. The protagonists of the three movies lived for an ideal rather than themselves- Joseph for bringing the culprits to justice, Chris for his son’s well-being and his future, Maara for breaking social and economic barriers of affordability and dreams- which makes them great.
As Albert Einstein puts it,
‘A life lived for others is worthwhile.’