I was watching the short film Chhuri the other day and by the end I dissolved into helpless laughter. This might sound like a strange reaction to a story about adultery but there was a dark deliciousness that was laugh out loud funny. At the same time, I found myself thinking about another very different take on this eternal triangle business.
The ghuroor scene from Bajiro Mastani is one my favourites. In my view it could pretty much be it’s own short film. The context is self evident and the rest is all just there. If you are the sort of Bhansali hater who sits comatose through his movies like my husband, all the footnotes you would need is that this scene involves an adulterous husband having a conversation with his wronged wife.
He walks in on a festival day, moved by what? Guilt, perhaps? He notes that she is not celebrating. She follows his lead of pretend normalcy but subverts it subtly so he cannot get away with it. He reminds her of an important, recurring ritual of their long marriage. She laughs and reduces it to ceremony. She is welcoming and gracious with a stream of gentle chatter that she uses to hide, thinly, her sarcasm. In her own way, she too is a chhuri. But her eyes are wet with unshed tears and the scene is played at a very different pitch. As she breaks his defences, he abandons the finesse and they come to the point. It is very clear to her that what she wants is the one thing she cannot get. So she demands the restoration of her dignity instead.
I just love this scene. And by how easy it is to search for the ghuroor scene on youtube, I am clearly not the only one. Even people who hate Bhansali’s style of overblown melodrama must surely be moved, just a little bit, by the delicate nuance and all-round wonderful acting on display here.
Chhuri on the other hand is going for something else. You know this from the movie poster. The movie begins with a short but surprisingly detailed stretch where the family dynamics are laid out. Within a few seconds you know this – The family is well off. The mother has possibly quit her job to care for her home. Her kids and the domestic help don’t listen to her too much. She does manage to work around this and get her own way. Her daughter is going through teen rebellion. Oh and her husband is cheating on her. By the time her daughter pronounces her verdict on her mom (Hopeless!!), it is definitely disadvantage mom.
But while she acts on the situation along the same lines as Kashibai above, her pretend normalcy hides no unshed tears. She is playing for higher stakes than her own dignity here. She too smiles and makes small talk. She too subverts. I would hate to give anything away since this is still a relatively new film. Just, by the time she is done, it is he who is scrambling to save some shred of dignity. Clearly, revenge is a dish best served finely chopped with a knife dipped in syrup!