Sometimes I get appalled at the decisions of the Censor Board of India. They are overly concerned with sex, violence and smoking on screen, often take these scenes out of their context and assume that the frames containing such “contraband contents” can impact the audience. But what the board invariably misses out is the ideology that is smuggled through the gloss and shines of celluloid, mounted on fully resolved cinema stories and portrays the assumed pains and pleasures of the characters have a far greater ability to impair attitudes and damage the progressive ideas of its viewers. Break Ke Baad is one such film. I wonder what the women’s activists are doing about it, and what is even worse is that the principles of girls’ colleges seem to not even whimper.
Break ke Baad is the story of a young girl played by Deepika Padukone and Abhay Gulati, played by Imran Khan. Around them is the mother of the girl, a retired actress and a thrice married aunt of the boy. These two elderly women move the control switches of the story to have the girl and boy marry each other at the end because they love each other. Through the beginning, middle and end, the aim of the film is to perpetuate the idea that a girl pursuing her career and passions is willful and selfish because that requires her to travel to Universities abroad and focus on her work in a manner that she has stay away from home. Any young man or woman pursuing professional and academic excellence knows the worth of staying away from home among her course peers and how much the right “atmosphere” is needed for her to get her act together. Instead of promoting life in the hostel, the vratachari lifestyle of celibacy that is so needed for any tapasya, the girl is literally being burdened to carry a childhood love into a mature romance that progressively gets embedded into a demand for marriage. Her mother, an actress is so disrespectful of histrionics because her profession had pained her. What the pain is, she does not specify, but her mention of her husband leaving her hints that her state of being a cheated woman had to do something with her career as an actress, or her single minded devotion to her career. Truly, the girl calls her mother by her first name, telling us that were mothers to pursue professions, children are deeply distressed and even damaged emotionally. The director presents an ideal stay at home scene, in which the talented older woman, the mother is passionately into pottery and the independent minded, free willed girl is seen helping the former out, a typical Indian idea of a serene life is injected into us as a drug, mother and daughter staying at home and pottery, a Page 3 hobby, is used to keep women firmly grounded into the courtyard, the only open space that is allowed for women to inhabit.
The girl wears short clothes, smokes a cigar, drinks, and gets drunk; these are just fine because these are indulged in the presence of the boyfriend or of the mother. But when she moves out of the ambit of the “gaze” of her man and mother, the latter resent her as being self-willed, selfish and undisciplined. Hence the grand metaphor of the flying kite for the girl, who flies away into heights and distances only to have the tether firmly held by her boyfriend. The moment she tries to immerse herself into her studies and career and seeks peace, silence and solitude those which are needed so crucially when one has to pull off a degree, she is accused of being casting away her commitments abruptly. Let us never imagine that she will be ever allowed to grow out of her childhood love and find her true self through a romance that her adult self indulges in. Observed a little more patiently, we see the motif of a child marriage, a bethrowal as in guana awaiting the wedding, as in bidaai. Hence focus and undivided attention to studies and a future career is constantly poked and punctured by the phone calls from mother and the overenthusiastic boyfriend’s turning up at the girl’s place. The girl is made to appear lonely on her graduation day when the boyfriend is too busy to be with her and mother appears only on the last day. Loneliness is the price that she must pay for locking herself up in her studies. Romantic love that must culminate into marriage is ultimate happiness for a woman and any pursuit of her individuality, as in a career, must be a part time affair.
The boy is portrayed as a metrosexual, looking after his girl as a parent would do for a child, or like a baby sitter. Though they are both of the same age, the ideal man is portrayed as a little adult, matured, and patient. He is content to remain a step behind his lady love; but must be omnipresent in her life, refusing to believe that either can transform as human beings, become different and then indifferent to each other. Childhood friendships must mature into adult romances erasing any possibility of metamorphosis and transformations that happen with age and experience, in which the woman can take any decision on her own only after being approved by her mother and seconded by the boyfriend. The new age man is thus a person who keeps a watchful eye on his girl from a distance, steps in at moments of danger which the new age girl, despite her independence is not supposed to be able to handle and resolve.
The film disallows women to grow up beyond their girlhood, make them protégés and wards of the men who love them, chain them with senses of commitment and images of caring selves when they wish to pursue their careers with the same seriousness as men and finally lock them indoors as helping hands of their mothers or as blissful beings in matrimony and childbirth. There has never been such an overt and shameless attempt at subverting a woman’s right to exist as a free citizen and an equal participant in public life as this film, Break Ke Baad.