Saturday, December 3, 2011

Romancing the Enemy

[Movie Starts]

The movie begins by introducing the hero, Ved Prakash Sharma aka VP. He is a classic image of a struggling writer - thin, bearded, kurta-jeans, laptop always at the ready in a backpack. The colors and texture of the movie are stark and realistic. Almost like a documentary. From frame 1, it is obvious that this is no typical, commercial masala movie. The role of VP is played by an alternate cinema hero. VP is shown to be not very successful. He is a writer for the movies, in Mumbai. He has had assistant screenwriter credits in a couple of movies, but nothing else of note. It is shown with sarcastic humor that VP is not successful because he has 'different' ideas on how Indian movies should be. His ideas are barely tolerated at best, laughed away at worst by the various producers, directors, stars. Plus, VP is single and not successful with women. In fact, he is downright nervous and awkward around pretty women.

Then, there is a terrorist attack in Mumbai. VP is inspired to write a new screenplay.

[Credits start to roll]

The movie switches mood suddenly as the credits roll. The music is a catchy and fast-paced song. The colors and texture are bright and ultra-modern. We are in movie mode. There is no doubt that we are watching a high-budget, thrilling movie. The scene is a fashion photography session. A very handsome, sharply dressed, impeccably groomed young photographer is having a great time photographing super models. This role is played by an A-list, top grade, high-cost actor. As the credits roll and the song plays on, the photographer is seen being especially intimate with one of the models. It is obvious that she is his girlfriend. As the song ends and the credits finish, there is a loud blast. Turns out that there was a bomb in the five-star hotel where the photo shoot was happening. The photographer hero escapes with minor injuries. His supermodel girlfriend is killed.

[Scene switches back to VP and documentary mode]

VP is shown typing away on his laptop. It is revealed that the previous scene is actually from a movie story that VP is writing, inspired by the terrorist attack in Mumbai. In his story, the hero, named Sameer, is the total opposite of VP. It is obvious that the Sameer character is what VP would love to be - tall, handsome, rich, successful, dating supermodels, etc.

In the next scene, VP is shown pitching the story to a director. In the story, Sameer is affected deeply by the terrorist attack that killed his girlfriend. He can't understand the the causes of terrorism, the mindset of the terrorists, the violence. He can't imagine what socio-economic and national conditions would result in such terrible deeds. He wants to experience it first hand and understand it for himself. He decides to travel to Pakistan. There he meets a beautiful Pakistani girl and falls in love with her. Only he does not know that the girl's rich business family has close links with Pakistani government and terrorists. The name of the movie is, 'Romancing the Enemy'.

The director is very intrigued by VP's story. He wants him to develop it further and write it out fully. He promises VP that he will seriously consider the screenplay for his next project. VP tells him that in the next part of the story, Sameer travels to Pakistan. But VP has absolutely no idea about how things are in Pakistan. So, he is not sure he can write an authentic script. He requests the director to sponsor a 6-month trip to Pakistan for him to do some hands-on research and write an authentic script. The director refuses to finance a trip after hearing only a vague premise of an Indo-Pak romance. He asks him to just imagine stuff and develop the story. VP is unconvinced and disappointed.

VP comes home and gets online to research Pakistan. He is not satisfied with reading just articles and publications. He needs real, personal experiences to truly know how things are in Pakistan. He starts looking for Pakistani people online and manages to befriend a witty, intelligent and intriguing stranger with a gender-neutral chat ID. After a couple of chats, it becomes obvious that he is communicating with a young girl in Pakistan. Her name is Asma. She starts educating him about how conditions are in Pakistan.

[Scene switches to Sameer, back in movie mode]

Sameer gets to Pakistan. Details of what it takes to get a Pakistani visa, book a train / bus / flight ticket, the travel experience, getting through immigration, etc. are shown quickly.

[Scene switches to VP, documentary mode]

VP is asking Asma questions about gender roles in Pakistan, socialization among boys and girls, etc. His ignorance and biased view of Pak society are very obvious. Asma laughs at him (not cruelly) and corrects his views with wit and humor. Asma looks and dresses like an average urban girl in Pakistan. She is not exceptionally beautiful, but has very special eyes and smile.

[Scene switches to Sameer]

Typical masala movie type entertaining encounter of Sameer with a beautiful Pakistani girl named Noora. Noora is every inch a movie start. Sameer chases her and woos her and impresses her like countless movie heroes over the decades.

[Romantic song]

This is a unique dual song, a fusion. The song is picturized on both VP-Asma and Sameer-Noora. The tune and tempo of the music, the style of lyrics, and the song picturizations alternate between the two couples and the two movie styles (reality and commercial). Not quickly, not abruptly, but smoothly and casually, without a hint of jarring changes. It is a harmonious fusion. Sameer-Noora's passion heats up and sprints forward in typical movie style and speed, with dancing and kissing. The romance between VP and Asma blossoms subtly and slowly, without being too obvious or in your face. It is revealed in a look, a word, an inflection of voice, a smile, a deliberate act.

[Song ends]

The rest of the movie continues to switch back and forth between the VP-Asma and Sameer-Noora story lines, reality movie mode and commercial movie mode. VP and Asma get to know each other personally, get to know each other's countries and societies little by little. The audience also learns more about India and Pakistan. The topics and information from VP-Asma's conversations are incorporated into a highly entertaining movie story between Sameer and Noora. In the VP-Asma scenes, real, middle-class Pakistani homes and neighborhoods are shown. In Sameer-Noora scenes, different Pakistan presents itself - beautiful landscapes, posh, rich, high-class, a different world in itself. VP-Asma sequences are full of interesting, human interest, informative, educational stuff about Pakistan, that keep the audience engaged. Sameer-Noora romance hits rough waters when her family opposes her relationship with an Indian Muslim.

Then, things take a more interesting turn as the movie builds up towards the climax of the two story lines. In the real life story, Asma's parents arrange her wedding. She is unable to oppose them and escape from a disastrous marriage. In the movie story, Noora's family gets in trouble with the terrorists and they kidnap Noora. There is edge of seat thrill and tension in both stories. In VP-Asma's story, it is all realistic and understated. In Sameer-Noora's story, it is all entertaining and filmi.

There is a prolonged Sameer-Noora sequence in which Sameer takes matters into his hands, bashes up the terrorists, saves the life of the Pakistani Prime Minister and rescues Noora. Noora's family is won over and they happily agree to Sameer's wedding with her.

[End of Sameer-Noora story.]

The scene switches to reality movie mode. VP's story about Sameer and Noora has already been made into a movie. It is a HUGE hit. Movie posters of Sameer and Noora, scenes from the Sameer-Noora movie, etc. are shown. VP has become a highly successful and sought after screenwriter. He gets support from the director of the movie and the A-list actor who plays Sameer's role to go to Pakistan and rescue Asma from her home and her arranged marriage. This is a realistic, but still entertaining rescue.

[End of VP-Asma story. End of the movie.]