Better saints than sinners
Ashok Row Kavi
The wonder is that it was not made before.
The reality is that it is here now.
Firstly, Sridhar Rangayan's 'Gulabi Aina' (the Pink Mirror) thrives on stereotypes. The kothis take over the screen and yet the gay construct runs away with the cake. Which is, of course, all for the better. There is a quick identification with the theme, as the gay underbelly of Mumbai comes alive with startling clarity and sweeps you away in its passion and pathos.
The story, or lack of it, is about two feuding queens, kothis in Mumbai's penchant for classification, fighting over a 'panthi' or "a real man". The fact that there isn't such a bipolar construct except in the outside heterosexual mainstream dawns when a third persona comes into the picture.
Running through the script is the spectre that haunts the gay world in this millennium - HIV/AIDS. And yet that is not what the film is about. It is about the caustic celebration of being gay in Mumbai. It's about the sexuality that sort of permeates every action of kothis in Mumbai where Bollywood meets human emotions head on and makes for the surreal sadness which we live every day.
The film starts and ends with Bibbo (Ramesh Menon) who makes the short movie what it is - a volcanic, virulent and voluptuous performance. In fact, without Ramesh there is no movie. You won't take your eyes off his fluid face that melts into emotions at every line and the best moments are obviously extempore. It's amazing how sometimes the persona takes over a script and lives it completely - like growing a skin on a wound!!
Complementing him, is Shabbo (Edwin Fernandes) who plays the 'daughter', now much more in demand in the dance circuits. The two are locked into a perpetual rivalry for men, money and more men, in that order. The sparks that fly during the two enigmatic kothis coming together for something as simple as making up their faces, lead to vicious wars we all know from experience.
But introduced in for good measure is the 'English kothi', who is quickly termed as 'gay' and done with. Which is, of course, exactly what the construction is except for the foreigner trying to freeze them into market sized commodities. The introduction of Rishi as the little itchy-bitchy bitch who runs away with the hunk is too precious for words.
On the whole the production values are very good, which is to be expected from Sridhar and Saagar. However, I don't see too much of a story line. It sorts of goes in jumps and starts with a life of its own. Also, I'm just praying it doesn't become the norm to define the gay world in Mumbai symbolized by feuding faithless kothis lunging at each other with the full force of their cobra venom. There is definitely a gentler side to our existence that would have merited some notice, which will most probably need another film, I suppose.
However, the casting is perfect though Rishi seems to look older on screen than he really is.
Ramesh and Edwin make the film what it is - a must see. Their performances must get their due in that both are passionate performances which encomiums galore. It's one of the first films to show the kothi culture of modern Mumbai and where they may finally fail to get their men. Rishi is good but needs some more polish to become an ace performer.
Finally, Sridhar needs to have more meat in the story but then he is a vegetarian in thought and deed! More power to him and may this film go great guns for our cause.
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