part 1 of Lakshya

So help me, I am teary-eyed over this patriotic, dehumanizing, silly story. Partly because I just finished the graduation scene - and I love a graduation, the way many people love a wedding - but mostly because Hrithik's character, Karan, is the sweetest young man to cross my screen since Sid in Dil Chahta Hai. And what will his reward be? I think they're going to turn him into a killing machine. Great, just what the world needs these days. When he got in trouble for looking at the birds in the tree, when he beamed when his girlfriend said he was a good person, when he waved at his friend from the top of the training tower, my heart broke a little, knowing that characters like this don't seem to seem to have a good survival rate. I'm happy to chalk some of this up to me not remotely understanding what pressures are on upper-class twenty-somethings in India and then be ready to rewind to the first song, which is awesome.

To Karan's father, I say: what is wrong with you? Just becuase your 22-year-old son doesn't know what he wants to do with his life does not make him a failure. To Karan's mother, I say: stick up for your child and tell your husband that not everyone needs to be an office drone. To Romi, his girlfriend, I say: just because your boyfriend doesn't want to be a violent tool of the state does not make him a bad person. I know he has decision-making issues, but maybe you could cut him some slack since he unwisely choose a fairly extreme way of life for himself on his first time out on his own - next time he does something stupid, you're allowed to be mad, but right now, he needs your help. Maybe he shouldn't, but he does. And to Karan, I say: just because your girlfriend threatens not to marry you doesn't mean you have to join the army if you think it isn't the right path for you.

Aisde to Preity: I am so sorry about your hair! What did they do to you? The short cut is definitely a 'do but that other thing...somehow you seem to have a But you seem very professional and dedicated to your causes, to which I am empathetic, and you will be with your true love in the end, so that's good enough by me. Sorry though - eeek.


Sonya said…
Dear Beth

I read our blog on a regular basis and I believe this is my second comment.

I wanted to comment on some of the cultural aspects of Lakshya from a Punjabi aspect to fill you into some aspects that perhaps were implicit for people who grew up in India. (I must note that when I first saw Lakshya, I did not care much for it. I watched it twice in the last 2 days and have a new appreciation for it.)

I come from a Punjabi Army family background...4 generations. My great-grandfather received one of the 12 British Victoria Crosses awarded to Indians pre-partition in the British army. He never made it above Subhedar Major as in his days Indians were not allowed to be officers. As per one of my uncles, who retired as a Maj General, my great grandfather would have retired as a general if he had allowed to become an officer in the British Army. Also, he single-handed took over a fortress in Tibet as a part of the British force that went into Tibet to drive the Chinese out and is mentioned by name in the despatches back to London.

So, what does this all mean for Lakshya? The chief thing is that for over 300 years, since the Army became a formal profession for Punjabis in India, it has been the chosen, the prime profession for Punjabi boys, where they are turned into men. You note the Dad shook Karan's hand at the end before hugging him. (You cannot underestimate the Punjabi macho admiration for a man and his deeds!)

A number of my own cousins were considered to have shaped up (banda baan gaya = became a man) once they joined the Army (the airforce or the Navy were considered inferior). The common thread was...your son/nephew/grandson is not shaping up/getting a career going/wasting his life and so send him into the army and it will make him into a man. Until recently, it was also extremely prestigious and provided a life style that was far beyond the reaches of the vast majority of Indians.

To give you a small indicator: the Sikhs consist of 2% of the Indian population but constituted 30% of the armed forces in India while I was growing up in India 25 years ago.

Even in the case of royalty and extremely wealthy families, sons took honorary commissions in the army for the prestige and honor. A friend of mine is from a minor royal family and her uncle (the heir) was a Colonel in the army for a few years. I knew several such cases growing up in India.

The Punjabi macho culture is very chauvinistic, jingoistic, and also very aggressive. Given the location of the Punjab, they fought pretty much every intruder crossing into and out of India.

The other interesting riff running through the movie was the father's refugee status when Pakistan and India were created. Both my parents are from such families. It is only in retrospect that I see the pressure to succeed, to rebuild, to amount to something after losing everything in Partition.

Another interesting titbit is that my cousin, who is now a Colonel, was wounded in the Kargil war and that story is actually more amazing that the fire fight shown at the end of the movie.

Best regards


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