PS: This post is not on the intent of That Girl in Yellow Boots. It is purely on its execution and its structure. Much before TGIYB was released, marketing had led us to believe that this is a film about a girl's search of her father. There was absolutely no ambiguity with respect to this aspect of the film.
The film starts with Ruth receiving a letter from her father, in which I think he says that he is missing her in India. I say I think because I was entering the hall when the film started and couldn't focus on what was happening. Ruth meets some people at the FRO office to extend her VISA. The characters she meets are what you would see in a government office. Bored clerks, fat bosses, ugly men and women and their mannerisms just aggravate their ugliness. Ruth comes back to a massage parlour and we get to know that she is actually giving a handjob to her clients. Her madam - the owner of the parlour - is the most interesting character of the film. She speaks suggestively to her clients in hushed tones. Ruth's boy friend is a drug addict and peddler. He gets caught in the trap laid by his friends. He owes a gangster more than a lakh rupees. The gangster comes to Ruth's place to get his money. The gangster again is an interesting character. Among Ruth's clients, there is a man who doesn’t say anything apart from telling Ruth not to speak, when he is reaching a climax. He too is an interesting character for there is absolutely no doubt as to his intent. So, we have three really interesting characters in Ruth's universe. But they all pertain to only one part of her universe. The part, where she is working in a message parlour. However, the film is on a woman's search of her identity and her father.
Ruth does go out in search of her father. She meets two women at Osho Ashram in Pune. But these two characters are not even half as interesting as the characters in other part of her universe. She regularly meets a man with a baritone voice. I didn't quite get who he is. In which capacity, was he speaking to Ruth? (Perhaps I couldn’t concentrate) He is related to Ruth's search. Again, he is also not a very interesting character. This made the film lopsided. There is hardly any scene (apart from the initial ones at FRO office) which is memorable from the part of her universe, where she goes out in search of her father. What does a film like this do? If I am told to define Ruth's character purely from what Kashyap showed me in the film and not from what he had been talking at twitter, I would say she is a white girl badly stuck in the dark underbelly of Mumbai. Why is she stuck? What is her pursuit? This comes out in some scenes but very weakly.
This is a film where situations and characters tangential to the main plot are more interesting than the main plot itself. This distracts the audience resulting them in ultimately forgetting what they had actually come to watch. Another thing with the execution was a very bad handling of guest actors. In the most important scene of the film, Ruth goes to the building where she has figured that her father stays. She enters the lift and the famous actor Rajat Kapur comes out of it. The camera spends few seconds on Kapur. Any sane mind would start thinking that may be Kapur is the father. But this again has been done to distract the audience. Kapur could have been wisely used in any other scene. What was he doing in the most important scene in a thriller, when he had no real impact on the events of the film. It's like saying Fuck You to the audience. There are directors like Michael Haneke, who have been consistently saying Fuck You to the audience. But their execution is very neat. Very neatly, they take you to the climax and then rather than providing an end to the story, they end the film in between. The problem with TGIYB is Kashyap doesn’t neatly take us to climax. The journey till climax is distracted by characters who have nothing to do with Ruth's search. The climax scene too is distorted by having a famous actor distract the audience.
Another thing, which really irritated me is Kashyap's repeated use of sex jokes. Now, sex jokes, per se, are among the most interesting things. But focusing solely on words like "choot" and "chutiyapa" in one film after the other makes his oeuvre stale. Kashyap has time and again said that he doesn’t want to write anymore. He wants to focus entirely on direction. This reflects in his work. He doesn't enjoy writing. Pretty much the same problem is with Vishal Bhardwaj who also said that he is fed up with writing. In his case too, Saat Khoon Maaf was spoiled by Bhardwaj the writer (the direction was awesome though).
There wasn't a single quintessential mumbaiya character in the film. I figured this thing even with films like Delhi Belly and Dhobi Ghat. Ruth, her madam and her boyfriend can belong to even Delhi. One don was from Karnataka and most other characters didn’t come across as mumbaiyaa. True, that such characters do exist even in Mumbai. But, they pretty much can exist anywhere. The film will be just as convincing if I take those characters and their lingua and transport them to any town in North India. Same was the case with Delhi Belly and Dhobi Ghat. This is the most important reason why I love the work of Dibakar Banerjee. Even if I am not concentrating properly, I know it is Delhi. It’s not just about lingua. Those conversations happen only in Delhi. Kashyap himself has successfully captured amazing mumbaiyaa characters in Satya. Buy, I think he has hit a ceiling as a writer.
Some really good points of the film
- Kalki's acting. She is undoubtedly the most talented actress in Bollywood today.
- 90 minutes length
- Kashyap's guts to avoid designing an interval.