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Age is in the Mind

Friday, May 04, 2018

Most films about old age, made in India, are weepies about parents being abandoned or mistreated by their children (Example 'Zindagi', 'Baghban''to name just two). This week’s release, '102 Not Out', based on Saumya Joshi’s play of the same name, has a sprightly centenarian (Amitabh Bachchan) teaching his morose 75-year-old son (Rishi Kapoor) how to live life to the fullest; and no, romance with a younger woman is thankfully not in the plot.

One of the few Hindi films that tackled the subject of old age with humour and a marked absence of melodrama, was 'Shaukeen' (1982) by Basu Chatterjee, based on a story by Bengali master Samaresh Basu, and looked at male ageing with a mix of satire and sympathy. Even Chatterjee did not care or dare to include elderly women in this last-sexual-fling plot, and didn’t quite get the tone of light-hearted leching right, but had actors who could carry it off. In his film, Ashok Kumar, Utpal Dutt and A K Hangal played the three old men, who want to have some “fun” while they can. They are driven to Goa by a young man, (Mithun Chakraborty), who actually wants to meet his girlfriend (Rati Agnihotri) there. She becomes the object of lust of three men, and innocently plays along.

The film was remade in 2014 as 'The Shaukeens', by Abhishek Sharma in full David Dhawan mode, starring Anupam Kher, Annu Kapoor, Piyush Mishra and Lisa Haydon. The review of  the film had observed that, “In the current climate when women are fighting for dignity and safety in public places, it is so wrong to portray as cute, three old men ogling and commenting on women exercising in the park. At the same time, there is something sad about aging men living in a youth-centric and over-sexualised world, feeling left behind... and left out. It’s just that the sensitivity and grace required to make a film that can convey this social reality without resorting to crassness, the (re)writer (Tigmanshu Dhulia) and director of this film simply do not possess. Worse, a film like this dares to be judgmental about its sex-deprived protagonists.”

India has an ageing population, and the urban nuclear family with career-driven young people is leaving the old lonely and uncared for, but the reality of the situation probably lies somewhere between Baghban and Shaukeen and that is what some enlightened film-maker should try to capture.

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