When I first saw Paa, I was sure my extreme emotional reaction to it was a fluke. It wasn't a hyperbole to say I cried my eyes out throughout the movie, by the end letting out dry sobs because I had no tears left. It was so bizarre - this had never happened to me with any movie, and I had watched a fair bit of tear-jerkers in my time. So it had to be something other than the film, causing this reaction - maybe it was just my mood to cry my eyes out, and the movie gave me good impetus to do so without feeling silly for it.
This is not to say anything against the film. It's a damn good one, and even if I was wary of the "gimmick" of having the son (Abhishek) play the father, and the father (Amitabh Bachchan) play the son, who suffers from progeria. Acting through prosthetic make-up is difficult for anybody, and Amitabh-ji was praised through the roof for this performance, and I wondered whether that was because of the performance, or his star power combined with the braveness of taking such a role.
Thankfully, the movie puts the story and its characters front and center, thus making sure you almost forget about the gimmick entirely. And even if the film is named 'father', the mother is the real highlight here - I feel like Paa was the first role where Vidya Balan was just staggeringly amazing, and I'm pretty sure I cried the hardest whenever her character cried.
I went into my rewatch thinking that I probably wouldn't be so emotionally prodded by the movie, as I remembered crying at so many lines and so many scenes. This time, I thought, I'd know what was coming - surely that had to make it less emotionally impacting?
Well, it did not. Not only did I cry my one paper tissue soggy, I was also so mesmerized by the film I couldn't just hit pause and go get another one. When the climactic scene arrives, even though I knew what was coming, even though I had seen it coming miles away, I was just completely broken. If my tear ducts had any moisture left, it was all let out by the end of the film. Again.
So I keep wondering. What is it about this story that just gets to me? I don't feel like there's anything particularly personal about the story for me, so it's not like it reflects my own life in any way. I suspect some other fans of the film may feel the same way, but considering I'm not really the tear-jerker person, nor does this film get consistently mentioned among the best or most favourite films (hell, even I don't regularly list it as one), I'm kind of puzzled. The performances are all great, the musical cues certainly heighten those performances, and the soundtrack is wonderful, but I still don't know why this movie leaves such an impact on me. The only thing I know is that on my next rewatch, I'll know to prepare more tissues.
Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge, on the other hand, remains the perfect rainy day romcom to watch. I wonder if Kunal Kohli feels that way, too - since I recently realized, being a little slow I guess, that Fraaandship is basically a modernized version of Mujhse Dosti Karoge. MDK, of course, and this has been admitted by Kohli himself, was kind of a dated movie even when it came out. It was a late 90's film for the early 00's, and though it has some redeeming features (that Antakshari song or the completely filmi and wonderful climax), it's not really one to remember much nowadays.
I wondered about the expiration date of Fraandship as I rewatched. Preity and Vishal fall in love via Facebook by impersonating their friends, and while social networking could be here to stay, youth culture does tend to change rather rapidly - what's cool one minute tends to not be so cool the next. Still, from the marketing perspective (ugh, yes, the kind of phrase I never wanted to type), it makes sense to give the youth films that portray characters who are also young, and hopefully in a way that's realistic but still idealized.
Another thing I picked up on was that the film was directed by a woman, Nupur Ashtana, which is sadly a rare thing world over. Good on Y-Films for finally getting some women directors in the fray as well (will mothership Yash Raj Films follow suit sometime in the future?).
I also thought about the message the film sends. As with any glossy romcoms, there is some focus on superficial traits, but what is notable in Fraaandship is how personality, chemistry and compatibility win out in the end. Preity and Vishal have instant chemistry online, but they continue to bicker with one another face-to-face. There is also no "make-over moment" - when Vishal sees Preity all dolled up for the club, he still doesn't seem all that interested.
When Rahul and Mallika (the friends whose online identities our hero and heroine adopt) first meet, they don't seem to hit it off that well, even though they are both very attractive people. However, once they get to talking and discover they actually have some things in common, they become more interested in one another.
I know it's not much, but I'll take it as it's so much more likable and relatable than the films with paper-thin characterizations and so much emphasis on fashion and looking cool, hot, whatever. Of course films will always try to sell a very glamorous image, and that includes the superficial focus, but actors shouldn't just be moving clothes racks for the latest designer clothes. So for all its classic mainstream film traits, at least Fraaandship is putting a simple, yet agreeable message out there.