The industry may have been looking forward to “Ra-One” or “Rockstar” or “Ready” but for me, a fan of avant-garde Hindi cinema (the technical term used in this context is avant-gaand-de), “Chitkabrey–Shades of Grey” (to give it it’s full appellation) was the movie of the year.
First of all, there was immense controversy leading up to its release , controversy of the type that almost accompanies great works of art like “Citizen Kane” and “Chingari, the first famous for giving us deep focus and low angle shots and the second the popular phrase “manoranjak kutiya”.
One of the heroines, Akshara Gowda, after whom the famous Gowda cheese is named, sued the movie director (or threatened to) for leaking some of her “artistically necessary” topless shots (30 minutes of footage) for aesthetic promotional purpose. And then Ravi Kishen, the Bhojpuri Amitabh, also threatened to sue the movie producer for reasons one could scarcely believe.
I’m much better endowed than the picture suggests,” lashes out an angry Ravi Kishan whose nude act pictures from a non-descript film Chitkabrey has been circulated in the media.
Claiming that this is nothing but a publicity stunt by the film’s producer, the angry actor says, “If I go nude, my hands would not be able to protect my modesty. There’s clearly some hankypanky here.
In other words, Ravi Kishen was accusing the film director of doing what Hitch-Cock had once endorsed, of using the camera to make a banana look like a nut. If what Mr. Kishen was saying is true, and we have no reason to doubt that his hands have insufficient span to cover his organwa, then what the producers had done to him was act of great mental cruelty. [Not-safe-for-work-or-for-sanity picture here]
Which truly is what “Chitkabrey” is about. Mental cruelty. Ravi Kishen plays Rakesh Choubey, a Bramhin with a choti, who comes to college and gets mercilessly ragged by a group of cruel seniors, a surprisingly diverse group—a Gujrati, a Bengali (named Buddha), a Muslim, a Christian, a Sikh, a good guy, a Tamil, a porn-star and a woman with big “balls” (she likes to bring attention to the fact). As the final act of their barbarity, they make Choubey strip nude, gawk at his organ and tie balloons to his choti. If that was not enough, then they snip it off. The choti that is, not the other thing.
Now once this happens, two things can result. If you are Aamir Khan, you deliver a baby in college, take out a hundred patents and sing “All is Well”. If you are not, you wake up at night screaming “Mujhe nanga mat kijiye” while your mother consoles you “Koi tumhe nanga nahee karega”. Rakesh Chowbey is not Aamir Khan of course. So he waits, fifteen years for his revenge, mysteriously calling his seniors for a party, in the manner of “U N Owen” of “And Then There Were None”. Once his seniors arrive, the doors are closed, a weird waiter with a gun waltzes about, bullets fly and a dangerous game begins as each of the guests are forced to confess their deepest secrets.
And what earth-shattering secrets they are. One, who leaves his ear-ring (yes you read that right, his ear-ring) as a souvenir after screwing his friend’s wife, acknowledges his duplicity by screaming “Haan mera Chinese chehra bhi hai” . Another confesses to having killed his pet pussy cat named Pedro before screaming “This is frickin scary” in a girlie, Gujju-accented way. And yet another accepts that once his foreign boss, obviously homosexual, started kissing him in office (since apparently in Western countries, such things are common) after which he, in order to get a promotion, ended up with said boss in the shower (a tastefully shot scene of man-on-man love in shower, done in the supremely erotic “Jal jal ke dhuaan” song-style with shades of gay), thus breaking his marital vows. The wife of one is made to fellate an ice-cream bar. The Tamil dude, who has married an American, speaks in a hybrid Tam-Wisconsin accent and has a fetish of watching his American wife do other men in front of him (a directorial nod to Polanski’s “Bitter Moon”), accepts he used to sell drugs in college and had embroiled the Bong friend in a rape scandal. The Bengali Buddha guy, scared by the state of West Bengal and his rigidly honorable wife, wants to emigrate to Bahamas. The Sardarji, who has a propensity for fondling his secretary, aah the worst is left for him, in every way.
And through it all, Rakesh Chowbey laughs maniacally, rolls his eyes and screams Sanskiritzed Zen sayings: “Shaadi hai samajeek pashu…na samajeek ban paya na pashu ban paya.” Profound.
“Chitkabarey–Shades of Grey” is purely a director’s movie. He not only pushes the envelope but throws it away straight out of the window. “Chitkabarey” has fully realized Sardarji sex—and just that in itself makes it historic. But add to it the culling elements from Literotica and Savita Bhabhi (an actress who plays Savita Bhabhi in a web-comedy-show has a role there), the clever hat-tips to “Three Idiots”, Polanski and Gunda (one of the characters is called Shankar), the crafting of supremely poetic lines like when a lusty real-estate agent admires a woman with a 3D compliment ” Sab kuch perfect hai…unchai, golai aur (pause and significant stare) gaherayee” and the underlying subversive commentary on class, sexuality, the fabric of marriage and the nature of firangis that one realizes the magnitude of the director’s vision and originality.
Mental cruelty. To repeat, that is what “Chitkabarey—Shades of Gray” is about. Which is what makes it epic. Epic.