13 May 2013

Film Review: Gippi

It really is a bit hard to believe that Gippi is a Karan Johar production. No, it’s not surprising that the first Bollywood film about 14-year-olds comes from the man who arguably first imported the American high school fantasy – a la Archie Comics’ Riverdale – into our cinema, with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in 1998, and also gave us last October’s updated version: Student of the Year.

What’s surprising is that unlike the perfectly-coiffed glossy creatures masquerading as schoolkids in Johar’s films, his production of Sonam Nair’s Gippi has a school that actually seems like a school, and kids who mostly look and behave like kids. Most surprising of all is its heroine. Admittedly, the plump child (who might have something to do with Johar’s own past, if his interviews are to be believed) has figured occasionally in his oeuvre: but either he grows up to be Hrithik Roshan, as in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, or he’s relegated to being the nerdy nice boy who’s still sadly single eight years after school, as in SOTY. It’s pretty remarkable, then, that Nair’s directorial debut not just allows its plump protagonist to be the film’s heroine, but actually celebrates her refusal to be made over.

The plot is uncomplicated but the things it deals with are refreshingly new on the Hindi film screen. Gurpreet Kaur, better known as Gippi, is a regular 14-year-old with regular issues, stemming mostly – but not only – from her slightly more-than-regular weight. Her school uniform’s grown too tight for her over the summer, she feels fat and unattractive and a bit of a klutz.

Add to all this the problems of puberty: growing breasts, getting your period, acquiring a bra – and falling in love. But what makes everything worse is that whenever Gippi has an embarrassing moment – her chair tipping over or her buttons popping open or her chemistry experiment blowing up in her face – her Little Miss Perfect classmate Shamira is waiting around the corner, ready to rub it in. And then Gippi finds herself competing for school elections against Shamira…

What’s ironic is that Shamira – the slim, high-achieving, fashionable rich girl – is really a version of the heroine in a Kuch Kuch or SOTY. Except that instead of being a Poor Little Rich Girl that we’re supposed to sympathise with, Shamira’s version of Little Miss Perfect is here cast as nastiness personified. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Jayati Modi’s rather-too-shrill attempts to bring Shamira’s excessive villainy to life are responsible for the falsest notes in the film: especially her cruel outburst against Gippi at the party.

The only time Shamira seems somewhat believable is during the climax, when the film decides to turn around and give us an insight into the pains it takes to maintain her self-anointed heroine status. “I haven’t eaten ice cream for three months,” she declares in a hilarious self-pity speech. “Even my goddamn socks have to be perfect!”

But if Shamira is a cardboard cutout, Gippi and her friends are endearingly recognizable – even if they’re types...

My review of Gippi continues. Read the whole review here, on Firstpost.

No comments: