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  • Writer's pictureVedashree Khambete Sharma

Privilege And The Pursuit of Excellence

The past couple of months have been a bit difficult on the personal front. The total and complete lack of a November post should have been a hint. But I thought why spam your inboxes and minds with a thousand depressing words... again? So, I abstained.

This month, though, this month is different.

I ended up watching The Archies and Mast Mein Rehne Ka in the past few weeks. My verdict is simple: The Archies has no business being as bad as it is. A fantastic director known for her insightful films, a mighty OTT platform with deep pockets to bankroll her vision, a swarm of new faces with pedigree names, good supporting cast, one of the country's greatest lyricists to write its songs. And yet...

Much like this GIF, how lacklustre The Archies is also doesn't make sense. It reminds me of a glossy balloon - light, pretty to look at and full of absolutely nothing. The songs, the performances, the script, the character arcs - everything is below average. And that is horrifying for a movie that's the launch vehicle for not one, not two but THREE star kids.

Because that's the price of privilege. If you are born into it, if you grow up entitled to the access, the opportunities, the cushioning from hardship that privilege provides, then the demand from you is only one and it is simple: excellence. Nothing less will do. Nothing else should do. But it is nowhere in sight in The Archies.

Why are supposed Anglo-Indians talking like Bandra Catholics? Why is there absolutely zero chemistry between the leads? What is this half-assed woke activist nonsense the kids are up to? You're selling pastries and jokes and haircuts to get citizens to vote to stop their own park from being destroyed? WHAT? Why are the names of all the landmarks in Riverdale so damned zero-effort? Oh, it's a green park? Let's call it GREEN PARK. Oh, is it a square in the town? Let's call it TOWN SQUARE. WHY DOES THE DIALOGUE SOUND LIKE IT WAS WRITTEN IN ENGLISH AND THEN RUN THROUGH GOOGLE TRANSLATE? Why are the lyrics so bland? When they are written by the same gentleman who wrote:"Talli hokar girne se samjhi humne gravity | Ishq ka practical kiya tab aayi clarity" The Archies has been dubbed a teenage musical comedy. There is one (1) funny line in the entire movie. The non-nepo babies are better actors than the three leads, who all, I'm sorry to say, have accents straight out of Dhirubai Ambani International School. And that's the least of their problems.

I could go on, but why should I, when I can talk about Mast Mein Rehne Ka instead.

In stark contrast to The Archies, this movie has no business being as good as it is. Not if you go by Bollywood maths. Indie film with little-known director, aged protagonists, unheard of supporting cast, no gloss, no froth, no glamour, no item songs except one very self-aware one featuring a delightful cameo by Rakhi Sawant. But what director Vijay Maurya has created is a film with substance, which nevertheless, never gets heavy or preachy. It's a joy to see Jackie Shroff and Neena Gupta in roles that let them showcase their acting chops. Abhishek Chauhan is incandescent as Nanhe, tugging at your heartstrings one moment, annoying the shit out of you the next. Monika Panwar as Rawas brings raw emotion and poise to her character and the results are stunning. And oh, the way the cinematography captures Mumbai! Beautiful. Just plain beautiful.

As an author, I often ask myself, what does my book have to say? It must have something to say, otherwise it is irrelevant. The point it makes doesn't have to be some highbrow, pretentious philosophical truth. It can be a small observation, told well. But it needs to have something to say.

The Archies has nothing to say. It is a waste of the privilege bestowed upon its lead actors, its director and all the storied people behind its scenes. And that, for me, is unpardonable. Because privilege demands excellence. Not just from nepo babies, but from the rest of us as well. It is the only way that privilege - whether it is having a safe and sound home environment, access to food and shelter, health, wealth, whatever - can be justified. And as Mast Mein Rehne Ka goes to show, if the only privilege you have is that you are alive, then the best you can do is to live as fully as you can.

So that's the wish I will leave you with, as we totter towards 2024.

Love, laugh, make friends and mistakes, take risks and full, juicy bites out of Life.

Live fully. Because you have the privilege to.

Nothing less will do. Nothing less should.

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