Recently, the movie ‘Krishna and His Leela’ created a huge furore among netizens. Particularly among the Hindus, that the movie is hurting the religious sentiments. The reason being the title of the movie: “Krishna and his leela”; Sri Krishna being the dearest God to the Hindus known for his Bhagavadgita and the Krishna mentioned in the movie was a playboy. On the other side were those who said that the movie has nothing to do with the Lord Sri Krishna but just a name used for the lead character in the movie.
There are as always two factions that give more weight to one side than the other when neither has seen it with an open mind, and the vote is split between the two, each supporting either side. The reason for different leanings are various and not under the scope of the current article.
The movie seems misplaced in the Indian context and appears to be a badly incorporated Hollywood movie into an Indian cinema. The story line, characters and their acts are fully western in nature.
One of the surveys say that the national average of smokers and alcoholics has more than doubled in the last 2 decades(1), hence it is not a surprise that the heroine smokes, and the movie shows it casually (The question here is not the one of morality but the necessity of it. The negative impact is unquestionable(2) and more on women than in men is well researched(3)). The character’s name is Satya (short form for Satyabhama in the Bhagavata who is one of the ashtamahishis of Sri Krishna), his college senior who is also a Bharatanatyam dancer. Another heroine named Radha (the beloved gopi – Radha of Sri Krishna), his college junior.
Krishna, after a break up with Satya starts liking Radha. Both Krishna and Radha are in love but Krishna still has the carnal attraction for Satya whom he had begged not to leave him. He vacillates between the two emotionally and cannot get himself out of the physical relationship that he had earlier with Satya nor is able to tell Radha that his attraction for Satya is not over as he is now in a committed relationship with Radha and even gets her pregnant. Sensing something is still not ok with Krishna and Satya, Radha makes a jealous comment on Satya’s habit of smoking and that too as a passing comment and nothing serious, that’s about it.
Krishna moves in with his sister in Bangalore when he starts working for an IT company after college. There is a friend of his sister named Rukhsar (a different name for Rukmini, first of the ashtamahishis of Sri Krishna) sharing the accommodation. The first thing he notices when he enters his sister’s house is the exit of Rukhsar out of the bathroom hurriedly into an adjoining room and says he couldn’t be very happy with what he saw as she was anyway towel-clad. His sister rejoices the comment with an eye-roll.
Among all the three ladies: Satya, Radha & Rukhsar, the lead character Krishna stares without a wink, constantly (and even voices them out), at their bodies even by bending himself in different ways to have different views, time and again expressing his carnality, throughout the movie. None of the women take offence of it.
The character names: Krishna, Satya, Radha & Rukhsar, are not a coincidence and definitely not a genuine mistake. It has all the potential to hurt the Hindu religious sentiments. The character Satya is a “Bharatanatyam dancer and a smoker”! Why was it required? How does it add to the story? A clear intent in denigrating Indian art forms that are held sacred. The title itself gives away, “Krishna and his Leela”, aiming to juxtapose with the “Raasa Leela of Sri Krishna” mentioned in the Bhagavata Mahapurana. The story maker doesn’t seem to have read the Bhagavata Mahapurana or the Mahabharata in which the central character is Lord Sri Krishna, a god who is revered unparalleled. Apart from the perverted notion of what he/she has had, the story maker doesn’t seem to have an iota of idea about the Raasa Leela of Sri Krishna and his relationship with Rukmini, Satyabhama & Radha.
Sri Krishna was requested by Rukmini to take her away as she was going to be married off against her will, Satyabhama was given to Sri Krishna by her father for his valour and Jambavati was offered by her father Jambavan as he realizes that Sri Krishna was none other than Lord Vishnu. All the ashtamahishis were given to Sri Krishna, unlike the lead character Krishna in the movie who is runs behind one or the other lead female characters begging them. The 16,100 other “wives” of Sri Krishna, he didn’t go and marry them but was requested by them, as they had been bound by a demon called Narakasura and Sri Krishna saves them by destroying the demon and releases all the 16,100 women. These women when they went back to their parents/husbands, were not taken back as they had stayed in another man/asura’s place overnight. Not knowing what to do, deciding among themselves, all go to Sri Krishna and ask him to marry them and bless them with a dignified life lost due to the demon Narakasura. None of this is taken into consideration as maligning Sri Krishna and the Hindu scriptures and its characters/gods seems to be the intent.
The thing that clearly opens up the anti-Hindu sentiment is the background score. For every carnal move of the lead character Krishna, there is a carnatic classical song at the background. Specifically, at an instance when Krishna vacillates while still in relationship with Radha and goes behind the smoker Satya again, the infamous song by Ootukkaadu Venkata Kavi ‘Alaipayudhe Kanna…’ is used. The irony is: the lyrics and raaga which flow with conviction filled bhakti to Lord Sri Krishna being used during the immature-carnal-vacillating moment of the lead character Krishna. Even in the story, the usage is incorrect. The song originally is by the gopis to Sri Krishna and not the other way around which opens up the shallow knowledge of the basics by the story maker.
A sly and misleading portrayal in the movie is that the character is seen as analysing his moves between the women, whether what he was doing was correct or not, every time he vacillates. None of his thinking reaches anywhere. He repeats his mistakes non-stop till the end of the movie where he eyes Rukhsar too, when he again asks himself looking at the fourth wall if what he was doing was right and then goes to Rukhsar who is facing the ocean at night with a back open gown looking at which Krishna is smitten, turns carnal and asks-her out. ‘A sly and misleading portrayal’ because, the man is shown as thinking, to say that he is not an unthinking person so as to say and that his decisions were thought out and hence his moves were logical and not irrational trying to normalise what he does. But the reality is that he does no more thinking than to ask himself if it is fine to do what he was doing and the answer was always a ‘yes’.
A messed up behaviour, calling the ones whom he “loved truly” as “good friend” after they break up with him when he tells that he wants both of them and they learn of his cheating mania! Satya invites him to her marriage and Radha phone calls him from some other country in which she is living and now they are all friends! It is a known fact that once one has loved another truly, it is not possible to friend-zone, and least of all continue to have a healthy relationship and be in touch, inviting for one’s own wedding – a clear farce!
The Hollywood has made this a thing of today, friend-zoning your ex-crush, ex-girlfriend, ex-wife! Hypocrisy at its best! Another insensible move is to “hug-it-out”. The hugs between boys and girls and the IT folk is a thing common today masqueraded in the name of friendship and good manners! The cheap thrills the hugger or the hugged gets out of it is not spilled out! A total, base, western behaviour.
A full-fledged Hollywood movie in the name of Indian cinema portraying the cheap side of western customs which probably the native westerners themselves wouldn’t consider as good customs, even in their context (take their technological advances, hard work and originality into your own lives and adapt them instead of their falling customs) those that appear in the movie as a new normal for Indians.
The question here is not about Modernity versus Indian-ness (because, India has been ever open to newness and flexibility; her innumerable texts; handling different facets and newness themselves are a testimony, often contradicting between one another to a newbie) but Western versus Indian-ness. Why choose one over the other?