Batla House was not a date movie. We should’ve stayed home and watched KBC instead. Only one annoying propagandist to deal with, and only for an hour.
While Akshay Kumar struts his 21st century Mr. India avatar (Pad man, Toilet man, Mars man) updating the old Manoj (Mr. Bharat) Kumar trope, John Abraham inhabits the more “khaki”-fied niche (and a very solemn-ey niche it is. Have some R-E-S-P-E-C-T). If Akshay Propaganda Kumar massages India’s fascist fantasies of rosy unnati cum pragati and wannabe superpower bragging rights, John Abraham is your terminator-style uber-cop panting for retribution against India’s E N E M Y number 1. Same shit, same upper caste Hindu mustachioed machoism, different faces. Added bonus? All this stuff happened in real life, guys. So there. Are we a great nation or are we the greatest nation?
The premise of Batla House is the same as all cop films, Holly to Bollywood: how dare you question the police and its tactics of serial bullying and brutality? How dare you hold the police accountable for systemic discrimination or disenfranchisement? Why not instead give the police more leeway to enforce the law, more ammunition to intimidate and incarcerate the undesirables? Can’t you see how lacing John Abraham in this constitutional strait-jacket is so damn restrictive—it’s like putting someone in jail without a hearing, and throwing the key away? Jesus—do you even know what that’s like!
The premise of Batla House is the same as all cop films, Holly to Bollywood: how dare you question the police and its tactics of serial bullying and brutality? How dare you hold the police accountable for systemic discrimination or disenfranchisement?
Because f**k democracy and its due processes.
Sadly, we haven’t armed and empowered the police enough. Then how dare we question men who wear uniforms that also double as kafans? These beefy beefcakes (oops) step out into the world every day, ready to eat bullets. How dare we bleat about human rights? Do you know how exhausting it is to face judicial inquiries and multi-departmental investigations as a result of all this racket? How it impedes police from policing and lowers morale in the ranks? Don’t you know it’s a war zone out there? The next time you’re in trouble, just wait and see if the police comes to your aid. Tab pata chalega (Then you would know)! Just like the NYPD, who decided to sit on their hands and not make arrests for “minor” offenses because, why fire a cop for killing a black man selling loose cigarettes?
Batla House suckers you into expecting some psychological complexity—raises some hopes that it won’t be the clichéd policemen-are-tortured-superheroes genre. Maybe this time they’ll expose the underbelly of fake encounters and vigilante justice that plagues the Indian judicial system and expose Bollywood’s giddy re-enactments? Maybe this time there will be some organic call for reform?
The calls for reform are dismissed as AstroTurf-ed in Batla House. It’s those fake activists, don’t you know, who like the sound of their own voices and profit from the genuine distress of the poor and marginalised! The real reformers are, you guessed it, the bravely brave policemen. It’s the guys who’re trying to clean the gutters by skinny-dipping in sewage (and using sewer gas to make chai and pakoras)—yeah, those guys’re the realest heroes India needs and deserves. Anyone who says otherwise is a bloody anti-national!
First off, koi doubt bhi mat rakhna (don’t have any doubts): The police are underdogs in India—undermined by oily politicians and mistrusted by a feckless public. Meanwhile, what’s with the free press and their constant braying? And Jeez, why don’t Muslims trust the cops who know what’s good for them and their community? After all, ACP Sanjay Kumar (our film’s hero and that fine upstanding Hindu and anointed masiha for Muslims) knows how to respect the Quran the right way: hold it reverentially up to his eyes, kiss it, read Arabic verses and translate ayats from—all to educate a Muslim suspect. Don’t you see what these knoble and knightly men have to put up with on a daily basis? Now why in god’s name would you want to tie this man’s hands when he’s itching to make India so awesome, so right? In fact, he’s so goddamn right that even terrorists from “Terroristan” are tripping over themselves to say so in video testimonials.
But wait, you want sensitivity? Bam! Here’s ACP Sanjay Kumar battling inner demons. He’s vulnerable, guys! So broken. What a breakthrough in Indian cinema! Batla House is such a valiant film that dares to touch touchy topics of hard-core manly McManly men and mental illness—for all of four minutes.
Hoping this’ll be explored more?
Duh, see how John Abraham has flashbacks (in color, and in slow-mo black and white) as he’s strafed in a beautifully-choreographed war zone? See him reeling back from that one bullet that hits his Kevlar-kavach-ed chest on a loop? Dude, don’t you see the tragic beauty in all this mayhem?
What? Want some feminism too?
Behold our woke ACP who understands what it’s like to be married to a cop. You could be widowed at the drop of a hat! He gets it, ya. He didn’t even impregnate her for her own damn good. Heck, he even checked into therapy because that’s what wifey wanted. And gasp, it’s a female therapist! See, how the pressures of hyper-masculinity that demand routine spectacles of bravado and human sacrifices take a toll on a “real” man, his relationships and his freaking wajood?
But hang on. Don’t get any ideas that supercop is traumatized by guilt or any questioning of his moral compass.
Society sucks. Because thanks to liberals like you and me, bad guys have too many rights, too many weapons, too many sympathizers, too many mics, too many cameras. But good guys are held back by democracy’s demand for due process.
If there is trauma, it is our own damn fault and not his actions or the system he represents. Society sucks. Because thanks to liberals like you and me, bad guys have too many rights, too many weapons, too many sympathizers, too many mics, too many cameras. But good guys are held back by democracy’s demand for due process. Picture someone lathi-charging or tear-gassing you, just ainvayeen (without a reason). How does that make you feel, huh? Holding you back, or kettling you in with heavy-duty riot gear and see-through shields? That’s how emasculating it is to be a policeman in India. What would you even know with your “libtard” biases and “sickular” bleeding hearts?
And what happens to women in these macho fests of valour of imagined-underdogness? Dammit, they are these massive obstacles. Fat-ass potholes on the expressway to masculine glory. These mewling women are so needy and emotional. Will you please stop with your anxious phone calls about how I am and where I am? I’m busy being a hero. Can’t handle this jaan-hatheli-pe-lekar-nikalte-hain (Life in our hands) lifestyle? Then quit me (and therefore India). Go back to your parents. Be selfish.
You could get in line and be a badass but sanskari (traditional) cheerleader for my touchdowns and sixers. See, how empowered you’ve become? So ballsy that you even knocked down that other castrating woman who dares to undermine your man.
Girl, smile more. Walk around in heels, swing that ass and long hair. More eye candy, bae, less leaking. But first, be a good twenty years younger to my distinguished, hardened aging.
Heal me. Hold me. I don’t ask for much.
And when the day of reckoning comes, beam smugly, nod your head in absolute devotion and support, because I have such a show to stage on that witness stand. Remember Adam Levine at the Super Bowl with his loud-ass California and Hindi tats and all? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. All that broody stoniness and constipated intensity I’ve been practicing in a mirror for two-thirds of the film? I will now unleash it in a preachy lecture that these sobbing, protesting “libturds” need force-fed to them.
You just sit back, and watch my righteous tandav (mayhem).
Watch me do the job of the prosecutor one hand tied behind my back. Because sure, we got that actor to say a few words, but more to be the rapt audience for my character’s steely uprightness. Pffft, and I know legal stuff better than any lawyer anyway. If I had Levine-like tattoos to show off hon, it would say I N D I A on my flat-as-f**k abs. My wider than 56-inch chest has room for the Satyamev Jayate emblem. And for my asli (real) compassion-for-minorities wala patriotism. Aren’t ya glad I didn’t rip my shirt off like that loser Salman Khan? See how subtly I cream myself?
And then, only then babe, tell me how enchanted you are with my longer-than-five-minutes speech. And I’ll slash my lips into a humble smile. Did I tell you already, I’m so proud of how you’ve grown to hero-worship me like I am bloody entitled to? So proud of how you’ve groomed yourself to become my satellite, self-ejecting from my fiery path. And Brava, for no longer asking naggy-ass questions.
Took you long enough.
And sorry. When I rinse and repeat this formula two years from now, you’ll be too old to play my adoring foot-soldier and kar sevak. Dang, I did forget to put in the requisite sex scene in this film! Meh, just wasn’t feeling it, I guess. Maybe I axed the sex because you didn’t have to die to make my character more angsty (true events be damned). We did want to make this film more PG-13 too—notice, how there’re no gaalis (slangs) even? Gotta lure the young ones before they turn liberal. Or maybe there’s no sex because I’ve grown too. Become more mature. More humble?
Jaya Dubey writes this elegiac fanfic with a heavy, heavy heart. Lusting after John Abraham for over a decade, she has publicly decided to break up with him for pulling the same lazy crap over and over again (or maybe she’s just pissed he’s overdressed in Batla House). Who told him to pump and primp himself up into a thicc saffron phallus? Give me back my Salaam-e-Ishq John Abraham any day.
Featured Image Source: The Indian Express