GRADE: A / 80%
If I say Anurag Kashyap‘s ‘That Girl in Yellow Boots‘ is one of the most overlooked films of 2011, I’d probably hear a ‘Huh? Aisi film bani bhi thi? (Huh? Was a film like that even made?) from most guys. If it weren’t for the late film critic Roger Ebert, who in his review of this film gave it a 3.5/4, I too wouldn’t have known that such a movie was made by the ‘Gangs of Wasseypur‘ director, this being despite the fact that I’m an Indian living in India. The film, like its protagonist, was probably found its home at film festivals, but sadly remains an alien here, in its own country.
Ruth is a little girl lost in a big bad world. The world here is India, or Mumbai to be precise (widely known as the city of dreams, something like Hollywood), whose glittery surface belies the ugliness beneath. You can easily be taken for a ride and f*** up your life in this city, especially if you are an outsider, a foreigner. Ruth may be aadhi-angreez (half-British) but she’s no naivete.
Wise beyond her years, she knows how to deal with Indians using indigenous methods i.e. bribing, and where and how she can make easy money. She’ll fight back with any Indian who tries takes her for granted and thinks he can get away because she’s not ‘from here’, except with government employees at immigration offices, with whom its simply pointless to argue and wise to obey instead. She works at a all-female run massage parlour exclusively for male customers, and all the guys need to know is the meaning of the word ‘handshake’ (hope you know what it means. In case you don’t, please refrain from asking for one at any massage parlour; a bordello is the right location for that: hope you know what a bordello is!) to get one from Ruth at an additional rate of a thousand rupees.
Her personal life is dysfunctional, to say the least, eaten up by her cokehead parasite of a boyfriend whose only desire to make love with her remains unfulfilled each time he initiates (he gets her patented handshake instead). The only driving force is her quest to find her father, who leaves no clues for her except a letter stating that he’s in Mumbai, because she believes her father would love her unconditionally. So determined is Ruth in solving this puzzle that she doesn’t fully appreciate the fatherly affection shown by an elderly customer named Divakar, who’s the only person to come just to get a massage and is oblivious of her handshake add-on service. She looks for love at all the wrong places and eventually regrets it, her life falling bit by bit as the ugly truth surfaces. This, in a nutshell, is Ruth, an unhappy girl whose job ironically is give people a ‘happy time’.
Kalki Koechlin is wonderful as Ruth because she refrains from overstating her alienness. Filmed under natural lighting that avoids romanticizing her as a foreigner, giving her an ‘Hey, I’m one of you!’ look, she is believable in every shade of her character, whether its Ruth the ‘handshake girl’, Ruth the ‘suffering girlfriend’ or Ruth the ‘determined and fearless woman’. Her fate is heartbreaking and may disturb some audiences, and Koechlin is fully involved in the film’s emotional moments. Her performance, like the movie itself, has been overlooked at award ceremonies, which instead got their happy time watching Vidya Balan pant and feign orgasms in Dirty Picture.
This is a DVD worth buying. Throw away your old stock of action-romance films and treasure a copy of this film instead.
- Bollywood Meets Lifetime, and Gets a Great Director (3quarksdaily.com)
- Kalki Koechlin ready for dance classes? (dnaindia.com)