Unabashed Female Desire: Chungking Express And Aiyyaa

How many times have we talked about a female protagonist’s sexual desires without slut-shaming her or portraying her as a loose character?
Unabashed Female Desire: Chungking Express And Aiyyaa

My love for Wong Kar Wai films began when I was in college. I was a scrawny, shy girl, in love with the idea of being in love. I had been in a 'one-sided love affair' with several men/book-movie characters/classmates for as long as I can remember. I never had the courage to let the subject(s) of my love/infatuation know how I felt about them and silently pined over them with all my might. Sadly, I was perpetually surrounded by people who got to be with their special someone while I took the unadulterated support of films and books for comfort and relatability.

So when I watched Chungking Express for the first time, a profound yet simple film that I had never heard of, being completely oblivious to the genius of Wong Kar Wai, my mind was legitimately blown. Till then, I kind of felt slightly ashamed at how fixated I was on the existence of my crushes and how their mere presence or the lack of it had the capacity to make or mar my mood. But when I watched the silent obsession of Faye for Cop 663 take over her life and job, I finally found a world where my odd fascination for irrevocable love wasn't weird. In fact, it very well became a central characteristic, portrayed realistically by the fantastic actors in Chungking Express.

Many years later, when I saw the trailer of Aiyyaa, I very foolishly brushed it off as just another mediocre, over-the-top film with a lot of hamming and drama. But I still decided to give it a try because of one of the songs from the film – 'Mahek Bhi', which I had fallen in love with. The film is a melange of quirky characters and satire and it focuses on the life of a girl who loves to live in her world of romance and filmy fantasies.

What made the film refreshing for me was its female gaze and the way the film smartly talked about it without it looking out of place or unnatural. How many times have we talked about a female protagonist's sexual desires freely without slut-shaming her or portraying her as a loose character? Almost never. Meenakshi's equally quirky family, her very interesting co-worker Mayna, her ultra-cool grandma on wheels, her docile/old-soul fiancé and her obsession with an art student at her workplace are all elements that were presented in a very funny and rather tongue-in-cheek fashion that I couldn't get enough of. I could also relate to her situation on a personal level as I myself have a very weird relationship with my mixed-race family and the very uptight but odd Maharashtrian essence portrayed in the film made me feel at home.

The film also reminded me of one of my other absolute favourite films – le fabuleux destin d'amélie poulain,  a French film on the life of a girl caught in her own imaginative world and how she navigates her life surrounded by some really quirky characters while trying to find true love. All these films have that one thing in common — being in love unabashedly. This very factor left a huge impression on my psyche because I didn't feel alone. It felt like I was watching myself on the big screen.

One need not be in love in real life to recognize the heart and soul of these films. So the next time you feel like you want to revisit your school/college days and experience the brilliance of pure infatuation and romance, just grab a bowl of popcorn and watch Aiyyaa without judging it by its box-office collection. Let it serenade you with the kind of childish endearment that makes you swoon and sing songs like 'Pehla Nasha' with your sweater while your family wonders what's gotten into you.

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