I love India’s Bollywood for so many reasons - the beauty, the dance, the music of love – but also because now and then Bollywood films (made in Mumbai India) reflect the timeless spiritual traditions of India. A recent film, Main Aisa Hi Hoon, is a great example of this. There are so many implied spiritual truths in this film that could only emerge from an understanding of unconditional love that is so important in Hinduism as Bhakti Yoga and in Sufism.
The film is the love-child of writer/director Harry Baweja and stars Ajay Devgan. For those of you who don’t know who Ajay (pronounced ah-JAY) Devgan is, I can tell you that he is one of India’s finest actors. Ajay has made over 60 films and excels at the tender tough guy. Ajay’s father was a stunt master and Ajay loved doing his own stunts. This guy is all man and has these Attila-the-Hun eyes that could melt the coldest heart.
Recently he has acted in films that show his more complex and vulnerable side. Ajay has a wide range of emotions that over the years he has learned to express to the camera. He is a master when it comes to showing immensely callous icy cruelty (Company). Sometimes Ajay makes me think of Robert Mitchum – not in the way he looks, but in the emotions he holds and communicates in his acting. Ajay should remake that old 1955 Hollywood film ‘Night of the Hunter’! <g> He’d be terrific as the creepy sinister Harry Powell.
There is always a kind of smoldering intensity, a subtle sense of insecurity and vulnerability beneath the tough guy act that makes Ajay’s characters deeper, more complex, and therefore more interesting. Ajay can be the scary silent type who keeps his turbulent, sometimes threatening emotions locked up inside (Deewangee). Or he can be just plain meltdown sexy with those hypnotic eyes of his (OMG…!) and very tender with his many leading ladies.
There is also a wonderful little boy in Ajay who gets way overjoyed, excited and energized with happiness (Itihaas). Occasionally this little boy has an endearing sort of comical goofy quality that makes Ajay even more ever so appealing in his kind of vulnerable charm. It’s obvious that Ajay has been working on his acting, and it is a real pleasure and fun to watch him perform.
In Main Aisa Hi Hoon, Ajay plays an adult male with the mind of a seven-year-old child. I did not expect to feel comfortable watching my hero Ajay act this role, but his performance just made me love him that much more. Ajay is brilliant in this film; his acting is impeccable and heart wrenching.
This wonderful film is a parable about the meaning, the power and importance of Love. It is also a profound and insightful metaphor with into what is happening to people in this world as the plague of greed and ambition spreads around the planet, while love takes a back seat to success, status, and consumption.
Ajay’s character is a “normal man in an abnormal world” – he loves and that simple love spreads out and touches everyone around him. He has the mind of a child and a heart of gold! Very often in Hindu Sanskrit texts it is suggested that when a yogi achieves enlightenment, he or she should pretend to be the fool. The disguise of the Fool protects. Anyone who is lost in the bliss of Divine Love appears foolish the worldly. Ajay’s character is happy, loving, giving, and forgiving.
The gorgeous Sushmita Sen plays the successful unhappy lawyer, who is lost in her ambition and feelings of being superior and smarter than everyone. This lady’s performance was unusually excellent, showing real depth of character and feeling.
My generation never used the mean term ‘loser’ to describe people we felt superior to. Those of you who are young probably don’t even notice how your world is being altered by greed and the callous attitudes of those who imagine themselves to be smart, superior, and special. You are just trying to ‘make it’ in the world like so many others – until you wake up alone one day like Sushmita’s character and sadly realize that you have forgotten how to love, how to feel, and how to cry.
The fact that a film like this was even produced is amazing in itself and a credit to Harry Baweja’s soul, and his courage and willingness to take risk. India still understands love, even if it doesn’t pay off at the box office. Ajay’s spontaneous innocence, his unconditional Love, and his capacity to forgive conquer all!
In perhaps one of her best performances, Esha Deol plays the character, MAYA. This Sanskrit word means illusion to most westerners, but a deeper look at the metaphysical nature of the term shows that Maya is more than illusion. Maya is also the creative Shakti power, and this Maya creates a child, which becomes the focus of the film as the forces of evil are eventually vanquished by the power Love.
In the film Maya is the lost-rich-girl searching for love, having been neglected by her ambitious rich father who is forever too busy to notice her. She has the symbol OM tattooed on her arm and practices meditation and yoga. She craves the escape of ecstasy and uses hashish to get high.
Fate leads her to the protection of Ajay’s simple minded, childlike character and his unconditional love, which she cannot resist. But after a year of living with him, she is too attached to her pain to be able to accept his love. Overwhelmed by her personal demonic illusions, and fearful that she will lose him, she leaves him and abandons the child they have created. Maya acknowledges that he is the better person and hopes the child will not turn out like her. The goodness of the 'fool' is valued above all.
Eight years later Maya’s father turns up and ruthlessly tries to get custody of the child, a little girl. Towards the end of the film in a court scene Sushmita (the lawyer) reads a letter that Maya wrote to her father just before she overdosed on drugs – apparently the only letter she wrote him in 8 years. Maya says that the love she shared with Ajay’s character was almost too much for her and that she was fearful of losing even that.
In spite of the fact that the children of the very rich are greatly envied, in fact they are rarely happy. The fathers are usually obsessed with their own egos and the power of money, the deals, the influence and status. They see their children as assets, extensions of their own egos, and pawns in their power games. The mother is consumed with social commitments that serve her husband’s companies.
The males often become drug addicts or alcoholics. The ones who do manage to become successful in the world or their family business do so at the expense of their own individuality as they are trained to be clones of their father. These men are often very hard on their children. The demands of staying on top of the heap of wealth they have aggressively accumulated leave little time for the kind of attention, tenderness, and love children so desperately need.
The daughters of the very rich suffer even more than the sons. East or west, they are usually compelled to marry someone who is in their own economic class. If the girl is lucky enough to have some kind of positive relationship with her father, then she has the impossible task of finding a man “as good as Daddy” – at least from her child-perspective.
More often there has been neglect, severity, and the cold tyranny of a man who must control everyone in his sphere of influence. These girls who have never experienced love as young vulnerable children do not easily learn to accept it – ever. They move in fear from relationship to relationship, hoping nothing will ever hurt them as much as their father’s apathy or cruelty. Thus the term: “Poor Little Rich Girl” – Maya was one of these.
The astrological chart shows exactly how much love and what kind of love a child receives in the first 3 to 5 years of our lives. This ‘imprint’ is rarely - if ever – overcome.
Maya acts out how she sees her self worth through her father’s eyes. If he does not value her, then she must not be of value. So she behaves in ways that reaffirm the father’s worldview and moves towards her own self-destruction through drugs. The love that Ajay’s character shows to her cannot be real because her father has shown her she is not worth loving. So she runs away.
I doubt if Harry Bajewa intended Ajay’s character portrayal to be ‘realistic’ – in fact we know very little about him, who his parents were, etc. That isn’t the point.
The essence of the film is that a person who is in a state of unconditional love, who does not judge others, and cannot tell lies is considered to be ‘abnormal’ in our world.
Ajay spontaneously offers Maya the tender shelter of his umbrella even after she has hurt his feelings. He happily forgives everyone. What Ajay does so beautifully throughout the film is to remain in this kind of innocent child-like love. It has been suggested that to find the Kingdom of Heaven, we “become little children” again.
This is why I mentioned the idea that enlightened yogis often pretend to be the Fool. Ajay’s character has become the patron saint of the town because he is innocently carrying “the Love frequency” and everyone recognizes how his presence enhances their lives. They love him back!
At the end of the film when Sushmita tries to explain to him that he is someone special, he is simply not interested. He is what he is and does not require descriptions. He's living 'Being-ness'!
This is a spiritual film – like DIL SE – which most Hindus and Sufis would understand in the context of unconditional love and Bhakti Yoga. The film is a metaphor, a parable, showing the power of Love to overwhelm a lack of love, to vanquish greed and ambition. The windmill toy handed down from Maya’s mother to the daughter is an obvious reference to the high-minded, unselfish and impractical Spanish hero Don Quixote.
Everyone eventually acts selflessly in response to Ajay - the lawyer takes no fees, the landlady takes no rent, his daughter decides remain like her father because she senses he is somehow better than the world. People simply give to him because they feel what he is, his unconditional Love. Even the grandfather asks for forgiveness.
As for the ending being unrealistic, when you see it in terms of the spiritual – the ending is perfect. Marriage is often the symbol of union with God, even in the Catholic church the nuns marry Christ. Sushmita’s character surrenders her ambition, smart-ness, and pride to the greater force – unconditional Love.
I highly recommend Main Aisa Hi Hoon. Watch this film – not with expectations of another glittering numbing advertisement for a promised-but-never-delivered fake impossible world. Watch MAIN AISA HI HOON as something deeper, a glimpse into the kind of heart and tender closeness we all dream of – the pure Heart of the innocent that does not judge others and cannot tell lies. And bring a big box of tissues!
Bollywood films are easy to buy or rent at nehaflix.com, IndiaWeekly, erosentertainment.com, or indiaplaza.com.
A few of Ajay Devgan’s best films:
Legend of Bhagat Singh
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