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'Oops': Tijori's daring blow

If male strip shows are not your cup of tea, there's no need to worry. Oops! has the marvelous Mita Vashisht in a daring role, says Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Jul 19, 2003 19:20 IST

Till about the halfway point of Oops!, debutant director Deepak Tijori gives a discerning viewer enough cause to utter the very same exclamatory expression that he has adopted as his film's title. Oops, he's got it all wrong! Oops, what's this guy up to? Oops, there goes another gratuitous strip show! But by the time the film draws to an end, he performs a miraculous turnaround - Tijori pulls it all back with a string of sharply realized, mature sequences that places Oops! in a precise psychological and narrative context.

Oops! follows a formula that seems to be fast gaining currency - it dialogues are entirely in English but the songs are all in Hindi. But in every other sense, it is a courageous film. It pushes the envelope of the older woman-younger man theme much further than any commercial Mumbai film has ever done.

In 2001, Farhan Akhtar's classy debut feature, Dil Chahta Hai, presented the well delineated character of a boyish painter who is fixated on a much older divorcee who lives all by herself in his neighbourhood, but the relationship between the two sensitive souls never crosses the boundaries of a strictly platonic affair.

In 2002, a far less successful off-mainstream English-language release, Freaky Chakra, revolved around another young man who wafts into the drab, colourless life of a 40-year-old widow and sweeps all her inhibitions and idiosyncrasies away for good with his warm, passionate touch. While it did depict a physical relationship between the two disparate figures, Freaky Chakra stopped short of defiantly cocking a snook at age-old societal impositions.

Oops! does not. And that is what gives Tijori's film its edge. It may have been touted as the tale of male strippers, but that part of the film is only incidental to what emerges as its central theme - the pursuit of personal happiness. If there is nothing exceptional in that line of storytelling either, there is a clear departure from accepted moral parameters in the manner in which the first-time director handles the character of a wealthy, married, 40-plus socialite who unleashes her dormant sexuality on an unsuspecting young man who strays into the world of male strippers and gigolos in his wide-eyed quest for the big bucks.

Just when you begin to worry about the possibility of Tijori throwing in the towel and settling for a morally acceptable narrative compromise, he plays his best hand. With three remarkably well-staged, skillfully modulated sequences - the twenty-something son confronts his aberrant mom, his best friend and his baffled father in quick succession - Tijori shows that he has enough guts to offset the weak spots that the film might have meandered into in its early stages.

Tijori's female protagonist is a wife and a mother, but she is a woman too. Neither she nor the guy who has thought her up makes any bones about that. Discount the fact that neither of its basic plot premises - an ambitious youngster turning into a male stripper and a middle-aged woman seeking pleasure outside the confines of a loveless marriage - are original (Oops! expresses its gratitude to The Full Monty by running brief snatches from it on two occasions), and you have a film that is unlike any Mumbai film you would have ever seen.

If male strip shows are not your cup of tea, there's no need to worry. Oops! has the marvelous Mita Vashisht in a daring role that only she could have pulled off with such unapologetic aplomb. She hops from one set of moods and emotions to another that is diametrically opposite, from high-wattage sensuality to corrosive anger, from cool defiance to jittery fulminations with uncommon panache. She does not hog much of the footage - the younger lead trio does - but leaves an impression that lingers well after the film is over. Without her - and without Tijori's directorial derring-do - this could well have been more a frustrating Uff! than just an innocuous Oops!

First Published: Jul 12, 2003 21:05 IST