Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Was it really a persuit of happiness?

Many a times I come to the realization that the function of a writer is to stealthily gather the thoughts and refurbish them in the form of diligently constructed mass of words. To put this in a graceful statement, a writer has his roots penetrated in to the psyche of the masses and his labour in cultivating the words yields the relishing fruits of insight. 


The first time I saw The pursuit of happyness (yes the happiness with a 'Y'), I was full in tears. An adorable protagonist being smitten by fate, his cute son ... storyline in itself is sufficient to deliver a heart throbbing hollywood movie. If this is coupled with the finest performers for father-son roles, you are bound to fall under the spell.

The second time I watched the movie, the perseverance of the protagonist struck a chord with me. Who in their sane state of mind would not root for a man who fights all the odds to achieve his dream, in this case is in pursuit of happiness? It was the formulaic rags to riches story that can serve as an adrenaline booster for many.

The third time I saw the movie with a friend, I was more analytic and less emotional. If I were to borrow the rhetoric from one of the brilliant minds of Kannada criticism D.R.Nagaraj, my eyes were not blurred by the tears insinuated by the movie. I could see things clearly.

I could readily feel that there was something amiss about the movie.  Chris Gardner watching the stock brokers wandering about muses, “They all looked so happy. Why couldn't I be that happy?”. The very words that filled my tender head with awe felt vulgar in this viewing. All loving, benevolent corporate CEO opening the doors of his house and even inviting a complete stranger to the owners' box to watch a sport (Is it baseball?) made me suspect the intentions of the director. But at that time I couldn't formulate my thoughts clearly till I read this wonder review on the movie  by Philip Concannon. When I reached the last paragraph in the review I almost jumped out of my chair in joy. It was like the joy of a poor father after finding a perfect and willing bridegroom for his daughter ;).

That relationship is pretty much all the movie has in its favour though, and the incessant tugging of the heartstrings is eventually counterproductive. The Pursuit of Happyness left me cold, not only because it somehow manages to make a true story feel like a false one, but also because it occasionally seems to lose sight of what’s important in Gardner’s tale. “They all looked so happy” Smith’s voiceover muses as he watches various stockbrokers wandering past, “why couldn’t I be that happy?”; and while this is a perfectly reasonable question, The Pursuit of Happyness often seems obsessed with the idea that money is the key to the happiness Chris desires. The rich white men whom Gardner does business with are all benevolent, jolly and inclusive, while most of the poor people he encounters are venal, aggressive and deceitful; and when Chris is rewarded for the enormous revenue he has generated with a permanent position at Dean Witter, the end credits can’t wait to tell us how much money he made over the next couple of years. It seems the filmmakers took the idea of rags-to-riches a tad too literally; and while Will and Jaden Smith work overtime to instil this picture with some heart, it’s disheartening to realise The Pursuit of Happyness is really all about the pursuit of wealth.
Read complete review here

Image © 2006 Columbia Pictures Industries Inc.