By Rimli Bhattacharya
Anurag Kashyap’s movie That Girl in Yellow Boots, released in 2010 at the Toronto Film Festival, left me flabbergasted as it is reminded me of the quote: “I don’t live in darkness, darkness lives in me.” And that’s the métier of director Anurag Kashyap who is a master in making such indie movies. As I watched the film, I travelled ages back when I was only a fifteen-year-old teenager and was a victim of a severe sex abuse. My perpetrator was of the age of my father. Kashyap has kept the film upto a handshake (please read it carefully) level but mine was not. Till day I get nightmares and haven’t healed, just like the twenty-year-old Ruth Edscar, played by Kalki Koechlin. And to our dismay, society forgives those who damage our lives, while the victims are slut shamed.
Ruth, a girl of mixed origin of an Indian father and a British mother, lands in Mumbai in search of her father who had left her when she was a child. An illegal immigrant in Mumbai, Ruth appears a fish out of water. Her westernized accent, pale white skin, full lips and long highlighted hair with a layer cut further strengthen her character as an English woman. As the movie starts, we find a mysterious and morose Ruth haggling with the custom officials for extending her visa. She is shoved from table to table and when asked for the purpose of extension, a composed Ruth says, “I love India.” Suspicious, an officer with a thick brow cautions her that she cannot work in India with a travel visa. She nods in agreement. Here we get an inkling of Osho’s heritage as Ruth mentions that she would travel to Pune.
Intermittently, Ruth reads a letter written in an extremely good handwriting, a letter from her father, Arjun Patel. He mentions in the letter that he loves Ruth and that if she ever comes to India she should look for him. Arjun Patel loves his daughter and asks her to search for him, without leaving any contact information in India. Here the audience might be taken aback.
This letter ignites a fire in Ruth and her quest to know her father. We understand that Ruth’s mother had left her father. As a child Ruth detested her elder sister Emily, whom she thought her father loved more than her. She recalls a young Emily sleeping next to Ruth, where Emily would place her sister’s hand on her abdomen and cry for hours together. Then one day Emily takes her life. Emily was only fifteen and pregnant. Unable to bear his daughter’s loss, Arjun Patel had initially taken refuge at Osho’s ashram in Pune but was thrown out because of misbehavior.
Life in Mumbai proves tough for Ruth. She is lost in her world and is determined to find her father with a junkie who forces himself as her boyfriend. She works in a massage parlor to manage the finances. Thanks to her boyfriend, her money gets robbed by goons and thugs repeatedly.
In the parlor Ruth engages herself in handshake for extra money. Always in her yellow boots, Ruth has a customer Lynn, played by Kumud Mishra, who enjoys the most when she shakes her hand to please him. He comes every day and makes his payment on time. When she asks him about his extra loyalty, he says that he is madly in love with Ruth. Lynn’s hair color matches that of Ruth’s boots: yellow.
Anurag Kashyap, with his signature style, directs an unpredictable end. Repeatedly reprimanded by the censor board for dodging the conventions of contemporary Indian cinema, this maverick director always aspires to make something new with a hard hitting message. As we come to the end of the movie, Ruth manages to collect some missing links of her father. She solves the riddle of her father’s four names: Arjun, Benjamin, Ojhas and (let the mystery remain). Kashyap shows how pathetic and cruel our society can be to a woman.
As expected, there is no happy ending in the film. Ruth realizes that it is her own father on whom she has been shaking her hands. It is the same man who had inseminated Emily and had asked her to abort. A debauch man, who had clicked numerous pictures of Ruth.
It is both the story telling (the story was written jointly by Anurag and Kalki) and performances of the characters which make the movie unique. Amid all the miseries, we get some fresh air in Naseeruddin Shah as Diwakar, the only decent client who didn’t need a handshake. Gulshan Devaiya as Chittiappa, the gangster, provides some dark humor. Ronit Roy plays the role of a sober police officer. I would have been happier if Rajat Kapoor could contribute something more than a cameo in the film. He carries an aura and I fall in love each time I see him (with a pun).
The film speaks of a perverted mind and a gruesome sex abuse. Like me I believe no woman has been able to avoid an abuse at least once in her lifetime. I must say that watching the movie has taken a toll on my mental health.
If you haven’t watched this movie, please do watch. It took me twelve years to watch it. And hadn’t I written this review, I would have suffocated myself to death.
Rimli Bhattacharya is a first class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering with a MBA in supply chain management. Having worked in the corporate sector for twenty-two years, she realized writing was her true calling. She left her high profile job as a General Manager at a multinational in 2017 to pursue her passion. She has contributed to two anthologies, A Book of light and Muffled Moans and has written two solo books, The crosshairs of life and That day it rained and other stories. Her other works have appeared in twenty-nine literary magazines & E – Zines. She is also an Indian Classical dancer.
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