Sunday, May 12, 2013


Release date:
May 10, 2013
Sonam Nair


Riya Vij, Divya Dutta, Doorva Tripathi, Arbaaz Kadwani, Jayati Modi, Taaha Shah, Mrinal Chawla


A teenager advises her friend about how to hide her newly emerging breasts so that everyone in school does not notice … One confides in the other about her periods while a third taunts her for having sat out the PT class and says, you think the boys don’t know why? … A mother measures out her daughter for her first bra … Puberty and girlhood are rarely if ever discussed with such frankness in Bollywood films, which is why these elements in Gippi come as such a breath of fresh air.

Writer-director Sonam Nair’s film is bursting with promise in the first half hour when we are introduced to the 14-year-old protagonist Gurpreet a.k.a. Gippi Kaur, her brother Booboo who she lashes out at with verbal cruelty of the sort that even the sweetest kids are fully capable of, Gippi’s newly divorced mom Pappi, her best friend Aanchal, her adoring classmate Aashish who she incessantly spurns and the over-achieving school snob Shamira.

Where the film falters is when it becomes clear that too much of St Mary’s School, Shimla, where Gippi studies is based on a template derived from numerous Hollywood teen flicks. In American films you generally have the nerdy and/or dowdy gang, the glammed-up bimbettes who are possibly cheerleaders or aiming to get there, the popular boys on the soccer/baseball/basketball team who are dating these cheergirls, the regular-looking smart kids who may/may not be popular and one boy from among the popular kids who is secretly interested in one of the nerdy/dowdy/smart girls. Gippi transposes this template on to an Indian setting with good intentions but confusing results. So we get the titular heroine who is an overweight, under-achieving kid in love with songs from Shammi Kapoor films and constantly tormented by her skinny, model-like classmate Shamira; while the boy everyone thinks is Shamira’s boyfriend is in fact surreptitiously eyeing Gippi.

Why “confusing”, you ask? First… In many Hollywood films, being a cheerleader is the epitome of ambition for a schoolgirl, the word going out to young female viewers being that the god-ordained role for women is to cheer from the sidelines while men play the game. Shamira’s goals, thankfully, are different. She does not want to be on the margins. She wants to be the school head girl, a woman at the centre of the action, and towards this end she works extremely hard to score good marks and stay on top of a bunch of extra-curricular activities. Professionally ambitious women and girls are rare in Bollywood. This character was a great opportunity to bust stereotypes. Sadly, by proceeding to make Shamira a “bitch”, what Gippi does is reinforce the socially widely held notion that ambition is good for men but a dirty word for women; that career-minded women are…what’s the word we usually hear associated with them?...ah yes, bitches.

Second… Through the central character Gippi’s journey, what the film is trying to do is overturn notions of what makes people popular and successful. Gippi ends up being liked simply by being herself; she has few goals but when she does acquire one, she puts her own nose to the grindstone to achieve it, and succeeds. What a lovely message for little girl viewers to get! Disappointingly though, in the denouement – which of course I can’t reveal here – another message being sent out is that deep down in their hearts, nice girls really don’t want to be achievers. I mean, c’mon, why would you want to do well in school if you could instead be loved by your best friends and dated by the cute classmate? It’s an either/or choice for women, you see, as most of the world is constantly telling us. What woman could possibly get friends and the cute classmate and still notch up a major achievement in school?! Oh no, as conventional wisdom goes, that would simply be asking for too much! And while this may not be the point Sonam Nair intended to make, it’s certainly what comes across.

A pity, because Gippi does have so many positives. The young cast headlined by Riya Vij (Gippi) is uniformly good, though a special word must go out to Arbaaz Kadwani (Booboo), Doorva Tripathi (Aanchal) and Jayati Modi (Shamira) for their natural ease before the camera. Taaha Shah has much less to do as the older boy who Gippi falls for, but he does that well. Besides, it must be stated for the record that he’s a hottie, a fact you may have noticed if you’ve already seen him on debut in Y-Films’ Luv ka the End in 2011 in which he courageously dressed in drag and threw himself into the song “Mera jism jism mera badan badan, Arrey main hoon taaza mutton mutton”. Bringing up the rear is the talented actress Divya Dutta playing Gippi’s mom who has her own demons to grapple with. The nicest parts of this film are the way it handles the onset of puberty without tiptoeing around it and the bond between Gippi, Booboo and their mother. This is where the direction and writing both fall into place. This is where the film feels completely natural. Unfortunately, the rest somehow has a been-there-seen-that-in-this-or-that-Hollywood-film quality to it.

Rating (out of five): **

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
97 minutes

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