I’m relieved to have watched some refreshingly original content, a Netflix film, ‘ Chopsticks ‘. While the movie is locally relatable, I’m struck by the characters it portrays. Each with their quirks and dualities only seem whole and real.
A girl from Aurangabad who makes a living as a tour guide in Mumbai, buys her first car. But she has trouble holding onto it. ‘Nirma’ played by Mithila Palkar, though naive, is determined to find her car, once it’s stolen. While she indulges in confidence-building affirmations and harbours a nervous twitch in her fingers, she ultimately stands up to a gangster who even renowned thieves fear.
Her courage comes from a deep value and respect for life and relationships, over objects and possessions. Because of her name, Nirma is mocked at by various characters in the film. Not once does she laugh along just to fit in. Her identity remains rooted within her.
Through the film she struggles to learn how to use chopsticks and is excitedly happy when she finally succeeds. Yet, at the close of the film she makes a bold statement by leading her Chinese tourists to savour their meal the Indian way, using their hands. Through this act she also asserts herself at the workplace where she was once asked to be more like her colleague, to be able to succeed.
The film starts with her negotiating with the car showroom Manager, telling him that she had specifically asked for a number plate that totals up to 9 and her car had one that totaled up to 11. She explains to him how 11 is an unlucky number, however still gives in and accepts the key from him. At the close of the film she refuses the chopsticks which also resemble a number 11. Thus, her transformation comes full circle.
The comfort and familiarity she builds with, ‘Artist,’ a conman played by Abhay Deol, stays where it is. Unlike the traditional script, it does not lead to sex, a relationship, marriage, betrayal or heartbreak. It remains purely as what it is – a transitional connect in life. Two people who journey together, learn about each other and themselves, in the process.
‘Artist’ is an expert at breaking locks and is passionate about cooking. A creative thinker and a recluse who decides to help the naive, Nirma. Similarly, ‘Faiyaz’ played by Vijay Raaz, is a gangster who dotes over his pet goat. He goes to the extent of slapping the cook for serving mutton to the guest at the goat’s birthday party.
The characters in the movie lead the audience to question their stereotypes. Can a gangster feel affectionate towards a goat and treat it like his child? Can a conman have a passion for cooking and aim to participate in a cooking competition on national television? Can a twenty-five year old girl from Aurangabad stand up to a gangster when she could barely stand up to the creepy internet guy, her colleagues and boss? Would one expect her to speak fluent Mandarin when she can’t get most English words right?
Conversations about diversity tend to lean towards what’s out there. What about what’s in here? Am I willing to accept the diverse dimensions of the human form? Of my own being? Would I rather spend my life trying to be some concept of who I think I should be?
Can I say no to the metaphorical chopsticks, roll up my sleeves and eat merrily with my hands? Can I be open to the diverse individuality of both myself and others? What a rainbow we are, in ourselves!
About Linda Baptista
A Change Agent who works on adding value to the lives of individuals, businesses, institutions and communities by building capability through growth and development. I am the founder of ‘Earthfully Yours’ and believe in thought- leadership, Organsiation Development and continuous change.
I am passionate about Diversity & Inclusion. I create and facilitate shared Learning Spaces for individual and group explorations. My signature is to leverage creative medium and techniques with a blend of Process Work. My work spans across Finance, Logistics, Pharma, IT and Education. Among many things, I’m a student of Studio Pottery. For me, ‘Living is Learning.’
Featured Image Courtesy: IMDb
Cover image Courtesy: Netflix