BENGALURU: Yours truly reviews movies for a living. Every once in a while, there arrives a movie with a halo around it. You can observe the great movies arrive from a distance. Articles in international news websites describe the film as the greatest thing man has ever made. When the memes come out, the film has truly climbed the cluttered hill of everyday news.
One such movie that released recently was Joker – the cinematic adaptation of one of comic book’s most beloved characters. Without being a fanboy, I have watched all the films in which the joker has been brought to screen. But none of them brought with them such pressure to appeal to my aesthetics and deepest understandings of humanity.
I end up watching such ‘great’ films, just to avoid people who ask me what I thought of it. Of course, one might argue that it is easier to admit I haven’t watched it. But then that leads to a completely unwarranted discussion on the film and its nuances and subtexts and layers and hidden meanings and…
It is easier if I watch the movie and summarise my thoughts in a precise one-line phrase. I got tickets to the movie and went to watch it. Now, the experience of watching a film has been designed to be an engaging, fun experience. But not if you do it for a living.
The experience of going to watch a movie is now a weekly task for me. I need to go to bed early the previous night, and carry a pen and make mental and digital notes while the movie is playing. Even while watching the film, I am making notes on its craft and tone and screenplay. In short, all the joy of watching a story unfold in a dark hall is lost. It is reduced to an academic exercise.
The movie Joker documents the downward spiral of a clown and comedian Arthur Fleck whose failures and inability to cope with the world around him drive him to criminal insanity. Now, this is the portion I could connect with, thanks to my other profession as that of a stand-up comedian. Like the joker, I have difficulty focusing on one job for too long, and have to jump into many boats to stay sane.
Now, you might have seen all the glamour and fame of a famous stand-up comedian. I’m a non-famous stand-up comedian. We are the jokers of the industry. The ones who play to empty rooms and drunk middle-aged men who drown their day in alcohol.
I ended up feeling sympathy for the joker, but from the perspective of a stand-up comedian. His first joke in the film had a weak punchline and I was going ‘Hey, you should have come up with a better punchline’! At the end of another joke, the joker begins to laugh maniacally and I went ‘Man! You shouldn’t laugh at your own joke unless you’re doing it in a self-aware way, or if that is a part of your act’.
As the Joker descended further into darkness and chaos, I was more worried about his stand-up career. At the end of the movie, the joker gets a standing ovation. And that is why I liked the movie. Of course, the people giving him the ovation were hard-boiled criminals. They were celebrating the rise of a criminal warlord who had no respect for laws and orderliness. But hey, it’s a standing ovation, and one’s got to find one’s audience! The author is a writer and comedian