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Film Review –Geeta's Journey: Navigating Political and Personal Desires in “Hazaroon Khwahishen Aisi”

film poster of hazaaron khwahishen aisi with 3 main leads

Image credits- frontline.thehindu


summary

Hazaroon Khwahishen Aisi explores Geeta's journey amidst political upheaval in 1970s India. Engaged in a tumultuous love triangle, she navigates personal desires and revolutionary ideals. This article traces her evolution from a passive observer to an empowered decision-maker. Further, the article shows how Geeta’s representation passes the Peirce test.

 

Hazaroon Khwahishen Aisi ki har Khwahish pe dam nikle,

Bahut nikle mere armaan phir bhi kam nikle


   Thousands of desires, each worth dying for,   

Many of them I have realized, yet I yearn for more.


-- Ghalib


The movie ‘Hazaroon Khwahishen Aisi’ takes its title from Ghalib’s sher (couplet) explicating the insatiability of one’s desires. This movie, inter alia, delineates the realm of desires of the protagonists. In this movie review, I inquire into the political and personal desires of the debut actress, Chitraganda Singh (‘Geeta’), the dilemmas she faces while realizing the same, and the extent of her agency in the choices she makes. 


The movie lays out the political landscape of India during the 1970s. The story revolves around the lives of Kay Kay Menon (‘Siddharth’), Geeta, Shinney Ahuja (‘Vikram’), and Ram Kapoor (‘Arun’). We are introduced to the bustling political environment of the Hindu College of the University of Delhi in the early 1970s through the lens of Siddharth, the son of an ex-judge, and a revolutionary student. After college, he plans to join the Naxalite struggle. His love interest, Geeta is an England return South-India woman who is enamoured by Siddharth’s revolutionary spirit. However, while she seems to share Siddharth’s dreams, she is unsupportive of his extremely radical plans. Vikram, a “middle-class” man, loves Geeta and wants to protect her from the dangers of radical politics as he dreams to move up the social ladder. After the college ends, Siddharth shifts to a village in Bhagalpur in Bihar and carries out revolutionary activities. Geeta moves to pursue higher education in England, whereas Vikram realized his dream of being rich by becoming an investment advisor.


After a few years, Vikram meets Geeta and her husband, Arun, an IAS officer, and discovers Geeta’s extra-marital relationship with Siddharth. After conceiving Siddharth’s child, Geeta divorces Arun to get herself out of the unhappy marriage and settles in Bihar with Siddharth. She, now, partakes in political activities with Siddharth. However, unlike her privileged life as reflected through her outfit in college, she lives modestly in the village and is seen directly confronting the police as the situation is extremely tumultuous and precarious between various sections of society. The police constantly raid and investigate them on the charges of Naxalism. Therefore, Geeta sends their child to her parents away from the village. At this point, an Emergency is imposed in India, and the state's brutality becomes worse for Siddharth and Geeta. They were detained, harassed, and assaulted by the police. However, Arun, exercising his influence, bails out Geeta from the jail.


The custodial torture results in traumatising Geeta off the radical politics path entirely. While trying to rescue Siddharth from police custody, Vikram is brutally beaten up by the police on charges of helping Siddharth flee from the police custody. He has to undergo a lobotomy which renders him mentally incapacitated. Siddharth decides to shift to England to study medicine and Geeta returns to the village to work as a teacher, and a social worker and take care of Vikram.


During college, Geeta participated in political activities with Siddharth. She borrows Siddharth’s political desires and is almost an incidental participant. Siddharth even insists Geeta to become a member of his party. However, at the same time, she disapproves of Siddharth’s plan to join the Naxalite movement as she is not comfortable with the idea of a violent revolution against the state. The primary reason for objection was her parents’ reluctance and her friend Vikram’s idea that middle-class students cannot afford to pursue the revolutionary path of privileged students like Siddharth; therefore, they should rather focus on their careers.


a man saving a girl who is scared from hazaaron khwaishen aisi

Image credits- losttheplot


The first time we get Geeta’s own perspectives about her life is when she is writing a letter to Vikram after shifting to Bihar with Siddharth providing us first glimpses of Geeta’s political desires and the agency, she exercises over it. She describes herself as a “woman who was arrogant, opinionated and thought she could change this world, so she came here in Bhojpur.” She told Vikram that she is running an adult literacy school for tribal women. 


Even when she settles in Bihar with Siddharth and engages more actively in the struggle, she is ambiguous about the revolution and relies on Siddharth’s words and actions. Geeta tells Siddharth that she is there of her own volition because she loves him. However, it is unclear whether she repudiated the comforts of an urban life due to her political desire for revolution or her personal desire for Siddharth. When she is abused by the police, and subsequently gets bailed out by Arun, she refuses to join Siddharth to London. This makes her return to the village after Siddharth’s disillusionment with the revolution more interesting. This return marks a change in her activities from revolutionary to emancipatory, which involved working as a teacher and educating children. I argue that in between the two conflicting political desires of a revolution and another that of a complete repudiation of public life, she, for the first time exercises her agency in carrying out what she desired, unaffected by Siddharth’s, Vikram’s, or society’s expectation of her.


Coming to her personal desires, she was truly mesmerized by Siddharth's personality and enjoyed a healthy loving sexual relationship as an equal with him. She never desired Arun during their marriage. Even when Arun bails her out of jail, she does not seem to be comfortable with him. Her desire for Vikram was far more complex. Despite Vikram’s unequivocal expression of infatuation and love for her, it did not make her leave Siddharth. This makes the ending more thought-provoking. She decides to leave Siddharth and spend her life with mentally disabled Vikram in the village. The movie shows her exercising complete agency in deciding every aspect of her relationships with the men in her life in stark contrast to her over-reliance on Siddharth to shape her political consciousness.


Conventionally, the nature of women’s representation in fictional works is analysed through the Bechdel test. This test asks two simple questions – does the fictional work have two female characters? And do these characters have at least one conversation that is not about men? Similarly, the Peirce test conceptualized by Kimberly Peirce specifically analyses the representation of a female protagonist. This test enunciates three criteria. First, the presence of a female character with a separate story; second, she has desires which she pursues; last, viewers can empathize and relate with the desires of the female character. In this movie, Geeta has a fully fleshed-out character arc starting as a privileged ignorant trophy girlfriend and crush to a self-actualised person who can make tough authentic decisions about her political and personal life. Her political and personal desires, the dilemmas she faces while realizing the same, and the extent of her agency in the choices she makes are laid out in the essay. Lastly, as an audience, we are invested in Geeta’s character, are curious to see the choices she would make, are sympathetic towards the trauma she goes through at the hands of her husband and state, and are in awe of the bold decisions she makes as a mother, lover and a friend. In conclusion, the movie can be said to pass the Peirce test. This progressive feminist representation of Geeta’s character is laudable and reflects the director Sudhir Misra’s sensibility and appreciation of women in his life.

 

By: Saif Ali

Saif Ali is a law student and is interested in gender theory and pop culture.


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