I’ve written a guest-review for WOGMA on the movie Bubble Gum. If you just scoffed, please do read my review. I thought so too, when I read the title and I was pleasantly surprised. The movie was the best thing about my day.
When the promos for Bubble Gum first flashed on my TV screen, I changed the channel. I figured that the title was a description of the superficial lives of over privileged kids who date at 12, have their own cars at 14 and a passport stamped with all the fashionable destinations, by the time they are 16. Indeed, if Meetu hadn’t asked me to do a guest-review, this movie might have passed from my notice. The loss would have been entirely mine.
The promos and posters tell you that this is a story of puppy love and teenage friendships. I’m almost loath to say any more since it would go counter to reviewing without giving the movie away (Oh Meetu, this is so hard!). Let me start by saying that my perceptions were entirely wrong. This is not bubblegum of the fancy ‘Oh, I lurrrrve San Francisco, I got this tee-shirt at Disneyland on my last visit’ crowd. It’s the bubblegum of the local-brand-chews-like-eraser variety that anyone who grew up in India of the 80s would remember. The story is set in a time before mobile phones, satellite television and neighborhood coffee bars. Bubble Gum starts with this simple introduction and explains how at that time, the most one could expect from love was a stolen glimpse of the beloved or a surreptitious hand clasp during kabaddi.
Bubble Gum explores the world of 14-year-old, Vedant in Jamshedpur in the days drawing up to Holi. A grown-up Vedant (who is never shown) narrates the tale, giving it a very ‘The Wonder Years’ feel. The movie touches on every aspect of the boy’s life so artfully that anyone who is or has ever been fourteen will feel a sense of kinship. Vedant chafes under parental authority, has an ongoing war with his arch rival Ratan, sighs deeply over the pretty girl next door and is frequently bailed out of scrapes by his brother, Vidur. So what makes this teenager, this story special?
For starters, it is the first Hindi movie in recent times, about this age group. It’s not a cutesy monsters-and-noises tale for a primary school child. Nor does it have the teeny-bopper flavour of a number of other recent releases, which target either older teenagers or ‘the cool set’, focusing exclusively on puppy love. Infatuation is only one of the things that concern a preteen/early teenager and it is accorded the same status in Bubble Gum. Peer pressure, sibling jealousy and detachment from the parental unit are also major aspects of a young adult’s life and Bubble Gumexplores each of these without ever turning preachy or predictable.
Secondly, every character, even a minor one, is etched in the kind of detail that makes a story truly delightful. You watch most of the movie through Vedant’s eyes but you also recognize his parents’ dilemma and his brother’s blind protectiveness. You even feel certain camaraderie with the roguish, rough-and-ready Ratan. Even characters who only appear in a couple of scenes add to the funny nostalgia value as they make the audience think of someone just like that from their own lives – the rakhi sister who is a go-between for the lovers, the pushy Bengali mother combing her hair on the balcony, ready to take up cudgels on her Partho’s behalf, the gulal-seller who moonlights as a goon, the baby brother who must and can be bribed with chocolate, to play messenger.
One of the major aspects of this movie has not been detailed in the promos and in keeping with the theme of the WOGMA blog, I won’t mention it either. You’ll know it when you see it, in the first five minutes of the film. All I’ll say is that it’s been done only a few times in Bollywood and never quite as well as this.
As it turns out, Bubble Gum is only being screened at a select few theatres. Of the multiplexes, PVR Cinemas is the only one in Mumbai that I could find with a show and even then, only a single one per theatre in the morning. There must have been a special screening for schools since there were two groups of children present with their teachers in tow in the audience. You would think that a theatre full of preteen kids would make for a raucous audience. But the movie kept us all glued to our seats, with only an occasional cheer or laugh at Vedant’s adventures.
I thought Bubble Gum would be the perfect group outing movie for a bunch of preteens. My mother who accompanied me to the film, thought it would be an interesting watch for parents of teenagers. And though neither of us is a part of those two groups, we each still immensely enjoyed the film.