Katha by Sai Paranjape: The Red Pill in Indian Cinema

One rarely finds red pill themes in Indian cinema. Hence, I was pleasantly surprised to find this film called Katha. It is a gem of a film released in 1983 and directed by a woman named Sai Paranjpe. The fact that it is directed by a woman makes it all the more remarkable. For the film is loaded with red pill observations.

It stars the legendary actor Naseeruddin Shah (Rajaram), Farooq Shaikh (Bashu) and Deepti Naval (Sandhya).

Rajaram is an honest and hardworking man living in a chawl in Bombay. He harbors romantic feelings for the neighbor Sandhya, who is a young and impressionable single woman. She talks to Rajaram but always addresses him as Rajaram-ji despite his disapproval of the suffix. Ji is a suffix used behind a name to express respect for the addressee and is usually used with an elder person’s name. Sandya dismisses his disapproval by saying “kya karoon, aap ki personality mein hi ji hai” (“what can I do, Ji is in your personality”). That is not how Rajaram wishes to be respected by her.

Apart from being honest and hardworking Rajaram has many other good qualities. He is patient, helpful, socially driven. He is too good a man. When he hears on radio that some man is urgently in need of O-negative blood he hires a taxi and runs to donate blood because O-negative blood type is rare. And after donating blood when he is offered coffee and biscuits he smiles and says “iski kya zaroorat thi” (“what was the need for this”) as he hesitantly accepts it from the nurse. Such is his selflessness.

He gets excited when he sees Sandhya. Dropping things and banging on walls kind of excited. On the day he becomes permanent at work he tries to convey his feelings to her but is brushed aside with a change of topic from her.

Then comes Vadudev who is Rajaram’s “friend” from a long time ago. Rajaram has not seen him for four years since Vadudev dropped out of college. Vadudev is handsome and stylish young man brimming with confidence. Soon after he is greeted in by Rajaram he declares his intention to stay there and even congratulates Rajaram because he has chosen to stay with him! Vadudev likes to be called Bashu as it sounds stylish and modern. For a college drop-out he appears too sophisticated. He has quit many a job of short tenure, actually got fired form them, because he doesn’t know a trade other than conning people. However, the way he puts it, he is a creative spirit, a free bird who won’t be caged. Needless to say, he is dishonest, narcissist, psychopath,.. And a sweet talker. Yet, rather therefore, he is a charmer of women as well as men.

Bashu keeps taking advantage of Rajaram, by never paying the rent he promised he will pay for his stay, stealing money from Rajaram’s cupboard, lazying around while Rajaram works his ass off in the office,.. One day he fishes information about Rajaram’s boss who he described as “goodhearted”, thereby triggering Bashu’s predatory con-man instincts. Soon afterward, by exploiting the weakness of Rajaram’s boss he makes his way into the office filling a reputable position in marketing. He then gets his work done by Rajaram while stealing credit for the same.

Bashu is good with women. On one hand he flirts with and captures the heart of Sandhya in the chawl, and on the other hand he seduces the bimbo wife of their boss. At the same time also fools around with the boss’s daughter!

Towards the end Bashu is set to be engaged to Sandhya when his boss finds out about his illicit liaisons with his wife and subsequently fires him. After being fired as he is walking out of the office with Rajaram in carefree fashion he blurts out that he never intended to marry Sandhya, upon which Rajaram loses his cool. Bashu casually offers him a cigarette and the change of scene ensues. On the day of the engagement, he leaves a goodbye note saying “sitaron ke aage jahaan aur bhi hai” (“there are still worlds beyond the stars”) and takes off to the new world of “adventures”.

Sandhya’s father is furious and distressed at the same time, worrying who will accept his daughter now. Guess what, Rajaram says he will. But he wants a chat with Sandhya first to know her mind.

Sandhya complains to Rajaram for not making his feelings known to her earlier and “allowing someone else to steal her”! Rajaram lamely tries to explain how he tried to convey his feelings to her many times. We the red-pillers want him instead to say “My bad, I didn’t express it in the language of asshole that you understand. Bitch.” and walk away. But no. He tells Sandhya it is not too late, and she says it is. She has apparently lost her virginity to Bashu. After learning this devastating truth and swallowing the pain that this knowledge brings upon him, Rajaram says his mind is still not changed. They get married.

Bashu is an alpha male, and Rajaram is an epitome of beta male.

Sandhya is a “liberated”, misguided, modern woman who is against arranged marriage and prefers her partner to be “robila (which in English means domineering; dictatorial; haughtily or rudely arrogant) and smart”. She is blind to an honest and socially productive man and falls for a careless and irresponsible man who carries an alpha-male attitude. She gets pumped-and-dumped by the alpha and after learning the lesson, and more importantly, losing her footing in the society accepts the love and commitment of a good beta-male provider. And even then, it was the good man’s fault that he let her be charmed by the jerk!

The film could not be better at capturing the reality of the unregulated sexual marketplace, where “empowered” women unrestrained by the society whore around with alpha males in their prime, and after hitting the wall finally lock a reliable beta male in to take care of them (and sometimes even the “fruits” of the other men) financially for the rest of their lives. This phenomenon is summarized by the popular phrase: Alpha fucks, beta bucks.

Katha is rich with many nuggets of red pill wisdom. One must watch it to fully appreciate it.

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One thought on “Katha by Sai Paranjape: The Red Pill in Indian Cinema

  1. Excellent observation! Loved the movie.
    Another movie which dwells on this theme would be Chhoti Si Baat (1975) by Basu Chatterjee, where Amol Palekar transforms himself from the Beta chap to the Alpha dude with the help of his mentor Ashok Kumar.
    Nice to have discovered this blog.


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