#90sMoviesIn2018: Yes Boss's Juhi Chawla Taught Women Not to be Sorry for Loving Their Jobs
The best thing about Aziz Mirza's Yes Boss is that the film doesn't treat female ambition and male ambition differently.
Seema's character doesn't constantly apologize for being careeristic and wanting to be happy. (Source: YouTube)
Editor's note: Since cinema is not only a form of entertainment but also an important cultural tool that has the power to shape opinions, we are reviewing classics and trying to see them through the lens of the current socio-political climate. The aim is to call out biases, misrepresentation and everything else that is problematic so that we can gauge our journey thus far and the road ahead.
Movie: Yes Boss
Director: Aziz Mirza
Cast: Juhi Chawla, Shah Rukh Khan and Aditya Pancholi
In 1997 romantic-comedy 'Yes Boss', Juhi Chawla's character Seema is delightfully real and refreshing. Back in the '90s when Bollywood films were populated with lead female characters whose sole purpose of existence was to deck up, sing songs, fall in love and be protected and saved by men, Seema showed us that girls can be ambitious too, and told us not to apologize for our ambitions.
In the wonderful world of Indian cinema, you may have noticed that the heroine often doesn't have a job or occupation. In some films, she goes to college and yet we never get to know what she really studies, and she seldom works in offices. She is mostly just there, like a stock character, and even the most fiesty and rebellious ones lack a sense of purpose. Chawla's Seema in Yes Boss, however, is markedly different from those one-dimensional ditzes. For starter, she knows what she wants in life -- she wants to be rich. She also works hard as a model, lives in a working girls' hostel and drives herself around town in her scooty.
She dreams of living at the Galaxy Towers, where each apartment costs Rs 1 crore. When Shah Rukh Khan's Rahul asks her her what would happen if she never becomes rich enough to afford it, she replies jokingly by saying that in that case she will simply have to marry rich. Then, she goes on to say something which we as women should tell ourselves more often, "It is not a crime to want to be happy."
The best thing about Seema's character is that she doesn't constantly apologize for being careeristic and wanting to be happy, and the best thing about Aziz Mirza's Yes Boss is that as a film it doesn't treat female ambition and male ambition differently.
Yes Boss is a fluffy rom-com about two overtly ambitious individuals -- Khan's Rahul and Chawla's Seema. Rahul is an unquestionable suck-up, a yes man who would do anything to keep his womanizer boss, Siddharth Chaudhary (Aditya Pancholi) happy. Siddharth is married to Sheela (Kashmira Shah)--a rich heiress for whom he can afford a fancy lifestyle and is the boss of a big company -- however, that doesn't stop him from engaging in a string of dalliances with models.
As an ambitious subordinate, Rahul ends up constantly covering Siddharth's tracks so that his jealous wife, Sheela, doesn't get the whiff of these romances. He also makes some easy bucks on the side by overcharging Siddharth for his 'services'. Rahul, however, does not particularly enjoy all the lying and sucking up. But with Siddharth's help, he dreams of opening his own advertising agency one day and becoming the David Ogilvy of India. And his plans would seemingly have panned out perfectly, had it not been for Seema.
It so happens that the hedonist Siddharth lays eyes on Seema in a fashion show and is instantly floored by her beauty. He hatches an elaborate plan to get Seema to sleep with him, which Rahul helps orchestrate. But as rom-coms go, Seema and Rahul end up falling for each other.
How the movie ends is something you should watch for yourself because even in 2018 Yes Boss is a good watch. It effortlessly talks about middle-class ambition and the trials and tribulations of individuals mired in small-town morality and skyscraping dreams. However, let me tell you only this that though Rahul starts the film by being a yes man for Siddharth, he ends up saying 'yes, boss' to Seema.
There are certain parts of the plotline that seem trite today, especially toward the end when Rahul arrives just in time to save Seema from being raped, falling back again on the same old 'damsel in distress' cinematic trope.
The film starts by introducing Seema as a girl who speaks her mind and puts her foot down against anything she thinks is wrong. The message that her character sends out is clear: she is no pushover.
But, in the second half, she is practically pushed over to the edge of North Pole by the two men in her life -- Rahul, and Siddharth -- as they continue to 'make' her play the role of Rahul's wife for their selfish end. Her capacity to register a strong protest which is initially highlighted, is reduced to whimpering. She whines and cries, and soaks herself in self-pity, and acts completely out of character from the Seema we meet in the first half of the film.
The romance of Rahul and Seema also seems half-baked, as Rahul continuously keep monetizing the misery of a girl he claims to be in love with. We never really see the two falling for one another, and if you think of it, Seema barely has any reason to be in love with Rahul, except the fact that he is played by Shah Rukh Khan.
There is also an obnoxious effort to stereotype a Gorkha gatekeeper, which is outright cringe-worthy, and several lecherous jokes made by Jonny Liver which are better forgotten. Pancholi's Siddharth as the philandering boss, however, makes a wonderful rom-com villain.
What does seem to make Yes Boss work is in part the music by Jatin-Lalit. The familiar tunes have become symbolic of the unmissable charm of 90s' Bollywood romance.
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