In Search of Catharsis

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, had something to say about everything. It’s no wonder then that he laid down the rules for what makes an effective (Greek) tragedy. Because life was so uncomplicated and easy-going in ancient Greece, they needed to go to the theater to live life vicariously. The stories of these tragedies were perhaps ones that are too scandalous to remake in today’s world – there were murdering mothers seeking revenge against cheating husbands, sons who killed their fathers and married their mothers, or of sisters who bravely fought to give their brothers a proper burial. The idea behind these tragedies was simple – the audience who led a cushy, problem-free life would come to see the lives of these rich, heroic individuals, and in their fall and doom would weep, and purge themselves from all the vile feelings that otherwise had no outlet. They would, in other words, obtain catharsis.

In the day and age that we live, it is probably not that difficult to cry over things. I cry every time I check my credit card bill. It’s easy. However, catharsis is innately related to art, and how often do we cry when we see something creative? Photographs might make you cry… but does a painting? When was the last time you saw a play and cried? I cried once, but that’s because I was laughing too much.*

That’s when people like me, seeking catharsis, turn to the movies. I’m happy to report, that when I am alone and when in need of a good, hearty cry, I switch on a sap-fest and let the tears flow, unabashedly. Here’s a quick list of movies that made me bawl:

#5 Boys Don’t Cry: Girl with gender issues dresses as a boy and gets away with it until some assholes find out and rape her? That doesn’t make you cry? What’s wrong with you?

#4 Kuch Kuch Hota Hai: Ok, stop, don’t close the window! I am not a fan of Karan Johar movies. I’ve not ever seen this movie from start to finish! I swear on Sophocles! But there’s this one scene, where Kajol discovers SRK’s love for the Rani Mukherjee character, and she runs (in the rain!) back to her home and cries her hear out, and wishes for her mother to be there. I cry with Kajol, because I just can’t let her do it alone…

#3 Taare Zameen Par: Speaking of missing mothers, I tried so hard to hold back my tears while watching the scene in Taare when the parents leave Ishaan at the boarding school! I still can’t listen to the song “Maa” because it breaks me down.

#2 Masoom: This movie, surprisingly enough, gets me every single time! I just need little Jugal Hansraj to say “Sorry, Aunty!” and pout, and I am reaching for the tissue-box. I only need to listen to “Tujhse naraaz nahin zindagi…” and I feel my heart welling up. By the end of the movie, I am hiccuping on my tears and ready to start the movie all over again.

# Waltz with Bashir: Ok, this is a strange one, I know. Let me explain. If you’ve not seen the movie, I’m going to try not to spoil it. Bashir is an animated movie about a man trying to put the pieces together after the war in Lebanon. Since it was animated, and in another language, for most of the movie I was confused, trying hard to concentrate, etc. It might be because of this, that the last few seconds of the movie were completely unexpected and hit me hard! Suffice to say, I dug my head into the pillow, wailed for a good 15 minutes after the movie was over and couldn’t let go of it for the rest of the day. This movie has traumatized me!

*It was the scene in The Vagina Monologues where the woman enacts various orgasms. What a hoot!
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