Friday, September 28, 2012

Dame in waiting - The Lady:

After Meryl Streep donned Margaret Thatcher's avatar in The Iron Lady we get a series of biopics rotating around historic figures. Luc Besson's The Lady is another such attempt. It is based on Myanmar's politician and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi's attempts to bring democracy to her homeland are partly framed in flashbacks through her ailing husband's memories. This is a unique feature of The Lady because it is not actually the protagonist who recalls the past but a loved one closely linked with her story.

Back in Myanmar after a considerable stint aboard, Suu Kyi is encouraged to stand in the country's free elections. Despite winning a popular mandate she is placed under indefinite house arrest by the repressive regime. Meantime her devoted husband, Dr Michael Aris, and two sons find all means to free her from the clutches of the tyrants. Their actions resulted in her winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. A deeply moving moment in the movie shows the desperate Suu Kyi listening to her elder son, Alex's, speech and crying with joy as she plays the piano.

The love story, running in the backdrop of the horror-stricken environs brings a tear to the audience's eyes and the end in which Suu Kyi is liberated after almost 15 years of house arrest seems bittersweet because her freedom is hard won. She had to give up years form being with her family and is cut out from the outer world. Her days are spent amid yearnings and hardships but she never breaks down before the regime.

Michelle Yeoh gives life to people of Myanmar democrat and dissident Aung San Suu Kyi . She lives up to her role in every possible aspect from walking before armed guards to sporting flowers in her hair. She carrys herself off with quiet elegance that is a striking contrast to the behaviour of the tyrants which she hopes to replace with freedom.

Unlike most biographical movies The Lady touches a cord in the viewers' hearts because it shares the extraordinary love between spouses as well as captures the pulse of a woman who sacrificed her person happiness for her people. Cinematographer Thierry Arbogast's visuals too are a joy to behold. He has incorporated some colour to what would otherwise have been a bland tale. One of the main drawbacks of The Lady is that Suu Kyi is shown to be invincible and almost godly. Besson does not project any gray areas in her character.

This makes her seem less human and adds an artificial touch to the production. Even though Besson has tried to cover up this aspect by the conversation that Suu Kyi has with Aris in which we are told that her flaws are being quick-tempered, impatient and stubborn, we do not see these qualities coming to the fore at any stage.

Indeed 'Steel Orchid' seems an apt title for her because what she does possess is strong determination. She is made to be more of a modern version of Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. The opening scenes too lack novelty. Young Suu Kyi asks her father to relate a story and after singing praise about the wonders of Burma during the time when it was a 'golden land', her father is assassinated. This brings as sense of patriotism to the viewers and creates an aura of loss.

Suu Kyi's father, a revolutionary, political leader, and vaunted figure in Myanmar, is henceforth considered as a martyr in the land. The Lady is a beautiful tribute to a genuine heroine and one who continued to be in the news even today. However it has room for much improvement.

Daily News By Ruwini JAYAWARDANA