14 Oct 2020
'The Forty-Year-Old Version': A humorous reminder of ageless artistry
The Forty-Year-Old Version.
The title gives you the feeling that the film is going to be deep.
That there will be narratives that only age-appropriate experiences can conjure up, and that it's time you get taught.
You sit for a heady ride but never expect the opening credits roll up with a catchy hip-hop beat.
So, that's what the film is about? Hip-hop?
Initial impression: It starts with the beats from the hood
You see an affectionate, middle-aged woman who looks great with her bandana on, running as fast as she could to stop the bus and hop on.
I don't know how to address a woman who is not slim in times of gender non-conformism and body shaming, but her knees crack while bending, struggling to hold all that weight up.
It is about a 40-year-old playwright named Radha
Radha is the epitome of poise.
The beggar living opposite her apartment shames her for being too old to get a man.
But she has got that bus to catch to reach her drama school on time.
She has supportive students, non-conformists themselves and a black sheep questions her teaching talent as she is a 40-year-old with no production title to brag about.
One can't do anything by remaining the underdog forever
Subsequently, multiple meetings with school buddy and theater producer Archie (Peter Y. Kim) helps Radha recall how good an emcee she was back at school.
Archie also tries helping Radha bag a career-defining job with a theater personality, telling her there is no use remaining an underdog forever.
But Radha ditches theater and connects with a beatmaker to make her mixtape.
Radha dives into rhyming and rapping quite effortlessly
After decades-long indifference and desperation to get herself heard, Radha dives into rhyming and rapping quite effortlessly.
She knows fully well that rap is putting her name as a complete nobody in the theatrical circles in jeopardy.
But, the lure is irresistible as D, the proud beatmaker, goes out of his way to encourage her to become the artiste she was born to be.
Leap of faith
What impresses is how Radha faces crushing situations politely
But are you watching another Gully Boy here?
The Forty-Year-Old Version makes it amply clear that you are not, as actor-director-rapper-playwright Radha Blank carries the aura of a polite woman led astray by her conflicting talents at an age when life is too short for self-exploration.
What impresses is how Radha, who plays her namesake in the film, faces crushing situations politely.
Radha wins over with patience and pure artistry
But she comes to rap raw!
She rhymes when there is no need to, even while lamenting over the failure of her first stage performance as a rapper.
Radha gets lucky as her surroundings support her to blend theater and hip-hop in an ageless, timeless fashion.
It's her infallible patience and pure artistry that brings the best out of both her avatars.
Our verdict: This sweet film gets 3 out of 5
There is one fundamental problem with depicting artistes in such films.
It's the art, the medium of self-expression that stays at stake.
The guide doesn't necessarily have to be romantically involved with the beneficiary.
That's where focus shifts from art to dependence, where friendship or gratitude could have made the build-up more relatable.
Forgiving that, this sweet film gets a 3 out of 5.