After debuting at a couple of festivals in 2007, The Great Indian Butterfly sat on the shelf for years before getting its theatrical release in 2010. I understand why.
The experience of watching The Great Indian Butterfly (TGIB) is uncomfortable. It’s like being a kid trapped in a car on a long road trip while your parents argue in the front seat… about their sex life. Ick.
The movie begins in the middle of an argument between married couple Meera (Sandhya Mridul) and Krish (Aamir Bashir). Krish — playing the role of the bumbling husband from every TV commercial or sitcom ever — has screwed up again by turning off the alarm clock, causing the couple to miss their flight. Meera complains about everything, even Krish’s solution to drive to their vacation destination.
Part of the point of the trip is so that amateur entomologist Krish can search for the legendary titular insect, which supposedly has the power to bestow happiness on he who finds it. The legend is revealed in abrupt cutaways to a random white guy in a Hawaiian shirt (Barry John) waxing poetic about his own search for the butterfly. The character plays the same role as Spike Lee’s “magical negro” archetype. Does that make him the Magical Anglo?
The unhappy couple hits the road, and the bickering continues. The dialog is almost entirely in English, allowing Meera and Krish to throw about the F-word with abandon. They argue in absolutes: you never, you always.
Eventually, the sources of their problems are revealed. Krish resents Meera for getting an abortion. Meera is jealous of Krish’s pretty ex-girlfriend, Liza (Koel Purie), whom Krish would’ve preferred to marry. When Meera overhears Krish talking on the phone with Liza, she goes ballistic and leaves.
The couple’s arguments don’t provide any insight into the human condition or comment on the complexities of marriage. Meera and Krish are simply two resentful people intent on making each other miserable.
The trouble with starting the movie in the middle of a fight between two mean people is that it doesn’t give the audience anyone to identify with. Meera and Krish are awful toward each other, casually throwing out insults so mean that most of us wouldn’t think of speaking them to our spouses even in our worst moments.
Meera and Krish have no children, so there’s not even the “staying together for the kids” excuse holding them together. TGIB aims to rectify that problem by intimating that having a child will fix the couple’s relationship. That solution rarely works.
There’s not much to recommend this movie. The acting and writing are bad, and the cinematographer manages to make the resort paradise Goa look dull. The positives are that TGIB is short (only 90 minutes), and there are a number of time-wasting musical montages that can be fast-forwarded through if you’re watching on DVD.