For years now, our Granny’s been telling stories. An avid listener, Maahi Shah, sits beside her to tell one of her own. This is her modern tribute to folklore. And our Granny’s beaming!
Art is fluid. Art cannot be confined to one stream, domain or idea. Stories merge with dance, music, literature and movement to bring each lesson, character and trait to life. This limitless and boundaryless facet of art enables us to envision a world interwoven with all these artistic elements. And today, I have attempted to do exactly that. I have often described myself as a complete amalgamation of scenes and dialogues from movies with a touch of music along the way.
We’re all familiar with the word folklore. The Merriam- Webster dictionary defines two meanings of the word; “traditional customs, tales, sayings, dances, or art forms preserved among a people.” The second rarer meaning is “an often unsupported notion, story, or saying that is widely circulated.”
Taylor Swift released her new album ‘folklore’ earlier this year, where she explained her own interpretation of the term; “It started with imagery,” she wrote. “Visuals that popped into my mind and piqued my curiosity… Pretty soon these images in my head grew faces or names and became characters. I found myself not only writing my own stories, but also writing about or from the perspective of people I’ve never met, people I’ve known, or those I wish I hadn’t.” In line with this idea, her songs then became open to individual interpretation and perspective.
Her song ‘mirrorball’ resonated with me the most… and perhaps would have with Rose and Jack from titanic too. Titanic; the love story of two unconventional people, fighting against all societal norms and pressures to be together.
The song ‘mirrorball’ tells a story, describes a journey of identity and how it becomes more defined, refined and purposeful with experiences and interactions with people. But more importantly, the song tells us about how often we try to merge in with the crowd, to do our best to please people, often hurting ourselves in the process. Taylor calls herself a mirrorball. And Rose is just that.
“I’m a mirrorball.
And when I break, it’s in a million pieces.”
The beginning of the movie sets the tone of her character and the various relationships she has. Rose is a young, aristocratic woman expected to fulfil all that such a woman must do, as part of this elite society. She is expected to marry, perhaps someone who she does not even love, to regain her family’s lost fortunes. These constructs of social class, poor finances, and the role of women becomes an undue burden on Rose, who is suffocating under this pressure. And though she is observant of the absurdities of the system and filled with a desire to defy each one of them, she has no control over her own life and succumbs to these frivolous and futile obligations. “Outwardly I was everything a well brought up girl should be. Inside I was screaming.” This frustration and anger builds enough for her to want to end her own life. She reaches her peak and breaks, just like a mirrorball.
Just as Rose is about to take the leap of faith, from the edge of the ship into the deep and vast ocean, Jack Dawson appears. Jack resembled a sign of hope, that Rose still had something to live for.
“Hush, when no one is around my dear,
You’ll find me on my tallest tiptoes,
Spinning in my highest heels, love.”
It was an improbable love story astray from every possible convention of society. Jack had no money, no plan, and in fact, no right to interact with a woman like Rose either. But he didn’t care for those rules. As their relationship progresses, Rose becomes more free, more confident in her own skin. She begins to take control of her life. One of the nights, Jack takes her to the part of the ship where he along with the other lower classes stayed. Though they hadn’t much in terms of material or money, they took pleasure in the simpler and little things of life like dancing. Rose then joins in the dancing on her tiptoes, with no care in the world, leaving the conventional ways behind. Here, there was no one judging her for anything. Not her mother, not Cal, no one. Jack shows her that there was much more in life beyond these boundaries that had been set up for her. “I figure, life’s a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it.” Rose wasn’t just in love with Jack, but also the idea of life and freedom he represented. And Rose wanted this. It’s all she ever wanted. And just as in the song, the journey develops, Rose’s journey and identity takes form.
“Hush, I know they said the end is near,
But I’m still on my tallest tiptoes,
Spinning in my highest heels, love
Shining just for you.”
Like any movie, this one too had its climax. The ship was sinking, and all would not be saved. At a time when classism and its associated hierarchies were prioritised more than lives it became even harder for Jack and Rose to stay together. But Rose chose not to get on the lifeboat. She chose to be with Jack. Rose now became a determined and defiant character. She chose to live life on her own terms. And though they both know that their end is near, neither of them are willing to give up. And even as the ship sinks, Jack makes her promise that she would never give up, that she would survive no matter what happened. What we see in this part of the movie is that Rose has also become independent. She has found the courage and strength within herself for whatever she may face in life.
“And they called off the circus, burned the disco,
When they sent home the horses and the rodeo clowns,
I’m still on that tightrope,
I’m still trying everything to get you laughing at me,
I’m still a believer but I don’t know why,
I’ve never been a natural, all I do is try, try try,
I’m still on that trapeze.”
At the end of the song, the narrator realises that people are always going to be there, either to build you up or bring you down. At the end, you choose to build and create your own identity and all you can do is try. At the end of the movie, Jack dies. But Rose moves on, and carries on with the life she was determined to live. When the 101 year old Rose looks back to these days, she remembers Jack and how he saved her, in way more than one. And to this day, she fulfils her promise of surviving, of living. She went on to travel the world and even married and had children. But this in no way undermined her love for Jack, for she would always love him.
It was an improbable, unconventional love story which actually set the tone for conventions. The beauty of folklore is that the story is told and retold, generation after generation. Its beauty is that I was able to compare it with a pop culture song of the 21st century. Vice versa, Taylor Swift’s ‘mirrorball’ from the album ‘folklore’ took me back in time reflecting an age old idea hidden in modern music.
Maahi Shah is an artist, a writer, a blogger, a creative explosion when she isn’t snowed under assignments in economics and even when she is. That’s why we love her. Why, no little one has come as far as to tell our Granny a story!
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