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Monalisa Smile

By Amrita Paul

Actress Cameron Diaz had once said, “I've always been a huge fan of Julia Roberts. Without her what would the world be like?”  And like her are a million others who look up to Julia Roberts in ways more than one.  As a little girl I would idolize Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan for his amicable ways and the manner in which his characters was able to impress the most beautiful of girls. But when it came to actresses, there was nobody whom I could relate to, even remotely. Then one day I happen to chance upon a movie by Roberts whom I had otherwise known as one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood.  And that encounter of a couple of hours was enough to make me fall in love with her effortless transition into a teacher of 1950’s in Conservative America who held her own in spite of being challenged by the stalwarts of the society time and again.

Directed by Mike Newell, the man behind movies like Donnie Brasco, Four Weddings and a Funeral and more recently Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Monalisa Smile is the story of Katherine Ann Watson, a woman in her thirties who takes up a job in the conservative Wellesley College to teach “History of Art” to young minds. But sadly her unorthodox methods of letting students think for themselves instead of trying to complete the syllabus does not go down too well with the Wellesley Faculty. But this was just the beginning as Katherine had multiple battles to fight. Her first task was to inspire and to win over her students who have been strangely cautious of her presence. The fact that she was over thirty and was unmarried mattered to them more than what she taught in class as most of them were already engaged to be married as soon as they graduated. The movie is also made remarkable with stellar performances by Kristen Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ginnifer Goodwin. But Julia Roberts was extraordinary in this movie. Her character was that of a woman who wants her students to realize their potential, to enjoy what they do and to believe and revel in the fact that if at all they get married, it should not put an end to their personal aspirations. One of my most favourite parts of the movie is when Katherine takes her students to a dilapidated building to show them a new painting. When asked if it was a marked assignment Katherine replies-  
“You're not required to write a paper.
You're not even required to like it.

You are required... consider it.”


I mean think about it, most of the time we end up being so very over critical about things which surround us.  Education is supposed to liberate our thought process, to help us think freely, to look beyond the obvious, then why do we, at the end of everything become so constricted in expressing ourselves? Remarkable isn’t? How a movie can make you question your very existence?

Although this movie was a commercial success, it did not win any accolades for all the wonderful performances which made the movie what it is. And even though I’ve seen over a dozen of Julia Robert’s other movies including her much acclaimed Erin Brockovich, I still feel this movie was one of her best. What I like most about Julia Roberts is that she is able to hold on to herself irrespective of whether she is in a movie with multiple star cast like the Ocean’s Series or is a minor character like that of in Fireflies in the Garden. She is my favourite actress for emoting her roles with passion and grace (not that the others don’t) and for inspiring me to not let go of that one little ounce of hope which makes live so much better.

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Amrita Paul

 I write. I read. I eat. I sleep (a lot ). Oh yes, Chick flicks make me cry and I love dogs. Some say I am a feminist, I say- " Is it necessary to define every ounce of passion arising from an individual?" I think not. Anyway that is me :)


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