Understanding – “What is Identity”, Through the Movie Bala

Understanding – “What is Identity”, Through the Movie Bala

With soft skills training becoming so prevalent, the terms like identity, fulfillment, contentment, presence, consciousness, integrity are used left, right and center. They seem to be the words 10,000 ft high in the sky. But, what do they mean in the daily life and how do they manifest? I use movies as one channel to make sense of these words. One such movie that I watched recently is Bala, a movie on identity loss. It is not about identity crisis, which is a struggle, at the switch from one identity to an another. It is about the loss of an existing identity and trying to regain that identity only.

So, what is identity? Identity is anything with which one is identified. If this identity is not there, it is not possible to recognize him. For ex: your name is your identity. If someone shouts your name, you turn around, no matter where you’re. OR, consider you’re entering the office and you learn that you’ve lost your ID card. So, how can security person know that you’re the Mr.X?

The movie is about a protagonist ‘Balamukund'(aka Bala), who identified himself with his silky ‘hairs’. There is his childhood friend, Latika,who is force identified with her dark skin. And Bala’s wife Pari, who identifies herself with beauty, however, with total awareness.

Since the school days, Bala identified himself with his hairs, which are like that of Shahrukh Khan(SRK). So, he mimics SRK and often seen running his fingers through his hairs often. Girls ran around him and liked him, all because of his hairs and hair style and his mimicking of SRK. However, as he enters his youth(20’s and above), he starts losing his hairs. In other words, he starts losing his identity. Who is he now, as he doesn’t have hairs? Hairs gave him happiness and a self-pride. Now, what is he for which he can be happy and proud of? Not having hairs is another identity too. But, he doesn’t want take this new identity. Out of all the identities he possess, he values this identity through hairs very much. Because, this gave him highest recognition. 

Latika is born with dark complexion. Both Bala and the society, recognized her through her color. Though she claims to have accepted it, she didn’t. It was evident in her sensitive reactions (anger and sadness) to any one who commented on the color. The difference with her is, she was given(pushed) this identity, unlike the case of Bala. And it was not a pleasant one. She didn’t like to cover her skin tone with any cosmetics.

The third character is of Pari, whom Bala gets married to. She identifies herself with her beauty. She is very OK with her identity and she stands for it. She clearly calls it out that she couldn’t get more than 40-50 marks in the school and her all identified her through her beauty. So, she chose to be a model, makes tik-tok videos and enters ad industry and keeps everything beautiful. Her life is all meaningful because of beauty. Though, this is an external identity, as in the case of Bala and Pari, she was very clear of why she choose it and what options she had/didn’t had.

When Bala’s identify is taken off, he creates hell out of his life at his home – with his father, brother and a hair saloon friend; Takes all the advice to grow his hairs like to pluck his pubic hairs and stick them on his head, to apply cow dung paste on his head, positive thinking, etc. Pari also creates hell out of her life, when she learns that Bala is bald, after marriage. Her identify with beauty is broken and so, she breaks her marriage with Bala.

So, in nutshell, the movie shows an identity with hair, color and beauty, what happens when this identity is lost or damaged. It is not wrong to have an identity. All have an identities, even if we despise it. However, if it is hindering the growth, then it is better to check that identity. We create them or accept them on many parameters like job, dress, finance, intelligence etc. One can as well retrospect on these questions:

  • How did you create identity in your life – are they given or have you chosen them?
  • Are these external identifies, which are temporary? Like: Hair style, color, beauty, economic status, iPhone, possessions etc.
  • Are these internal identifies, which can stay always with you? Like: intelligence, emotional maturity, strengths, weaknesses etc.
  • Are your identities making you feel superior or inferior?
  • Are you identifying with body(as is the case with all the charters in this movie) or thinking or values?
  • What does spirituality say about identity with ‘soul’, when it asks the question – “Who am I?”?
  • How are the multiple identities clashing with each other? Like: Non-veggie v/s Religious; Talkative in company v/s Introvert at home;
  • How are your identities clash with your partner’s identities? Like: Generous v/s Self protective, Rich v/s Poor, Veggie v/s Non-Veggie, Intelligence v/s Possessions, Secure v/s Courageous.

Hope, the article has helped you to understand what is identity and helped you to enjoy the movie with this view. Please feel free to share your thoughts or comments.

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