|HER WORLD||Sunday, February 29, 2004, Chandigarh, India|
plain Jane this Fonda
no plain Jane this Fonda
THE news that Jane Fonda is coming back to the big screen will please more than a few of her fans. She has always shown heart in much of her public and private life but she also knows when to switch channels. After marrying broadcasting czar Ted Turner in 1991, she announced her retirement from films. Three years after her divorce from him she’s back.
For this controversial but very talented 67-year-old actor Jane Fonda (daughter of`A0 Hollywood icon Henry Fonda), it has been a chequered career. Few actresses today have been through as many metamorphoses as this beautiful and intelligent leading lady. Having picked two Best Actress Oscars (for Klute in 1971 and Coming Home in 1978), she was also at the centre of controversy for her espousal of anti-Establishment causes, especially during her anti-Vietnam activities in the late 1960s.
The 1960s and 1970s were probably her most productive as well as controversial years. They were formative years and as it were a part of growing up. Although she didn’t show much interest in films it was Lee Strasberg of the Actor’s Studio fame who infused that bug in her. She was prompted by Joshua Logan to appear with her father Henry in the 1954 Omaha Community Theatre production of The Country Girl and made her screen debut in Tall Story.
After that there was no stopping this spirited young woman. Cat Ballou, with Lee Marvin, Barefoot in the Park with Robert Redford, and Hurry Sundown, with Michael Caine, were some her earlier films before playing the much-touted astronaut in Barbarella which was produced and directed by her first husband Roger Vadim.
Of these films I thought Barefoot in the Park, based on a Neil Simon play, was really delightful. As newly-weds, she and Redford rent a cold water flat at the top of a liftless New York building but manage to marry her mother (Mildred Natwick) to an eccentric old`A0 neighbour (Charles Boyer). The newly-weds make up their lovers tiff barefoot in the park.
Her first Oscar came in Klute (1971), playing the hooker who helps detective Donald Sutherland solve the mystery of the disappearance of a research scientist.
By then Ms Fonda had already made news for her anti-Establishment activities and was a public figure. She was once arrested for allegedly kicking a cop when she was found carrying a large amount of pills. But the charges were dropped when the pills were found to be vitamins. In 1973, she married her second husband Tom Hayden.
The early 1970s found Ms Fonda relinquish her 60s sexpot image`A0 for variety and more meaningful and challenging roles like that of Nora in the TV production of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (1973), a suburban-wife-turned bank robber in Fun With Dick and Jane (1976) and Lillian Hellman in Julia which will be remembered for the 1978 Oscars night parley between co-actress Vanessa Redgrave and scriptwriter Paddy Chavesky over Redgrave’s activism and links with the PLO.
Ms Fonda won her second Oscar as the wife of a Vietnam veteran whose experiences radicalise her in Coming Home in 1978. Jon Midnight Cowboy Voight and Bruce Dern were her co-stars. It was the same year she made a very forgettable film called Comes A Horseman in which she is supposed to be a tough rancher. Ironically, it was Alan J.Pakula who directed the film which was in start contrast to his 1971 effort Klute. Then she played a TV newswoman in The Electric Horseman (1979) which reunited her with Robert Redford since Barefoot in the Park.
The late-1970s saw a spate of anti-Vietnam films like Deer Hunter, Go, Tell the Spartans and Coming Home. Perhaps, it was the real-life role of an anti-Vietnam protester role that led her to be cast in Coming Home which brought out the best in her.
She then formed her own company and starred in such intelligent and topical films as The China Syndrome,(1979), about an impending nuclear disaster which anticipated the Three-Mile Island incident, the comic Nine to Five(1980) about office politics and that comedy-drama On Golden Pond (1981) in which she finally acted with her dad Henry. Katheryn Hepburn and Henry Fonda were the golden oldies who starred in the film. Incidentally, Bridget Fonda, the next generation star of`A0 Assassin and Single White Female is her niece`A0 and a third-generation Fonda and daughter of Peter Fonda of cult film Easy Rider fame.
As memories of the controversial Fonda subsided in the 1980s, Jane Fonda embarked on another career and created a whole new image by producing and appearing in exercise videos and highlighting the craze for aerobics. In this connection she also published a book Jane Fonda’s Workout Book At a time when other actresses her age were complaining about the lack of parts she continued to etch memorable characterisations. She played an investigative reporter in Agnes of God (1985), a murder suspect in The Morning After (1986), a spinsterish school teacher in Old Gringo (1989) and a small-town teacher in Stanley & Iris (De Niro plays Stanley). But if I were asked to pick up her best performances they would be in Barefoot in the Park, Klute, Coming Home, The China Syndrome and Stanley & Iris. After her third marriage to media mogul Ted Turner, ,she announced her retirement from films.
Then her biographers
expressed a hope that someday she would change her mind. After her
divorce from Turner that hope seems to have been fulfilled and now`A0
Fonda fans`A0 can look forward to meeting an elegant,older woman and
her romance with the big screen goes on.
RITA, stolid, sensible, exemplary working mom, has taken leave of all her practicality. She just telephoned to tell me that she’s taken a month’s leave. "Both my children have their board exams coming up," she said by way of explanation. I was left dumbfounded. Et tu, Rita! Parents are weathering the trials and tribulations of exam-time along with children increasingly.
Aeons ago, when my schoolmates and I had appeared for exams, I heard of no parent making any alteration in his or her daily routine. Except, of course, our mothers ensured a supply of enough food for us to gorge on. As my aunt had commented, "I know from my own exam days that the more one studies, the hungrier one feels!"
Throughout the school-leaving year, teachers drilled into our heads that we were the senior-most class in the school and the fact that we were about to appear for our first public examination meant that we were on the threshold of adulthood. All this instilled a feeling of responsibility. Most important, there was intense competition among us. And, when exam-time came, we studied furiously — setting our alarm clocks and fashioning our own study routines. Far from exhorting us to study, parents and teachers sometimes had to tell us to lighten up.
No mama or papa ever took leave from work or, figuratively, stopped breathing during the extended exam period as is the case with so many mothers nowadays. I am reminded of a colleague, Geetan, saying, "My daughter’s last paper is today. Now I can breathe again."
Overwhelmed by affection for our children, some of us become myopic enough to forget that we won’t always be there to help them along and that the best service we can do them is to encourage them to be self-sufficient — physically, mentally and emotionally.
The other day, my neighbour’s seven-year-old son rushed home crying after being bullied by the other boys in the park. Five minutes later, Papa accompanied him back to the park and shouted at the boys, "Next time, pick on a boy your size." Next time, Papa, gently tell your bonny son that he must learn to fight his own battles. For he will have to do it when you are no longer around to fight them for him.
Most people tend to bring up their children in the same way as they were brought up. This is rather similar to the way we teach—when we are doing it casually, not formal trained teaching, of course. Most of us begin to teach someone something in very nearly the same way that we received our first lessons on the topic. That’s what people do with their children. They bring them up the way their parents brought them up. With the result that the same patterns of upbringing get duplicated.
There are exceptions, though. If they feel their childhood was not as idyllic as it could have been, they show a tendency to go to the other extreme. For instance, people who had an obsessively disciplined childhood often cast discipline to the winds. In the process, they lose sight of the fact that the child’s interests are not being served. For, beyond the four walls of one’s parents’ home, it’s a harsh world out there that molly-coddles no one.
Funnily, I often see situations when a little protection from the outside world would be in order. But it doesn’t occur to the parents to provide it because it never did to his or her parents. Parents who are circumspect about not letting their children be exposed to depiction of sex have no qualms about letting them watch horrific violence on the small screen. But sex is a natural part of life and every child will learn about it sooner or later whereas I would strive my utmost to shield a young mind for as long as possible from scenes of violence, whether real or fictitious.
Then there is the contentious issue of pocket money. Some parents are miserly in doling out pocket money, fearing that a free and easy hand with money will make their child wayward. Others lavish money on their children ("She’s my daughter and whatever I earn is for her. She should never be wanting.") There’s a lot to be said for a sensible via media. A child who gets very little misses out on learning to handle money, a child who gets a great deal runs the risk of not learning early on the value of money.
Some people go into contortions over what defies "too little" and "too much". It should be fairly simple. It depends on the family’s financial and social status, the child’s age and school milieu (though, unfortunately, not all schools strive for a controlled environment).
Above all, parents must guard against the danger of letting young children get the feeling that anything they want can be had for the asking. Because life isn’t quite like that. No matter how much we love our children, we can do little to ensure that life will be a bed of roses for them. The sooner we, as parents, come to terms with that, the better for our children whom we love so much.