Plot, cast, inexplicable foreign locals-Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and Dilwale share it all! But they are separated by 14 years, and a different director, and different life points of their stars. So, what changed?
So, I am just going to assume everyone has seen Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham at this point. If you haven’t yet seen Dilwale, the commonalities are:
- Big Brother-Big Sister, Little Brother-Little Sister love story
- Flashback to original Big-Big romance in the first half, little-little romance in the present day in the second half
- Half set overseas, half set in India
- Shahrukh and Kajol
But what changed? Well, a lot of things.
- Siblings stay together while lovers separate instead of the other way around
- Present day half is in India while past is overseas instead of the other way around
- Shahrukh and Kajol
So, why the differences? Well, some of it is because the message is different, and some is because Shahrukh and Kajol are different.
First, the resolution to the flashback love story with the brothers staying together. In K3G, it actually came really close to the brothers being together and the lovers separated. If you remember, Amitji lays on the guilt until Shahrukh finally agrees to dump Kajol in order to make his father happy.
(check out the way he finally pats his head at 9:30. That is some quality parental guilting, there!) (sorry for the bad video, apparently K3G is now available for purchase on google play, which means youtube actually cares about the copyright)
After this conversation, when Shahrukh is convinced to do the right thing and stay with the family, he stumbles into my absolute favorite sequence in the whole film. Which I can’t find on youtube for the life of me, but you know the one! He goes to break up with Kajol, discovers her father has died, considers abandoning her anyway as he remembers his father’s words (love the way Amitabh rolls off “Parampara” in that speech), then walks forward and places his hand on her head, claiming her in front of all the world as his wife.
And that’s why he gets thrown out of the house and has to abandon his brother. The film is therefore making a different statement about arranged marriages than at first appears. On the one hand, our hero was totally going to break up with his girlfriend because his father asked him to. And the film seems to be behind him in this decision. So, anti-love marriage, pro-parental authority!
(I found this image by searching “Shahrukh K3G wet”. I love the internet)
But on the other hand, fate itself doesn’t want that to happen. Shahrukh’s decision is set aside by God, when Kajol’s father is killed, meaning the only honorable choice is to marry her and give her and her also orphaned little sister a home. So, then, anti-parental authority, pro-love match!
In Dilwale, what happens? Well, the reverse! Dad is totally for the marriage, even though the issues are much bigger than just “Parampara!”, but fate intervenes and the lovers are separated while the families stay together. But, interestingly, the film seems to state that fate intervened not to separate them, but in order to reunite them with their younger siblings. What is the immediate result of their breakup? That their ignored and unloved boarding school raised younger siblings get the benefit of a home and a devoted guardian.
And what happens to their characters? Not a sink into unrequited love induced depression, but a transformation into responsible business owners whose first priority is care for their relatives. More importantly, they move back to India!
Ah, India! Where family is family and values are valued and everything is better! Even the white people can’t help but acknowledge it!
(this clip is all over the internet! I picked this version because I like the description. It is indeed “un film magnifique!”)
And this is why I think it isn’t a coincidence that the first half love story in Dilwale is both unsuccessful, and un-Indian. Because while they are in Bulgaria running their Bulgarian-based Indian gold smuggling gangs (please tell me this is really a thing!), they aren’t being their real, true, selves. Yes, they fall in love, but can their love ever be successful if it takes place overseas without the approval of a warm Indian family? If I learned anything from DDLJ, it is that true love means fighting for traditional acceptance in the Indian culture.
In contrast, in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, the Indian-based love story is real, true, and good. It is the second half, post-love, lives that are empty and false. Their children grow up shallow and horrible.
(Poor Kareena. Remember, she was only 19 and just doing what Karan told her! It’s not her fault!)
Their traditions and practices are empty without the blessings of their elders.
(I wanted the scene where Jaya talks to Kajol on the phone and explains Karva Chauth, but I can’t find it, so I settled for this)
Remember, that whole sentimental Indian national anthem scene only comes about through Hrithik’s interference; having some kind of extended family present is the only way to give the kids any real sense of India, and therefore save their souls.
So, the unsuccessful first half love story in Dilwale is because it is set abroad, or it is set abroad because it has to be unsuccessful, it’s a chicken and the egg thing. But why did they do that? Why do Kajol and Shahrukh get to be married and happy and in love in K3G, but separated and miserable in Dilwale?
Well, I think it is because Kajol and Shahrukh are different people now than they were in 2001. In 2001, Kajol was recently married, before her heartbreaking miscarriage, the rumors of infidelity of her husband, the death of her father.
In 2001, Shahrukh had weathered some difficulties in his professional life, with the failure of the first few movies produced by his production company (Asoka and Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani). Anupama Chopra’s book implies that these challenges led to his slightly shadowed performance in K3G, especially in the second half.
(watch this scene and remember that Shahrukh’s own mother died before she ever got to see her grandchildren)
But look at what has happened to him since 2001. He has weathered constant questions as to his loyalty and patriotism, he suffered his biggest and most public professional setback with the failure of Ra.One, his third child was born amid controversy and severe health risks, he had to send his oldest child away to boarding school to protect him from all this, and his marriage came close to breaking (whether the Priyanka rumors are true or not, they certainly took a toll on his relationship with Gauri). He also fell out with his two oldest friends, Farah and Karan, and only recently found his way back to them. Not to mention his 5 year feud with Salman, also recently ended.
That stubborn optimism Kajol showed in K3G, and the slight shadow on Shahrukh no longer fit them. Sure, in the first half, when they are young and joyous, they can show optimism and foolish confidence. But in the second half, when they are playing older, they can no longer convincingly be untouched by life.
Shahrukh is no longer charmingly grumpy, but rather quietly tragic. This is the man who embraces his oldest enemies, whether they are Salman Khan, Sunny Doel, or Cineblitz magazine. He hasn’t lost his youthful fire, but now it is directed at social movements, at fearlessly calling out intolerance and refusing to apologize for inviting Pakistani players to join his Cricket team. He fits as a man who lets his true love go, and instead raises his brother and tries to be a better man than his father was.
Kajol is the same. Sure, she’s optimistic and fiery and passionate. But she is softer, she knows the world can hurt her now. She makes sense as a woman who took her heartbreak and her anger and swallowed it for 15 years, until it all came rushing back.
Now, I’m not saying SRK or Kajol have had the worst lives ever for the past 15 years. They’re still fabulously wealthy and powerful and beloved and protected. But between the ages of 36 and 50, or 27 and 41, you just live more. And life is hard. And they can no longer convincingly pretend that it isn’t.