So, I’ve been trying and trying to avoid spoilers, or warn people off spoilers, but turns out, you all want spoilers! My spoiler-full posts are getting a lot more readers than my spoiler-free posts. So I will bow to the wishes of the majority and proceed to spoil the WHOLE THING. If you want to know, in analytical and descriptive detail, every single thing about Dilwale (up to the first song, at least, the rest to be posted as time allows), continue reading below! (part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, part 6 here, and part 7 here)
So, we open with a series of quick flashes of Shahrukh doing action-y things (leaping, shooting, kicking, punching). The film is tinted and shadowed so it is hard to get a clear sense of what is happening, and it is impossible to recognize anyone besides Shahrukh, partly because it is so abstracted that there are few clear shots, partly because only his face is so recognizable and the rest are just extras.
As the credits end, we cut to regular bright sunlight lighting and see SRK’s back as he shoots upright in bed, apparently having merely dreamed what we, the audience, just watched. He strolls out of his multi-colored and whimsical house (an indication that this will be a light-hearted film, and set in Goa). He walks by several inventive cars, indicating this is a Rohit Shetty film.
He goes to sit down at a cafe table with his friends, Shakti and Anwar. They both remind him that it’s been 15 years, and he should try to forget. Suddenly, in the midst of their nice breakfast of Chai and prop-bread that no one touches, comes Shouting! Running! Johnny Lever!
(this is actually from Baazigar, I just like their faces in this still)
An extra-with-lines accuses Johnny Lever of thievery! Shahrukh and his friends, acting as the voice of reason, ask Lever to explain himself, why is he stealing? Lever explains, he is stealing because he has no money! And, more importantly, he is stealing because he needs money to take care of his younger brother! Shahrukh instantly agrees using the line from the trailers, “When it comes to brothers, you think with your heart” (loose translation).
Shahrukh asks his friend Shakti for his wallet. Shakti gives it somewhat reluctantly and watches, slightly annoyed, and then very annoyed, as Shahrukh gives first a few Rupees, and then the entire wad of cash in the wallet, to Johnny Lever. He then hands the empty wallet back to Shakti.
So, what have we learned from this, the first full sequence of the film? Well, first, this is going to be a bright happy somewhat fantastical film, based on the house, the cars, the courtyard, Johnny Lever, etc.
Second, Shahrukh is peaceful. He wants to forget his past, enjoy his chai, and forgive his thieves.
Third, Shahrukh is in charge. His friends give him their wallets, and random thieves and victims of thievery all listen to his Solomon-like pronouncements.
Fourth, Shahrukh loves his brother, and brothers will be important in this film, since the brother line is the first notable-quotable line of the dialogue in the film.
Moving on, we have now finished the first section of the film and are ready to be introduced to our second hero. Varun Dhawan gets a real, true, hero’s introduction (which was apparently ripped off from a car ad, but I don’t care). We see an overhead shot of a sports car of some type (I don’t care about cars). It is coming down a thin waterfront sticky-outy road towards a roundabout, at which point the car shifts gears and slowly drifts round the circle. The camera also shifts gears, back to slow motion, as we zoom in on the driver of the car and see Varun Dhawan! Crossing himself as he passes a statue of Jesus! And the crowd goes wild!
And the crowd actually does go wild (at least in the showings I was at), which is interesting. I mean, Shetty is leading us up to it, building excitement for the reveal by showing the car first, then going into slow motion glamour shot on Varun, which lingers long enough for the applause to die down. So the director had faith that Varun’s star quality was at such a level that he could command that kind of entrance, the audience at my shows confirmed it.
Notice, Shahrukh very much did not get that kind of an entrance. He was given a couple of quick shots, no slow-mo or anything like that. It was actually kind of frustrating, I wanted to cheer for his entrance, but there was no proper time or place for it.
I would argue there are a couple of reasons for this. First, Shetty wanted that slightly disorienting opening, going from literally dark scenes of violence to literally bright scenes of friendship. And the tie between these two concepts is Shahrukh, so he has to be present from the very beginning, not teased out for a full intro later.
(this is what I mean by a full intro-time for 2 minutes of sustained cheering before dialogue begins)
Second, everyone knows that an Indian audience arrives ten to twenty minutes late, so you don’t want to put anything important right at the beginning. That opening scene sets the tone and the thesis for the film, but is not actually vital plot-wise, nor does it have any super crowd pleasing moments. You don’t want to waste your whistle inducing introduction of a megastar in the time when half the audience is still buying popcorn. So his true intro is put later, which I will discuss when I get there (in about 5 thousand words at the rate I am going!)
Anyway, Varun goes out of slow-mo, the cheering stops, and he zips calmly along the road with his friend providing a humorous counterpoint by screaming in terror. Then! A pale, feminine hand reaches out! A lovely young woman in a shirt skirt (or tight pants? I don’t remember. Anyway, something sexy) is trying to hail them and ask for a ride. As they come up, Varun suggest stopping, but his friend reminds him that “Bhai” (Shahrukh) always says “another name for girl is ‘trouble'” and they shouldn’t have a girl in the car. Varun pulls away, the girl pouts, and then in the car we see that Varun is pouting also. He chastises his friend for making him pass by “such a nice, long, girl!” (the actress is very tall, taller than both her male co-stars). He has an idea! This is telegraphed to the audience by his facial expressions, but apparently his friend does not notice.
Varun pretends he needs to urinate (urination! The highest form of comedy!) and convinces his friend to leave the car and urinate against a wall with him, because it is more fun that way (? Is this true? both that boys do this and that it is more fun?). Once his friend has truly started to urinate (no foley sounds for that, thank God), Varun runs back to the car and takes off before he can catch him, zipping back to pick up long-legged girl and offer her a ride. She says thank you and touches his hand! Lots of metaphorical sparks! She also says that she needs a ride because her scooter broke down, and she is in a hurry because she needs to file papers to get a restaurant license and she just moved here from Bangelore. Remember this, because both of these will come up again later as minor plot points.
So, to show off for the pretty girl, Varun drives the car very fast. We, the audience, know that it is a car he is taking out for a test drive before delivering it, and therefore are somewhat worried about damage. They come to a traffic jam! Rather than stop and fail in his attempts to impress the pretty girl, Varun drives on the sidewalk! He drives through a big glass case of multi-colored rubber balls! He does not stop to wonder why this case is on the sidewalk to begin with! The balls look very pretty in slow motion as they bounce away and Shetty checks off his first big action set piece of the film!
They pull up to the municipal building just in time, the pretty girl thanks Varun and gives him her name, Ishita. He immediately changes it to a nickname, Ishu. He also gives her his name, Veer, thereby providing the requisite Sholay reference for the film.
She leaves him, he turns back to the car, and only then notices that one of the headlights is cracked! Nooooo! The horror!
So, not the most remarkable meet-cute in the world, and poor Kriti really isn’t given much of an entrance, but at least the first romance is successfully set in motion. And we are now nearing the 20 minute mark, which means the audience is getting restless as the first song has not yet started. Don’t worry! Just a few more minutes of screen time, and a few more paragraphs of description, and we will be there!
Varun returns the car to the garage, and for the first time we get to see him interact with Shahrukh. They’ve got pretty decent chemistry! Now I am distracted trying to remember if Shahrukh ever worked with his Dad when Varun was little and therefore knows him already. I don’t think so, but one moment while I check imdb to confirm.
I’m back! They are only listed together on a documentary, “Bollywood in Alpenrausch”, which is presumably a documentary about Indian film in the Alps, and now I really want to watch it. Anyway, Shahrukh never worked in a movie Varun’s Dad directed, which means they never really knew each other that well before this film, which means their brother-brother chemistry is really pretty nice for two guys who barely know each other.
Anyway, Shahrukh gently asks what happened to the headlights. Varun’s friend immediately sells him out. There is a bit of a misunderstanding at first, as Shahrukh’s friends Anwar and Shakti get distracted by the whole urinating part of it (more fun humor!), but eventually it becomes clear that Varun damaged the car because he was trying to impress a girl. Shahrukh gives him a few playful whacks and orders him to fix the car, but seems fairly forgiving.
From this scene, we learn that Shahrukh is incapable of really punishing his brother, even when his brother is highly at fault. And that Varun does not want to confess wrongdoing to his brother, or go against his wishes, not out of fear, but out of respect. Or rather, out of fear of disappointing him, as any punishment beyond that seems fairly minor. We also learn that Anwar and Shakti are not just close friends of Shahrukh’s but are treated as family, and have the right to be involved in these family disputes. And that Shakti, one of Shahrukh’s best friends, is the older brother of Varun’s best friend, whose name I am going to actually look up now because I am sick of calling him “Varun’s friend”-Sidhu! So, Sidhu and Shakti are brothers also, continuing the brother theme that was set up in the opening sequence with Johnny Lever.
Varun is working late in the garage. Their two employees both come up in turn asking to leave early. The first explains he needs to leave early to take his girlfriend to dinner. The second explains he needs to leave early because he is taking the first and his girlfriend to dinner. I don’t know why this is funny, but somehow it really is! Both times I saw it in theaters, this line got a laugh. Maybe it’s in the delivery? I don’t know.
Varun let’s them both go, and therefore is working alone when he hears a noise, and it’s Kriti! Remember she said her scooter kept breaking down? Well, that plot point has paid off, it broke down again, so she brought it to the garage, so they can continue to be meeting cute. Varun offers to start it, and fails (possible impotence joke? I’m not sure), and offers to fix it and drop it by her house, if she will give him her address. Which would feel like sort of creepy sexual harassment, except he is so bad at it! So instead it feels like she could see through it and ignore it if she wanted to.
She gives him her address, and then asks if he works at the garage. He is quick to explain that he is actually the owner, well he and his brother, and his brother is making him work all night. She is sympathetic, so they sit down on the weird couch that looks like the backseat of a 1950s sports car and he expands. He offers that his brother beats him, forced him to quit school, thinks only of himself! And of course, this is the point at which Shahrukh walks in and overhears. Audience gives a collective intake of breath!
Remember, we have only see Shahrukh be peaceful and loving so far this entire film. And yet there is something about him that has primed us to be worried that he will explode with anger here, and embarrass his brother. Which of course he does not. But the acting and the directing are already pointing the audience towards some clues about character backstory.
Instead of exploding in anger, Shahrukh quietly takes all of Kriti’s complaints and defense of Varun. When she orders Varun to actually yell at Shahrukh on his own behalf, Varun just puts on his puppydog eyes, signs “I ‘heart’ you!” to Shahrukh behind Kriti’s back, and of course Shahrukh melts and comes up with an excuse for why Varun will yell at him later, and of course he is very sorry for all the things he has done to his little brother, and hopes he can be forgiven. Again, the idea of Shahrukh as a big softy, especially where family is concerned, is reinforced, and yet the audience continues to have this vague sense of power and danger from him.
Also, the “I ‘heart’ you” mime, is obviously a reference to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, but used between brothers, instead of lovers. Which is interesting! So it is a nice nod to a previous SRKajol film, but slightly updated (with the heart sign instead of hugging an arm). There will be more references to previous films through out Dilwale (or at least what felt like references to me, some of them may be a bit of a reach), but they will all be of this gentle joshing variety, rather than all out respectful to classic cinema feel. It’s a nice way for Kajol and SRK to deal with the weight of their past without letting it bury them.
(thank you Karan, for putting your best clips online! And little baby Anjali, I still hate you! Even if you grew up to be a good actress, I hate you in this movie!)
So, Kriti leaves, Shahrukh puts on an angry face, but forgives Varun instantly when he offers to stay up all night fixing the car. And he is actually concerned when Varun offers to skip dinner, as he does not deserve to eat! Of course, at this point, Sidhu shows up to deliver the chicken sandwich (perhaps a Chicken Maharaja Mac?) and coffee Varun asked for. Again, there is some gentle coming on of the big brother, but it ends with Shahrukh merely taking the sandwich for himself and indulgently smiling, before he walks off and leaves the two boys to their own devices.
(Chicken Maharaja Mac! Indian McDonald’s is actually pretty good)
Varun passionately embraces Sidhu and declares, because Sidhu was so kind and wants to make sure he drinks his coffee and doesn’t work too hard, after this, he is not merely a friend, he is a brother! Again, the brother theme comes up. Varun then drinks his coffee, and immediately falls asleep and begins dreaming. And, SONG. Almost exactly 20 minutes in, just like it is supposed to be. The siren sound that calls in late comers and warns them they only have a few more minutes to acquire seats and popcorn before the film proper will begin.
(so, I may have missed an important line here or there, feel free to correct me in the comments, but over all, I think this is pretty good, considering it is just based on memory!)