So, I left off at the song, right? So, song ends, and Varun gets a bucket of water in his face. Because he was sleeping leaning against the car in the garage instead of working or even being awake to prevent the theft of a car radio! Shahrukh chides him gently, Varun is very apologetic, but again, not that scared. (part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, part 6 here, and part 7 here)
And then cut to the first comedy sequence! Oh boy! In one of my earlier reviews I mentioned how these feel like a whole different movie that had been forced on to the original, better, film. And I am standing by that!
Anyway, here we are in another garage with even more eccentric decorating (a bedazzled skull phone, for instance). And here is Sanjay Mishra, with unusual hair and an American pop culture t-shirt (I don’t remember what it is in this scene, but I know later it is a very accurate picture of Heath Ledger’s version of the joker. That kind of thing). And here is Sidhu! Varun’s best friend/honorary brother! He is also the thief that is tormenting their garage!
He and Sanjay Mishra (character name, Oscar Bhai. Ooo, Christian! We really are in Goa!) have a conversation about how much money he will pay for the car radio. I am briefly interested in his comic dialogue stylings. He uses the sort of rhyming, alliterative style of talk that is part of classical Indian poetry. Think Jackie Shroff in SLB’s Devdas. And the last two words of every line are a matching pair of brand names, like “nokia-blackberry.” So it is kind of a cool combination of classical Indian literature rules, and modern India’s brand obsession. But after about 2 minutes, the novelty wears off and I am done with this character.
Moving on, at the end of this scene, another hilarious thing I have never seen before! Sidhu calls his girlfriend to arrange a birthday party for her, now that he has the money, and then she calls her brother for permission, and her brother is Oscar Bhai! Who could have guessed! What a coincidence! (I’m being sarcastic here. This is a very very common film trope). Anyway, the girlfriend, “Jenny” (ooo, another Christian!) agrees, so party, party!
Cut to, Varun standing outside Kriti’s door. He’s come to return the scooter, having fixed it. She is all cutely grateful. He leaves, but then just stands in front of the door, facing away. Somehow his posture and leg position makes me think he’s urinating again (hey! It’s his fault for putting it in my mind with the earlier scene!). I don’t know if Kriti thought that too or what, but she asks him what the heck he is doing? Varun has a grin on his face, like this was all part of a clever plan, and says that he is waiting for friends who are meeting him here. I think he is lying. Kriti doesn’t and invites him to have coffee while he waits. He reacts with more excitement that I would expect (is coffee some kind of euphemism? I know it is in Hum-Tum, but they set that up with an earlier conversation).
Anyway, they have coffee, and Kriti goes on again about how he needs to stand up to his brother. Varun can no longer listen to criticisms of his beloved brother and immediately stops her, and corrects her. He explains that he just made up all that other stuff, and that for his brother “I come first, and then the whole rest of the world comes after me.” They have a moment of letting that line sit there, and then Sidhu and Jenny and a bunch of other people (including a really hot extra. He’s too the right and has dimples!) pull up on motorcycles. So I guess Kriti was right and I was wrong and Varun really was telling the truth? Anyway, his plan works out even better, because now they had a nice one-on-one talk while he waited, and he can invite her to join the group to celebrate Jenny’s birthday.
And, night club! Well, we’re in Goa, so beachside hangout club type place! And, as they enter, a scary bald man is yelling at “Uncle Joe” who runs the place, and throwing a truly enormous package of drugs on the counter, telling him he must start selling drugs to his young customers. Joe refuses! I think, “is this really the best way to distribute drugs? To just throw big bags of them at nightclub owners?”
(it looks kind of like this, but without the scorpion)
It doesn’t work in this case, because Kriti jumps in and yells at the bald drug dealer guy, saying she is going to call the cops. He grabs her phone and throws it on the floor, where it breaks, at which point Varun leaps in crying out “Oh no! You broke her blah blah blah blah blah device!” Except he doesn’t say “blah blah blah”, he says a long description of every possible function of a smart phone. He’s trying to do an imitation of Amitabh’s thing in Amar Akbar Anthony, but I don’t know how well he pulls it off.
(here they are trying to imitate Amitabh’s fast talk in English in Bol Bachchan. And I know I should appreciate the classics, but I actually like it here better than in AAA. So bright and pretty!)
More importantly, we learn three things that will be important later. First, that in this half of the film, everyone has smart phones. And second, that Varun doesn’t get angry or care about drug dealers, but as soon as someone he cares for is threatened, he leaps in immediately. And third, that Kriti is much more likely to leap without looking and have strong and loud opinions.
Anyway, fight scene! Drug-dealers versus nice young people! Now, a Rohit Shetty fight scene is a real experience. It builds, it has acts and finales, it uses the whole space in every way. This particular fight has 3 acts, each marked by an escalation of glass breaking. The first act is a nasty hand-to-hand fight by the bar. Varun punches and wrestles, but there are no big movements, no kicks or jumps. Finally, he grabs a bottle by the neck and smashes it over the head of the top gunda.
With that, he is able to break free of the bar area and reach the seating zone of the restaurant. Here is where the fight enters its second act. Now, there is space to move, kick, leap, use the furniture as obstacles and assistance. There is a really cool move where he falls back onto a low table and flips himself up off it. This is also when one of the people I went with started asking why only Varun was fighting, where were his friends? But the point is, it’s like a solo in a dance performance. The first bit, he was part of an ensemble, everything was very crowded and confused. But this bit, we are focusing on him. He has space to really show his abilities as the central dancer.
And then we enter the third and final act. Again, it begins with breaking glass. Varun throws an opponent into a pyramid of champagne glasses (which always makes me think of “Main Hoon Don”). There is a glorious smash, and everyone sort of backs off and moves into the courtyard in front of the open air restaurant. Varun slow-mos after them, grabbing a metal rod on the way (you know, those metal rods that are just lying around at beachfront nightclubs). In at least one show I was at, this is also when the audience starts cheering again, because they know the grade finale is coming. Varun chases after the last few gundas, and this is when it turns into his amazing solo performance. He leaps in the air, he swings the rod from hand to hand, he hits people really hard really often!
(note the champagne pyramid at the beginning. It was the first time I ever saw that in a movie and it made a big impression on me)
This is the first of the baseball bat/metal rod fight scenes in this film. At first I thought it was thematic or a metaphor or something. But actually, I am pretty sure it is just because Shetty figured out how to do rod fights really well. Like, how to make the bodies fly just so, what foley sound to use, what kind of fake rod looks good and won’t break but also doesn’t hurt anyone. At least, I hope it doesn’t hurt anyone! I know human labor is cheap in India, but I really don’t want a bunch of low paid extras to get beat up for real just for my entertainment!
And then it ends with the most breaking glass ever! He hits a guy so hard, that the guy flies through the air and lands in one of those fish tanks filled with ice and beer bottles. It’s glorious! And probably more damaging to the restaurant than just letting the gundas beat up the owner and tear the place up with no resistance. Anyway, it’s glorious.
It reminded me of all that Rohit Shetty films can truly be. I posted about why I like the Fast and Furious movies, because their action sequences are truly cinematic. As in, things that can only be done on film, not in a play, a radio show, a novel, anything else. And that’s how I feel about Rohit Shetty action scenes, when they are firing on all cylinders. There is a sort of joyousness to it.
And it was so awesome that I can’t actually remember exactly what happens next. I think there is a sort of messy cut right to Varun hanging out on the street near his house. But maybe there is a scene before that where someone warns him that the gundas will try to take revenge? Certainly I was waiting for them to attack him for some reason. Maybe I am just psychic. And sure enough, while he is alone in the street, suddenly a bunch of guys come up, put a bag over his head, and start beating him up. Varun fights back a little, a kick here and there, but doesn’t really connect. It is not glorious, it is a little painful looking.
Shahrukh comes running out of the house, and Anwar and Shakti run up too, just in time to see an SUV pulling out. They rush to check on Varun. Cut to, hospital! Not that same hospital corridor for once, but an actual hospital room. Shahrukh is looking worried at the bedside, Sidhu is at the foot, and the doctor is at the side. Varun is in bed with a teeny-tiny bandaid on his forehead and all his clothes still on. I guess in India doctors can see through clothing? Anyway, the doctor says “You will be fine. Just remember to take proper rest.” And for this super useful advice and diagnosis, Shahrukh says with deep sincerity and gratitude “Thank you, Doctor!” So remember, if you are grabbed and beaten to unconsciousness by half a dozen assailants, just take proper rest, and you will be fine! And if you are really feeling bad, just put a little band aid like a beauty spot on your temple.
(this corridor. This particular still is from Aap Mujhe Aache Lagne Lage, but once you start looking for it, you will notice the exact same set in every single movie. Except Dilwale)
Anyway, after the doctor leaves, Shahrukh asks very seriously if Varun knows who did this. Varun says no, so he turns and asks Sidhu. Behind his back, Varun makes faces to stop him from telling the truth. This feels more like him protecting his big brother from danger than any sort of effort to get out of trouble. It’s sweet, I have decided, not devious.
Also sweet, once Shahrukh decides he won’t be getting an answer from Sidhu, he turns back to Varun and gives him a new smartphone, because he knows he has been trying to earn money to buy one. Varun is super grateful, but then forgets his brother entirely when Kriti walks into the room. She is very concerned, Varun is obviously delighted to see her and calls her Ishu. Shahrukh is gently amused and asks for an introduction. Varun introduces her as “casual friend. But formal, hi-hello!” Which is a great description, I think! Totally going to use that next time I have to describe a relationship with someone that doesn’t make any sense. Casual, but formal! Just to say hi, or hello!
Shahrukh is less impressed, but more amused. Kriti is sweetly a little shy. She calls him “Bhai” respectfully and introduces herself with her full name, “Ishita”. Shahrukh has a bit of fun with her, asking if it is Ishita, or Ishu, because he doesn’t want to be yelled at again! She looks all embarrassed. But then happy when Varun offers her his new phone! She is delighted, it is just what she needed to replace the other one! Shahrukh takes a moment, looks like he is going to object, then lets it go and instead says “Yes, take it, it was given with a lot of love!” He adds to Varun “you can use it for your formal hi-hello.” And then he says he will leave the young people alone, but first turns serious for just a second, kisses Varun on the forehead and says (and the subtitles didn’t get this and it killed me because it is so sweet) “You are mine, so take care of yourself.” Oh! And actually, that is another call back, because Varun used a similar phrasing when he delivered Kriti’s scooter and refused to take payment. Something like “we don’t take money from our own”, which the subtitles translated as “from our kin”, which is a whole different thing.
Shahrukh leaves the room and goes and sits on a chair in the corridor (still not the usual hospital corridor! So disorienting!). He looks like a worried relative, his face is slack, his neck is bent, his hands are clasped. Then, we see a low angle shot of two figures walking towards him. He looks up. It is Anwar and Shakti. The say “We know who they are and where they are”. And then, one of the most skillful acting I have ever seen, Shahrukh looks back down at his hands, there is a closeup of his profile, and his whole face changes. He sucks in his cheeks a little and narrows his eyes, and all of a sudden he looks dangerous. That promise of power and anger that was always part of his character in the film, the subtle way of holding himself that made the audience fear him all along, even if his actions didn’t support it, is finally fulfilled.
The soundtrack starts booming out, there is a thumping beat to underscore it, and a totally new Shahrukh emerges from his face. When he stands up, he is holding himself differently, still recognizably the same character, but tougher and more powerful. And then he turns and walks out, and Anwar and Shakti fall in behind him, more like a military team or a honor guard than the casual small businessmen we have been watching for the rest of the film.
This is Shahrukh’s true introduction. This is when the hoots and whistles come, as a new Shahrukh Khan character is born and is appropriately celebrated. This is when his movie begins.
And this is when I will stop, for now, and pick up with the next 20 minute chunk tomorrow.