I’ve already covered the first 2o minutes here, and the next bit after that (including the first fight scene!) here. So, where did I leave off? Right, Shahrukh is striding towards the camera with Anwar and Shakti falling in behind him and the music pounding out a war beat as the crowd cheers and whistles, marking the true introduction of Shahrukh and the birth of a new Shahrukh Khan character. Woo! (part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, part 6 here, and part 7 here)
So, cut to, dark factory with a bunch of hooligans standing around an enormous table piled with big bags of drugs. They turn at a sound, and see three dark figures enter, through the Deewar-reference sliding door. They come through, closing the door behind them, which makes the two figures in the back almost impossible to see as their dark clothing fades into the dark of the door, while the front figure is still visible, compact and perfectly poised, with a close fitting leather jacket and a hood over his face.
(never fight a guy in an enclosed space who closes and locks the door before he attacks. It means he is the hero and you are the villains and he is going to beat you all up, even if he is outnumbered 10 to one)
Not getting the Deewar reference, the head hooligan foolishly orders one of his lackeys to go see who these guys are and throw them out. Oh, and he gives the order to “Michael.” So our Christian references are a mixed bag here, on the one hand, Sidhu’s girlfriend is a nice Christian girl (well, not that nice, she is dating a boy without her brother’s permission. So a nice and loose Christian girl), but also a bunch of Christian-named guys are in charge of drug-running for Goa.
Anyway, the lackey goes up and tries to lift the hood of the lead figure. He gets efficiently destroyed with a couple of precision hits and knee slams. It looks kind of cool and different, a little bit more like the Muay Thai fighting that came in with Ong-Bak than the traditional Indian film style dishoom-dishoom big punches that carry you away. It’s kind of a character touch too. Varun’s night club fight was all dishoom-dishoom, because he is a carefree Hindustani ladka who fights for the big pure joy of it. This feels more like fighting like it’s a job, just move through the obstacles like you are taking out the garbage.
And then it really feels like that when the two figures in the back step forward with big old wooden rods (baseball bats maybe? But why would you have a baseball bat in India?) and slam them down on the already incapacitated “Michael” in a nice double-tap kind of style that lays him out for good.
Our head hooligan (Peter, I think? Let’s call him Peter) orders two more guys forward. This time, the hits are still tight, but a little harder, they go flying a bit before they hit the ground. Again, the lead figure steps forward towards the table of drugs while his back up guys finish the job with a couple of quick one-twos to the head with bats.
Now, “Peter” orders everyone forward. Makes no difference. A few more punches, a first kick to get someone coming from behind, they all hit the ground, and get finished off with bats.
No more obstacles now, they reach the table and knock out “Peter”. Then, they look at the pile of drugs, and in response to an invisible signal, the two figures in back pull out bottles of alcohol and proceed to douse the drugs in it. Then, our forward figure pulls out a match and, in the gif at the top of the last post, his face is revealed for the first time. It’s peaceful Shahrukh! The guy who loves his brother and never shows anger! Which, okay, the audience kind of guessed that from the way his face changed in his last scene, but it is still a cool final reveal.
Side-note, I have been debating whether 50 year old, a million knee and shoulder surgeries, no real fight training Shahrukh actually did his own stunts. I am pretty sure he did, actually. Partly because he says he did, and he says he enjoys stunts, and he usually does his own (thus the knee/shoulder surgeries). Partly because the way the fighter steps forward and holds his shoulders and hips feels like the way Shahrukh holds himself. Especially in this movie, he doesn’t rock his shoulders like in Don, or go all out from the knees like in Kuch Kuch, but more a sort of tight balanced movement, hip and shoulder together, sort of like in “Ishq Kameena”. Anyway, I think it’s really him.
(for reference. And because it is awesome)
As the drugs burn, “Peter” calls out “You don’t know what you’ve done! Wait until King finds out! He’s coming for you!” To which Shahrukh says
“Tell him! Tell him my name!” Peter asks “Who are you? What is your name?” Which, yeah! It’s all cool to say “I’m not afraid, tell him my name!” but that doesn’t mean anything if I don’t know what your name is!
Anyway, Shahrukh says “Tell him Kaali came!” Wha?!?!? Oh right, did I never tell you Shahrukh’s character’s name? It’s “Raj Bhai”. Well, really it’s “Raj”, but everyone gives him the “Bhai” honorific, because he is both respected and beloved (Happy day after your birthday Salman! This is why you are Salman Bhai and Shahrukh is the Baadshah! Because people just love you more. And fear you.)
Anyway, where did the “Kaali” name come from? What is going on? And is this a reference to Baazigar? I am going to say it is. And a nice one, since it is privileging the Kajol-Shahrukh dance (which they also performed at that year’s FilmFare) over the whole rest of the film. I mean really, it is the most memorable part.
(I assume we all know the film version, enjoy the live FilmFare one!)
So, post “Kaali” reveal, Shahrukh turns to walk out towards the Deewar-door and the two other guys fall in behind him, pulling off their face-obscuring scarves as they walk, and it’s Anwar and Shakti! Which, okay, we kind of already guessed. But it is still cool, because they get to do that “we are scary now” thing with their faces too. It’s mostly the low-lighting and low angle, but they also have a little bit of narrowed eyes and thinned cheeks going on too.
So, they go striding off, and then cut to the next day, same place, scared voice confessing to the big scary crime boss “King” what happened. And the camera pans up from the table full of destroyed drugs (would a bunch of drugs really catch fire that easily?) to reveal…..Boman Irani! In a green sports coat and a porkpie hat! So not actually that scary. It got a big laugh in one of the shows I was in, because it’s just so beautifully unexpected.
King/Boman Irani is furious, of course, and asks his henchgoons who could have done this? Who?!?!? (he also has that same lisp he had for no reason in Happy New Year, so even his big scary pronouncements aren’t that scary). Anyway, the goons are scared of him at least, and suggest, well, maybe that boy we beat up, he does have a big brother…
Cut to Varun and Sidhu and the two garage employees working as a big fancy period car pulls up in front of the garage and King and his goons get out. Varun and the crew immediately grab more random metal rods (do they just grow out of the ground in India? Like weeds?) and start heading over to break some heads. But they stop immediately when Shahrukh comes running out of the house in a super flattering brown shirt over green shirt unbuttoned almost to the waist. It’s not because they are stunned to inaction by his hotness (although, who knows! It could be!), but because he is calling out to them to stop as violence never solved anything. Again, a sign of loving respect from all, since one word from him is enough to yank all these crazy boys into line.
(this outfit. But more unbuttoned, and when he is walking, it sort of falls open a bit more, taunting you with pectoral muscles)
While the boys were coming at the gang from the side, ready for a good old-fashioned donnybrock, Shahrukh comes up from the front and takes the bad guys’ focus (maybe that is why he is wearing his sexiest shirt?) while Anwar and Shakti come quietly up from the back, ready to pull guns from their waists. These are not hot-headed boys looking for a fight, these are trained fighters setting up the field of battle. Shahrukh gestures softly to them to hold back, they relax a little but keep their hands ready to pull.
Shahrukh starts chatting with “King”, complimenting his car, guessing that it was his father’s before him. I am distracted by how much space there is in the frame between Shahrukh and Boman. At first, I think it is because Shetty assumes we, the audience, will also be fascinated by a cool period car. But then I realize it is because Boman Irani is enormously tall, and Shahrukh is a nice compact size, and the framing would be funky if they stood closer together. Anyway, they talk about the car, Boman makes a big sentimental mess saying his father is no more, that is why he has it. Shahrukh goes all “Oh no!”, and pulls a sympathy face. And then Boman lifts his head with a crooked neck (which both looks a little disconcerting, and manages to get him eye-to-eye with a much shorter actor. The same trick Vicent D’Onofrio uses in Law and Order:CI), he drops the lisp, and says “I killed my father. I am Don.” And it is super spooky!
(kind of like this. But in color and Boman Irani and Shahrukh.)
Did you know Boman’s first movie was Main Hoon Na? He only started acting at like 40 years old, and he is so good! So good! I am glad his son (Soda from Student of the Year. You know, the friend character who ends up stealing the audience sympathy from the main stars because he is such a good actor) is starting younger and not forcing us to miss out on 20 years of potentially awesome performances.
So, now the “King” character is legitimately spooky. He also is legitimately threatening when he offers to shoot Shahrukh or anyone else who crosses him. Shahrukh immediate backs away (which also lets poor Boman stand up straight again) and starts all timid and complimentary “Oh no! I am afraid of guns!” and then he starts the flattery “And look at you now! Your father would be proud! You are a big Don! With a hat!” (I love the hat line. Don’t as me why. It’s just so perfect). Boman takes this as his due, and is fully convinced that Shahrukh is innocent. In fact, he promises that from now on, “Only a Raj will work on King’s cars!” and then chuckles at his own pun. As the car pulls out, Anwar and Shakti slowly move forward to flank Shahrukh as they watch it pull away. They say sort of laughing “he thinks you are afraid of guns!” As they all chuckle about this, we get a couple of quick shots of young-not-bearded Shahrukh in a leather jacket shooting a machine gun. We cut back to the three of them in modern day laughing (I guess to remind the audience that we shouldn’t worry about anything we see in flashback because obviously they are still alive?), and then back to flashback to see Shahrukh switching to a handgun, leaping into a car, and driving off. While still leaning out the window and shooting his pretty little gold-plated gun.
And, car-chase! In the grand scheme of Shetty car chases, I feel it could be better. I think filming in Bulgaria, without aut0-rickshaws, fruit carts, machetes, or clay pots, limited him a little. But we do get a great reveal, as Shahrukh’s car peels out and three others pull up to follow it, the camera pulls back, we see a huge sign for McDonalds on one side and Subway on the other, and down in the lower left corner, tiny print saying “Bulgaria-15 years ago”. I immediately start wondering, was there a McDonald’s in Bulgaria 15 years ago? I know I was in Hungary around that time, and I think there was only a Burger King.
(apparently, the first one opened in 1994. Learn something new every day!)
Anyway, car-car-car, driving-driving-driving, gun-gun-gun. Eventually, they come to a bridge, Shahrukh’s car is boxed in. So he looks over at the old canon’s that line the bridge, angled towards the side, and swings his car over, ramping up off two canons, flying over the rail of the bridge, over the river between it and over to the next bridge, and landing safely. It is cool, but it was also kind of spoiled by the trailer, so it is less cool.
Then more drive-drive-drive, until we start cutting between his car, and a woman’s feet. Then her legs as she stands up off a bench. Then everyone in the theater who has memorized the “Janam Janam” song trailer starts cheering because they know what is coming. The legs start crossing the street, the car comes zipping around, hits the breaks right before it hits her, and slow motion comes down like a train as we all hold our breath and wait for that magical moment. Shahrukh opens his door, his feet hit the ground, he comes around the front of the car, and the camera and he both see at the same time the face of the woman he hit. It’s KAJOL!!!!!!!!! (crowd goes wild).
Then there is about 75 seconds of sustained applause as their eyes meet, he offers his hand, she slowly stands, he walks her over to sit back on the bench, maintaining eye contact the whole time. It’s all wordless and in dreamy slow-motion with the “Janam Janam” instrumental track swelling through the theater. His friends start yelling at him to get back in the car, so they can get back to the car chase. He waves them off and maintains eye contact. He even keeps eye contact as he starts backing away to the car, turning at the last minute, then turning back for one more look. Just as your hands start to sting because you’ve been clapping for so long, it finally goes back to regular speed, and car chase again. The bad guys shoot, the good guys drive and shoot back, then win! Yay!!!
Cut to head bad guy in his bad guy mansion sighing about how the Shahrukh guys managed to steal their gold and get away with it, and saying “[other gangster guy] never used to be this brave. It is his son, Kaali, that gives him his strength.” Hey! Kaali! We know that name! Also, by the way, head bad guy is played by Kabir Bedi, who was the general in Main Hoon Na, and the bad guy in that terrible India-set James Bond movie.
Cut to, Kaali himself, walking down the street, when he hears a very bossy voice! It is Kajol! At a sidewalk art gallery thing! Pointing at paintings and bossing around her underling. Which is apparently sort of how Shahrukh met her the first time in real life. He showed up on set for his first day on either Karan-Arjun or Baazigar (I can’t remember which one they started filming first), and heard this super loud yelling woman shouting very fast Marathi at all the crew members. Which was terrifying, because she was super loud and bossy, and also speaking fluent Marathi, which he can’t understand.
So, in Dilwale, he is less afraid of her. He comes up, reminds her how they met, and offers to help carry her things to the tram, since she is using a crutch thanks to him. They walk off, into the first publicity shot released from set, and immediately fall into that magical SRKajol chatter. She is bossy and confident, he is patient and infatuated. She asks him why they were chasing and shooting, he changes the subject to the weather, she calls him on it, and he immediately gives in and tells her the truth, that he is “Kaali”, son of the big scary Indian Don who runs Bulgaria (really? Doesn’t Bulgaria have any of its own Dons? Or is this another instance of outsourcing to India?). Kajol’s response is a half second of fear, and then moving immediately into making fun of him for being named “Kaali.” It is an awfully old-fashioned name, I must say. Of course, she is named Meera, which is pretty old-school too. Not like “Durga” old-school, but not as hip as “Payal” or something.
Anyway, Kajol puts on a fake old-man voice and pretends to be his Dad saying “I swear on Kaali!” Shahrukh puts on scary face, and she immediately backs off (I feel great sympathy for Kajol characters who take a joke slightly too far and then get in trouble for it. I have been there). But a second later, Shahrukh puts his indulgent, infatuated face back on and laughs. He asks about her family, she explains her Dad runs an artifacts store, came to Bulgaria from India, she came with and no runs the pavement art gallery with her own paintings. She also complains about all the medical expenses and demands that he pay her back, because there was the hospital bill, the crutch, all sorts of things, and it is all his fault! (Did I mention I love Kajol? Half a second of being scared because his father is a big Don, and then back to bossing and complaining. She is the perfect woman).
Shahrukh agrees, and sweetly points out that it would help if he had her phone number. Kajol gives him squinty eye, like she thinks maybe he has ulterior motives for asking, but is eventually convinced. Just as she gets on the tram, she leans out and rattles it off to him. Then she looks through the window as she pulls away and smiles, while he literally jumps in delight at having a way to get in touch with her again. Also, Kuch Kuch reference? To the end of the flashback bit when he watches her train pull out and you, the audience, as well as flashback-Rani realize that he loves her more than he will ever love college fling Rani? I mean, it is a totally different mood, but it is the same him standing there and watching her pull away from him.
(this scene. Poor Rani.)
Anyway, cut to boarding school! Shahrukh and his Dad are walking up the steps. His Dad is played by Vinod Khanna, who ran off and joined a sex-cult in the 80s (Okay, so OSHO today does a lot more stuff, but back in the 80s in Oregon, it was primarily known for the sex. And the attempted mass poisoning). He’s also a huge star from back in the day and did many other things with his life, but I don’t care, I see him and think “sex cult!” So, Sex Cult and Shahrukh walk up the steps to the school, and Small Child comes running up and embraces them. It’s baby-Varun! But, baby-Varun gets all mad and upset and runs off when he sees they have brought him a gift basket. Because it means he isn’t going home with them, the are leaving him in school. Sex Cult starts to follow him, but Shahrukh stops him and goes off himself. He sits next to Varun on the steps and suggests “maybe we are leaving you in school and just bringing you gifts. Or maybe we are working very hard so that we can buy a big house, with a room just for you, where we can all live together.” This immediately makes baby-Varun feel better, and it shows that brother bond, even while their father was still alive, is stronger than the father-son bond. Which goes back to one of my earlier reviews comparing the sibling relationship Dilwale with Trimurti, where I talked about how statistically, single-parent households are more common in India, in which case it often falls on the older sibling to act in a parental role.
Anyway, as they are leaving baby-Varun’s school, maneuvering around two little girl extras in braids who just WILL NOT get out of the shot, Sex Cult and Shahrukh have a serious conversation, in which Sex Cult mentions that he feels bad that his younger son is being protected from the violence by staying in his boarding school, while his older son is being thrown right into the thick of it. And, he mentions, he hopes that Shahrukh doesn’t think he is being used this way because he is not a blood son, but rather adopted. Shahrukh points out that he had nothing, he was living on the street, and Sex Cult gave him everything. And also, that the son who is kept close, who is part of his life, might be the favorite after all. Sex Cult gets all teary over this, embraces him, wipes his eyes, and then makes Shahrukh promise that they will never mention the whole adopted thing ever again, and also that Varun will never find out that they are not real brothers. Why Varun shouldn’t know this, I don’t know, but it is what Sex Cult says, so I will just go with it.
Anyway, what does it mean that Shahrukh is adopted? Like, socially and narratively? Not much, really, but it does add a few more layers to his character. He is so family focused and family defensive, because he lived without family and knows its value. He is extra loyal to his father and his father’s needs, because he feels he owes him. He is maybe a little tougher and a little colder when the need arises, because he comes from the streets. Oh, and also, where is his adoptive mother? And Varun’s Mom? It never comes up! I think we can just assume she died in childbirth so Varun never knew her (again, see previous post for the likelihood of this), and sometime after her death, Shahrukh was adopted, which is why he never mentions a mother either.
Anyhoo, right after Shahrukh sends Sex Cult off in a car, his phone rings, and it is Kajol! She wants to meet up, she needs a favor. Cut to them sitting at an outdoor cafe. Kajol is explaining that there are some guys harassing her, because she is a woman, and the only Indian sketch artist in the area (is this a thing? Harassing woman just because they are Indian? I could believe harassing any woman who appears to be “exotic”, but the way it is phrased, it sounds more like “and of course, everyone knows Indian women are the type most desired by white men!”). Anyway, Shahrukh is clearly not listening, and is just enjoying the sound of her voice and they way her eyes twinkle. So Kajol whacks the table and says “Hey! Kaali!” Coincidentally, whacking the table and barking their names was also my technique when I used to tutor small children with short attention spans. Kajol and I, it’s like we’re the same person!
So, it works, Shahrukh pays attention, and offers to confront the harassers the next time they show up. Cut to, Kajol at her outdoor gallery, a bunch of icky-looking white guys come up and say “Hey! Indian girl! Want to paint my picture? I’ll give you a kiss in return!” Which is frankly pretty terrible harassment. I could harass much better than that. Anyway, it is enough to get Shahrukh to step forward with a nice smile on his face and his jacket open just enough to show his gun. Icky white guys start to back off, and Shahrukh nods to the side, to show Anwar and Shakti standing there, also with jackets open to reveal guns. Icky white guys really start to back off.
At which point Kajol jumps forward, in a spectacular black and white outfit with four inch black heels (again, framing issues, the icky white guys are kind of tall so she had to be 4 inches taller to make it work. But it is odd, because Kajol doesn’t usually wear heels). She leaps in front of Shahrukh and starts telling off the white guys “Who’s the man! Who’s the man! I’m the man! You scared now? You want to touch me now? Go ahead! Touch me!” Meanwhile Shahrukh is behind her miming that he will shoot them if they touch her. But changing to look totally innocent and sharif when she looks back at him. I love how Shahrukh loves her spiciness!
(this outfit. Very flattering, but huge heels!)
Anyway, the guys leave, and Kajol starts striding off, trumpeting that she didn’t need his help after all, did he see how scared they were of her, and Shahrukh did nothing! Shahrukh agrees, he did nothing. But, Kajol offers, she will still call it even and not ask for any more favors. Shahrukh agrees, that is very generous of her. She starts talking about how she is very brave, nothing is worse than a coward. Shahrukh agrees, she is very brave. I suspect this is also how their mutual real life marriages work. Kajol says something, Ajay agrees; Gauri says something, Shahrukh agrees. Why would you ever argue with these women? You are lucky men just to be allowed to worship them on a daily basis.
As she is striding off, a dog comes running up. A really cute sort of floppy teenaged looking yellow dog. Kajol freezes! Shahrukh comes up behind her and embraces her. He says, sniffing her hair “Be very still. Don’t move a muscle!”. Kajol says “eep!” and stays still with her eyes closed. Shahrukh keeps holding her. The dog goes flopping off. Kajol says “Is it gone?” Shahrukh says, “What?” I say, “Hey! This was in that Gerard Butler-Hilary Swank movie!”
Anyway, Shahrukh eventually lets her go, but then asks if they can meet up again tomorrow. Lunch? Breakfast? Dinner? The day after? Kajol says, no, she is busy, business meeting, dinner with her parents, can’t possibly make any of those. Shahrukh finally asks if he can have just five minutes. She agrees, tomorrow evening, five minutes. He asks if she will give him a high five to confirm, she slowly reaches forward, and they have the most romantic high five in the world! Then, slow-mo, she walks away, he smiles after her with his “man, I am so sexy and cool because that girl likes me!” smile, she turns back to look (DDLJ reference? Palat?), then keeps walking. And it feels like now is when “Gerua” is supposed to happen, or some kind of a song, but no! Not yet.
And, oh my gosh, I just wrote over 4 thousand words to cover like 15 minutes of screentime. It’s SRKjol! They inspire me! Anyway, tune in tomorrow (or whenever), and I will give you the second half of their love story.