In case you are wondering, no, I don’t have a bootleg copy or anything. This is all based on memory from the 3 times I have seen it in theaters (so far). I have jettisoned vast amounts of mental materials (for instance, the names of everybody I knew in elementary school including my teachers) in order to make brain space for every second of every movie I have ever watched in my entire life. Very useful in grad school for cinema studies; not that useful in real life. (part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, part 6 here, and part 7 here)
So, where did I leave off? Right, Kajol was walking away from Shahrukh in slow motion, having agreed to meet with him for 5 minutes the next day. And you think “Gerua” is going to start now, in fact one time I saw it in theaters there was considerably rustling and whispering as people asked each other if it would start. But it does not.
Instead, we go straight to the date. Kajol shows up in a black skirt and loose red top that reveals one of her shoulders. Apparently, Manish Malhotra is big on shoulders right now, both Kajol and Kriti wear a lot of shoulder-revealing outfits. I don’t get it, but whatever, she always looks perfect no matter what she wears.
She gets out of a cab (car? motorcycle? How can I not picture this! I must have been blinded by her beauty) and walks over to him. Shahrukh has a dopey “I’ve got a date with Kajol” look his face. She says “sooooo?” He says, “So, we have a date!” She gives him the Kajol sceptical wrinkled brow look and says “you know we only have 5 minutes?” He says yes yes, that is why they had better hurry! And whistles for a car. One of his gundas that we have seen before pulls up driving an ancient car with an open seat. They both hop in, the car pulls away, Shahrukh says something about how far the restaurant is! And then they pull up immediately about ten feet away in front of an outdoor restaurant. Shahrukh leaps out and grabs her door for her, then leads her to a table where 3 more gundas are standing, each holding one plate. He asks, “what do you feel like? Italian? Indian? French? Chinese?” She says, “Chinese!” and one of the gundas steps forward and puts a plate in front of each of them. I get distracted, because he gave her 4 choices, but there were only three guys with six plates. Were two guys holding matching sets, and the third had Italian in one hand and Indian in the other? Or did Shahrukh just flub his line? Or is it possible that I am putting more thought into this than anyone on set did?
Anyway, they have matching Chinese plates and Shahrukh starts asking first date questions. Are all those paintings in her sidewalk gallery hers? They are all very beautiful! Or maybe he means she is very beautiful? He is staring again and she has to whack the table and shout “Kaali!” to get his attention.
Dinner over, fumbling for check! Kajol joking offers to pay, if they take checks. Shahrukh leaps up and says “No! Only cash!” They rush out of the restaurant, but Kajol wants dessert. “I want ice cream!” Luckily, Shahrukh knows of an ice cream parlor right near by! They hop back in the car, Shahrukh babbling the whole time (and getting a little breathless, this is all in one take), pull forward a few feet, and hop out in front of another of the goons dressed up like an ice cream man. Shahrukh offers vanilla, strawberry, caramel? Kajol declares, “Belgium Chocolate chip!” There is a moment of doubt, and then, yes! They do have Belgium Chocolate chip already loaded into cones ready to hand out.
Okay, wait a second here. So, first, there was the Chinese food loaded onto two plates ready to go, even though there were 4 options and only six plates. That could just be no one noticing or Shahrukh messing up the line (blasphemy! He improved it!). But then, Kajol wants ice cream, and Shahrukh just happens to have a cart all set up. Okay, maybe Kajol the character saw the cart on the street and was playing into it. Or, maybe no one thought it through, again. But having the one very specific flavor she wants all ready to go? There is no logical explanation for that. I’m going to go with fate. Shahrukh instinctively knew exactly what she would want and she knew exactly what he had planned. Fate! Meant to be, in every lifetime! Just like the song says!
(this song. Also, the trailer version covers a lot of the bits I’ve already described, or am about to describe.)
Anyway, ice cream! They walk off eating the cones (Kabhi Haa Kabhi Na reference?). Kajol says how nice this was, Shahrukh says “Yes, I am a good boy.” Total My Name is Khan reference! Not just the phrase, but the way he says it, with the ducked head, jutting chin posture, and the My Name is Khan giggle in his voice. All shy and happy. Which is also just how he gets when he is in love with Kajol and she smiles at him, in any movie.
Kajol asks if that is all there is to the date, and Shahrukh says “Of course not!” He flips his hand, and suddenly a string band appears behind them in the street, with Bulgarian ribbon dancers behind it. He holds out his hand, there is a close up as she puts hers in it (Gazebo!!!), and they waltz.
(like Gazebo crossed with the end of “Suno Na” from Chalte Chalte)
There is nothing lovelier than Shahrukh and Kajol waltzing. Years ago, I was at a bluegrass concert, and the performer said something about how he loves playing waltzes because there is nothing in this world as beautiful as watching a couple who’ve been married 50 years waltz together. Which is true, I thought about it since then every time I saw my grandparents dancing. But Shahrukh and Kajol, since their very first film, have felt like they’ve been married 50 years. And now that it’s been over 20 years since Karan-Arjun, it is even more so. It’s not sexy like the Gazebo, or at least not just sexy, it’s loving and intimate and comfortable and magical all at once. And then it’s over. The violins fade away, a girl pops up and hands Shahrukh a flower, and the music ends.
And some members of the audience (possibly including me), think “Wait, that was just a rip-off of How I Met Your Mother, wasn’t it? Oh well, I don’t care.”
So, How I Met Your Mother bit being finished, Shahrukh walks Kajol over to the side to sit down. Thank goodness, since she is wearing crazy high heels again, and her poor feet! She is all “you really like me, huh?” and he is all “yes I do!” So she wants to get together again tomorrow, but he has to say no! To Kajol! Why would you ever?!?! Especially when she says it’s her birthday and all she wants is him (just like what I wanted for Christmas)! He explains that he has to take a consignment of gold to Hungary, they’ve already bribed the border guards, but he will be back by the evening. She accepts this and lets him walk her back to the funky antique car, which will take her home. He waves good bye with his dopey “Kajol’s in love with me!” face, and she promises, again, “I will surely see you tomorrow evening!” Aaaaaand, cut!
Now we are on a highway driving through Bulgaria to the Hungarian border. It looks basically the same as driving through Kansas. Which is accurate, I’ve been to Hungary, and it is basically the same as Kansas. In climate and flatness, not necessarily in culture. Anyway, convoy! Shahrukh is driving front in a really cool little green sporty car. Behind him comes a big black van. Behind the van are a silver and then a black sedan (sedan? The car that has the little fronty-bit and backy-bit and kind of looks like my grandparent’s buick?). Anyway, they are all rolling down the highway in a row driving exactly on top of the line between the lanes. Good thing they paid off the border guards to block the highway!
But apparently they didn’t pay them enough, because 4 big scary black SUVs and one in bright yellow Jeepy-like SUV come pulling onto the road. They line up behind Shahrukh’s convoy and then fan out and start surrounding them. And then a lot of stuff happens, and it is kind of confusing. First they take out the silver sedan thing, driving it on to the safety barrier where it flips. They make the black car do several spinny flippy things before it falls. Finally, the van turns horizontal to block the road (or just by accident? I don’t understand defensive driving), the other cars pull up to it and make it flip. Shahrukh is still going, but the yellow jeep-like thing pulls up and makes him flip too. He hangs, upside down, inside his car (Shahrukh! Your back/shoulder/knee! This stunt cannot be good for any of them!). The other black SUVs pull up and line up next to the yellow one, isolating Shahrukh’s car. The yellow SUV opens its door, and a lady’s foot steps out. Then another. A gunda reaches out to give her a hand, the hair blows away, and it’s KAJOL!?!?!?!?!?!?! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!?!?!? How could this be!!!!!
She is wearing an awesome outfit, tight jeans, white shirt, another white silk shirt unbuttoned on top of it, hair perfectly loose and slightly curly, and big gold bangles and bracelets on her arms. Like a Boss! Even more so when she walks, front and center, with all her black clad bad guys surrounding her, over to Shahrukh in his car. Shahrukh’s doing a great job too, having his world turned upside down literally and metaphorically. bit shocked/heartbroken eyes staring out at us.
(like this, but with Kajol in front instead of SRK)
Anyway, Kajol reaches the car and kneels down to talk. She starts out with “Hi.” And just the way she says it is so perfect! All happy and cool and lowkey cocky. And completely different from the cheery, talkative manner we saw before. She goes on in the same tone, explaining that her father, as Shahrukh should have guessed, is the other Don in town. That on his behalf, she decided to take down “Kali”. That she was waiting for him on the bench, counting on her goons to drive him towards her in the car chase. That she was just supposed to hold him up for a few minutes while they caught up and shot him. “But, they missed.” I cannot possibly describe how perfectly she says that line. It is just a dream.
She goes on to explain that, when plan A didn’t work, they went on to plan B. She pretended to be a simple artist. She had her thugs pretend to harass her. She went on that “stupid date!” (not quite as good as how she says “But, they missed.”, but still pretty amazing). And now, here they are. She finishes her explanation, and then reaches her hand back. One of her goons immediately steps forward to hand her a big silver gun. Much bigger than Shahrukh’s little gold one. You can see Shahrukh’s face, he is trying to brace himself for this, but is also still not quite able to get past everything else that has just happened to him. Including being in a car that was just flipped end by end. For just a moment, she holds the gun on him, then says “Oh well, it’s my birthday!” and stands up and walks off. As she leaves, Shahrukh desperately scrambles on the floor/ceiling of his car and grabs up his little gold gun that Kajol didn’t notice (or did she?). He manages to lift and aim it at Kajol’s perfect back as she walks away. And then his arm falls, and he gives up.
And then we get that a nice little distraction from all of that when Kajol’s gang loads the gold from Shahrukh’s van into their tank-y thing. They have these big cases, like 20 by 20 gold bricks, and they just have a guy on each corner lifting it up! That can’t be right, right? Like, no one could lift that much! It’s like that joke from 30 Rock.
So, Kajol and the gang drive off, leaving Shahrukh hanging out (ha! It’s a pun!). Cut to, Sex Cult looking at Shahrukh, who know has a little beauty spot band-aid of his own. It brings out his eyes! Anyway, Sex Cult wants to take revenge on Kajol. Shahrukh says no, he wants to meet her once first. Cut to, Kajol driving a sporty topless car when her phone rings. Oh! That reminds me! Remember I mentioned the smartphones in the first half? In Bulgaria 15 years ago, they all have flip-phones! And it’s not just because they only had money for flip phones! For once, Indian film pays some attention to period props! Although I don’t know if I remember everyone wearing a million layered tops and printed skirts back in 2000.
(do you remember everyone wearing this 15 years ago?)
So, Kajol is driving and talking (very unsafe!) and Shahrukh is also driving and talking, and is in another topless car right behind her! Which is even more unsafe! He wants to talk, she doesn’t want to talk, she hangs up and zooms off, he zooms after her. They drive out on another sticky-outy land bit, like the one Varun drove on back at the opening, but different. Kajol drives very fast, Shahrukh comes up next to her, Kajol starts trying to force him off the road/land bridge. Shahrukh pulls back, and it looks like she is getting away (but to where? Isn’t this a sticky-outy bridge to nowhere?), when a bicyclist pulls in front of her and she veers to the side! Her car spins out and starts to run off the road! Shahrukh zooms forward, facing the other direction and crashes into the side of her car, risking his on life trying to keep her on the road. See, defensive driving I can’t understand, but romantical, relationship driving, that I understand completely!
Also, this bit apparently comes from Mission Impossible 2.
Only I don’t remember it, because I was distracted when I watched MI:2 by how much it came from Notorious. See, in Notorious, Ingrid Bergman is a self-destructive impossible beauty who takes Cary Grant out for a joyride the night she meets him. She veers wildly around the road (because she is drunk), but he remains calm and doesn’t react. Finally, right when she is about to crash (literally and emotionally), Cary Grant grabs the wheel and saves them both. And she falls in love with him, because he was willing to go with her as she spun out (literally and metaphorically, again! Maybe because cars are the source of that metaphor), and then was able to pull her back at the last minute. Which is the same as it is in Mission Impossible, except less cool and less hot, at the same time, since it is Thandie Newton and Tom Cruise instead of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. And none of the like specific details are the same, but the feel is the same, since it is cars going fast and losing control to represent emotional damage.
(I looked kind of hard for the car scene, but come on. You think Notorious, this is what you want to watch)
Where as in this, I think, it is slightly different than in Mission Impossible. Emotionally, not logistically. But I’m gonna go ahead and say that since I am an emotional viewer, I did not recognize the sequence as originally from Mission Impossible because the emotions are so different. In Mission and Notorious, it is about a woman sinking into her own misery, who is pulled out of it when she realizes that there is a man with her who is brave enough to just be there.
But in this, Kajol isn’t miserable, she is just scared and confused. It isn’t about him being with her in her metaphorical spinning out, it is only about the literal. She tried to kill him-he saves her life-she knows he doesn’t want to kill her. That’s really all there is to it. So, yes, they ripped off a brilliant John Woo action sequence, but just the action sequence, not the meaning behind it.
And we’re back! Shahrukh keeps the car on the road, but it finally comes to a stop right on the edge of the cliff, Kajol’s door falls open, and she falls out (seatbelts! This is why we wear our seatbelts!). Shahrukh crawls rapidly over the doors and seats (thank goodness they were both driving convertibles! Also, convertible! That is the proper name for that kind of car! Thank goodness I finally remembered right when it doesn’t matter any more). He leans over and pulls her up, promising he will never let her go. For just a moment, after he drags her back into the car, they lean against each other, forehead to forehead, and just breath in each other. It’s magic. Again.
And then Shahrukh pushes back, grabs Kajol gently by the face and says “Meera, if after today I see your face…I’ll take your life.” Which the subtitles, both in the trailer and in the film, insisted on translating as “I will kill you.” Which is totally different! “Jaan lelo” could be both “I will kill you” and “I will dominate your very existence.”
So, he drives off, Kajol stands there and watches, I laugh and say to my friends “Ha! She’s thinking ‘wait, now I have to walk home?'” And then she does! She does walk home! In the rain. And again, the whispers start in the theater, “is this ‘Gerua”? Is it now?” But, no. She just walks in the rain. And then she drinks coffee and looks at the rain. And that’s pretty much it. About ten seconds of thoughtfulness in the rain, and boom! Transition over!
Kajol, in a cute little car, pulls up in front of a big glassy building. She runs up the steps, in a truly hideous outfit. Jeans that could fit better, and a bright, bright, lime green shirt, tucked into the not-ideal jeans (the kind of fit that reminds you she’s had two kids). And then she goes inside, and there’s Shahrukh! Sitting there in another really ugly shirt! Like, plaid vomit green with a blue breast pocket on it? Why? Why are they so ugly? Is it to show that when they are apart, everything is bad and the forget how to clothe themselves?
(this shirt. I thought it was ugly in the making of video, and I think it is ugly now!)
And then Kajol makes her impassioned plea, saying she has learned to love Shahrukh, just like he loved her, only it took longer. And on the first watch I was all “Oh Kajol! I just want you to be happy!” But on the second watch, I was all “Oh Kajol! Is that a wig? What happened to your hair? It just looks funky here.” Anyway, Shahrukh doesn’t believe her (or is disgusted by the wig), grabs her by the arm, and throws her out. She declares, she will stay there, in front of his house, until he believes her! After a while, it starts to rain (or else God is crying about her hair). Anwar (still with Shahrukh! Just like in the present day!) comes out and bends down and offers her dinner, maybe? Or coffee? Which is so sweet of him, I really think he is the mother of their little gang. She turns him down. Then, legs appear next to her again, she snaps “go away” without looking, but it is Shahrukh! With an umbrella! He asks why she is still here, she reminds him that she promised to stay. He asks if she even knows how to love, she says “no. But you do, and you can teach me.” He thinks for a moment, then throws away the umbrella, spreads his arms wide, and she falls into them. And now, finally, “Gerua”!
So, while that plays in our heads and we try not to think about how freaking cold they were while filming, let’s go back through their interactions and analyze them based on the current information about motivations, etc. So, going back to their first meeting, obviously Shahrukh was straight up in love at first sight. As who wouldn’t be! But Kajol claims it was all a scam. However, I am going with a “only with him could she be truly herself” kind of thing.
In that first meeting, she looked genuinely vulnerable, whatever the original plan was. In the second meeting, when she laughed at his name, that felt real. More like she was just ribbing him, and enjoying herself. Even more so in the next meeting, when she hits the table and yells at him to pay attention. That feels like, she had a plan on how to woo-win him, but he keeps throwing her off her game by being real and sweet and Shahrukh-like. And maybe she was faking in the dog scene, but I am positive she was enjoying herself yelling at the goons and having Shahrukh quietly have her back. And for their date, again, I think she surprised herself by actually enjoying it. Sure, in front of her goons later, she calls it a “stupid date.” But that was just peer pressure! The moment at the end of their dance when they almost kissed (did I forget to tell you about that?), that was real. And so was her playful complaints about wanting ice cream and delight when they had her flavor. I think he was actually softening her up, even when she was playing him. Kind of like Dil Se, dialed down a thousand.
(I love this song. I know “Chaiyya Chaiyya” is the more fun one, but this feels like the thesis statement for the film, and for life. Just say it from the heart, and you can let love blossom even in the middle of a war zone. Or, a gang war in Bulgaria!)
So no wonder that Kajol gave in so quickly! It just took one moment, just the two of them, leaning on each other, when no one else was watching and she didn’t have to pretend to be cool, for love to break through. They even say it in the dialogue! She didn’t know how to love, he had to teach her.
For Shahrukh, he just falls in love, completely in love, and will do anything for those he loves, forever, no matter what. Which is consistent with the character we have come to know in the present. He loves his brother to distraction, and will turn cold as ice when he is threatened. And consistent with his character interactions with non-Kajol people in the past. He loves his adopted father so much that he is protecting him, taking on the risks and burdens of being the active leader of the gang. He loves baby-Varun so much that he instinctively understands what he needs to hear and say it to him. So of course he forgives Kajol for trying to kill him! How could he not! Especially once it rains and her hair looks good again.