So, I have a strange ability to remember every detail of a movie after I have seen it once. And I’ve seen Dilwale 4 times (so far). So I am sharing my gift with the world, and going through the WHOLE THING in exhaustive detail for anyone who cannot see it in theaters for any reason. But if you can see it in theaters, don’t read this! Or at least, don’t read it until you’ve already seen it once! Or, read it and then see it anyway! It’s a good movie, and if you watch it in theaters with a full audience, it can become a great movie!
So, I ended my last post with the split screen that ends, forever, the 15 years ago flashback. Kajol, thinking Shahrukh had used their love in order to gain access to, and then kill, her father, has shot him the heart. He recovers, but by then she has already left Bulgaria with her little sister to start a new life. He decides to do the same, leaving Bulgaria as well along with his little brother. Final split screen, Kajol comforting baby-Kriti while Shahrukh comforts baby-Varun and they both look towards the camera, facing their new lives.
And we’re Back…..to the Future! Well, present. Same golden light filter as was used in Kajol’s living room during the interval confrontation lights up the courtyard in front of the garage. I think this is the only time we see this particular outdoor set? They may have added this scene later, and used the golden lighting in order to make it feel more connected to the previous one (previous chronologically, not narratively). Or else it is just that Rohit Shetty really likes to play with light filters.
Anyway, the reason I think it may have been added later is because practically the first lines of dialogue, post-flashback, is “It’s almost unbelievable that the same thing is happening 15 years later!” And yes! Yes it is almost unbelievable that the same thing is happening! And then Anwar underlines it with “Out of all of the places in the world, she had to leave Bulgaria to build a hotel in Goa.” Oh, speaking of that, remember how I mentioned you should remember that Kriti was going to the administrative offices because they had just moved to Goa from Bangelore? Which let us know both that they were opening a restaurant, and had moved from somewhere else recently, thus explaining why SRKajol had never met each other in the intervening 15 years, and setting up a future conflict that is coming in about half an hour.
Anyway, all three men pause to acknowledge the unbelievable-ness of it all. The little fourth wall breaking does make the rest of the plot easier to swallow, since at least you know the filmmakers know that you know that this is completely unbelievable. I’m glad they shoehorned it in.
And then they shoehorn in something else, with Shahrukh explicitly saying that he doesn’t want Varun ever to find out the truth about his past, so Anwar and Shakti shouldn’t tell him anything. And not to worry, Kajol won’t say anything either, and she will also never agree to the marriage. So they should just try to make Varun forget about it.
Cut to, Kajol and Kriti walking into their under construction(ish) restaurant (continuity!), both wearing loose white tops, (because they’re sisters! They dress the same!), Kriti demanding to know why she can’t marry him, there must be a reason! And Kajol completely refuses to discuss it, just tells Kriti that it will never happen, and she would be best served to forget Varun entirely.
Meanwhile, Varun is having a similar conversation with Shahrukh. They are also at their place of business, Varun perched on top of a car hood, Shahrukh’s feet sticking out from underneath a car. After Varun pleads his case, Shahrukh pushes himself out from under to respond, and hubba-hubba! Black tank top, bandana to hold his hair back from his pretty face, and because he is using his arms to push out from under, his biceps are all nice and defined. It is a total glamour shot. I can’t believe I can’t find it on the internet. Internet! You have failed me!
(Internet! I partly forgive you! It is this outfit, but with a black tank top and more pumped arms)
So Shahrukh says, again, forget her, it’s never going to happen, and I’m not going to talk about it. He leaves, Varun sighs, Sidhu pops up and points out (literally! Because he is pointing!) that while Varun’s brother may not be willing to say what happened 15 years ago, Sidhu’s brother was also there 15 years ago and might be willing to talk.
Okay, the next scene is like the comic centerpiece of the film, and it is actually really good. Shakti and Anwar run a cafe, remember, and while the boys arrive, they are already yelling at a customer who is just sitting there changing channels on the TV instead of ordering something. As the two boys enter the shop, we see a brief shot of the TV playing Dhoom 2. That is all the set up we get as to how Anwar and Shakti are going to be inspired in their storytelling. When the boys ask what happened 15 years ago, Anwar bursts out “thieves! they were thieves!” Shakti rushes up and corrects him, “hearts! They were thieves of each others’ hearts!” As the customer keeps changing channels, the two guys keep trading off being inspired by the TV. They get more and more excited about until they finally end by shouting “Get out! We can’t talk any more! Leave!”
So, give me a second, I am going to try to match the story with the TV clips. First, there was Dhoom 2, then Thakur Sahib in Sholay, then a washerman clip I don’t recognize (the shame of it! not recognizing a clip!), then a clip from the Chhota Bheem TV show on the Pogo channel, then Sarkar, Shamitabh, Gadar, Khana Khazana (food treasure) cooking show, Bappi Lahori interview, WWE, Daraar, Judaai, Dushmani, Tashan, and Oh My God. So, the story they spin is, Shahrukh was a named Ramlal, he was a washerman, he fell in love with Kajol who was named Pogo, they drank tea together everyday, in the toilets, because he used the handpump in the toilets to wash clothes, but then she wanted treasure while he could barely afford food, she wanted gold, they fought! Then, Daraar (rift)! Judaai (separation)! Tashan (style)! Oh My God! It ends with Oh My God, with the explanation that “sometimes it is just a thing people say!” And then a request to “make that customer stop changing channels or cut his finger off!” The two boys are ordered out, and then Sidhu comes back to say “wait, why did you two never get married, then?” Shakti shouts in anger at having to come up with another answer “Because we didn’t want to be fathers!” as Anwar holds him back. Personally, I thought it was because Shakti and Anwar were a couple, and in this case, I think the movie is actually leaving it open on purpose for that interpretation to be the real one, not just an against the grain reading. They are awfully sweet together.
(I will use any excuse to post this scene)
So, second legit well-done funny scene. Sidhu and Varun rush off to confront Shahrukh, knowing the truth. They see him, loading a washing machine with the household laundry. Still wearing his pin-up outfit too! A hot guy doing household chores sleeveless! Now that’s a fantasy! Anyway, Sidhu and Varun immediately melt and rush to embrace him! They are touched that he is still doing laundry even today! They tell him, “Ramlal, we know the truth!” Shahrukh says “Ramlal?” They explain, they know about him and Pogo, they understand it all, they love him! He should never do laundry again! Shahrukh wanders off, looking cutely confused.
Nicely framed shot comes next, with Shahrukh standing in the middle, showing off his tight waist and rocking arms, with Anwar and Shakti on either side. They explain that they had to come up with an explanation. since they weren’t supposed to say the truth. Shahrukh replies, “Yes, but, a washerman? [switches to English] We were mafia, man!” And, he adds “from what angle do I look like a Ramlal?!?!”
Meanwhile, Varun is having a similar conversation with Kriti. But before I get into that, I have to acknowledge her TERRIBLE OUTFIT. It’s like someone cut out the middle part of a pair of overalls and left the rest. So she has her usual tight t-shirt, then like a overall themed dickey on top of it, more shirt beneath the overall dickey, then bare belly, then the top of her pants. Why? Why?!?!? I have seen this movie with 10 different people (so far), 9 of whom said, the second the lights came on after it was over, “The OVERALLS?!?!” And then there was the one person, who said “who? what? huh? why would you even remember that?” But believe me, 9 out of 10 people we’ll find the hideous outfit more memorable than much of the rest of the film. And the 10th one will probably be a boy.
(Look! I found what she did with the middle part of the overalls! And it is still hideous!)
So, right, plot! Kriti is saying “I don’t believe this story at all! My sister would never do that” meaning, she wouldn’t leave Shahrukh because of money. She also rejects it when reference is made to their past “daily one night stands”, because her sister would also not have one night stands (come on Kriti, have you seen their chemistry?). But she does believe the essence of it, that they were in love in the past, and because of a messy break up, they won’t let Varun and Kriti be together now. Oh, also, this whole conversation takes place in a pretty open space next to the sea with them leaning against colorful cars, which is I think also a location we only see one time. This whole movie makes me want to visit Goa. Oh, and Sidhu and Christian Jenny are also there, and Jenny is wearing a not-insane outfit. Unlike Kriti. The OVERALLS!!!
Anyway, they decide to leave the whole thing up to God. Cut to, the outside of a nice brick church. Not that huge cool Josh one from before, but it still looks nice. Crime Lord Boman Irani’s cool period car is parted right in front of the church, like on the sidewalk leading to the door. I don’t think you are allowed to do that? But then, he is a crime lord. Anyway, Johnny Lever is walking by, sees the car, is tempted, looks at the church, takes a moment to cross himself and hold his ears to ask forgiveness from God, then steals the car.
(this is the Josh church. Isn’t it cool?)
A moment later, Boman Irani comes out of the church, talking to his top goon (I think I decided his name was “Peter” in an earlier review, so I am going to stick with that), before noticing that his car is stolen and humorously freaking out. And again I wonder, why the lisp, Boman? Why? Oh, also, the conversation he is having before he notices the car not being there is important, kind of. He is saying to Peter, “A woman named Meera is opening a restaurant, we should get her to sell drugs.” Foreshadowing! Continuity! Careful plotting! All those things Rohit Shetty never gets enough credit for. Actually, I think this goes back to what I was talking about with his tonal shifts and constant cliffhangers and set pieces. It feels like, because his movies go jerkily from comedy to action to romance to exposition, that the plots are also jerky and unhinged. But actually, the plots are very carefully built up, with each action leading logically to the next.
That reminds me, even Boman’s lisp-filled freak out is plot related. He is freaking out not just because the car he inherited from his father was stolen, but because he had a bag of drugs in the trunk. Again, I feel that I could be a better Goa drug lord than he is. Why would you leave them in the trunk while you go to church?!? I know Christians are “loose”, but they aren’t “take your drugs to church” loose!
So, anyway, cut to Sidhu and Varun sitting on the weird backseat of a 1950s car-like sofas in the garage, still puzzling over how to get Shahrukh and Kajol back together so they will let Varun and Kriti be together. As they are talking, Johnny Lever arrives, wheeling in the stolen car, and asking them to help him modify it, because he is terrified Boman Irani will track him down and lisp at him. At first, Varun puts on a fine show of moral outrage, they can’t have stolen goods in their garage. And then mid-sentence, he switches to light-hearted “But, I have my own problems with Boman Irani, so in this case, I don’t care!” It’s actually a really good line-reading.
I’ve been impressed with Varun this whole movie. He is the only actor that really ties together the comedy-crime-young love-brother stuff in the present day half of the film, which is a tough job. He has to be onscreen for basically every scene set in the present day, and he has to handle the crazy tonal shifts. In this particular case, a shift within a few lines in one scene, from debating his young love and brother issues somewhat seriously with Sidhu, to moral outrage at crime in society, to (within the same sentence) comedy and light-heartedness. It’s not a really showy role either. He isn’t given a lot of big character moments, he isn’t even given many funny lines, he is just there to support everyone else and move the plot along. But he does the job, and he does it well.
(Oh Shahid! So pretty, but so dumb career-wise!)
I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being an important role for Varun within the industry. Not because he steals the movie or anything, but because he clearly showed up ready to work everyday, and didn’t complain or demand or ask for special treatment. That’s the kind of actor producers are going to be looking for when they start casting their next low-budget rom-com with a great script. The lack of this kind of behavior, and the resulting bad reputation in the industry, is also why, I suspect, certain super talented young actors have just never taken off the way they should (Shahid and Imraan, I am looking at you!).
Back to the film! Sidhu and Varun agree to help hide the car in the garage, and to alter its appearance (why do they think Shahrukh won’t notice an extra car in the garage? Is it because they are counting on his broken heart distracting him?), if Johnny Lever will help them with their schemes to reunite SRKajol. Cut to, a racist joke! Or ethnicist? Or regionalist? What do you call it when the Hindi film industry makes fun of southerners/southern films? Anyway, that!
Johnny lever is standing in the road, in an open shirt with an undershirt underneath (thank god!), and a flowered lungi. Plus a huge curly wig and a big mustache. The boys remind him that Kajol’s car is due any minute, and Shahrukh will be along the same road shortly after, he just has to threaten her until Shahrukh arrives to save her. Kajol’s cute little pink bug starts coming down the road (continuity! We actually saw it in the background in the scene way back at the beginning when Varun and Kriti drink coffee after he delivers her scooter. Oh, and her scooter is pink, and Kajol’s car is pink, so again we have a “aw, they are sisters!” moment). The boys run off to hide in the bushes and watch, with a last reminder to “mind your lungi!”
Johnny blocks the road and Kajol pulls up and stops her car in front of him. He laughs in a making-fun-of-southern-movie-villains kind of way, and asks if she has a “Chuti” at home (gesturing like he is holding a small child). If not, he suggests, she should just give him one try and he will guarantee to give her one! Kajol, with great straightened hair and looking cool in sunglasses, leans out her car window and goes “What?” Johnny repeats his threats and reminds her that they are alone on the road, with no one to call. It would be creepy, but it is Johnny Lever, so instead it is just unfunny. Well, to me. The rest of the audience laughed.
Kajol gets out of the car and repeats what he just said, “there is no one around, right? No one can hear?” Johnny confirms that. Kajol says “then they won’t hear you scream!”, and opens the front trunk of her bug (is this why it has to be a bug? So it has a front trunk and she can open it without awkward blocking as she goes around to the back? Or did they already decide on a pink bug as a character touch and the blocking is just a bonus?). Kajol gets out what looks a lot like a baseball bat (but why? Is baseball sweeping India? Or is it just the most metal rod-like thing they could come up with to be in her trunk?), and starts whacking Johnny Lever, who calls out “hey! Stop! No fair! I can’t hit a woman! And you should be hitting like a woman would hit, not like a man!” For all you Johnny Lever haters out there, it is actually super satisfying, she is really whaling away on him. And even if you like Johnny Lever, it still looks cool, because Kajol is standing there in a silk blouse and sunglasses and perfect hair just beating the living daylights out of a guy with a baseball bat. One of those scenes that makes you go “Oh, I see why she agreed to be in this movie!”
(this is the her car. Cute, right?)
So, plan failed. Cut to, Johnny Lever being patched up by Kriti in the garage while she tells the boys what a stupid plan it was (Johnny does not get a little beauty spot band-aid, he has actual fake bruises). Shahrukh walks in and over hears them talking and tells them off for trying such a stupid plan. Saying that, no matter what, Kajol and he will never reunite, the kids should stop trying. He goes to face the camera and work on a car engine (I suspect that if I actually knew how cars worked, I would be very irritated by the fake mechanic stuff they do in this film). As he is turned away, Kriti argues “but, if that is true, why is it that my sister never married, in all the years since she knew you!” Shahrukh looks touched and thoughtful, Varun can tell even from behind by the way his back goes still. He encourages Kriti “go on, you’ve hit a nerve!” Kriti does go on, saying, “why is it she has never shared her life with anyone since you?” Shahrukh looks more conflicted. Kriti goes in for the kill, “And, bhaiya, even you have never married yourself!” Shahrukh visibly forces himself to stop thinking about this and says something about how, even so, the kids should stop being so foolish!
Inspired by their obvious progress with Shahrukh, Varun and Sidhu resolve to try a new plan! Johnny Lever violently opts out of ever messing with SRKajol again. But no matter, they don’t need him!
Cut to the in construction restaurant, which basically looks constructed except that there are no customers. Do you think it is possible they decided to make it in construction just so they could avoid paying extras to fill the place up? I think it is possible. Anyway, Kriti is sending Kajol off wearing a ridiculous grey top. Remember how I mentioned that Manish Malhotra must have a thing for shoulders at the moment? This top is long-sleeved with a boat neck color, but then it has big circular cut-outs at her shoulders. Why? So we can go “oo, what nice shoulders she has?” Do people notice shoulders? Anyway, Kajol is wearing a really simple and classic black knit dress with a full skirt and a belt and looks mature and gorgeous and classic, just like the dress.
She gets in her little pink bug and drives off. As the car leaves, we see Varun revealed from underneath it, holding a wrench and with a naughty grin. Sure enough, Kajol is driving along the dark road, and the car suddenly stops. She gets out, looking frustrated, but luckily another car is coming from the other direction just then! She waves it down, and it is Shahrukh! Shahrukh, by the way, is driving a black and orange convertible. The colors are a nice nod to the color scheme of “Gerua”, reminding us that he is ever faithful (since Gerua means both orange and faithfulness), but I think the design of the car is a flaw. It is sort of short and stocky for a convertible, with the end result that Shahrukh perched behind the wheel looks kind of twinky. But who cares, because he stops his car and gets out, and the minute his feet hit the pavement, it starts to rain, and we have the insanely good image of him, with wet hair and beard, and a soaking white shirt, walking to the camera giving it sex-eyes.
(was my computer wallpaper for like three weeks, until I replaced it with another image that I will be using to top my final post)
Kajol looks at him with the most amazing vulnerability in her eyes (see image at the top of this post). Clearly, she knows he won’t purposely hurt her, she knows he still loves her, she still loves him also, but she is afraid that if she lets go for even a second and opens herself up to him, it will all go wrong, just like it did before. It’s just beautiful face acting. If you didn’t know the crazy Bulgarian first half of their plot, this moment alone would tell you that they are old lovers, that they still love each other, but that she is afraid of being hurt again.
He pops the back of her car, she comes over and holds an umbrella over him. Just like he came out and held an umbrella over her 15 years ago when she was waiting on his steps. Just like it emotionally too. 15 years ago, he loved her but was afraid to let her in (literally and figuratively). But he still couldn’t bare to see her suffering and wet, couldn’t stop himself from offering what small comfort he could. In the same way, today, Kajol could coldly let him fix her car and then drive off. But, while she isn’t ready to forgive him, she also can’t bear to see him hurt or uncomfortable, and so she brings out an umbrella to hold over him. And that small gesture, is what starts off Shahrukh’s love song in his head, and here comes “Janam Janam”!
(I love his face here)
- That it is just Shahrukh’s fantasy, and that he is keeping it all inside. He is a middle-aged man fixing a car on the side of the road, but inside he is a roaring youth shouting out his love and passionately worshiping her.
- This is especially noticeable in the full version of the ballroom sequence (filmed in Bulgaria, as you can tell by the terrible white back up dancers and Shahrukh’s unshaven look). It’s not a mutual song, it is him wooing her while she observes. You can really see this in one of my favorite music bits, when the lyrics go “Talab talab talab”; I like the way it sounds, but I really like the way it looks. Shahrukh is leading a group of chorus boys up the stairs below the balcony where Kajol waits. They are marching more than dancing, with military precision in their hand movements (well, almost, these are the terrible Bulgarian dancers. Precision is not their strong suit). He is leading his troops into battle and laying them at her feet. It doesn’t matter if she responds or not, he is joyful merely to be in her presence and serve her in any way.
- During the opening bit, when they are dancing in black and white in the rain, I noticed on the big screen how Kajol’s expression keeps subtly changing. While Shahrukh just gazes at her intensely with sex-eyes, she looks back at him and her lips keep trembling into little micro-smiles that go away after a second. It feels like Kajol the actress and Kajol the character lining up perfectly for just a moment. Both of them, after 15/5 years, are just so happy to be here, dancing with Shahrukh, having him staring at her again, that they can’t contain it.
Final note, recently they released a making of video for this song, which changed how I watched it a little, and really how I watched the whole film. In the making of, they talked about how Shahrukh was so gentle with Kajol, how he knew she was having a hard time, and how he led her around like a little baby, taking all the challenges of the song on himself, even though he himself was struggling with yet another knee injury at the time and was in extreme pain trying to do all the steps. They don’t say why Kajol was having such a hard time, it is probably as simple as this being her first movie in 5 years, and her first movie post-second baby, and her feeling out of practice and unsure. But it made me look at this song, and the whole movie, differently. If you watch it with this in mind, in every scene, you can see Shahrukh guiding her and protecting her. Often literally, with a hand on her back or arm. Sometimes just in the way he plays a scene, giving her a line or an expression to react to so she knows where to go, taking the majority of the dialogue on himself, going with whatever improvisation she throws in. It just adds another layer of love and care over the film. Not romantic love, just the love for an old friend who is feeling insecure.
Which brings me to Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, obviously! Back in 1942, Gene Kelly was given a Hollywood contract after making a splash on Broadway with Pal Joey (“Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” was originally written about him). So he comes to Hollywood for his first movie, and is completely out of his depth and nervous. He is cast opposite Judy Garland, who gets top billing. And she was apparently super sweet and kind and helpful and supportive to him through out filming. She was only 20, but was of course a major star, and knew everything about the movie business already. And she was unbelievable generous with her knowledge, and her screen time, to help Kelly get the best possible debut.
5 years later, they co-star again in The Pirate. She is deeply depressed during filming, and tries to kill herself. 2 years after that, following a series of depressive episodes, pill addiction, rehab stays, etc., they co-star again in Summer Stock. In both The Pirate and Summer Stock, made when Judy’s stock had fallen and Kelly was on the rise, he makes sure that she is the centerpiece, not him. In both, Kelly plays a performer who recognizes raw talent in Judy and encourages her to perform. When they dance or do a scene together, he holds back and gives her the centerstage, at the same time he quietly guides her through it and takes the most difficult steps. Supposedly, he also had to fight with the studios to give her the roles to begin with, because after all her troubles, they didn’t want to deal with her any more. Anyway, just look at the number below from Summer Stock, how he guides her through it at the same time he makes her the star, that is the feel I get from Shahrukh and Kajol, especially in “Janam Janam”, but really through out the film.
(check back tomorrow, or maybe late today, for the final ending section of Dilwale! We are so close.)