DDLJ Part 9! Do you know Xeno’s paradox? (I know it from using it as a game with small children back when I was tutoring.) There is a tortoise and a hare. The tortoise goes forward one whatever at a time (when I played it with kids, I’d usually use the floorboards of their living room, so one floorboard at a time). The hare goes forward half the distance from where he is to the end of the race each time he moves forward. So on the first turn, if you have 20 floorboards, the tortoise goes one floorboard and the hare goes 10. And then on the second, the tortoise goes one and the hare goes 5. And so on. What I’m saying is, I am the hare, and I am never going to finish this recap, because each entry goes half as slow as the previous entry.
(part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, part 6 here, part 7 here, part 8 here, part 9 here, part 10 here, part 11 here, part 12 here, part 13 here, part 14 here, part 15 here, part 16 here)
This entry should actually be pretty fast, since I’m just dealing with a song, and songs are usually pretty easy. Songs are so impressionistic it isn’t really worth going through frame by frame, and so straight-forward emotionally, that there isn’t as much to discuss in terms of character. That is, they each usually only deal with one emotion. So, the first song in this movie, what is there to say beyond “Amrish Puri walks through London and misses the Punjab”? But “Zara Se Jhoom” is a little different, so I am going to actually do a whole entry on it. But it should be a short entry!
“Zara Sa” isn’t like any other song in this movie. Because it makes no sense! Everything else makes sense. “Ghar Aaja Pardesi” is Amrish Puri walking through London in reality and imagining the Punjab around him. “Ho Gaya Hai Tujhko” is Kajol and Shahrukh traveling home and imagining each other along the way. “Ruk Ja” and “Mehndi Laga ke Rakhna” are actual dances that happened in reality, they are referred to later as things that happened, and they have reasonable set ups for the characters to actually dance. “Mere Kwabon Mein” feels like a fantasy song, but it actually isn’t. It’s Kajol talking/singing to her mother as they go about their day in the house, contrasted with Shahrukh going about his day out in the world being awesome. It’s actually an anti-fantasy song, showing how different the two of them are and how they could never be each other’s “fantasies”. “Tujhe Dekha To” really confused me when I first saw it, because DDLJ was just my 3rd Indian movie (after Lagaan, like everyone else in America, and Rangeela, because our local Indian grocer recommended it), but I get it now, having seen the same kind of song in at least 400 other movies. It’s just a straight up fantasy/shared hallucination song, like you see all the time, they stared into each other’s eyes and imagined what it would be like to be married and on their honeymoon. But, as previously stated, “Zara Sa Jhoom” makes no sense! It doesn’t work as a “reality” thing, or as something they are imagining while moving through reality, or as a shared fantasy.
It’s time and space that causes the problem (as is true of so many things!). It seems to take place over the course of a day, all over a small Swiss village, but it begins at night and ends in the morning, and it begins in the barn and ends 20 feet away in the house. So did they travel in a huge loop, out from the barn, through town, to the mountains, a luxury hotel, and back to the house? And did it last all day, from when they wake up in the barn through to falling asleep back at the house? Or did it just cover a couple of hours, from leaving the barn in early evening/twilight, to coming back to the house at the middle of the night? And if it lasted that long and was that far-ranging, how do they never talk about it again?
I mean, really, let’s look at everything that happens over the course of this song:
- Kajol runs down the road in bright sunlight
- Kajol dances through the main street of town with Shahrukh chasing her
- Kajol jumps on the tiny little train engine
- Kajol steals pastries
- Kajol crawls down the counter handing out straws
- Kajol sees the dress and breaks the window to get it.
- Kajol dances by the fire in the snow and then falls and rolls down the mountain with Shahrukh chasing her
- Kajol breaks into the fancy swimming pool, it is now night time outside the windows
- Shahrukh gets drunk as well and chases her around the pool
- They are in the dark empty street with wet hair, Kajol wearing his shirt over her dress and seemingly sober, Shahrukh picks her up and carries her off.
- They are both asleep in the back of a horsedrawn carriage, it is night time.
First, the most important thing about this song is how each of those items stars “Kajol [does something]”. After an entire movie, and probably an entire life, of just doing what she is told, waiting for someone else to make the decision, to take the lead, she is, FINALLY, letting loose and just doing what she wants. Because she has found someone who is willing to just follow behind and clean up her mess.
But, on the practical side of things, that’s like a day of activities, right? Breakfast at the sweet shop, ride the train, steal the dress, spend the afternoon on the mountain, break into a hotel at the end of the day, finally end up on the street and hail a cab to take you home. And then wake up in bed the next morning.
I don’t drink myself, but I am pretty sure that this is not how alcohol works? She couldn’t possibly have had a little of whatever was in that bottle in the middle of the night and stayed drunk for another 24 hours, right? Without drinking some more to keep the buzz going? I could believe 2 hours of being drunk, maybe, but could they possibly have done all of this in 2 hours? Is it possible that what was in the bottle was actually cocaine or something?
The time is really hard to get around, but I guess maybe the Space constraints almost work. It looks like a pretty small resort town, so I could believe that she could run from where they are staying into town on her own. And then run back and forth down main street for a bit. And then Shahrukh has the brilliant idea to take her off into the mountains while she runs it off. And then the swimming pool/resort is so large, I could believe it is in the mountains outside of town instead of the main street, so maybe she finds it out there and breaks in? And the water sobers her up and she takes them back to town and gets a carriage to go home? Okay, maybe, if they have all day to do this, I could see them covering that much ground. But then we are back to the mysterious substance which makes Kajol lose all inhibitions for a full 24 hours.
Or maybe I’m over thinking this (No! Surely not! I have such a firm sense of proportion with this movie!), and maybe the answer is that the alcohol was just an excuse and Kajol knew exactly what she was doing. Actually, from what we are shown, I think it is kind of supposed to be half and half.
The “drunk” Kajol in this song is really just Kajol as pure id (right? id is the irrepressible desires one?), but it is still recognizably the Kajol we have known through out this film. Or rather, it is the Kajol that we have seen being resisted by the Kajol ego (yes? ego is the controlling one?) for the rest of the film. Everything she has been afraid of, everything she has repressed, is all coming out. She wants sweets, she wants travel, she wants to talk to strangers, she wants to dress sexy, she wants to dance, she wants to swim. Most of all, she wants Shahrukh. She is giving into her sexual desires here, just like all her other desires, but she isn’t giving into them indiscriminately. Her interactions with all other men are way more fearless and friendly than before, but they are not sexual. But with Shahrukh, she wants to kiss him, she wants to bury her head in his chest, she wants to embrace him.
And he wants to do the same to her. After drinking the magic inhibitions removing juice, he finally responds to her advances, grabbing her, carrying her off, and taking her home. Only, again, I don’t think it is the drink. Besides the fact that alcohol doesn’t work like that, he takes less of a drink than we saw him have before in the barn, when all it did was make him sleepy and feel warm.
I think, what is actually happening, is that Kajol gets a little drunk and crazy. And then she gets to enjoy being crazy and keeps it up even when she is no longer drunk. Being the person who can do whatever they want without worrying about consequences. Having Shahrukh run after her and clean up her messes. So she keeps it going. And Shahrukh finally realizes that the only way to stop her is to call her bluff. To give her the response she is, literally, begging for. So he gets “drunk” too and gives in to his urges without worrying about the consequences. Notice, in all those images above, they are both really hamming it up. This is not the kind of behavior, or rather misbehavior, we have seen from Shahrukh before. Even during “Ruk Ja”, he wasn’t making these kinds of faces. I’m pretty sure Shahrukh-the-character is supposed to be acting here, trying to shock Kajol back to normal with a dose of her own medicine. And it works! You can see how fast she goes from crazy to sane as soon as he takes up the crazy role. From this:
In about 5 seconds.
And then it’s over, she’s back to being the responsible good girl, just like before. But the awareness that she is able to break loose like that, that she has these kinds of desires hidden within her, changes the way we the audience see her character, and the way Shahrukh sees her. And, more importantly, the way she sees herself (more on that tomorrow when we get to THE scene).
The song as a whole is in a grand tradition of “heroine gets drunk and crazy sexy” songs. The obvious reference is”Khullam Khullam Pyar Karange”, in which Rishi and Neetu are the young couple in love wandering around a resort town while drunk. It has a similar youthful and innocent vibe, playing tricks on passersby rather than singing a sexy club song. And it is in a similar place in the movie, after the characters already know and trust one another, and therefore the drunkenness merely serves to lower their inhibitions and let them behave as they wanted to all along. Heck, even the outfits are kind of the same! Short red skirt on the girl to show her awakening sexuality while still being tied to marital colors, and jeans and jacket on the guy to show his westernized global cool!
(“Khullam Khulla Pyar Karenge”, Rishi and Neetu actually drunk while filming this, and also actually dating. So cute!)
However, there is a big difference in that Rishi is not Neetu’s protector in that song, if anything it is the other way around. Well, not “protector” exactly more like “keeper”. Rishi is the one who jumps off roofs and peeks at courting couples, Neetu is the one who drags him away. The gender story told in that song is that Neetu’s attraction is making her want to stay close to Rishi, to keep him close to her, while Rishi’s hormones are making him jump and run and show off. And then it resolves when they finally embrace each other and give in to their urges.
But in “Zara Sa Jhoom”, Kajol is the one who is going a little crazy. And Shahrukh is the one how has to keep drawing her back to him. Most importantly, while they are equally attracted to each other, they are not giving in to it at the same moment. Neetu and Rishi are in sync, both a little drunk, both a lot horny. But Kajol takes the lead here, and forces Shahrukh to run to catch up to her, literally and metaphorically.
Another interesting parallel would be the red dress sequence in Raja Hindustani. Which actually came out after DDLJ, but it deals with the same themes, and the same dress, only with alcohol removed. In that, Karisma, the girl, again takes the lead and forces the hero to clean up after her. She falls in love with a dress in the window of a store on the main street of a small resort town, buys it against the objections of the hero, and then he is forced to fight to defend her honor when she appears in it.
Now, I love Raja Hindustani (the ending is a massive game of keep-away with a newborn baby! What’s not to love!), but I think Shahrukh handles the same situation a little better in DDLJ than Aamir does in Raja Hindustani. In DDLJ, faced with a girl in an inappropriate outfit in the middle of a small town, Shahrukh simply moves her to a different location where she can do whatever she wants, instead of trying to curtail her behavior.
And this is because there is nothing wrong with her behavior. Yes, it is a little hard to clean up after, but she isn’t doing anything “wrong”, like, morally. The movie doesn’t condemn her for what happened. Maybe that is why it never comes up again, because what is there to say? She got drunk, she ran around a little, she sobered up. No need for recriminations or postmortems. And sure, she was out of control, but before she became out of control, before she even decided to take that drink, she knew she was with someone who would take care of her no matter what, and she made her decision based on that. And she was right, he did take care of her.
Okay, that’s it for today! Come back tomorrow for THE scene. You know the one. I’m guessing, it will be at least a thousand words on the feminist implications, another thousand on their individual characters, at least 5oo on the many imitations and rip-offs since then, and an infinite number of words spent on the squeee-able elements like “And then his voice gets all rough and deep and intense in a way we’ve never heard before and he says ‘Main hoon’…”