I think I’m about 40 minutes in now? Which isn’t bad, for a 2 hour and 20 minute movie. And, as I have said, no one but me is watching it in theaters, so it’s not like there is a huge hurry to get these posts up and finished. Although it would be nice to finish them by the end of the week. Maybe I do two tomorrow and the final one on Saturday when I have all the time in the world?
Gaurav-Shahrukh has just tried to throw himself off a train rather than miss arriving in Bombay in time for Aryan-Shahrukh’s birthday. He gets his own way, of course, because he always gets his own way. At least, so far.
Establishing shot of Bombay! Victoria Station! I am going to continue to use the old name because it’s how everyone knows it anyway, and more importantly I cannot spell Shivaji’s full name!
And then establishing shot of a falling down old hotel, with “Delite” on the sign out front. Gaurav-Shahrukh walks in, all confident, and goes up the desk saying he has a reservation, for room 205. The front desk guy hardly looks up, just says that it isn’t available. Garuav-Shahrukh starts to get upset, says that he reserved it, and if he can’t have room 205, he doesn’t want anything. Finally, he pulls out money and offers to pay double, but only for room 205. The desk guy takes a moment, and then pulls out the phone and calls up his assistant and orders him to move the things from 205 to 209. Gaurav-Shahrukh smiles.
And then we have a happiness montage, as everything works out for him. He takes a picture of himself by the number on the door, brushing his teeth by the glass, putting his head on the pillow. It’s everything he dreamed of! And finally, he sits down in front of a cake, with his wallet photos of Aryan pulled out and set up as he counts down to midnight before blowing out the candle and saying “Happy Birthday, Senior!”
(Actually, his cake kind of looks like the cake Shahrukh always has himself for his birthday)
Well, that’s just crazy! For one thing, the cake is obviously store bought. Personally, I always make my Shahrukh birthday cakes by hand. Also, I have an actual party, with, like, other people around (usually just my regular weekly movie night crew). And I don’t wait for exactly midnight, I feel Shahrukh would want me to celebrate however and whenever is most convenient for me. Well, except for a few years ago when I was at a birthday party on November 1 for someone I actually know in the real world, and we put new candles on the cake at midnight so it could be for SRK too. But otherwise, candles at breakfast or lunch or 11pm when we finish watching DDLJ, whatever is convenient!
That may sound like petty differences, but I think it actually points to a bigger issue. My Shahrukh birthday celebrations are something I do because I enjoy them, and I change them every year depending on how I am feeling and what makes the most sense (this year I made the cake the night before and then ate it for breakfast. Because I wanted cake for breakfast). But Gaurav-Shahrukh’s celebrations here are much more ritualistic. It feels like they wouldn’t “count” for him unless it was exactly at midnight, just like he HAD to be in room 205, he had to arrive in Bombay in time for the birthday, everything had to be perfect or he would rather die.
Which is making me very nervous coming into the next scene, because he is outside Mannat on November 2nd, and I have seen videos of this, and it is never predictable! They used footage from his actual birthday back in 2013 for this (it’s normal that I know it was 2013, because that was the year he wore a black t-shirt, right?). You can see in overhead shots the huge crowd filling the whole street and spilling out into the little park in front and the beach and all the way to the ocean, with TV trucks and media parked all around. Gaurav-Shahrukh is fighting his way through the crowd, saying he “HAS” to be up front, shoving people out of the way to get there, the whole time looking so confident and in charge, as though he has a right to be there.
(this kind of crowd)
Finally, he breaks through all the way to the gate, getting right up to the guard and, first, disarming him by grabbing him and taking a selfie. And then beginning to try to enter. When the guard stops him, looking a little confused (and it must take a lot to confuse the guard at the front gate of Mannat!), he explains that he “has” to go inside, he’s not like the other “Facebook fans”, he’s a real fan, and to prove it, he offers to do his act from his Aryan Khanna routine.
Now, this is interesting! Most of it is just an extension of what we’ve seen before, that he has a particular way he is picturing things happening, and he will move forward with confidence that it will all fall into place as he wants it. But the offering to show the guard his act, like it is a great honor he is bestowing on him, that’s new. It’s an indication that his fandom of Aryan isn’t just about worship it’s also about a little bit of reflected glory.
Gaurav-Shahrukh drops into his act, standing back and proclaiming the made-up bit of love dialogue “When you name all the stars…” While he is in the middle of it, suddenly the doors start to open. There is a great shot from behind the doors as they swing open, revealing the Aryan and the surging crowd through the gap, very much “the loosing of great power upon us!” kind of feel.
It takes Gaurav-Shahrukh a moment to notice the doors opening and the crowd of reporters surging through, he is so caught up in his own act. But when he does see it, he scrambles for his bag and tries to enter in behind them, pushing past the guards, saying he is supposed to be there. The guard shoves him back, he falls, and his bag gets knocked aside with his award falling out of it. Gaurav-Shahrukh scrambles up, declaring that Aryan will be very mad when he hears about this! How his fan was treated! (danger danger! delusional delusional!)
(Also, this was the first scene shot, and this photo has been making the rounds of the internet for over 2 years)
And then, while he is still scrambling on the ground to pick up his prize, the crowd suddenly roars out, and we get another overhead shot from 2013 showing the full picture as suddenly thousands of people burst forward towards the gate, and we see Shahrukh (the real Shahrukh, from 2013) slowly stand up on his little viewing platform. And then we cut back to the crowd, the fake crowd with Gaurav-Shahrukh in the middle of it. He is scrambling to pull everything together, but then looks up and sees Aryan-Shahrukh and can’t handle it. His whole face changes and he screams out his name, “Aryan Khanna!” and then he screams out his own name, “Gaurav Chandna! I’m here!” Like, Aryan must have been waiting for him. Like he will recognize the name when he hears it, of Gaurav-Shahrukh can just yell it loud enough.
But of course he can’t hear him, and even he could, he wouldn’t care. We have a few shots of Aryan’s face showing his reaction from where he is, up above the crowd. A little irritating, because they are green-screened in on the real footage, instead of from 2013, like the other shots. Which I know because, in a completely normal way, I can tell the difference between the way his face looks in candid shots like from his birthday greetings and when it is all made-up and brushed and polished for a film shoot. But it is worth it, because we can see how, for him, this is just about being seen, not about seeing. He isn’t looking down at the crowd, he is simply looking into space, looking back at his assistants, thinking about how he appears and what he has to do next.
Meanwhile, back in the crowd, Gaurav is trying to wave his award and his box of sweets from his parents up over his head so Aryan-Shahrukh can see them, calling out that he brought them for him! Only, the crowd knocks into him and the sweets fall. He kneels to scramble on the ground, trying to drag them back into the box, and by the time he looks up again, Aryan-Shahrukh is turning away, to go back into the house, and his face falls as his heart is broken and his dreams are destroyed. It’s heartrending!
At least, on the first watch it is heartrending. I’ve now seen it a whole bunch of times, and on multiple watches you realize that the filmmakers are playing a bit of a shell game with us. Gaurav-Shahrukh wears his emotions on his sleeve, for the world to see and relate to. We care about him, deeply, from the very beginning. And Aryan-Shahrukh is the opposite, always hiding how he feels, putting on a facade, never seeming to really feel anything at all. We are fascinated by him, but don’t see him as a person really, just a mystery to be studied. And that’s how the filmmakers want us to see them. They want to make us, the audience, complicit in Gaurav’s plans, in Gaurav’s hopes. And they want to make us as willing to think of Aryan as an enigma, something that exists just to be what we need him to be.
But on the second watch, well, Gaurav’s just crazy, isn’t he? Why would Aryan hear his voice from the crowd? Why would he recognize his name? Why can’t he just stay in room 209 instead of 205 at the hotel? And as for Aryan, why should he be thinking deeply about the crowd and looking down at every face in turn? It’s his birthday! And he has a million things going on in his life! He’s going out to be viewed by the crowd, like he always does, and he is giving a massive press conference, and he is even risking his life by standing up on the edge of the fence and raising up his arms so everyone can see him. We think that his emotions and believe gives him the right to get everything he wants, but why should it?
And now I’m going to talk about King Kong! The original, not any of the remakes. I love the original, partly because the hero is just shockingly handsome, but also because it manages to create sympathy for Kong while never saying that Fay Wray should give in to him. Yes, Kong loves her. Yes, he saves her life over and over again. Yes, his heart is broken. But, she doesn’t like him! And she doesn’t have to. Just because Kong is sweet and his heart is pure doesn’t mean Fay Wray owes him anything. And the film gets that, that our sympathies are there with both of them, but even though we sympathize, that doesn’t mean Kong is right.
Anyway, back to this movie, which uses almost as many special effects to create its villain as King Kong did. Gaurav-Shahrukh is still waiting out front, even though the rest of the crowd has left, just a few news vans sitting there and him. He’s talking on the phone to his mother, correcting her assumption that he was able to meet Aryan-Shahrukh, explaining that he is very “busy” and that he has a huge wall around his house so he can’t hear anything, “he must be so lonely”. A couple of things about this phone call. First, it again shows his delusions, that he thinks of it as Aryan as being alone, wanting to see him and not able to, instead of having built the wall himself to protect his privacy and his own life. But second, it shows how his parents have bought into and supported his fantasies, his mother happily assuming that Aryan would welcome him in and all his dreams would come true, just as he imagined them.
After the phone call, we see a TV report, talking about how Aryan is slowing down now, as he gets older and his last few films have flopped (presciently as it turns out, since this film is actually flopping. There’s a whole Kaagaz ke Phool life imitating art thing going on here!), and now the new actor “Sid Kapoor” might be posing a threat to him. Especially because they just got into a fight at Aryan’s birthday party! Cut to, news footage of Sid Kapoor (played by a complete unknown handsome actor guy, who carefully doesn’t look exactly like any real life actor in particular), saying “I just said ‘Happy Birthday’!” and then turning to show the visible bruise on his eye, adding that he is going to consider legal options, since someone has to stop Aryan Khanna!
(Such a brilliant movie!)
Gaurav-Shahrukh is watching this whole thing while eating dinner in a cafe. There’s a white couple behind him, which I think is interesting. There were a few white ladies in the crowd around Mannat too. Which is accurate, I think, certainly the news usually digs up some Europeans to interview in the birthday crowd. But it’s also an indication that this movie is going to dig into the international nature of Aryan-Shahrukh’s fame.
Meanwhile, it is already digging into the gross nature of Gaurav-Shahrukh. He sips his red juice drink through a straw, then throws the straw away and takes a sip in the most ickily delicate way, and then takes a big swig, swishes it around in his mouth, and swallows. Blech! And the whole time he keeps staring at the screen.
Later, he walks along the road, staring into space, clearly thinking. Finally, he sits by the big random concrete jacks near marine drive, staring at his phone, reading Sid Kapoor’s twitter. In the background, there is a woman’s laugh, and a couple walks by, talking, while Gaurav faces the ocean and looks only at his phone.
The first time I saw this scene, I found the couple just sort of odd, like they wanted extras in the scene but could only afford two or something. But on the next few watches, it started to make sense to me. Gaurav-Shahrukh can only see his phone, his obsession. He is not only ignoring the entire ocean in front of him, he is missing out on the life he is supposed to be having at his age, laughing and walking with a girl, like the couple behind him.
Okay, I’m sleepy and I’ve gotten way more than 20 minutes on, I’m taking a break until tomorrow!