Yeah, Aryan-Shahrukh is finally really here and doing stuff to move the plot along! Also, our first action sequence! Which I will not be describing in detail because I don’t remember it that well, and also it is less interesting than it could be!
We left off with Aryan-Shahrukh, his wife, and his assistant watching a video that Gaurav-Shahrukh sent through Facebook of him beating up and terrorizing up and coming star Sid Kapoor into making an apology statement to Aryan Khanna. They have varied reactions, his assistant Sunaina is focused and concerned, his wife is shocked, but Aryan himself is calculating and already starting to think it through. Which is in line with what we have already seen, how he was able to see through the conflict between his kids and solve it, how he reacted to Sid Kapoor coming on to his wife by swift violence, how he immediately responded to the apology with a perfectly calibrated statement of understanding and acceptance. Aryan is a game player, and he is playing at a whole other level than anyone else.
Which is why, when his assistant tells him that Gaurav-Shahrukh left a phone number to reach him but he is insisting on talking to Aryan, Aryan takes the phone immediately, so fast his assistant and wife are a little surprised, and takes charge of the situation. He asks Gaurav-Shahrukh where he is and, after Gaurav-Shahrukh delightedly reveals that he is in Hotel Delite, room 205, where Aryan stayed his first time in Bombay! Aryan-Shahrukh immediately says that he will be sending him a car to pick him up.
Gaurav-Shahrukh hangs up and starts getting ready, literally jumping with joy. He also takes a moment to call his adorable parents who are back in Delhi cutting up vegetables together. His mother is thrilled to hear that Aryan Khanna is sending a car to bring him over! His father is also thrilled and reminds him to wear his nice new outfit that he bought him for Diwale. And then Gaurav-Shahrukh tells them he has to go and hangs up as he hears a knock on the door.
Let’s take a moment and talk about enabling! What is up with his parents? I understand loving him and helping him with his interests, definitely let him put posters all over his room, probably act as roadies and stage manager for his lookalike act, maybe okay to let him stay unmarried and pampered at him at 25. But buying into his fantasy that Aryan Khanna is going to send a car to pick him up? Sending him with sweets to give Aryan when they inevitably meet? That’s not really okay. You can be encouraging, but you can also try to give him the gift of perspective. Helping him keep his expectations reasonable could have prevented the whole disaster that is shooting down the barrel towards us all.
(she was a much better mother in this, being all “don’t expect your father to let you run off with Varun Dhawan right away! He’s an acquired taste!”)
And it begins with the knock on the door right now! Gaurav-Shahrukh opens it, all open-faced and happy. But then looks cautious when he sees to scary mustachioed guys waiting for him, and even more nervous when he looks down and sees they both have guns in hard worn holsters on their belts (I love the touch that the holsters are kind of worn, it makes it so much scarier than seeing fresh out of the box versions). He takes a moment to ask if they are his drivers, but they clearly are not, and they ask him what he knows about an attack on Sid Kapoor. Gaurav-Shahrukh immediately goes into action, flipping back into the room and sliding into his backpack, then picking the mattress up off the bed and using it to force both of the men out of the room. In the hall, he gets a head start, and then flips up the stairs, surprising them, runs along, and finally jumps out a window, landing on a concrete platform just outside (I assume to hold plants/air conditioners?). He hesitates for a moment, then starts jumping down the building, platform to platform. The two men with guns see him, and start slowly jumping after him.
This is the bit I’m not going to describe. It’s very stressful, there’s lot of near misses and near death experiences, but it doesn’t translate well to words. Instead, I am going to show a video of Emraan Hashmi and Mallika Sharawat having sex on one of those concret platform things. Probably slightly less safe even than jumping through them down the side of a building.
The part I find interesting is after the chase ends. Gaurav-Shahrukh reaches the bottom of the building and runs off down a side exit. This whole time, he has looked cocky and confident and like he is happy being the hero of his own movie. Now, as he runs down the alley, looking triumphal, he is suddenly grabbed by one of the gun-holding men and thrown up against the side of the building. Immediately, he drops the cocky confident look and becomes a pitiful little boy, begging for mercy, saying he is sorry, asking them not to hurt him.
It’s easy to feel sorry for Gaurav-Shahrukh here. He is just a sweet boy who loves his parents and these big mean men are beating him up. Only, think about what he was like just a second earlier. Cocky, happy, thrilled with himself and his action hero behavior. And, most importantly, completely unconcerned with all the hurt and damage done to his body, and the damage he is causing to others. I don’t think he is actually afraid of these men, or really cares about them at all one way or the other, and I also don’t think he is really in that much pain here. I think he just knows that he can get out of things if he plays the pitiful skinny young guy card, so he is playing it now.
And continues to play it in the next scene, in which they have him up against a wall inside a cell, beating on his legs. The way it is shot, and I am sure this is on purpose, it almost looks like he is being raped. We see his sobbing and broken face pressed against the wall with his hands held, then we see his legs held, and only then do we pull back and see that all they are doing is hitting his legs with sticks. Which really isn’t that bad!
I mean, any beating is bad, sure, and I am sure it does hurt a lot, but I think we the audience are supposed to go “huh. This actually isn’t as bad as I thought it would be!” And then they leave him, letting him fall to the floor, and I continue to think “huh. Not that bad!”
Out front, a fancy black car glides into the front of the police station. Someone leaps forward to pull open the door, and there is Aryan-Shahrukh sitting in the back. They tell him they are ready for him to come in, and he says “yeah” in a perfectly “I take this seriously, but I’m not going to waste time being charming” way.
Inside the building, we have a great shot of the two guys who picked Gaurav-Shahrukh up, talking with Aryan-Shahrukh and his bodyguard through the stairs and railings, an excellent visual representation of how twisted and private their partnership is. Then we come up extra close, making the camera complicit in their private little talk, as Aryan-Shahrukh orders his bodyguard to give them money to cover “expenses”, and follows up with a request that they just hold him for a couple of days, then put him on a train to Delhi, at Aryan-Shahrukh’s expense. And don’t beat him too hard. Which they agree, they haven’t. This could just be a lie for them to make Aryan-Shahrukh feel better, but I actually think that they haven’t been beating him too hard. Really, hitting his legs? For maybe an hour? It’s not that bad. I mean, I don’t want to put up with it! But compared to everything else they could have done, not that bad!
(I mean, look what they did to poor Siddharth in Ek Villain!)
Oh, and Aryan-Shahrukh also tells them that he wants to go in and talk to Gaurav-Shahrukh alone, not even his bodyguard should come with him. Now this is interesting! Just like grabbing the phone without hesitation to talk to Gaurav-Shahrukh directly, Aryan-Shahrukh wants to be in control, he wants to make his own decisions, and he wants to do it without anybody knowing what he is doing.
He walks into a dark concrete room with a couple of sinks, and Gaurav-Shahrukh lying (laying?) on the floor with his back to the door. Aryan-Shahrukh takes a moment to survey the room, then walks over to Gaurav and hisses at him to wake up. Gaurav-Shahrukh twists himself around and looks up at Aryan-Shahrukh and then starts gasping and almost sobbing “Senior! I knew you would come!” He pulls himself together and pulls himself off the floor and starts babbling. That he knew Aryan would come, that he can’t believe what Sid Kapoor has done to him, that he is so excited he doesn’t know what to do with himself. He offers to do his act, starts, then stops and says “It is hard to do without the cheers and applause!”
This whole time Aryan-Shahrukh has been quietly watching him, judging him, analyzing him. He doesn’t look surprised or upset or even that interested in what he is seeing. Just like he is waiting for it to be over, so he can make his next move. Which he does. He gently pushes Gaurav-Shahrukh back onto a bench, then walks over to grab a bucket for himself to sit on, saying as he does so “You’re from Delhi, right?” Gaurav-Shahrukh immediately picks up his lead and starts babbling about how he leaves in a few neighborhoods over from where Aryan-Shahrukh grew up. Aryan-Shahrukh lets him babble for a while, then takes control, asking him if he has a family back in Delhi. Gaurav-Shahrukh says yes, he does! Mummy and Papa and “you, Aryan.” And, Aryan-Shahrukh asks, what would his parents think if they knew how he had behaved with Sid Kapoor? Garuav-Shahrukh replies that it isn’t for them to know about! That was just between him and Aryan-Shahrukh. A birthday gift.
(“Papa” is not the greatest either. He was much better in Neerja and Queen, when he was supportive but also challenging. Maybe he should only have girls?)
Aryan-Shahrukh takes this in, and then gently changes tactics. Telling him that what he did was wrong, it was a bad thing. Gaurav-Shahrukh leaps in to start to explain, but Aryan-Shahrukh cuts him off, saying again that it was wrong. Gaurav-Shahrukh says that it worked, that Sid Kapoor apologized! And now Aryan-Shahrukh is here, with him, giving him a meeting.
And here’s where Aryan-Shahrukh gets real. He says that he doesn’t owe Gaurav-Shahrukh a meeting, he doesn’t owe him anything. Gaurav-Shahrukh starts to interrupt, but Aryan-Shahrukh rolls right over him, saying he owes him nothing, they have no connection, there is nothing between them.
Gaurav-Shahrukh takes a moment, and then stands and puts on his Aryan-Shahrukh face and voice, and says “I owe everything to my fans! Without them, I am nothing.” We close up to him as he finishes, and see a tear trailing down his cheek, over the faded bruise from his beating. His heart is broken. And then he turns and bends down to look eye to eye at Aryan-Shahrukh, and says “Gaurav makes Aryan. No Gaurav…No Aryan.” And that’s when Aryan-Shahrukh loses it. He jumps up and grabs him by the throat, forcing him back over to the sinks along the wall, telling him again that they have nothing in common, he owes him nothing! Nothing! And then he drops him and walks out.
Well, I mean, Aryan-Shahrukh is right! Gaurav-Shahrukh shouldn’t have beat up Sid Kapoor, and he shouldn’t have sent Aryan-Shahrukh the video and made him complicit, and he should think about his parents. And also, Aryan-Shahrukh really can’t meet every fan, even for five minutes. He has his own life. But, he is also a little responsible for Gaurav-Shahrukh’s actions here.
For one thing, he is saying that violence is wrong, but he is the one who beat up Sid Kapoor first. He is being a little hypocritical here, telling Gaurav-Shahrukh that he did the wrong thing one he did the exact same thing just a day earlier. Secondly, he may say there is no connection between them, but Aryan-Shahrukh is the one who had him picked up under the radar, and who is paying for him to be sent back to Delhi, and he wants to talk to him alone now. Clearly, there is a relationship between them, no matter how much Aryan-Shahrukh wants to deny it. And that relationship, and his poor example of resorting to violence, has directly lead to Gaurav-Shahrukh’s actions.
(Sid Kapoor apparently is played by a TV actor? I feel so out of the loop, not getting the Indian satellite channels!)
Aryan-Shahrukh’s attitude isn’t quite perfect either. Gaurav-Shahrukh is legitimately getting under his skin, and breaking his perfect ability to control the situation. He can’t stand the thought that be didn’t do it all on his own, that he owes something to someone else, even if it is to a little fan from Delhi. The worst thing you could say to him, is an accusation that he didn’t make it all on his own.
Poor Gaurav-Shahrukh is left in jail. Although he’s not being beat up any more! So that’s good. Instead, he is left in a regular cell, sobbing his heart out. And then sleeping. And then eating. And then talking to his Mom on the phone and lying that everything is normal (thanking the cop who handed him the cell phone through the bars as he passes it back). And then throwing up (so gross! I had to look away all 4 times I watched it). And then, finally, sitting perfectly still and staring into space as the sweat slowly beads and rolls down his face. He has been through the fire, and come out the other side, purified and stronger. It’s a little scary.
Even scarier is when he gets out. Because he is so normal. He picks up his bag from the cops who’ve been holding it, accepts their avuncular advice that he shouldn’t do anything like that again, then even gives them a hug. But as he walks away, facing the camera, you can see his face go cold.
It does that a lot. His face goes blank all night on the train back to Delhi, while another passenger plays a guitar behind him all night (one of my friends leaned over at this point and whispered “if he wasn’t crazy already, listening to a guy practice guitar all night would make him crazy”). He does it when he arrives back in Delhi as firecrackers go off around him. He does it when the pretty neighbor girl sees him and calls out “did you meet Aryan? did you hug him?” He only drops it when he is talking with his parents, trying to play it off, telling them that Aryan was very busy, he didn’t meet him after all, the Aryan chapter in his life is done. His parents look confused, but don’t push or pry, they just let it go. Again, bad! Bad parents! Enabling!
They also don’t ask any questions when he sells everything in his cyber cafe and takes a cash pay out, they just sit and watch looking a little worried. And then don’t say anything when he starts to take apart his Shahrukh wall in his room. I say something! Oh my gosh, those posters and pictures are amazing! And so hard to find, he’s got a Devdas poster there! And Fauji! But he takes them all down, one by one. And then we cut from him taking down his matchbook display to his hand lighting a match, and then throwing it on the pile of pictures and posters. He is on the roof of his building, surrounded by satellite dishes (new media overseeing the destruction of the old movie star? Maybe? Or am I reaching?), with the Delhi high speed train in the background. He sits and watches the fire, and boom! Interval!
(This Fauji picture. So cute!)
And I will continue! Past interval! Because it’s the weekend, so I got nothing better to do. Back from Interval, we go from the Delhi skyline to the London one. And onscreen we have the text “London-1 year later”. Shahrukh is jogging through the city as we hear a radio announcer talking about how Aryan-Shahrukh is in London right now for rehearsals, then will leave for a day to go to a wedding in Dubrovnik, and then back to London for his show which is sold out. And then they play us out with a “lovely song”, which is clearly the opening to “Challa” from Jab Tak Hain Jaan. Ha! A song in which Shahrukh jogs around London playing as he jogs around London.
And then it stops before the lyrics start, as Shahrukh stops in front of Madame Tussaud’s, runs in and buys a ticket, and then jogs up the stairs, knocking the ticket against the railing as he runs up. He enters the crowded area with all the movie star statues, Brangelina, Salman, Madhuri, some lady in a sari I can’t identify, and, of course, Shahrukh himself. A white lady is hugging the statue and getting her picture taken as he comes in, which seems completely accurate to me.
And then a tiny little girl glances over and notices him. Her mouth falls open, he gestures to her to be quiet, but she can’t and starts screaming. And then Shahrukh turns to the camera and whispers “And now the drama will start”, as he pulls off his sunglasses and we, in the audience, know for sure for the first time that this is Gaurav-Shahrukh, not actually Aryan-Shahrukh. Gah! What does he have planned?
So, I already analyzed this scene a bit in one of my reviews. Short version: he doesn’t just offend his fans, he destroys their belief in him, poisons their whole relationship with him. He does it by, first, being charming and agreeing that he is, indeed, Aryan. He let’s them take selfies with him, smiles and is nice. And then he poses with his own statue, and starts to get weird. He smells the hair, he hits it, he calls it a fake, and then he starts beating up the face part, potentially damaging it. The Tussaud’s management rushes over and tries to stop him, and he yells at them, saying “You are saying my face is my property? This guy is saying my face is his property!” Which the subtitles translate as “this white man is saying my face is his property.” Which isn’t the same at all! Where are they getting that? Do they think we won’t get the subtext of a desi saying this in Hindi to a white man unless they spell it out for us?
The manager reaches out to stop him, and Gaurav-Shahrukh grabs his gun! And a female staffer who he takes as a hostage! It is very exciting. Also, the British police don’t routinely carry guns but the security guards at Tussaud’s do? What goes on at that place?
And we get a reaction shot of that little girl, looking scared and confused and heartbroken. Gaurav-Shahrukh pulls the hostage into a hallway, then drops her, slides through an exit door, pulls off his hat, ruffles his hair, rearranges his mouth, and reverses his jacket, and slides out with the rest of the evacuating crowd, unnoticed.
Okay, now I’m taking a break! I think I will have a milkshake, because that was a lot of work.