Yay, second half! Woot woot! And we are in Europe now, not India. The locations in this film are really important, they aren’t just for fun spectacle.
We left off with Gaurav-Shahrukh imitating Aryan-Shahrukh at Madam Tussaud’s in London, grabbing a gun, taking a staff member hostage, then escaping in the crowd by turning himself back to “Gaurav” instead of “Aryan”. Now, a bunch of black SUVs are zipping through the streets, pulling up in front of a building in London. The first time I watched this, I thought it was Aryan, or Aryan’s people, arriving. But actually, it’s the police.
That misinterpretation is bigger than it looks. We spent the past hour of the film in Bombay, where Aryan Khanna is so powerful that any time you see a big car zipping through traffic, an image of power and ease, you assume it’s him. But we’re not in Bombay anymore, we’re in London, where things are different.
The locations in this film are very carefully chosen, and each has their own specific meaning. We start in Delhi, a large busy dangerous Indian city. But a city far removed from the fame and glamour of Bombay, where things are a little realer and a little harsher. Gaurav-Shahrukh’s life there feels real and full of feelings and hopes and dreams and love. We go to Bombay, where his little heart full of feelings gets trampled by the superficiality and backstabbing of the film world.
And now we are in London. Where everything is grey and cold, unlike the varied color palette in Delhi and Bombay. And where Aryan-Shahrukh is most vulnerable, beloved by the people, but without power. So, no, these black SUVs are not from his entourage, it is the police and they have come to arrest him. Poor hardworking Sunaina goes into the rehearsal space to interrupt him, Aryan-Shahrukh is in a grey sleeveless tank, practicing dance steps to a song that moviemavengal identified as “Ishq Dance” from Jab Tak Hain Jaan. It’s a hard a physical performance, which is important, because we need to see that Aryan-Shahrukh is actually working hard right now, focused, and pushing himself to the physical limits.
(How did he does this at age 48?)
And then he switches on a dime to pushing himself to his gamesmanship limits. Sunaina can’t quite get his attention, but his bodyguard/security chief runs up on stage and grabs him (another sign of how physical he is right now, that only a large physical person can manage to stop him and grab him, not just Sunaina waving from the floor. Now, we see him in an office space, sitting down with sweat stains on his tank, as a thickly accented British cop hands him an arrest warrant. In the background, you can hear Sunaina on the phone saying “It’s Aryan Khanna, for the Indian ambassador….” In the foreground, Aryan-Shahrukh rejects the warrant, refusing to acknowledge it. The cop starts to lean on him, saying it’s not a joke, and he has a job to do, and Aryan-Shahrukh responds immediately “you are working, and we are just faffing around?” and Sunaina comes up from the background holding her phone out, saying “Sir, it’s the Indian ambassador for you.” And the cop waves her off, saying “I don’t want to talk to the ambassador.” He is abrupt, and I think might have thrown in an insult, and Aryan-Shahrukh immediately goes on the alert and says “Hey hey hey! Nice way you have of talking to women!”
British cop swings back to him and asks him where he was at 10am this morning. Shahrukh immediately says, in a let’s get this over with kind of way, “I was at home.” The cop asks if anyone can verify that, and he says, “I was alone”, in a great, if you must know, I don’t even care, but I’ll tell you, kind of way. The cop says, if he can’t prove an alibi, he has to be arrested. Sunaina tries to jump in at this point in Hindi, I think, and the cop turns to tell her to talk in English, and Aryan-Shahrukh jumps in and says “hey, you talk to me, not her!” And then he adds that he will talk in a word the cop will understand, “Lawyer.” The cop says he has to talk him in, and he can choose, without handcuffs if he is nice, with handcuffs if he is nasty. Aryan-Shahrukh takes a moment, still sitting relaxed in his chair, pulls out his sunglasses, puts them on, then holds out his hands and says “Nasty.”
So many interesting things in this scene! Check out how Aryan-Shahrukh is taking control of this situation right from the start. Making sure to grab a seat and stay relaxed while the cop shouts down at him, redirecting him away from talking to Sunaina, making sure to keep his tone set to “irritated at this interruption and answering your questions, but in the shortest way possible.” And jumping on every single moment of disrespect, from being rude to Sunaina, to suggesting he wasn’t in the middle of work. All the way to taking a moment to put on his sunglasses and force him to put handcuffs on him, he is giving no quarter.
(Or maybe he just knows how good he looks in sunglasses?)
And there is a reason for it, beyond “I’m a huge movie star!” Because he is in enemy territory, even if London is his second home (as the radio announcer described it right after intermission), he knows he is not in power here, and that he has to constantly protect his foothold. And he’s right! Notice when Sunaina holds out the phone and says “It’s the Indian Ambassador for you, sir”, the cop assumes she is talking to him. That the Indian Ambassador would want to talk to random police investigator more than a movie star. More than that, that he would want to talk to a white man more than an Indian. In the last section, the subtitles added a “white man” to Gaurav-as-Aryan-Shahrukh’s insults at Madame Tussaud’s. There was no “gora” in the original dialogue, but it wasn’t needed, because it was already there in the minds of the audience. That’s why we are in London, where there is a massive diaspora community, and yet they still feel like second-class citizens.
And it continues in the next scene. Aryan-Shahrukh is taken to the car in handcuffs, we get a brief glimpse of Gaurav-Shahrukh in a train station watching on the TV. He is buying a ticket to Dubrovnik. Really? There is a direct train from London to Dubrovnik? Oh, and also, I find this a completely accurate depiction of how this news would be reported. Often with these overseas set movies they will play it like the news channel in Times square is reporting on, I don’t know, the engagement of an Indian millionaire or something. But here, we have a massively famous Indian movie star actually being arrested in London, and it is being reported in a quick clip in the midst of a regular newscast on a regular TV broadcasting at a train station. That seems reasonable.
Meanwhile, back with Aryan-Shahrukh, he is watching the grainy black and white security video from Madam Tussaud’s, and looking a little shaken, for the first time. He says “That’s not me” like he is actually worried about being believed, and shocked that people would think it is him. The cop immediately says “It looks like you, everyone there calls him by your name, it is you.”
Again, London! I mean, it’s what happens to Shahrukh-Shahrukh in real life. When he is detained at airport security or really any time he is outside of India, he is recognized constantly by bystanders, but those in power and authority often have no idea who he is. It just happened with the royal visit to India! Inside, he was given all sorts of rules and dress codes and security checks and so on by the British advance team. Outside, the crowd ignored the royals and rushed the movie stars. This is how fragile his power and stardom is, that he has billions of people worldwide who love him, but only in India are those people actually in power, everywhere else, he is the star of the minority community.
(See how they are all lined up in a tidy little row for the white people to talk to them? One of the commentators said they looked like little school children everyone thought would misbehave, and it’s true!)
Before, he was playing this like he had to use his power and personality to force the cops to give him the right amount of respect. Now, he is seeing how truly unable he is to use his power, how his followers have been used against him, and he is shaken. And then quickly switches tactics, trying to convince the cop by logic that it couldn’t be him. But really, arrogance was a better choice, either way the British cop is not going to listen to him, and at least the other way he struck a blow for the Anglo-Indian community and dignity.
So, he’s thrown in jail for 48 hours. First, we see him get his mug shot taken (5’10” and 140 pounds? Really?). And, just to emphasize the “everywhere-but no power” nature of his followers, the woman taking the photo is desi and stares at him with love in her eyes the whole time, finally asking to take a selfie after she finishes his mug shots. Aryan-Shahrukh obliges. Oh! And this is one of those little moments I was thinking of when I said that Aryan-Shahrukh’s flaw is NOT that he fails to appreciate his fans. He is great to his fans! He takes a selfie with the woman shooting his mug shot! He is arrogant and cold and power-hungry and narcissistic, but he is not bad to his fans.
Oh, and then he is in jail. I am fascinated by how they shot this bit. It’s the same as Gaurav-Shahrukh’s jail experience, another two days, shot in quick flashes focused on his face. But while Gaurav-Shahrukh went through a whole gamut of emotions, Aryan-Shahrukh got cold and real immediately. He is thrown in a cell with a bunch of London lowlifes, and he keeps his face flat and shifts his shoulders, and paces, and they ignore him. He is not scared, but he is aware of them around him and moving with a focus on keeping himself isolated from them. But then we cut and see that the cell has emptied, there is only one guy there with him, who is urinating in the background. And finally, he is alone, sitting perfectly still, staring and thinking. And when the door opens to let him out, just like Gaurav-Shahrukh leaving with a huge fake smile after his long night of the soul, Aryan-Shahrukh is relaxed, stretched out on the bench, and greets the guard with a small smile. This guy is freaking scary, is what I am saying. Goes straight from being arrested, to figuring out his revenge.
And first, he has his last interaction with the British police. He is signing bail papers with the evil British cop, who is declaring that he doesn’t care that he got bail, they are going to arrest him eventually. Aryan-Shahrukh gives him a visible sneer and tosses the pen on the desk. His Indian lawyer (Akhtar, who we heard Sunaina call earlier), tells him in Hindi to be calm, and quiet. Aryan-Shahrukh nods at him, then stands and looks down at the cop and says, quietly, in Hindi, “English bastard” and walks out.
(Not this Akhtar. Although I had a moment of hope. But no. Some other Akhtar)
Akhtar directs him out a side door to avoid the media, and they are met in an alley by Sunaina and the Indian consul. Sunaina preps him to say thank you, Aryan-Shahrukh gives the Indian consul a brief handshake, the consul explains that they were able to get him bail and he can leave the country, but they couldn’t make the whole thing go away, the laws here… Aryan-Shahrukh cuts him off and says “yes, it is the same everywhere, the laws are made to trap the innocent.” And then he sort of waves him off and turns away with a disgusted look at the camera, before leaping in the car. Sunaina takes a moment to tell the Indian consul that they really are very grateful and appreciate everything he did. Whatever Aryan-Shahrukh is paying her, it is not enough.
After the car pulls out, the Indian consul turns to his side-kick and says “movie stars. think they are better than everyone else.” Huh. That’s an interesting comment. Because, from what we just saw, Aryan-Shahrukh is better than everyone else. He is better than the British police who insult him and ignore his power. He is better than Gaurav, and therefore the Indian common man, because jail doesn’t scare or even disturb him. He is better than the Indian consul, who is afraid to offend the British, to take a stand for what is right, while Aryan-Shahrukh does. What we just saw wasn’t the Indian consul being a noble public servant judging these lazy arrogant movie stars, we saw a bureaucrat who was too small and cowardly to see why Aryan-Shahrukh acts as he does.
Okay, it’s late, I’m going to bed and taking a break, two more longish sections left and we are done! I think. Maybe three sections.