It makes no sense! I can barely get over the idea that Amrita Singh and Juhi Chawla would be fighting over Jackie Shroff (Even I have to admit that he does look good in a mustache), but why would Jackie Shroff ever be interested in Amrita Singh if he could get Juhi Chawla? She is so clearly superior!
Okay, before you read any further, you need to be aware of what awaits you if you are brave enough to watch this film. About an hour and 20 minutes in, you will suddenly be presented with this:
Why? WHY?!?! Why wouldn’t they just buy bigger towels? Or better yet, tear up this shirt to use as a towel:
(Even Juhi can barely stand to look at it)
And then it ends with one of those somehow both chaste and creepy movie kisses:
But in between those terrible visuals, it is actually a really good movie! In a classic Yash Chopra kind of way. I forgot it was a Yashji picture until his name showed up at the opening credits. But I’d like to think I could have recognized it even without seeing his name, because it has all those wonderful Yash Chopra touches.
I don’t mean the big houses and beautiful costumes and elaborate song sequences, all that stuff. Although that’s there too (excepting the above horrible shirt from the beautiful costumes). I mean the wonderful way Yashji handles relationships. It’s kind of the opposite of Kapoor and Sons, where everyone is basically horrible in some way except for Fawad. In this (and in Silsila and Kabhi Kabhi and Deewar and Lamhe and Chandni…), everyone is basically good, except for one person. And even she is redeemed by the end. Although, personally, I still don’t trust her!
The film does lose it’s way a bit towards the end, gives in to baser instincts with a big dramatic action sequence (like Silsila and Kabhi Kabhi and Darr. Yashji really does have his habits!), but it pulls it back for a nice little ending that resolves all the relationship stuff. For the rest of the film, it is just about conversations and exchanged glances, and thoughtful looks, and all the ways that people learn about each other. Even better, it is about relationships between women!
That is one of my favorite things about Yashji, he really gets women. Even in Jab Tak, perhaps his worst movie, there were still some nice moments of development and care with the Akira character. This film could be a straightforward good woman/bad woman story, but it’s more complicated than that.
(I started out hating her, and then she won me over!)
Way at the end of the film, when Juhi is finally fighting back against Amrita, she says that being with Jackie has taught her how to fight back, and maybe if she had learned that lesson from her parents, she would have gotten Jackie in the first place, instead of coming in second to Amrita. That’s a really important line. It doesn’t remove Amrita’s culpability, but it shows how the whole family is culpable as well. Juhi for constantly giving in, and her parents for letting her.
But at the same time, we can understand why they let it slide all these years. Because it seemed like it wasn’t hurting anything. Juhi was always happy to give in, to let Amrita win, because she didn’t really care about what she was losing. And her parents weren’t blind to what was happening. They would have supported her if she chose to fight back, they just didn’t force her to do it. Which meant when there was finally something she actually wanted to hold on to, she’d never learned to skills to take it and keep it.
Even Jackie got pulled into the same pattern. Amrita was so charming and strong and vibrant when she was happy, it was easier to just always keep her happy than to ever confront her. Which is the only explanation I can come up with for why he went with his loopy plan at the end. That he decided the only solution was to let her see everything she wanted in her grasp, and then to viciously take it away from her, forcing her to let loose all the rage and craziness that everyone had always tried to keep at bay. And there by cleansing her of it. I don’t know if it would actually work in the real world, I think my solution would be closer to what Amrita’s Dad did, just cut her out of my life entirely, but I can kind of see the thematic meaning here.
I was just talking about how, in Dil Aashna Hai, Shahrukh is neither the faceless object of desire that he would be in an American female oriented film, nor is he the usual controlling all powerful being that he would be in an Indian one. In this movie, for the most part, Jackie is the controlling all powerful being. Even though the focus is on the relationship between the two sisters, he is the one that is reshaping that relationship. But I am kind of okay with that, because Yashji sets up Jackie’s relationships with the respective sisters in such an interesting way.
One thing that really stood out to me, is that Jackie first becomes interested in Amrita before he sees her face. She has outbid him on a painting, and it is her bold taste in art, and her confidence in purchasing something he desires, which attracts him. At the same time, he has already met Juhi twice, even seen her without her glasses, he knows what she looks like, but her looks are not enough to attract him while her personality is still so shy.
Amrita’s character is constantly referring to Juhi as less pretty than her. Occasionally, other characters will make similar comments, her mother making a point of saying how pretty Juhi looks “today”, or a photographer spotting Amrita and asking her to pose for him. But for the most part, there is no effort made to convince us that Juhi is less attractive than Amrita. There is no “oh my God, without your glasses, you’re gorgeous!!!” moment. It’s not that she isn’t pretty, people aren’t blind, it’s that her personality is terrible. And Amrita, in contrast, is so sparkling and vibrant that her face is almost beside the point.
(Really, the choice is obvious, right?)
Yash Chopra films are occasionally dismissed for their focus on clothes and hair and make-up, but he doesn’t use those elements casually. There is real care in how he decides which character should wear what. You see it in every film. From Sadhana‘s bangs and tight fitting Salwar’s immediately showing her character’s ability to bend without breaking the standard rules of Indian society in Waqt, to the way Amitabh and Rekha’s complimentary colors show their connection in Silsila, all the way Madhuri’s Salwars versus Karisma’s spandex in Dil To Pagal Hai. And in this film, the clothes serve to build the personality of Amrita and Juhi. Not just for the audience, but for how the other characters see them.
(See? Amitabh in white with a touch or red, Rekha in red with a touch of white, Jaya in pink, clashing with but also combining both colors. This did not happen by accident!)
Amrita is all bright colors, western dresses, short styled hair and vibrant make-up. Juhi, in the first half, dresses like a child. Big baggy Salwars, tight braided hair, no jewelry. It is heartbreaking when Amrish doesn’t see her for how wonderful she is, but it would be kind of creepy if he did. It would be like Shahrukh being attracted to Kajol’s sister in DDLJ.
And just as Jackie slowly learns to look past her clothes and see the person inside, so does the audience. We dismiss her as a child, because of how she dresses and acts, and her schoolgirl crush on Jackie and fantasy of him falling in love with her at first sight. But then we see the maturity in how she accepts his engagement to Amrita. The scene with her and her father in the kitchen was so well done. He is there to comfort her, but not to soften the blow with kind words, because he knows it is better for her to accept the truth. And she does accept it, easily and calmly. I was thinking of Fan while I was watching it, actually. This is how Gaurav should have reacted to his disappointment about how he was treated by Aryan, and this is how his parents should have prepared him. Be supportive, but supportive in a way that encourages him to see and accept reality. And feel the heartbreak, but don’t let it drive you insane!
And it is her scenes with Jackie during the engagement period where I most felt their chemistry. He was suddenly seeing her in a new light, not because she looked different, but because he was part of the family inner circle, and was able to see the way she acted differently within the family. Which the script explicitly said several times, but since it was a Yash Chopra movie, it didn’t feel like randomly inserted pronouncements, but a natural acknowledgement of a change the audience was already seeing. When she helps Jackie understand and forgive Amrita after a fight, she is showing a maturity that Amrita lacks, despite Amrita’s more mature appearance. Which Jackie compliments her on. And when she neatly hides her hurt and solves the family spat at breakfast the next day, she is showing a self-confidence and strength that all of Amrita’s showy personality lacks. Her Salwars and braids make her look like a child, both to Jackie and the audience, but in fact she is already more of a woman than Amrita will ever be.
Juhi’s change of style post-marriage is not simply a “ooo, now she’s sexy!” move. It is an acceptance of her position and place, reflected in her appearance. She is no longer a young girl hiding herself away within the safety of a family. She is the head of a household, a confident and powerful woman, and as such should be wearing Saris, jewelry, and unbraided hair. Jackie finds her attractive not just because she is letting her glorious hair and curvy figure show, but because she looks like a woman now, not a child.
(Child on the left, adult woman on the right. Same face, just in different packaging)
Juhi’s change of attitude/appearance is at the suggestion of men. But I don’t think this is because Yashji thinks men should control and direct women. I think it is an accidental alignment of two separate narrative necessities. On the one hand, it has to be Juhi’s new family which encourages her growth, because they are the ones who can see her as a wife and head of household, in a way that her previous family never will. And on the other hand, her new family has to be entirely male, because otherwise she wouldn’t have that position as the head of a household, she would be subservient to a mother-in-law.
So the end result is that her supportive and welcoming younger brother-in-law (Deepak Tijori, putting in his required appearance in every film between 1990 and 1997) is the first to notice and tease her about the childish way she dresses and does her hair. He isn’t saying it is ugly, just that it is odd she is so afraid to dress differently. Something her own family had grown so used to that they no longer noticed it, it took an newcomer to point out that she is still twisting and forcing herself into a childlike style. And it is her new husband, Jackie, who is the first to confirm the change, start treating her and seeing her as an adult woman instead of an off limits little girl.
In a less good movie, it would feel like he never appreciated her or loved her until she revealed her beauty in a traditional feminine way. But in this film, it feels like he had already learned to see and appreciate her personality and character. It was just a matter of her appearance changing enough that he felt he had permission to be attracted to her physically. Which he said literally on their wedding night, when he found her back in the braids and Salwar, having taken off the wedding sari. His reaction was “seeing you dressed like this, it feels wrong to have married you.” And when she suggested they put away physical intimacy and live as friends, he leaped at the idea. Because he already liked and appreciated her as a friend, but in terms of physical attraction, he saw her as a child.
Once he starts flirting with her, it is ADORABLE! But also, it confirms what Juhi says to Amrita in their final confrontation, that if she had learned to be herself sooner, Jackie would never have noticed Amrita to begin with. In their post-marriage flirtation, we are seeing the courtship Juhi could have had all along if only she had put herself forward. In several ways, it is different from the usual “post-marriage” kind of courtship scenario.
Most importantly, we have already seen Jackie romance one woman, we know how he goes about it. And this is the same, but also different. He is flirty and happy and confident and a little flustered and excited, just like he was with Amrita. There is no bored confidence, like you might expect from a husband. He is sincerely falling in love with her and trying to woo her.
And, more importantly, there are the differences from how he treated Amrita. Two kinds of differences, really. First, he is courting her in a new way, showing that he wants Juhi, herself, not just any random breathing woman. With Amrita he was confident and suave, constantly showing his wealth and power. With Juhi, he is a little gentler. He asks her to sew on a button, he compliments her hair, he grabs her hand beneath a table. He is acting in ways that will appeal to Juhi specifically. And secondly, we see from his reactions that he just plain gets a kick out of her! With Amrita, he was intrigued by her confidence and chutzpah. But with Juhi, we see him smile every time he looks at her, tease her just to see her react, enjoy being around her even when she is just making tea. He did love Amrita, it wasn’t just her beauty that attracted him, but he didn’t love her in the same way as Juhi.
Actually, in some ways, he was in love with Juhi all along. Twice, he saw things in Amrita that could have lead to a broken engagement. And it was only when he spoke to Juhi afterward, saw Amrita through the filter of Juhi’s personality, that the engagement stood. If Juhi had not been there, his infatuation would have run its course and he would have moved on. It was her personality on top of Amrita’s that kept him around. Plus, you have to think he wouldn’t have been willing to marry Juhi at all, even in an emergency, if there hadn’t been at least a little bit of interest, even subconscious interest, there already!
And that’s why the bit right before the bit right before the end is so satisfying! Oh, and this is also the first part of the film that I am going to talk about that isn’t basically shown in the trailer and completely predictable, so SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
Juhi and Jackie are now married, and in love, because of her changes to herself, and his reactions to them, as detailed above. Amrita has disappeared out of their lives following her disappearance from her wedding, which lead to the last minute substitution of Juhi for Amrita. And Amrita shows up again! NOOOOOOOOO!
Juhi is a little thrown, but is naturally sweet and sympathetic. Jackie has no patience for her at all. When Amrita confronts the two of them, claiming that Jackie must still love her and Juhi has “stolen her place”, Jackie promptly denies any lingering feelings at all, saying that what he felt died entirely on his wedding day, and that Juhi is his wife and he will not have her insulted in her own home. It’s super romantic!
But it’s also a confirmation of what we have been seeing in his romance with Juhi. That it wasn’t a matter of getting over Amrita, as she suggested and he constantly denied, so that he could “settle” for Juhi, but a matter of starting from scratch, with no interest in any woman, and falling in love with Juhi just for herself. We can believe it now, because his reaction to Amrita isn’t anger or resentment on his own behalf, just concern that she is insulting his new wife. Which also retroactively shows the shallowness of his past relationship with Amrita, that he was able to get over her so easily.
And then the super satisfying part, when Juhi lets Amrita take refuge in their home (after their parents have thrown her out and cut her off), and Jackie proceeds to basically give all her own back to her. While Juhi is mature and kind and loving, Jackie responds to each passive aggressive insult towards Juhi with one of his own directed at Amrita. He defends Juhi with the kind of pettiness and spite that she herself is too great to feel or act on. It’s great! And it shows super clearly how Juhi was never really appreciated or defended in her own home. Which, I mean, should she have been? Both she and Amrita were her parents children, it wouldn’t have been right to choose sides (although clearly Juhi was the best and Amrita the worst). But now, in her in-laws home, Amrita is clearly the hated outsider, and her husband and brother-in-law line up on her side to defend her.
And then it all goes wrong. In the middle of another little war of words, in which Amrita claims that she still loves Jackie and will die without him, Amrita tries to kill herself in Jackie’s office. He rushes her to the hospital, and afterward everything is different. He insists that his brother treat her with respect. He is not rude to Juhi, but he no longer defends her against Amrita’s rudeness. He is a little extra kind to Amrita, in fact, bringing her breakfast in bed, and smiling when she enters a room. It looks dangerously like he is falling back in love with her.
Which is when Juhi finally fights back, in a definite contestant in the “worlds most uncomfortable party” scene.
(Look at everyone in the background! Standing there going “should we leave? Is the food ever going to be served? This is weirder than when they changed brides at the wedding!”)
So, yes, it is very dramatic and exciting, thinking that Juhi is having her heart-broken, and watching the two women fight over Jackie. And then it gets more exciting when Jackie drives off with Amrita, tries to kill them both by driving off a cliff, then takes her to the honeymoon cottage he had prepared for them. Thrilling! A little out of place with the rest of the film, but really gets your adrenaline going in the moment!
And then, finally, he confronts her with all her lies, reveals that he has known all along her suicide attempt was fake, that he still loves Juhi, and that he was just tricking her into revealing that she wasn’t willing to die for/with him after all. And then he breaks all the mirrors very dramatically, because it is so much staring at herself in a mirror that has made her into this shallow creature. Again, very dramatic.
But about ten minutes after the movie is over, you find yourself going “Wait, what? Why? How? Huh?” It hangs together, but juuuuuuuuuuuust barely. So, Jackie finds out that Amrita is faking the suicides, and is therefore a psycho who is trying to ruin their lives. He could have gone home and said to Juhi “Hey, your sister is a psycho, let’s throw her out and never talk to her again.” But maybe we can reason that he thought a) Juhi might believe Amrita over him, or b) that Amrita would just find a new way to attack them.
So instead he decides to force Amrita to admit that she doesn’t really love him and therefore make her give up on this whole scheme. And the best way to make her let her guard down, is if he pretends she has won and he is in love with her again. Now, he could tell Juhi he is doing this so she doesn’t break her heart over it, but maybe we can reason that a) he thought she couldn’t pull off a convincing act because she is so pure of heart, or b) he wanted her to fight for him. And he wanted her to fight for him because a) he wanted her to finally grow up and accept that she is allowed to be selfish and want things, or b) he still wasn’t sure she loved him and thought maybe jealousy would tip her over the edge.
Okay, so far so kind of good. And if we accept everything that’s gone before, we can accept the moment when he almost drives off a cliff. Because he is forcing Amrita to admit she isn’t really willing to die for him. And then the moment after that when he takes her to the love nest he made for them back before they broke up and smashes all the mirrors, it’s a little dramatic, but Amrita is a dramatic person, maybe she needed the visual shock to really admit her whole charade?
But then Yashji came up with one final scary image to use, and he threw it in even though it makes NO SENSE AT ALL. Amrita grabs a shard of mirror from the love nest, and the next thing we see is Juhi in her room, and Amrita runs in and threatens her with the bloody glass shard! HOW DID SHE GET BACK?!?! Did Jackie give her a ride, with her clutching the glass shard the whole time, and he never noticed? It’s, like, bowie knife sized! I just don’t see that happening.
AND THEN! It turns out she isn’t mad at Juhi at all, she just lunged into the room with murder in her eyes holding a massive weapon because that’s how she enters a room now? Really, she was just coming to say she gave Jackie up and accepted their marriage, and Loving Sisters again.
And then we leave psycho action movie land, and return to slow drawing room drama land where things make sense. I like the rest of the resolution a lot, that Amrita now realizes what it is to lose something and has made her piece with it and is ready to start fresh as a wiser and better sister. And that she admits she doesn’t really love Jackie, and wouldn’t want him if she had him, it was just the competition.
And then the end-end is really sweet, back at Juhi’s parent’s house, with Juhi coming down the stairs in a new distinctly different bridal sari (not the one she wore before that was meant for Amrita), with Amrita there to support her, and her parents to give her away to Jackie. It’s the wedding she should have had all along, a nice little do over to confirm that she is the one Jackie wants, and that she is the one her family wants to give him (that sounded bad, but you know what I mean), and it is a happy occasion, not a desperate last minute change.
Oh, and then there is the freeze frame on that horrible kiss, which almost ruins it. Blech!