Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Sultan: What Do They Share?

Well, that’s easy, they share a director.  What I am curious about is what elements the director might bring between the two films.  Especially if Sultan came about through the same process as Fan, that is, if it was always the end goal for Ali Abbas Zafar and his early films were just training.

I was fascinated in the interviews surrounding Fan with the glimpse we got into the Yash Raj mentoring process.  With Aditya Chopra picking out young aspiring directors, bringing them through an assistant director apprenticeship, guiding them towards good choices for their first films, and finally helping them get the cast and funding and everything else they need for their dream projects.  And it sounds like Ali Abbas Zafar went through a similar process getting to Sultan that Maneesh Sharma went through getting to Fan.

Ali started with assisting on Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Tashan, New York, and Badmaash Company for Yash Raj.  Then he got to make his first picture, Mere Brother ki Dulhan, with two up and coming actors and a top actress, and his second picture, Gunday, with a similar balance of two up and coming actors and a top actress.  And now this, Sultan, the big time with a top top top actor, and a top actress, and an epic scale, and length, and story.

There are a couple of non-Yash Raj films in his list, the one that really leaps out at me is Marigold.  I mean, Marigold would always leap out at me, because it is a weird weird movie.  Part of that strange little subset of culture clash flicks from the early 2000s, along with Outsourced, and what’s that other one?  The actor who comes to India?  Anyway, Marigold is obviously different from those because it has an actual real hero from Indian film in it, Salman!

The director of Marigold is from Hollywood (and also has the largest private collection of Oz memorabilia, which doesn’t have anything to do with with anything, I just find it interesting), so working with him would mean Ali Abbas Zafar would have that little bit extra experience, just like Satyajit Ray working with Renoir or Maneesh Sharma going to that 2 year program in LA.  Not that Hollywood style filmmaking is superior to Indian (if anything, I think it’s worse), but it’s always helpful to have different experiences.

Much more importantly than any of that, of course, is that he worked on a film with Salman right at the beginning of his career.  I don’t remember hearing that mentioned in any of the pre-release interviews yet, but I hope it does come up, because I am super curious if it had any effect on his plans for Sultan.  That is, if he has had the idea since then, and if it was always for Salman.

Okay, in a weird way, this brings me to Mere Brother ki Dulhan, finally.  Mere Brother ki Dulhan is an incredibly light rom-com.  Like, there is basically nothing there.  Younger brother hangs with bride while working on wedding planning, falls in love, they have to trick the families so they can get married instead of her marrying the older brother as planned.  That’s it.

The only thing that makes it interesting is if you read it as a meta commentary on incredibly light rom-coms.  This isn’t my idea, by the way, it’s from a friend who gave a presentation at a conference I was at, but it is a BRILLIANT idea.  Our hero is a filmmaker, his brother chooses him to find a bride, he finds the perfect filmi bride, and then to reach the happy ending, they create the perfect filmi storyline for their families.  Once you start watching it like that, as a meta statement on what is a hero and a heroine and a film romance, the evidence is everywhere.  I mean, the heroine’s name is “Dimple Dixit” for goodness sake!

The little bit of sincere romance that is there is nicely done, and gives me hope for the romance in Sultan.  What I like is how calm and easy it is.  There’s no stupid misunderstandings or fights.  They met each other years ago, and without really saying anything directly they understood that they really liked each other but it wasn’t the right time for it.  How cool is that?  In a romance from anywhere, India or Hong Kong or America or anywhere?  To have them not get together because they just mutually understand it isn’t the right time for it, with no big discussion needed?

And then when they do come together, again, minimal drama!  They recognize each other right away from their past interaction, but don’t make a big deal about it, and then they finally do fall in love just by hanging out and being themselves.  And their big love declaration is followed by a frustrated “NOW you tell me!  It’s almost too late!”, not a huge love song or dramatic sobbing.  The most dramatic part is also the funniest part, when Katrina drugs and drags away Imraan to elope with her.  And then he wakes up, tells her they need to go back home and have a different plan, and the whole thing never comes up again.  I love it!

The best part is that, throughout the film, the two of them are in their own little world, with their secret adventures and secret past and, finally, secret plan to solve everything.  It’s a lovely thing, to have the two of them part of this little secret world, even more so than the usual hero’s friends and brothers and heroine’s mother and father and friends.  That “our own little world” feeling definitely seems to be coming across in the love songs so far from Sultan.

And the heroine is great.  I’m not really a fan of Katrina (is anyone?), but it’s a good role for her and she is directed really well for her strengths.  She gets to be the free and happy and modern kind of girl that she plays well.  And the directing and script supports her enough that she almost seems to have a personality.  Which makes me really excited to see what Ali does with Anushka, who has all kinds of personality and promise.  Her early teaser trailer seems to have good indications.

But the big thing is the meta stuff about film.  The whole second half is Katrina and Imraan working together to create the standard film storyline.  The passionate romance between the groom and his past love, the elopement, the sudden arranged marriage between the younger sibling and the abandoned groom.  They have the dialogue, the shy glances and sighs, the whole thing.  And the families are eating it up!  The plan works because both fathers fall for this very sentimental story of the heartbroken bride and sympathetic brother of the groom.

(when you have a whole song called “Madhubala”, you are definitely in the film meta point)

See, that is what I want to see brought into Sultan!  Because it feels like, maybe, if it is done right, and if Ali really did have the idea since Marigold, this whole thing could be a nice little statement about Salman’s career.  His youthful enthusiasm and success, his unsuccessful years, and his come back in the end with maturity and passion and heart.  The same touch of using film to comment on film that he brought in as early as Mere Brother ki Dulhan could be used to make a much deeper statement about how India treats its film heroes, what the heroes have inside of them that keeps them going, and what it is to peak so early in life (like Salman at age 24 in Maine Pyar Kiya) and just keep going for the next 26 years.

12 thoughts on “Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Sultan: What Do They Share?

  1. Now you’ve made me want to watch Mere Brother ki Dulhan again, which I LOVE. The whole meta analysis is fascinating!

    And your point about Salman peaking so young — just like Olympic athletes do — and then what do you do for a follow up for your life? If you’re Salman, you just keep forging ahead and remake yourself. Not everyone can be Michael Phelps who is competing in his FIFTH Olympics later this summer.

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    • Isn’t the meta idea interesting? Totally changed my way of looking at the film. What I should really do sometime is look at Mere Brother Ki Dulhan in partnership with I Hate Luv Storys.

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  2. Oh, boy. I hope you won’t mind a few observations.

    First, about your wanting to find “meta” or other connections in almost every film, especially your wanting to watch South Indian films through a Hindi film lens — I’d like to say, sometimes a film is just a film, and needs to be seen on its own terms, without trying to fit it into a (sometimes tortured) framework of an entirely different film.

    I don’t quite understand your statement that Salman “peaked” with MPK, as that implies that he went downhill after that (otherwise it wouldn’t be a “peak”). But instead, he went on to give six or seven consecutive superhits before finally having some less successful films. You can say he started off with a bang (as did Hrithik), but I wouldn’t call that a “peak”, necessarily.

    But the most interesting part of this post for me was your statement that Ali Abbas Zafar was an AD on Marigold. Not because of Ali, but because it means you’ve seen Marigold (at least it sounds like you did). This is very exciting for me because actually I’ve been holding off on recommending some more Salman films to you (nice films that are not necessarily “important”), and one of the most crucial is Marigold. Now I liked the film well-enough, and feel it was done in in India by external factors, chief of which was a merciless trashing by the critics who were looking for a “Hollywood” film, like Star Wars or James Bond or something. So when they got a film that was set entirely in India and whose focus was really the female lead and not the male, they were out for blood. The director wasn’t really a “Hollywood” director — he was an independent film maker whose entire filmography up to that point consisted of straight-to-dvd films. Not a single theatrical release among them, until Marigold. I think he had a dream of doing his take on a Bollywood film, and Salman agreed to do it because he liked the director and wanted to help him achieve that dream.

    In those days Salman did a lot of films for those kinds of reasons, not because he loved the script or thought it would be good for his career. But all those films kept being sold on his name, and left his fans quite disappointed. Just before Marigold were two films, Saawan – the Love Season (where Salman had an extended special appearance), and Salaam-E-Ishq, where Salman’s was one of six parallel story lines. In both films, the audience kept asking, “Where the heck is Salman?” Now comes the key point, which I learned via a “private communication” as they say in academia. One of my friends in Mumbai went to see Marigold a day or two after it released (i.e., after the horrible reviews came out). After the movie started, Salman and Sohail came into the theater to watch quietly, but were soon spotted and pandemonium broke out. The theater stopped not only the Marigold screening, but all the other films they were showing on the other screens, as everyone from those theaters also came to see Salman. So apparently Salman explained that he was surprised by the vicious reviews, and came to see for himself just how bad or good the film was. Then followed an interactive discussion with his fans, where they told him that (a) they thought Marigold was a horrible film; (b) that they were tired of being conned into seeing what was billed as a Salman Khan film, and then finding that it was nothing of that kind; and, most importantly, (c) “when we come to see a Salman Khan film, we want to see YOU, not anyone else.” This last comment apparently was made by many people, and quite emphatically, and Salman promised that he would try to do that from now on.

    When she related this incident to me, I thought it was kind of funny, but didn’t think any more about it. He still had several “charity films” to finish that he’d already agreed to, but don’t you think, starting from Wanted, say, he has in fact been fulfilling his promise to his fans, and making sure that he is on screen most of the time in his films? This was not at all the case in his prior films. There was an interview during those years where he said, “If I like the story of the film, then I do it; I don’t care how big a role I have.” And there are many like that where he has played a second fiddle to the heroine of the film, whose story the film is, for example, Khamoshi, but there are many others. So when non-fans complain that Salman hogs the screen and the heroines get only “flower-pot” roles, you can perhaps see the genesis of that. Though actually, the heroines in his films still get large screen time as well as important roles — Kareena in Bodyguard and Katrina in ETT had equivalent roles, Harshali in BB certainly had the lead role, and what would Dabangg be without Sonakshi’s pivotal role?

    Anyway, sorry for the length of this comment, but I was going to wait and post this about Marigold on your To-Do list, but since you brought up Marigold, I couldn’t resist sharing the story.

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    • That story was fascinating! And personally, I find the heroine’s in Salman films stronger than in plenty of other movies. Just because their roles are shorter, doesn’t mean they are bad characters, or weak.

      I haven’t actually seen Marigold, I just know about it as an unusual movie, but if you say it is worth checking out, I’ll give it a look!

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      • Oh, I wouldn’t exactly recommend Marigold. I only wanted to bring it to your notice because of the above narrated incident, and thus, what I think might have influenced Salman in his film choices thereafter.

        It’s a nice enough film, technically well-made, but very American in its structure and narration despite the Bollywood trappings. Its treatment of all things Indian (including the Indian characters) are very cliched and stereotyped, and it is these stereotypes that really got the critics worked up. It in no way can be compared to Outsourced, which is actually quite an accurate and nuanced portrayal of the Indian situation and the Indian characters, and it is clear that the makers went to some trouble to understand their subject.

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    • Oh, and I like your Hrithik comparison! That’s what I was thinking of, how Salman is NOT like Hrithik. Hrithik hit it big, and then (after completing a few already agreed to films), slowed waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down, started doing only big films and interesting films, and generally not the kind of thing that would require his skills to the utmost on every level like KNPH did. But in contrast, Salman hit it big at 24, and then just kept going at the same level for 26 years, despite age and popularity shits and everything else. Now, even the other 2 Khans have slowed down and shifted gears, and Salman is still going. Like moviemavengal said, it’s like Michael Phelps, who could have just quit after his first Olympics, but instead he just keeps going trying to top himself, even now that he is past the age where most athletes quite competing..

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  6. I rewatched MBKD last night and it still holds up after the third or fourth watch for me. It’s one of my favorite rom-coms and it never seems to get boring. I love your point about how it’s like Imran and Katrina are in their own world with their own adventures and secrets.

    Also I just wanted to mention that I love Katrina in this movie. The character works for her really well and she’s like the heart and soul of the movie. I don’t think it would have worked as well if there was another actress playing the character.

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    • Yes! This movie and Ek Tha Tiger are maybe my favorite Katrina performances. There is something so warm and easy about her in the right role.

      On Fri, Nov 9, 2018 at 7:01 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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