Bumping along to part 3 of my detailed summary. I like doing it this way, because that way I can remember all the little bits and pieces I thought of while I was watching the movie. Because I am thinking of the whole movie again scene by scene. If you just want a quick summary, you can check out my “SPOILER” review.
I left off at “Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai”. Amit Sadh, fight promoter in the present day, is talking to Anant about his old friend Salman and why Salman doesn’t want to fight any more. Anant says it is a love story, and has been telling about how Salman fell in love with Anushka at first sight when she beats him up with her bike helmet, and followed her into a wedding where he serenaded her with “Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai”, thinking she liked him because she had called him her “Shit Guy”, which he thought was an endearment.
He leaves the wedding shouting out “I am your Shit Guy!” And then we see him late at night staring up at the stars on the roof of his house murmuring “shit guy” over and over to himself. When Anant shows up and breaks the news, as gently as possible, that he has found a English to Hindi dictionary and “shit” means “manure”. Salman is appropriately stunned! And he says something like “well, now I have to show her”. Or at least, that’s what the subtitles said. I know it was something kind of neutral, at least in subtitle, because I interpreted it as “show her”, like “make her feel terrible and get back at her.” I’m not sure if it was meant to be neutral like that, open to a more aggressive interpretation, or if it was just the subtitles. But that open to interpretation way worked for me, because being braced for the usual “ooo, I hate her now!” reaction made his actual reaction even sweeter, to decide to just be nice and around and win her over.
The next thing we see is him showing up at her father’s wrestling school (he had already learned from Anant that she was a wrestler, and her father was a wrestling coach, and they dreamed of winning the Olympics). Anushka kind of gives him a look, but then tries to ignore him and work with her students. Salman goes over to talk to her father and says he wants to be a wrestler, to win Olympic gold, it is his father’s dream! Her father is a little taken by this, but Anushka continues to ignore it. Finally, her Dad asks if he has ever trained before, and points out that all the men there have been training for ages. Salman says he never trained, but he is the top kite catching champion in town, and he bets none of the wrestlers can catch him! Anushka is still ignoring, but her Dad is really interested now and agrees.
And then there’s the bit where I started thinking way too hard about stand-ins. It’s in the credits, there was a stand-in stunt person for Salman. But on the other hand, Salman has talked in interviews about how hard the training and fight scenes were. And I believe him about that! So, what was the stand in doing?
Watching this scene the second time, I was looking for shots from the back or a distance, to try to find the stand in. I think it’s the aerobic bits mostly. Salman can roll through a door or climb a wall, or throw things, or (in later scenes) take a fall or throw an opponent. But I think the moving fast might be the hard bit. So for this, they kind of made a virtue of it, with a funny sped up film and funny cuts, like it’s an old comedy bit from a silent. It made it look like Salman was moving faster than he was when he was moving, and it made it easier to hide the parts where they had to do odd cuts to avoid revealing the stand-in.
However they filmed it, the point is that it impressed Anushka’s Dad. Salman successful outraced all 3 other wrestlers, and he was told to come back the next day for training. Anushka’s Dad, by the way, is played by Kumud Mishra who I have seen in 3 movies now, Airlift and Badlapur and this, and I did not recognize him at all! Which is a compliment, I think he really disappears into the part.
(Same guy as Anushka’s Dad in Sultan! Can’t believe it!)
The next day, Salman shows up for practice to see 2 ambulances waiting outside the school. Another wrestler comes out, and he asks “what happened? Did Anushka’s father get sick?” The other wrestler says “No, he will live longer than me” and then explains that Anushka is running a blood donation clinic because the town has no blood bank. Salman comes in and immediately volunteers to donate. Anushka is briskly pleased by this, gets him to lie (lay?) down and have his blood typed. He grabs her hand while he is being stuck and she tries to pull it away, but he won’t let go. And then she gets so excited once he is typed, to learn that he is O negative, that she forgets. He tells her that he knew he must be rare blood, because he is a rare fellow! And then he offers to be her friend, and take her to have sugar cane juice, and she agrees.
Remember in the last part I talked about how in “Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai”, she was enjoying herself when she wasn’t thinking about it too much? I’m getting even more of that vibe here. She says she wants her hand back, but she is a strong woman (both mentally and physically), she could have taken it away. But she got distracted by his smile and his good cheer and forgot. She could have held him trying to get into the wrestling team against him, but instead she quickly moved on and was ready to greet him with a smile the next day. And now she is agreeing to go out with him. She really does like him, all along, she is just having a hard time because he doesn’t fit her vision of who she is supposed to like.
And then they go off to have sugar cane juice. And she explains her life. And the subtitles fail entirely! The beginning is fine, she says that her father wanted a son, but she was born and then her mother died. But then she says that her father was a “different” man, and he treated her as though she was a son, training her and sending her to Delhi for college. In the subtitles, first, he is called a “loving” man. And secondly, there is a tone of “he raised her like a tomboy.” But I think it was supposed to be “he treated her like a son, with all the love and spoiling and opportunities that are usually reserved only for boys.”
Which, she says, is why she needs to fulfill his dream, she chose to come back from Delhi and to join his team, and now she is a state champion and will go to the Olympics one day. And she fights boys because she wants to show that she is as good as them. Oh darn! I missed a scene somewhere earlier! Salman and Anant are looking for her at a village fair, and the see her fight and beat a male wrestler, which just confirms Salman’s love for her. And his determination to be a wrestler as well, since a wrestler has to marry a wrestler.
Anyway, back to this scene! There was one review I read which claimed that this is a very un-feminist scene, because she gives this whole speech, and then Salman immediately minimizes her to just a love interest. But, see, that’s missing the whole point! He is in love with her BECAUSE of this speech! And his immediate reaction is even better, she is talking about how women can be anything, and his response is “Like Jhansi ki Rani! You are such a traditional Indian woman.” I LOVE that! Taking the normal argument, that girls “these days” are so different and un-Indian and all, and putting it on its head, saying “No! Strong powerful fearless women are very Indian! Very old-fashioned and traditional!”
And then the other part I love, as they ride back to town the scooter stops. Salman tries to kick start it, and when he can’t Anushka tries, and gets it going, and gestures for him to get on behind her. And Salman gives a look to all the old man sitting around watching like “Huh? Huh? What a great girl I’ve got, right? Letting me sit pillion while she drives!” He is sincerely delighted by the whole thing, and proud of it, and assumes that everyone else will have the same reaction, because who wouldn’t love a girl who makes you sit pillion?
And then song! Which picks up the whole idea of the “strong independent women are traditionally Indian” and runs with it. Salman imagines all of the rural signs they pass, the fields, the old men, and later the village fairs and competitions, as the extreme modern over the extreme traditional, just like he sees Anushka. Oh, and also during this song, we get soooooooooooooooooooo many indications that Anushka likes him just as much as he likes her, even if she isn’t saying it. They ride the bike together all over town, sometimes with him holding on to her, sometimes with her holding on to him. They go to the fair together and when one of their wrestlers wins the truck pull competition, she celebrates by hugging the wrestler once, and Salman twice. And then at the end of the song, Salman is taking her to meet his friends, and she is trying to make sure she gets all the names right. This isn’t something you do for just anyone.
So, when Anant refers to her as “Bhabhi” while they are ordering, it seems completely normal. Only Anushka finds it strange and asks why. And Anant (adorably!) explains they they are all just excited, because Salman is the first of their group to have a girlfriend! And Anushka immediately takes offense and stands up and walks away. And Salman is very brave, because he actually follows her! And when she asks by what right his friends think she is his girlfriend, did he think that, Salman doesn’t apologize or back up, he just says “Well, yeah! Yeah, I did!” He is just the perfect guy for her! Anyone else would get scared off, or angry. Salman just takes it and stands his ground. And then he lists off all the evidence that we just saw in that song. She goes everywhere with him, she rides his bike all over town, she touches him all the time, of course she is either his girlfriend or his sister! Everyone thinks that, not just him!
And then Anushka lists off all the reasons they would never work. And it doesn’t feel exactly like she is convincing herself, more like she just doesn’t let herself see the side of things that Salman is arguing, the “we enjoy spending time together, you like me, you like touching me, we have fun” argument. She is stuck with the logical side of things, the practical side that she worked out ages ago and wants to stick with. And there is value to her argument as well. Salman doesn’t deserve her, he is ill-educated, he has never accomplished anything ever, a couple needs to respect each other before they can get married, they need to each bring something of value, and he has nothing of value to give her. Oh, and she is saying the whole thing at high volume while everyone in the restaurant listens. It is super embarressing.
Salman goes to drown his sorrows by stirring a big big pool of some kind of liquid in a dark room. The first thing I thought was that it was country liquor, made on the downlow from their corn fields. But that can’t be right, right? Maybe it is sugar cane juice. Anyway, his Dad finds him down there and drags him out. He tells him that he needs to try, nothing will happen until he tries. But if he tries, he can do anything.
So, Salman goes back to the wrestling school, showing up just in time to see a bunch of wrestlers lined up to talk to Kumud Mishra at one table with a bunch of papers, or Anushka at the other one. He learns that they are filling out applications for the state competition, and he immediately goes right to the front, knocking another wrestler back, to talk to Kumud. The wrestler behind him gives this great “what’s up with this guy?” hand gesture, which I loved.
Anyway, Salman says he wants to sign up to be their contestant for the state championship. Kumud says he can’t, he’s only been training for a few weeks. Backing up a second, Anushka is going out to dinner to meet his friends and she’s only known him a few weeks? You betcha she’s his girlfriend! You don’t do that for some guy you just met unless you are in love with him.
Salman accepts that he just started, but asks if he can fight the top 3 choices for State, and if he beats them, he will be their contestant. Kumud doesn’t want to let him, but can’t really stop him, so he says yes. Oh, and Salman rolls up his sleeves and his pants to fight, even though everyone else is wearing the little lungi thing. He has this whole variety of wrestling outfits in this film, and it is either that they all have some deep character significance, or that Salman’s body was in various stages of being camera ready, or that it is to hide stand ins more easily. Maybe once I get it on DVD and go through frame by frame I will be able to figure it out.
He loses all 3 matches. It’s kind of a shock. The hero never loses! And we already saw him make a fool of them all when he first got into the school. But these are bad loses. He gets pinned, and then gets all determined and pushes hard on the ground to pull himself up. And then fails! But it all works out, because just as the audience is feeling bad for him, Kumud is too. And Salman sees his sympathetic face and says no, it’s all right, he just had to get his level. He will come back in a month and defeat them all. Because the one thing the wrestler and the farmer have in common is the soil.
And, song! Which opens with an AMAZING Mother India reference! The image of him pulling out the flow, digging it into the dirt, and dragging it along, just like Nargis, is craaaaaaaaazy powerful. It’s a powerful image to begin with, but seeing it with the whole weight of the Mother India imagery just adds to it.
Also in this song, he outraces a train. Which looks quite old, and in fact I think they had to get it out of a museum to use it. Super cool image, a little hard to justify if this sequence is from just 8 years ago. Maybe Anant knows the museum curator and the train needs to do a run periodically just to stay loosened up?