I saw ADHM for the second time last night and, just as I suspected, I enjoyed it much more on a second watch, when I knew what was going to happen and I could focus on just appreciating how they built it up. And this also means I have a much clearer memory of the details, and can come back to my full summary in multiple parts, all renewed and refreshed!
Anyway, they are talking about how both of them are dating really really attractive people, and they make a bet, they will have a double date to decide who is really with the hottest person. This is what I was talking about at the end of my last post, how even though Anushka and Ranbir are unarguably attractive, their characters still identify more as the awkward less good types, not the beautiful golden ones. And so they have a conversation about their significant others in terms of appearance in a kind of “so cool that this person would be willing to be with me!” kind of way.
Oh, and to confirm the bet, Ranbir quotes Lagaan! Something like “How can you turn down this Lagaan?” Which the subtitles translate as “An offer you can’t refuse”. This is the first of many times that the subtitles decide that rather than just translating what was said, they will try to find an equivalent American film reference. Why?!?!?!? There are no equivalents! Americans don’t talk about movies like this. And it’s not going to help Americans enjoy or understand this film to have a bunch of random kind of cheesy references in it. Just translate the words they say!
We go straight from this conversation to the fancy restaurant where they are meeting. Anushka is casually leaning on the bar, wearing a black top and black leather jacket. This is what I mentioned in my non-spoiler review, how even the costuming is on point and tells you about the characters. Anushka wears what she likes, what she is comfortable in, not “date” clothes or “girly” clothes. She sees Ranbir arrive, and signals to him “check out my date!”. Her date is very very handsome. But then Ranbir signals back “check out mine!” and spins around the big white fur coat behind him to reveal Lisa Haydon in a super super revealing white dress!
I love the little signaling here, it feels very geeky kids at high school. They are more excited about sharing with each other the joke about how hot their dates are, than about actually being on a date with these hot people. But mostly, I love love LOVE Lisa Haydon! Oh my gosh, she is Marilyn Monroe level brilliant here. Managing to be sexy, but making a joke of it at the same time.
(If you think Marilyn wasn’t completely aware of and in control of her persona, you need to watch Some Like It Hot a few more times! Billy Wilder really really understood her)
And also making a joke of every sensitive culturally aware person ever. I saw a couple of comments, and now I can’t remember where, about how strange it is that this is a cross-religious romance, and it never comes up. But, that’s the realistic part! Based on the people I have known, young NRIs just don’t care about this stuff. At least not when it comes to hanging out with friends living on their own in the city. For one thing, the shared culture of their Indian heritage, like the Hindi films Anushka and Ranbir are constantly quoting to each other, is so much more important once you get outside India, than any differences like religion or language or ethnicity. For another, their religion is something they would have gotten from their families (since that’s where most people get their religions), and these two people are estranged from their families, and so it’s even less of an issue for them.
And so only Lisa Haydon, the idiot, is even trying to put in any division based on religion. And everyone else just tolerates her, as she comes rushing up, saying “You’re last name is Khan, right? I have been practicing this ALL DAY! ‘Sa-laam Wah-lay-kum'” and then she does a really exaggerated Adab to match the exaggerated pronunciation. It is perfection! Exactly like I have seen well-meaning people greet my NRI friends, who respond just like Anushka and Imran Abbas here, with pained smiles and a visible effort not to say “Why do you think I have to be greeted like this? I grew up in the same country as you!!!!” And then Lisa says, all cheerful, “Now, give us a Namaste!” And Ranbir rushes her away before she can make even more of a fool of herself, suggesting that they all go to the table and eat.
At the table, Lisa Haydon continues to be AWESOME. Totally willing to make a fool of herself with no holds bared. And somehow makes her golddigger character sympathetic! She may just be with Ranbir for his money, but she puts up with a lot! And she is so chipper about it. I don’t know if I could handle dating Ranbir in this movie, without blowing up at him at least once. There’s a reason Anushka keeps telling him to shut up.
Lisa’s table conversation roams from Amitabh Bachchan on KBC to embarrassing stories about how she and Ranbir met to suggestions that Anushka join her for a ladies lunch! Such fun! Anushka listens to all of this with an amused smile, and the occasional snarky interjection. I would be completely happy with an entire movie of Anushka making fun of Lisa. In fact, why couldn’t we get that movie? Cool girl and airhead going after the same guy, but eventually become friends and give each other support and decide they don’t need the guy at all. Karan! Spin-off idea! Do it!
Lisa is carrying the conversational ball mostly by herself, until Ranbir finally leaps in to ask Anushka, if she doesn’t want to go out to lunch with Lisa, maybe a movie? And Anushka remembers a movie she saw recently that she liked, Priceless. About a golddigger. Lisa should see it, she would like it. And Lisa proves her awesomeness by dropping the airhead act and saying “Excuse me? Are you calling me a golddigger?” Anushka apologizes without really apologizing, and Lisa throws her wine on her. At which Anushka just smiles in amusement and says “Really? Red wine on a black shirt?” And cut to Lisa storming out with a red stain on her white dress and Ranbir trying to calm her, and Anushka strolling out smiling after her, with Imran Abbas looking uncomfortable.
(I vaguely remember reading reviews of this movie when it first came out, I looked it up again just now. It looks fun! Very similar to Yes Boss. But with different twists.)
Hilarious scene, absolutely. But also really interesting for learning more about Anushka and Ranbir’s characters. Anushka really doesn’t care about most people. She doesn’t care if she insults Lisa Haydon, she doesn’t care if she scares off Imran Abbas, she is just herself. Ranbir cares a little too much. He will stay with Lisa, even though on some level he must know she doesn’t really care about him, because he needs that constant reinforcement. And he can’t bring himself to really hurt her or push her away. But Anushka and Ranbir can help each other. She can drive off Lisa for him. And he can be the one person she can’t drive away.
Thank goodness, Lisa gets one more scene, and it’s one that takes the usually “sexy eye candy!” trope and turns it on it’s head. Usually in movies, the idea is that the heroine is sexy and the hero is just seeing her as a sexy thing, even when she is trying to express an emotion. I’m thinking of the Housefull movies, for instance, where the boys “win” by convincing the heroines to feel something, even though from their side it is mostly about sex. But in this scene, Lisa is coming out of the bathroom in a ridiculous sexy corset outfit talking about how her feelings were hurt, her heart hurts! Only, it is played for laughs. Because it is ridiculous to think that a woman just happens to be sexy like this even though her heart is broken. Like she doesn’t know exactly how she looks and tried to look that way on purpose. In this version, both Lisa and Ranbir are play acting, and they know it.
(see how Lisa and the others here are all sexy but have to pretend like they don’t know it, like they guys are “getting away” with something by seeing them that way)
The next morning, Ranbir wakes up, and we get the reverse of the trope, with guys being allowed to have funny bodies, not sexy. Ranbir is in boxers with red hearts on them, and sunglasses. He strolls into his kitchen and turns on his Saavn on his phone (hey! This is how I get up too!) and starts dancing, not in a sexy or graceful way, but with a lot of but wiggles and other dopey moves. Oh, and he is dancing to “Tohfa Tohfa” from the movie Tohfa, starring Jeetendra and future Member of Parliament Jaya Prada.
(I know, film and politics are connected, it’s not that unusual, etc. etc. But this is such a silly looking song! How could anyone vote for her with a straight face?)
I know he is dancing to this song, because wonderful Saavn has posted a “Jolly Good Bollywood” playlist, the same playlist Ranbir has in the movie, including all the old songs they listen to in the film. Well, most of them. There are a couple I am still trying to identify. But at least I know what this one is! Also, this is really clever product placement, because most people really do listen to the songs on Saavn (or Gaana or Raaga), so why not name the service in the script and get some money for it? Much more natural than having the characters say “I listen to it on an unnamed music app on my phone.”
In the middle of Ranbir’s dopey dancing, Anushka comes in and gives him a “wah wah!” Ranbir is only a little embarrassed, which is significant, since we will see in a moment that normally he is very shy about revealing his inner life. Anushka also offers him a cactus as an apology for the scene the night before. She explains that thorns are better than flowers, flowers wither and die, thorns survive. An interesting theme for the movie, that romantic love can rot and die. But the more difficult kinds of love, the ones that aren’t beautiful and fragrant and fragile, those can survive and survive. And that the pain of love, the “thorn”, is better than the flower of it.
Anushka moves past her apology pretty quickly to start asking Ranbir about his music. Which is when they exchange Saavn playlists, “Jolly Good Bollywood” and the other one with a less catchy name that I can’t remember. They already bonded over movie quotes the night before, but now this is a slightly different kind of bonding, admitting that they both sincerely love the old-school tacky 80s songs, that it is what makes them happy whenever they feel sad. This is what I was saying in my last part, that their bond over Hindi films isn’t about the films, it’s about the loneliness and lack of love they both have at the inside of themselves, which the films help to alleviate. And it is this lack that brings them together, more than anything else.
It’s also this lack that makes them so immediately comfortable with each other. Anushka jokingly begs for a few scraps of food, and Ranbir passes over the bowl of cereal he just made, and Anushka casually starts eating it, then passes it back. It’s remarkable intimacy, sharing a bowl of food, for people who just met a few days earlier.
I didn’t notice until my second watch, but it is Anushka who keeps the relationship going every time. She is the one who called him over to dance with him, she is the one who invites him to leave the party with her and go out bar-hopping (quoting “It’s the time to Disco” at him), she is the one who suggests the double-date to see who has the hotter significant other. She is the one who came over to his house with an apology cactus. And now she is the one who invites him to meet her at 4 o’clock that day. And it’s also the first time they start their running joke, he says he is very busy “classes, appointments”, and she replies “Shut Up! You’re free!”