I knew this movie was a big deal, and I knew it was inspired/related to Maine Pyar Kiya. But I didn’t know how innocent it would be! Innocent like Maine Pyar Kiya, but even more so.
I don’t know why, but it hadn’t occurred to me until watching this movie that a lot of these really innocent love stories in Indian films are kind of child romances. Like, much of the relationship would make the same amount of sense if it were between an 8 year old and a 6 year old, instead of an 18 year old and a 16 year old. Which is kind of nice, we are in such a hurry to make teenagers grow up, I like it that these films treat them as more like children than like adults.
Student of the Year, for instance, these were supposed to be high school students, but they were so sexualized! Their bodies weren’t believable for kids that age (except for Alia, who actually was that age), and their relationships weren’t either. Alia and Varun were supposed to be so sophisticated, Siddharth was supposed to be so mature and wise, but they were only teenagers! Where was the innocence and the childish interests and everything else? I still like the movie, and it works (kind of), because Karan plays it like these kids think they should be very sophisticated and sexual and so on, but at heart they are innocent. But it would have been better if he had just set the story at college, or better yet at a grad school.
(Not teenagers, right?)
And then there’s the flipside of that. If we are going to have this super innocent love story, thank goodness it is between two people barely out of childhood, not a pretense of 20-somethings who can’t imagine so much as holding hands, because they are just that pure. I’m not talking about believing that people may not have dated before, may be shy at an arranged marriage meeting, anything like that. But the characters where they can barely make eye contact, like they’ve never seen a woman before or something.
Force, for instance, I really appreciated how they established our hero and heroine as two adult people who knew themselves and knew how to be in the world, but happened to have never had the time or the interest for romance before. In contrast, Vivah! I love that movie, but the amount of “innocence” we were supposed to find believable from Shahid and Amrita was just ludicrous! He’s old enough to take a senior position at his father’s company, and lives in a large city, and yet he never even though of girls until his engagement? I find Salman and Madhuri in HAHK much more believable, at least there you got a vague sense that they had both flirted with the opposite sex before.
Anyway, this movie, maybe because it was a little more modern, maybe because Siddharth and Trisha were established slightly differently, I really noticed how it addressed the idea of two people on the edge of maturity, with one foot in childhood and one in adulthood. Especially in regards to Siddharth’s “ladies man” credentials. Sure, he’s the typical playboy flirt. But I also find it believable that he is that sweet and patient and open when he really falls in love. There is a difference between enjoying spending time with co-ed groups your age, maybe even flirting a little with the girls, maybe kissing a little, and actually having control of what is happening.
He seems to flirt just as a default setting, with no ability to alter it depending on the reaction of the opposite party. He is awake enough to know that girls are fun to be around, but not to know how to make them want to stay around him more. And when he really feels something for a girl, it comes out the same way it would when he was a little boy, with teasing and jokes and playing games. Literally playing games, he would rather play Lagori with Trisha and the younger children, then go inside and be with the “grown-ups”.
(Lagori! Or Pitto or Satoliya. I finally have a name for this!)
And then there’s Trisha. Who is mostly the same as any other heroine. Because heroine’s are always supposed to be super innocent, and are often supposed to be super young as well. But because of the slight twist they make to her backstory, to change it from Maine Pyar Kiya, I find it even more believable than in Maine Pyar Kiya. Which brings me to SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
We don’t start with Siddharth. This isn’t his story. We start with Trisha, her story, and then we watch Siddharth for the rest of the film slowly grow into someone worthy of her. This is part of the reason Trisha’s character feels so naturally innocent. We watch her grow from a baby to an adult, the audience looks at her and still sees a child, because we just saw her as a child a few minutes earlier.
And we are seeing her through the eyes of another child, her older brother who raised her from babyhood despite him being only a child himself. Because of this, because her household is herself and her brother, there is an unusual amount of naivety around. Even Maine Pyar Kiya, Alok Nath was the sweetest kindest father alive. But he was a father, meaning he had a wife at one point and had a life before his daughter and experiences he could pass on to her and use to help her grow up. But in this, Trisha and her brother Srihari are equally inexperienced. Srihari is obviously a man, a grown adult, by the end of the film. He is respected in the community, he is the head of his household, he is wise and noble and all good things. But in terms of love and romance, it is not part of his life or his character, and it isn’t part of his sister’s life or character either.
There’s also the matter of their tragic childhood, which we see in detail. It provides the backstory both for why the two of them are so close, and for why they cling to the values of childhood so strongly. Every moment of happiness in those days was hard won, and they are terrified of losing their current security. And so they dream of living like this forever, Srihari never thinks of marriage, Trisha only of marriage if it means her husband moves in with them.
The final touch to establishing her character is providing a reasonable motive for her to leave her brother, for the first time, and open herself up to meeting Siddharth. In the flashback, we saw Trisha’s first day of school, where she was befriended by another little girl. And now that little girl, her only friend outside of her brother, who has been in and out of their lives since they were 5, is getting married. Only an event this significant, happening to her only friend outside of the house, would force her to leave.
In a bigger sense, this is a predictable step in coming of age. She left her brother to go to school, and therefore made a friend outside of the home. That happened because she turned 5 (or 4? Whenever school starts in India). Now she is turning 16 (or 18? whenever you take your exams in India), and so it is inevitable that marriage is going to enter the life of someone close to her, and therefore her life. Which is what happens.
Meanwhile, Siddharth gets much much less of a backstory. He is in London, his family is rich, his father (Prakash Raj!) is more of a friend than a father, his mother is bossy and distant. Siddharth himself is all about partying on boats and wearing cool clothes. But also about openly sobbing and hugging his father at the airport when they are about to be separated for the first time. This marriage is also the first time marriage is entering Siddharth’s life, Trisha’s friend is his cousin. And although it is handled a little more humorously, this marriage also means that Siddharth is leaving his home, getting away from his father who treats him like a friend, and all his fun-time friends, and back to India.
Of course, shy village girl Trisha and wealthy international Siddharth immediately dislike each other. That part is predictable, the teasing and practical jokes, and then the slow turn towards friendship, and finally love. The details are neat, Siddharth fixing the toy horse her brother gave her when it breaks and dressing it up like a groom’s horse, the two of them holding hands, and then progressing to hugging, and confessing their love.
But what I am more interested is how the rest of the household reacts. First, Trisha’s friend (Siddharth’s cousin) is quick to see what is happening, and approves of it. She is in an odd position, as Trisha’s friend and sponsor in the household, and Siddharth’s cousin who he hasn’t seen since childhood. By family, she is closer to Siddharth. But in reality, she is closer to Trisha. Where I really noticed it is when Siddharth has to “rescue” her. His cousin doesn’t ask for his help, she talks to Trisha, and it is Trisha who brings in Siddharth. Trisha argues that Siddharth was the only one she could talk to, because he is family but also their age. Which makes sense, and is an interesting statement about these “children” trying to fight there way to independence and adulthood. But is also a sweet way of showing how Trisha already trusts Siddharth, even while she is still officially mad at him.
I also really like how the “other woman” is handled. It’s kind of similar to Maine Pyar Kiya, the obviously sexual woman is also obviously unpleasant to the hero. Ew, yuch, why would he want to spend time with her! But the difference is, in this film, Trisha and he are in the middle of a practical joke war, and yet they both also understand how unpleasant the “other woman” is. To the point that Trisha uses her as a weapon against Siddharth, because who would ever want to spend time with some woman in short skirts who keeps rubbing against you? That’s just gross! Siddharth and Trisha, despite their different backgrounds, have the same discomfort with sexuality.
So, that’s the first half, wedding, romance, blah blah blah. And then it all goes hideously wrong. Srihari arrives just as Siddharth’s wealthy relatives learn that the kids are in love and confront Trisha. The poor bride is in this terrible position, responsible to her friend, but unable to make a move to help her without ruining her wedding day and possibly her marriage. And Srihari is in the same terrible position, eager to defend his sister, but also obligated not to ruin the wedding of his “sister”. Again, there is a little added layer to it by making Srihari her brother instead of her father. The people of the younger generation are innocent, but they are also powerless. The bride, Trisha, and Srihari have a pure and perfect relationship between them, but they have no power to defend that relationship against the small-minded hatefulness of the adults.
The bride can do one small thing, even if none of the adults will listen to her, she can speak to Siddharth. Keeping it all among the children. And Siddharth responds by running off to the farm to declare his love for Trisha. Aw, that’s sweet! If predictable. Not by the characters, Trisha is shocked to see him, but by the audience, who has seen this story before.
And then it’s just Maine Pyar Kiya with a twist. Instead of earning money, Siddharth has to work a field. And there are some “evil” people working against him all along, the farmhand who enjoys his embarrassment, and the money lender’s son who wants to marry Trisha himself. But in the end he proves his love, not by success at working the field, but by his faithfulness and determination in staying put and staying working. And Trisha’s faithfulness, insisting on eating with him, the same poor food he is offered, and sleeping on the ground instead of her bed, just as he does.
And just like in Maine Pyar Kiya, the “challenge” is thrown out, as he has proved himself in every way that matters already. Srihari decides to help Siddharth out, and secretly moves some wheat from his snack to Siddharth’s to ensure that Siddharth can fulfill the requirement of growing more wheat than Srihari. Just like Alok Nath giving in at the end of Maine Pyar Kiya, even though Salman failed to earn the money required.
But then there is an interesting twist. On top of the other twists. At the last minute, Trisha is kidnapped. That’s not the twist, the heroine is always kidnapped. No, the twist is the resolution. The bad guys, the gundas hired by Siddharth’s wealthy relatives combined with the village money lender and his son, take her away and try to force her into marriage with the money lender’s son. But then the servant from the house shows up and manages to help her get away. They run run run, Siddharth and Srihari are both on their way, big fight scene with everyone beating up each other, and in the middle of it the city gundas get kind of disgusted with everything that the village people are doing. And meanwhile the money lender’s son has pulled away Trisha and forced her to the ground and is trying to tie the sacred thread around her neck. Srihari is running to save her, he raises his weapon up, and then the money lender’s son’s eyes roll back and the camera pulls back to reveal Siddharth, having gotten there a second sooner, and brought down a machete through his neck. And as the police arrive, Srihari reaches out and gently takes the knife out of Siddharth’s hand.
So, twist number one, the village people, Trisha’s enemies not Siddharth’s, are the more dangerous ones. Ultimately, Trisha would have been kidnapped and threatened at some point by this guy even if Siddharth hadn’t come into her life. Twist number two, violent death with consequences!
Both of these tie alllllll the way back to my original point. That Trisha and Siddharth are remarkably innocent at the start of the film, when they first meet. That’s the point of the whole second half, these are two children who fell in love, but as the months passed, Siddharth and Trisha grew up. She found her inner strength which let her run away from the bad guys and fight back at the end. And Siddharth proved himself able to take care of her in every way, supporting her and defending her and everything else. And Srihari proved that his requirements weren’t pointless. He needed Siddharth to grow up, because Trisha was already in danger, even before they met, and she needed someone who could take care of her.
Which brings me to the epilogue. See, this whole thing was all a story Srihari was telling his jailer. Because he is about to be released after 5 years, and he is sure that in the meantime his sister will have had a child and will be waiting for his release to have the naming ceremony. So he needs to pick out a name, and the jailor offers to help, but wants to know how Srihari can be so sure his sister will have waited until he was released to name the child, especially since he hasn’t let her in for a visit in the past 5 years.
At the end, after learning that Srihari took the blame for Siddharth’s killing of Trisha’s attacker, the jailer is all touched and eager to see their reunion now that Srihari is finally out of jail. Only, Srihari steps out to find Siddharth and Trisha standing in their marital garb. They don’t have kids, they didn’t even get married! They waited for him to be free.
Awwww! And also, interesting! First, that they put priority on Srihari, over their parents and everyone else, to be at their wedding. Second, that this is the real sign of maturity, that they are waiting to be married until the time is right, not just rushing off because they are in love. The children have finally grown up!