It is ridiculous to take 8 parts to describe a slightly over 2 hour movie. Enough! I am going to finish it in this last post if it kills me. UPDATE: Okay, turns out it is killing me, one more part for the epilogue. (part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, part 6 here)
I left off with Ali Zafar! The perfect transition fling man. Alia has started therapy with Shahrukh, they have dug past her surface issues, her discomfort with her romantic life, her guilt over not trying harder in her career, and in their last session began to just brush the surface of her real problems, that she has no happy memories of her child for some reason she isn’t yet ready to tell Shahrukh.
But, now that her surface issues are finished (relaxed about taking a break from her career and staying in Goa, no longer guilty about having dated multiple men), time for a little healthy fling! And Ali is just so flingable! Sensitive, artistic, relaxed. And sooooooooo handsome. And yet also with some indefinable something that tells you not to actually start a conversation, because there just isn’t much there, there.
But he is perfect for a moonlit fire circle on the beach, strumming his guitar, and sharing a kiss. Which is what Alia just did at the end of the last section. And now here she is in Shahrukh’s office, humming Ali’s song and tapping her finger on the window. It has an obvious resemblance to one of her little childhood memory flashes, looking out the window at the rain. In both situations, she is lost in her own little world, not engaging. But this time she is lost in a happy new love cloud of a world.
She is also dressed very differently. In both this session and the next one, instead of her usual multi-colored clothing, she is in simply jeans and a dark top. I don’t think this symbolizes anything too complex, like she is secretly in mourning or anything. I just think that it is a sign of how she is turning internal, less interested in sending her personality out into the world, because she is so much in her own mind and her own emotions.
She is so much in her own mind that she doesn’t even notice when Shahrukh enters the room, instead singing the little love song Ali sang the other night. Shahrukh walks over to his cabinet, in the foreground of the screen, and picks up his clipboard and glasses (those old man glasses that unfasten and fasten and stay around the neck), as Alia is singing a line about being in love. Shahrukh turns around and gives a fake “Excuse me? Are you talking to me?” Alia shakes her head, and then keeps singing and says “Last night I went to see a Band, a Band, a Band” and Shahrukh sings back to her “Who was the band the band the band?” Alia sings back “Band I don’t know, but singer I know!” And Shahrukh starts to sing back to her, and then his voice goes, and instead he just asks “Who was the singer?”
Before moving on, let’s talk about body language and interactions! Shahrukh is still being a little, if not exactly flirty, then informal. But, on the other hand, he makes a little joke of her singing a love song to him, since clearly it is not expected or acceptable. So I am still on the fence/leaning towards “it’s all part of his therapeutic technique”.
On the other hand, on the separate question of whether she really is a “special” patient for him, yes absolutely! They are tossing his big wooden mallet back and forth as they sing, it’s all very fun and casual, and it feels like he is letting this mood happen as part of her treatment, but he is also enjoying it and likes joking with her, in a way he probably doesn’t with his other patients. Oh, and Shahrukh’s singing voice is still not the best.
Alia finally sits down and explains that she met and liked the singer, and announces he is “my new chair!”. Shahrukh sits down in his own “doctor” chair and asks “and how is this new chair? Comfortable?” Alia says “yeah, but…it’s a musical chair.” Shahrukh clarifies “and you don’t like music?” and Alia explains that she does, but not all the time. Shahrukh suggests that she tell him that, Alia hesitates, Shahrukh goes on to suggest that maybe she should just tell him how she feels, and shares his own story of having gone to the Opera with someone, and hating it, but putting up a face. He points out, why lie for 6 months and be miserable and break up anyway? Why not just tell him now and see what happens and let him know that you are miserable?
This is, obviously, very good advice. Nothing much to talk about with that. But I am interested in Alia’s hesitation here, because it is the flip side of her driving Kunal and Angad Bedi away. In those situations, the relationship was moving towards a commitment and permanence, and she freaked out and blew it up. But in this case, the relationship is just starting, and she is freaking out and preparing to do whatever it takes to make it last.
Later, Alia’s issues will be identified as her saying “good-bye” before the other person has a chance to do it. And yes, that is the big part of it. But I think the Ali relationship is pointing to how the relationships don’t just end badly, they also start badly. Alia is too eager, too excited, wants to disappear into the happy love cloud she is in now. And she is afraid that if she says anything they don’t like, if she does anything they don’t like, they will go away. It’s only later, when the guy confirms that he really does like her and isn’t going anywhere, that’s when she gets really scared and starts pulling away.
Basically, if they act like they might not be super committed, she assumes they are being honest and tries to keep them around. Once they start acting super committed, she assumes they are lying and about to leave her. It’s all just a reaction to her fears, not a calm consideration of whether she actually wants to be with this person.
But Shahrukh is pulling her away from that. Nudging her towards honesty and honest consideration of Ali, instead of just grabbing on him as a life-saver. Which also lets her honestly decide that she wants to end it at a reasonable time in a reasonable manner. Oh, and when she is walking away from the session, she hears him singing faux-opera as inside and laughs. It’s another little thing that isn’t necessary for her therapy, that feels more like him enjoying having a joke to share with a friend.
(Also, all this talk of Opera just made me want to re-watch this film)
And then at home we see Alia browsing on her laptop, googling Shahrukh. And pulling up a slideshow of pictures of him with an elegant looking white woman in formal clothes. So, what’s the feeling, how many people think that is supposed to be his wife and how many people think that is just supposed to show that he is a cool global figure who hangs out at events with white women?
Back to Ali! Alia is hanging out at his tent-house-thing (don’t make me date a hippy artist!) while he heats up chocolate and sings along with the recording he is playing. Alia keeps trying to interrupt his singing to ask stuff like “so, you like strawberries?” and he keeps giving her a smarmy grin and humming along and feeding her food. Until Alia finally snaps and says “can we just, can we just cut the music? I need silence!” Ali looks surprised, but goes over the turns off the stereo, then picks up his guitar, and mimes singing and playing it to make her laugh. And then she apologizes and he tells her it is fine, although actually that is a song he wrote. For her. But it’s okay, silence is also good. And he kind of smiles and goes in for a kiss and she smiles back, and they are vibing together and it’s all great. And then her phone goes off, and Ali makes a joke of it, all “that’s not silent!” Alia crosses to the other side of the room to turn it off, Alia follows her and pulls her into a chair to sit with him, and tells her that he wants to know everything about her life, who she is, what her work is like, everything! Just tell him! It’s so sweet and kind and the exact right thing to say, and Alia hesitates and looks at the camera like “get me out of here!”
Lots to analyse here, but first a camera note! Did you see that this scene broke the 180 rule? Indian films break that rule all the time, but this film is so “invisible camera”y that it surprised me. The two other times she broke it was when she was doing a “behind the mirror” shot, so it was a little less surprising. But in this scene, as they walk over to where Alia’s phone is, the camera completely switches directions. It was very confusing! And I’m thinking it was because his strange hippy tent looking room only looked good from limited angles so they had to do funky things with the camera?
Camera-time over, let’s talk relationship! What I love about the Ali character is that he is just so nice! Sincerely really nice! He is a good guy who likes Alia, but also a decent human being who treats her decently just because she is a fellow human being. There’s no other shoe waiting to drop or anything like that.
And he also isn’t passionately in love with her or over the top in his devotion. He wrote her a song, he’s making her dinner, but he’s not professing undying love or anything like that. Just a normal beginning stages of a relationship.
And Alia is being normal too. She actually expresses her desires instead of letting them fester until there is a big explosion. But she is also nice and courteous in reaction to him, not overly in-love acting, or overly defensive, just polite and interested in a normal way.
And the beauty of this all is that she still doesn’t really like him! She isn’t being driven by her fears or her desires, she isn’t running away too late or too soon, she is doing it all just right! He’s not the guy for her, so why waste both their time?
That’s what Alia’s making her peace with in her next Shahrukh session. Just deciding that this isn’t working out, because it just isn’t. Also, she is ODD in that session! She is stretched out on the couch with her bare foot dangling over the edge and slowly tapping on the table. Shahrukh takes a good long look at her (the camera lets us see his perspective, slowly looking from the top of her head all the way to her tapping foot). And then he just asks “so, what’s going on?” (or maybe something else, but I know it was open and non-judgmental)
He asks if she told the new “chair” about music, and she stays a little loopy and out of it as she says “yes” “And???” “And he was really nice about it!” But she still doesn’t look happy or comfortable, and Shahrukh is watching her closely. She pops up straight on the couch finally and asks “Why are romantic relationships so irritating?”
Before moving on to this next bit, I want to go back to Shahrukh’s reaction to her and the way he asks about her relationship with Ali. This was the scene were I most felt the male-female bit. Not in a romantic way, but in a protective way. There was the very faintest hint that Shahrukh was worried about Ali breaking her heart or damaging her, in a way that he wouldn’t have been worried about her parents or her friends or someone else. Maybe it was just me, but I somehow had the ever so slight sense of “ready to fight off bad guys” from him here. Again, not romantic, just that he is a gentleman and this is a woman he has come to care about, and when another man enters the picture, he becomes naturally defensive. Especially because Alia is clearly dealing with something here, something odd, with all the dreaminess and strangeness, and it is possible that she is dealing with some damage Ali has done to her.
But once she pops upright, acknowledges that Ali was really nice, but…. And then shifts to a sweeping “why are romantic relationships so irritating?” statement, then Shahrukh changes ever so slightly and I stop thinking of him as a defensive alpha male, and go back to seeing him as a therapist. He asks her “who are the 5 people closest to you?”
Alia is all “what? Why?” And Shahrukh explains that there is a “very important study based on the size of the human brain” (love the hand gesture he does here to signify brain size) that says everyone has about 150 people in their lives. (this is an actual thing by the way, called “Dunbar’s Number”. Here’s a link) And then 50 people they would invite over for dinner. And finally 5 people who make up their whole world. (this may also be an actual thing, but I haven’t been able to find a link. But it sounds reasonable!) So, he asks Alia, who are her 5?
(and when those five come together, they make a fist!)
Alia barely has to think about it, and starts rattling off “Fatty, Kiddo, Jackie, Alka, Raghu…no”. Shahrukh jumps in to say that the number can change over a life time. Which feels like not just him explaining the rules of this “game” to her, but also giving her permission to let relationships go.
Going back to hating on Kunal for a second, the fact that Alia would even start to put him on this list makes me think they have known each other and been friends for a long long time. Which makes it extra sleazy that he would get engaged without even telling her. It retroactively damaged not just their brief romantic relationship, but their long term friendship that made Alia put him in her top 5. No wonder she went into such a spiral!
Going back to the “game”, Alia acknowledges that the 5th might change, but says she is sure the top 4, she thinks, will always be there in her life. Okay, Shahrukh asks, what makes them different from the “changeable 5” (which is a really nice way to say it, and something I might borrow to refer to my friends’ rotating significant others). Alia explains it is how she feels with them, free, herself, respected, special, safe. Shahrukh jumps on that last “safe? You don’t feel safe with your boyfriends?” And this is another moment were I got the faintest hint of testosterone, in a completely appropriate way, but still the slightest sense that Shahrukh’s general gentleman instincts were waking up.
Which is maybe why Alia is so quick to try to clarify that yes, she feels safe, but not….something. Something isn’t there with her boyfriends that is there with her friends. And she has the same kind of hesitant and thoughtful look on her face that she had at the beginning of this session.
She still has that look later when she walks along the beach and spots Ali singing the song he wrote for her. Ali has his usual group of dreadlocked tourists, including a couple of girls doing a fire dance behind him (and seeming very bored with it, almost as bad as the ribbon dances at the finale of Sultan). He sees Alia and smiles at her and immediate stops playing. Alia smiles back and gestures for him to go on. So he goes back to playing, and when he looks up, she is gone. He looks for a bit, then goes back to playing.
And Alia goes home (still the same outfit), to talk to Jackie. She walks into her room and is all happy to see that Jackie is already talking to Fatty on Skype (Skype=the only conceivable means of communication in this cinematic universe). Only, she notices right away, that Jackie and Fatty have silly smiles on their faces. And asks them “What, what?” And Fatty says “Jackie has a booooyfrieeeend.” Alia is all excited, and then jumps to “Why didn’t you tell me?” And then makes another leap “Is it that guy from the bar? You said he was weird!” Jackie jumps in “See! This is why I didn’t tell you, you always make fun of my guys!” Alia doesn’t accept that, is still mad, Fatty is on Skype trying to distract them, stands up to show off her big her pregnancy stomach is now. Finally they get to the root of it, Jackie says that she didn’t tell Alia because she is “never here!” Alia jumps in defensively “What, I’m here! I’m HERE!” And as she is protesting, Jackie storms off, and Fatty hangs up on Skype, so Alia is left to look at a blank computer screen saying “Fatty? Hello?”
(Jackie also says that she spent the whole night dancing and listening to Honey Singh songs with him, and it was good fun! That does sound like good fun! Jackie! I will hang out with you!)
Oh man, I forgot something! Well, two things. First, there was a scene between the first session and her date with Ali, Alia and Jackie and her large assistant drunk and hanging out on Jackie’s porch. Alia talks about how she likes people who smell nice, Jackie and her assistant have a spot on “drunk wisdom” conversation about how dogs also like people who smell nice. And Alia quotes Shahrukh at them, and then all sigh and repeat his name “khhhhhaaaaan.” Also, during that first session when she is talking about Ali and liking to talk while he likes music, she accidentally knocks over a little knight figurine sitting on the table and breaks it. She tries to put it back together again, and apologizes, but Shahrukh tells her it’s fine he “likes to fix broken things.”
Both of these things tell us that Alia is beginning to get a thing for Shahrukh. Remember, she gets clumsy when she is in love?
But that’s not important just yet, first she has to fix her relationships with her friends. This whole section feels kind of confused, mixing in friendship fights with her sudden Ali break-up, but it all comes out of that conversation with Shahrukh about who is in her life. Makes her realize that she is wasting her time with Ali, because he will never be one of those special 5, so she is allowed to just walk away and end it. But also makes her appreciate who is really in her life, she returns home all ready to tell Jackie and Fatty about the end of her romance and enjoy their friendship, to discover that they have seemingly moved on.
But she fixes it the next morning. She brings Jackie breakfast in bed, and when Jackie asks what is so “special”, Alia tells her “you are”. Alia’s right, these people will always be in her life, and she should appreciate that. They are “special” just because they love her and make her feel special. And, conversely, Ali is not going to be “special”, because he doesn’t love her and know her and make her feel like her friends do.
And then she goes, all cheerful, to meet with Shahrukh again. And again there is a note on the door, to go around the back. She finds him repairing a bike, super Gandhi-like shot with the wheel and all. And there are two little boys watching while he tries to fix it. She puts it together that he fixes bikes, and he’s an artist! All that stuff around the house, he made that. Shahrukh nods and says something like “so you finally figured it out!” He doesn’t seem terribly offended, but he does sound sincerely pleased. So once again, he isn’t unprofessional enough to demand a reaction from her, but he is human enough to have an extra liking for her and enjoy when she notices things.
And then he flips the bike he’s working on and gives it to her and tells her today they are having a bike riding session. Gorgeous gorgeous shot of a palm lined road as they ride along. Both of them are wearing kooky glasses, that Shahrukh made. And Shahrukh asks her what happened with the musician. She tells him it’s over, “not this chair”, and gives a little shiver. Shahrukh points out that people usually shiver when they are sick, or cold, or….afraid? Alia immediately bikes away, which doesn’t exactly disprove Shahrukh’s theory. But as she is riding, she is explaining, she just wants to be happy, just wants to be free. And Shahrukh rides after her, saying yeah yeah, he wants her to be free too. Oh, and I don’t know if this is an accident or a small character thing Shahrukh came up with, but he twists his wrist a little so he can see his watch at one point while he is riding. And when she falls off and lands, he actually checks it again before he refuses to help her up since their time is up, the little joke from the trailer.
It’s good we had that little bit of lightness, because the next sequence is just terrible. Gah!!! The only good part about this next sequence is, maybe, Alia’s dress. I can’t decide how I feel about it. I like the color, red with just a hint of burgundy. And I like the loose blousey top cut above a full skirt. But I think it would look better if the skirt were full length and it didn’t have this odd ruffle in the front. Am I remembering right? Is there a ruffle?
Oh! And the other good part that requires no changes is her relationship with her brother. That’s how the scene opens with her casually teasing this nice looking, distinctly younger and happier seeming guy. This is “Kiddo”, the adored baby of the family, the second person on her list of important people in her life, the one she talked about with such warmth when discussing her childhood. And he lives up to the hype! I don’t feel like she was seeing him through rose-tinted glasses, or making their relationship into something it isn’t. They really are that happy and easy together. And he understands her enough to be eager to see what she does to the poor sap her uncle has dragged in to meet her at his party. His party, which as Alia points out is this huge thing all for him, and when she came back she just got a dinner, is a horrible family type event. Middle aged women keep coming up to pinch Kiddo’s cheeks, and nag Alia about being “still not married.”
And then horrible uncle drags her over to meet the poor sap! I am so impressed with this actor’s abilities, and bravery. Because he perfected an unpleasant over confident bore ti such a degree that he will never ever be attractive to a woman ever again. Literally one word out of his mouth and boom! You know EXACTLY who this guy is. Thinks he’s awesome, because his mother and everyone else has always told him he’s awesome. But is not, actually, awesome.
Alia gets his number pretty quick too. Starts out with “so, why should I be interested in you?” Let’s him flail around for a while, arguing that “I think I can be interesting with people who are interesting.” While she just stands there and sips her wine. This is definitely “Kiera”, to go back to my name theory, the cool and confident in her own skin grown-up. Not “Koko”, the difficult but entertaining teenager. And definitely not Kiera-Shiera, the broken down little girl we keep glimpsing in flashbacks. She can handle borish young men, that’s not her problem, her problem is something different.
Which is what we see in the next scene. We jump right from the start of the party, with people arriving and being introduced, to the tail end family night. Suresh, Aunt and Uncle, parents, Alia, Kiddo, and one other middle-aged woman I wasn’t able to identify. They are all sitting around in the smaller living room, snacking. And talking about how wonderful Kiddo is. His Dad is bragging a little, about how he just finished at “London University”, and already has a scholarship and a job offer from a top company, Kiddo looks a little unhappy with all the praise, and then good old Uncle chimes in to say “Yes! You are doing it right!” and then shoot a pointed look at Alia. Kiddo tries to jump in and redirect the conversation, but it is already on course. Alia’s Mom notices her and tells her to please, eat something! Alia says “fine, all right, give me something” and her Mom hands her a plate.
This is a little moment, but I wanted to pause here because I noticed something odd. Her Mom was putting this plate together before she even spoke to Alia. So either she was worried about Alia eating all along and putting together a plate just in case she had a chance to give it to Alia. Or, this was a plate for herself, which she immediately gave up to her daughter. Either way, it shows a higher level of concern and guilt about Alia than is apparent in the casually critical way everyone else is talking about her.
The conversation keeps cycling around, how Kiddo was always a wonderful child and Alia was so difficult, always crying and being dramatic. While Kiddo just followed his mother around everywhere saying “Mamma mamma.” Kiddo smiles and says “I found it was a better way to get your attention than crying.” But of course Alia, just terrible! And then Uncle has to chime in to talk about how parenting is the hardest job in the world “And it never ends!” Everyone nods along. And Suresh mumbles “every parent should get the Padma Bhushan.” Everyone kind of looks at him funny, and he changes it to just saying “this food is delicious!” That Suresh! Master of playing to the audience, so long as the audience is a bunch of middle-aged blowhards.
It’s this last exchange that is the final straw for Alia. She responds to her uncle saying “And it never ends!” with “Then just end it! Just stop! You have these children without thinking about it, you do a bad job at the start, and then you keep going. Just give up! You have a little girl, and you just abandon her! You left me! You left me for TWO YEARS! And right when I was finally FINALLY happy at Grandma and Grandpa’s, you came back and took me away. And yes! YES! I failed the Second Standard! Shame Shame, Stupid Alia failed the second standard! And do you want to know something else? I am in THERAPY!” This whole speech, she goes from sitting on her chair and making emphatic gestures, to standing, to finally reaching the point of hitting her face, flinging herself around, face muscles stretched out, no self-control any more. This is Kiera-Sheira! The little girl with the tantrums and the yelling, the one her parents were talking about. This is the only way she knows how to express her misery and anger and sad and all those other emotions that are just too big.
By the way, personal story here, I used to have tantrums too when I was little, like 2-6. No one ever believed it though. Because I would be this nice happy sweet little girl in public, and then the stress of school and life and everything else would suddenly overwhelm me once I got home, and the littlest thing would set me off into sobbing screaming throwing things tantrums. And Alia is doing an amazing job capturing that feeling I vaguely remember from early childhood, of having something inside of me so big that my little body couldn’t hold it in and it was tearing its way out of me. Like I was being driven by some outside force that I couldn’t control. And then my Mom would leave me alone in my room to cry it out for a while, and then come in and cuddle and read a picture book and it was all better.
Which is what happens here, Alia breaks apart, goes off to be alone, and eventually is quietly comforted. Alia completely melts down and runs out of the room. Her horrible uncle starts to apologize for her saying “she’s under a lot of stress, out of work”. And Kiddo, wonderful Kiddo who is holding back sympathy tears, says “She’s not out of work! She has plenty of work, she has chosen not to take it!” And then stands up and walks out. Alia’s mother, looking incredibly upset follows him out, they both catch up with Kiddo and the uncle says “Her parents returned when she failed the Second Standard, and then she never failed again. So they did the right thing! They did!” The uncle is kind of holding on to her mother and holding her up at the same time, she is crying too hard to say anything. Kiddo just looks at the two of them and says “there are many kinds of failures” and grabs the car keys and walks out. Alia’s Mom finally speaks, calling after him “go after her Kiddo!”
Kiddo is driving down the street, where Alia is walking. See! Just like me, she needed time alone! He pulls over and she gets in the car. And asks him “Do you remember being happy as a child?” Kiddo smiles and says “I only remember being happy after you joined us.” Alia smiles back and says “Look what I have!” and pulls out a tinkle comic book. Kiddo immediately smiles and laughs.
(This looks great! I should read these)
So, first, remember how I’ve been saying for the past few scenes with her that Alia’s mother seems tormented? Trying so hard to reach out and make up for something? The way she falls apart here, tears streaming down her face, leaning on something to be able to stand, that’s the culmination of all her anxious care in the other scenes, just as much as Alia’s breakdown is the culmination of all her brattiness and nerves around her parents.
Second, do you remember way way back when Alia was telling Shahrukh about reading to Kiddo, and I said that sounded odd to me, like their parents weren’t around enough or something. Well, I’m sticking with it! First, back when they were talking about what a “good” child Kiddo was, he said he didn’t bother crying because saying “mamma” got a better reaction. Which makes me think that Kiddo as a baby had already noticed that Alia’s tantrums and screaming resulted in resentment and ignoring from her parents, so he went with being always the “good” child instead.
And third, Kiddo’s comment here, that his childhood was only happy after Alia returned. Again, I am getting a vision of uninvolved and unreliable parents, that something was wrong with them which has affected both their children, although in different ways.
We go straight from Alia and Kiddo talking in the car to a direct on shot of Shahrukh talking. This is definitely a monologue to the audience. He’s not putting on a show for Alia, it’s essentially a PSA. He explains that as children we are told “don’t cry, don’t complain, smile!” Not because it is good for us, but because it makes it easier on our parents. So now, as adults, our emotions are all mixed up. We never learned how to express anger, how can we express love?
Alia is standing over be the window listening to this. Shahrukh moved slightly towards the end. Standing and walking a bit and then sitting down again. It’s just a little movement, but it is enough to sort of draw Alia back to the couch, to her regular position opposite him. And, finally, she starts to talk. And those little flashback flashes get context.
She explains that when she was 5, her father’s import business failed. So he and her mother left her at her grandparents’ big old house and started traveling, trying to start a new business all over the world. They told her it was like a vacation, and she was happy. We see happy little girl Alia playing in puddles and on stone walls. Always alone, or with her elderly grandparents, but still happy.
And, she explains, she used to “write” to her parents once or twice a week. Really just pictures, with big words at the end asking “when will you come?” And her grandfather would take her and walk her to the mailbox at the end of the street and drop it in. And once a month when her parents called, she would ask “did you get my letter?” and they always had some excuse, the mail was late, they were sick, etc. etc.
And then, finally, after a year, her mother came back. With her new baby brother. And she was jealous, of the time her brother got with their mother. But she cheered up when her mother talked about her wonderful letters, and she ran into the other room to quickly draw something for her so she could give it in person. Only, when she ran back, her grandfather was yelling at her mother. Saying she couldn’t keep doing this, she had to respond to the letters. And her mother said “I can’t give her false hope. I don’t know when we will come back. I can’t handle traveling and two children.” And little Alia’s heart breaks.
Oh, this is so painful! I hate it when little kids get that sad. Because there really isn’t anything you can do for them. Their emotions are so strong, and their little brains aren’t able to process any of the usual coping mechanisms. Alia describes it as “Like if your favorite program was on, and then someone grabbed the remote and changed it to something horrid, and threw the remote away.” And we see sad little chubby Alia walking away, tearing up her picture. And then the same flashes we saw before, her looking out the window at the rain, hiding within a closet of men’s shirts (her grandfather’s? probably). And a new one, her sitting on her grandfather’s lap while he tweaks her nose and talks and tries to cheer her up.
And then we are back in the present day as Alia continues, tears no streaming down her cheeks, “I never wrote another letter and I decided then, at age 6, that I could never rely on anyone else.” And she explains that she was so sad and then, just when she was beginning to be happy again, her parents came back. Her father was never able to set up a business overseas, and then he was offered one back in Goa. So all of this, was for nothing. And that was the worst year of all, when they tried to take her from her grandparents, and she cried and tantrumed. Until she failed the second standard and that, not her hundred letters, that made her parents take her back. By the end, Alia is just sobbing and sobbing, ugly crying, and hardly able to keep talking.
Before moving on, what do I think about this? Well, there’s a lot of stuff that is just implied and not explained, that only makes sense when you see the film as a whole. I already mentioned in an earlier review how clear it is, at least to me, that her parents picked Kiddo over her because he was a boy. And that little girl Alia must have sensed that truth, it was part of her heartbreak that this was the choice they made. That’s something we got from how differently her parent’s treat Alia and Kiddo even today.
There’s also the fact that little girl Alia feels the whole situation as a betrayal, but so does her big grown-up Grandpa. So this isn’t just a distortion of youth thinking it is unfair, this is something that those at the time agreed with. And again, that’s the kind of thing you pick up as a little kid, when you are mad at someone and you kind of sense that someone else agrees with you.
And finally, there’s that year that she says was “the worst of all”. If she was tantruming and miserable and her parents ignored her distress, even made fun of it as we saw in the dinner scene, then that is the biggest sin of all. Blocking out her emotions, her very self, because it didn’t fit into their vision of what their life should be. And if it took a year for them to get her back from her grandparents, that makes me think that her grandparents didn’t want to give her up. That they saw her distress and thought she shouldn’t leave them. Again, it’s not just little girl Alia that thinks it was wrong to move back with her parents, by implication her grandparents felt the same way.
And this isn’t even getting into the whole discussion of the other, better, things her parents could have done. Like, her mother could have stayed with her in Goa while her father traveled. The whole family could have stayed together and lived simply for a while (based on her parents’ house, I think we can assume that her father wasn’t traveling to avoid punery, but just to avoid not being able to afford the big house and everything else). Her parents could have not had another kid during this uncertain time. They could have worked a little harder and brought Alia along with them. I’m not saying that any of these solutions would have necessarily been better. But it seems like her parents’ argument was that they “had no choice”, but in fact, they did! And that’s what’s eating away at them. Her mother and father put on a face of ignoring her unhappiness and making light of it. But at the same time her mother is desperate to feed her, to give her something, to make some kind of connection. Because she can feel the huge loss in her life when her daughter stopped trusting her.
Gosh-darn it, I’m at over 6 thousand words and I’ve still got so much to say! And I am soooooo sleepy! Okay, epilogue and last little bit in the next section.