I was trying sooooooooooo hard to finish in the last section. But I was also getting soooooooooo sleepy as it got later and later, so I finally gave up. However, I did manage to get all the way to the emotional peak and resolution of the film, so everything I have to cover here is just epilogue stuff. (part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, part 6 here, part 7 here)
I got all the way to Alia’s breakdown on Shahrukh’s couch as she FINALLY told him about the hidden pain from her childhood that is driving her. Her parents abandoned her with her grandparents for 2 years, and then forced her to move back with them. Beyond the upset of all these changes, which would be bad for any little kid, there was the deeper emotional wound of all the things she could only half-sense, that her parents had other options and chose to abandon her, that they picked her little brother over her, that they sacrificed her mental health and happiness for appearances, insisting she move back with them just because they were ashamed of her failing in school. And Alia, as always, does a spectacular job with this breakdown scene, really making the audience feel her pain and sob along with her.
(Shocking this is the same actress, right?)
Okay, that’s where I left off, without even getting into Shahrukh’s response. He gives her a moment to just cry, and then says “go ahead, it’s okay, how can we fully laugh if we can’t also fully cry?” This makes her kind of start to recover and come out of it and smile a little. So then Shahrukh, still speaking very gently and calmly, says “You know, I’m not much for rules, but there are a few I have to respect”. And I think this is going to be him explaining why he can’t give her a hug, not in a romantic way, but just because the poor girl is sobbing and sobbing and I really want someone to hug her!
But instead, moving slowly, Shahrukh picks up the jug of water he offered her in their first session (when she made the joke about “From that jug, Jug?”), and pours two glasses, saying “I can’t offer you Champagne, but at least we can do shots”. And then he taps her glass with his, says “Cheers!” and goes back to his seat.
This whole thing is just so lovely! Giving her permission to cry, acknowledging this as a major breakthrough, and at the same time doing it all in a calming soothing manner. And giving her a glass of water to sip to help with her body’s reaction to the emotional shock.
And then Shahrukh, finally, lays out exactly what has been messing with her screwy head. Alia is so afraid of people saying “good-bye”, that she keeps saying “bye” to them first. But instead, why not say “bye” to all that fear, and say “hello” to life?
Shahrukh’s answer is so simple and kind of mindless, because the purpose isn’t to get her to that answer (she could have gotten that off a fortune cookie), it’s to get her to the point where she can really listen to the answer he is giving her. He had to break down all her emotional walls until she was fully exposed and receptive. And then give her the key.
That’s what we are watching in this movie, both in and out of the therapy sessions, Alia slowly fighting her way to the core or herself, stripping off the layers of protection and denial. It started with Kunal getting in to her emotions and then devastating them (cheating on her boyfriend, pushing for a commitment too fast and too soon, and betraying her trust). And then it went on to her being exiled to Goa against her will, sending her up against her parents. And finally through therapy slowly letting herself talk about all of this stuff, admitting her weaknesses and fears, until she was ready to hear what Shahrukh had to tell her.
And it changes everything! She walks out of therapy with Shahrukh’s voice over, telling her that it’s okay to stay angry, she doesn’t have to forgive her parents (thank goodness! Because she has earned the right to be hurt), but she should try to look at them not as parents, but as people who make mistakes. And song!
The youtube version of the song is missing some moments that are included in the movie that are kind of important. Or at least interesting. We see Alia take flowers to her mother, give her a hug, and then put a list on the fridge of all the things she likes eating. Her mother tries to say “I’m sorry”, and Alia just smiles and shakes it off. She doesn’t say “I forgive you” or “It’s okay”, which would just be more denial and repression, but she does make a gesture towards repairing their relationship.
And her mother makes a gesture in return, surprising her with her old doll, the one thing she asked for, which her mother finally understood why it was important. And then there’s lots of shots of her with her parents, and the lighting is changed, so now their house isn’t so starkly grey and white, but there are warm tones of brown and yellow mixed in.
We also see Alia with Jackie, because her healing isn’t just about spending time with her parents (although that was the root of her problems), it’s about being better in all the relationships in her life, no longer taking her friends for granted. And we see her with Fatty, in a hospital room, although that’s the scary part of the song, because Alia is talking out loud about how much she likes talking to “you” and how “you” seem to understand “me”. And then the shot changes to show she is talking to an empty chair, and then changes again to show Fatty lying in a hospital bed, and she holds out her hand and makes a joke “thank you, and that will be 3 thousand rupees.” NOOOOO!!!! Alis has fallen for Shahrukh!!!!
But, we knew that was happening. Remember she knocked over that little knight sculpture ages ago? And Alia gets clumsy when she is crushing on someone. Plus, through out this song, we’ve been seeing the way she looks at him, the way she laughs at his jokes. And, speaking of clumsy, it’s in the middle of this song that she actually falls off the back of his couch. Literally falling for him!
It’s still scary though. The second, third, and fourth times I watched this, I was actually covering my eyes, I was so worried! And I knew how it turned out already! Although I was still doing better than one of my friends who started just mumbling “no no no no no no no no no no no no” under her breath for the whole last 15 minutes.
At the end of this song, Alia looks at herself in the mirror and, thank goodness, we don’t get a voice over. We know what is happening, she is doing her hair and make-up extra carefully because she is planning to make her move and bare her soul to Shahrukh in that day’s session. It is interesting what she thinks he would “like”, so pulls her hair down and wipes off her make-up, I guess thinking that he would like her best just as she is. Only, she gets to the door, and there is a note canceling that day’s session! THANK GOODNESS!!!!
Now, my thinking here is that Shahrukh is like 5 steps ahead of Alia. Because that’s his job, as a therapist, to be able to sort of read her mind. And also because he is SMOKING HOT and his patients must be constantly falling in love with him.
(how could they not?)
And so he cancels this session to give them both a little break, and planned something special for the next session as a good-bye, and also planned a little speech for her, and then knew he would have to do the final session right after. The “special” thing he planned, in the final movie, is just a boat ride, which seems nice but kind of lame. But from the trailer and some stills, it looks like it was supposed to be a boat ride to an old fort, a whole little cinematic outing, only they cut the rest of it.
I guess that’s okay, because we got the really important part, Alia trying to make a movie and Shahrukh shutting her down. I think he wanted to give her this speech and start to have this conversation. But he didn’t want to do it in the space of the therapy room, where there was so much emotion and angst in the background, he wanted it in a clean new place. And thus this outing.
Alia starts kind of awkwardly, saying “You know, I don’t have any problems with my parents any more. But with men!” Shahrukh just kind of looks at her, with his sunglasses on, leaning against the boat rail. Alia is moving all over, nervous energy, standing in front of him, and then walking over beside him, and then turning, and turning again. She goes on “Do you think there is just one special rishtaa for everyone?”
Before moving on, BAD SUBTITLES!!!! BAD!!! They keep translating “rishtaa” as “soulmate”. NO!!!! It’s “bond” or “relationship”. Alia is asking, “do you think there is one special relationship for everyone, one bond that takes precedence over others?” “Soulmate” is something else entirely, that is saying that there is one person who is just for you. “Rishtaa” is saying that there is one relationship that has built up to become the center of your life.
And Shahrukh responds with a general speech that makes sense, but also which addresses Alia’s real concern, that her relationship with Shahrukh is the one most important relationship in her life and always will be. He tells her that there are many relationships, many bonds. You can have a coffee relationship, an intellectual discussion relationship, any kind of relationship you want. There isn’t just one perfect relationship.
If you say “soulmate”, then it is saying “don’t close the doors of your life to people just because they only work in one context”. If you say “rishtaa”, this is saying “don’t discount the work you put in, and the importance of this bond, just because it isn’t the one perfect relationship.” Both messages are important, but the second message is what Shahrukh is actually saying here. And the underlying message of what he is saying is “we had a perfect and meaningful therapist-patient relationship, don’t discount that. And don’t try to make it into something more either.”
But again, I am distracted, because this is almost the same as another super famous Shahrukh scene, but with the EXACT OPPOSITE MESSAGE!!!!! In Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, he gave a speech about relationships without names:
And here is the translated version:
There are many bonds besides friendship. Bonds that we don’t understand. Bonds that we don’t need/want to understand. Bonds that have no name. Bands that just feel a certain way. Bonds that don’t have any walls, any borders. Such bonds become bonds of the heart. Bonds of pyar (sweet simple love). Bonds of Mohabbat (passionate overwhelming love).
He is saying in the earlier speech that you should let relationships grow outside of labels, that without social limitations they become passionate, uncontrollable. But now present-day Shahrukh is saying that limits are good, it’s okay for a relationship to just be about one thing and nothing else.
I guess what both speeches have in common (besides a super sexy Shahrukh voice delivering them), is the idea that relationships don’t have to be limited to the usual social rules. That’s been the “Shahrukh Khan Message” through out his career. Sure, usually it means that he is romancing some girl who is engaged to someone else. But in larger terms, he is the modern young NRI hero, he is all about breaking down the standard way relationships work between father and son, mother-in-law and son-in-law, male and female friends, brother and brother, everything.
And that’s what he’s saying again here, just because you have a really great relationship with someone in one context, you shouldn’t feel the need to make it into the one great relationship of your life. And, while he’s mostly I think trying to address her feelings for him, this is also a good general lesson for Alia. That she shouldn’t feel bad for having tried out so many men, or for putting time with friends up there in importance with time with her parents. It’s okay to spread around your relationship energies into multiple areas, you don’t have to search for and limit yourself to that one bond above all others.
After Shahrukh gives his little speech, Alia pulls out her camera and starts taking pictures of the river/bay/thing they are on, the bridge they just went under, other stuff. Shahrukh says “I’m glad to see the camera is back.” And Alia says “me too”.
I didn’t even notice until this moment that the camera had gone away completely, but it had! For the whole first hour of the movie, she was constantly using a camera to distance herself, not just at work, but anywhere, taking pictures with her cell phone even when she is about to break up with someone. It was unhealthy, part of her method for distancing herself from her emotions and other people.
In a larger sense, her career as a camerawoman was another distancing technique. If she just focused on that, made a success of that, then she could ignore everything else going on in her life. Heck, right at the beginning she used the excuse of a last minute shoot to avoid spending time with her parents!
But after starting therapy and saying good-bye to Kunal/her big break job, the camera has been more or less gone. She’s been focusing on interacting with her real emotions and her real problems instead. And now that it is back, it is back as a healthy part of her life. The problem was never the camera, it was how she was using it.
Oh! Speaking of healthy! I forgot the phone call from ebay! It was during the montage-of-mental-health part of the “Love You Zindagi” song. She is walking down a corridor and answers the phone and it is someone from ebay saying “Just calling to make sure you were happy with our service ma’am.” SUPER WEIRD!!! I was pretty sure she was going to end up starting a relationship and falling in love with the ebay tech support guy, and this was the start of it. But no! It never comes up again!
I finally figured it out on watch 4. Her constant ebay purchases were a symptom of her illness, that part was more or less clear. But since ebay was paying a lot of money for product placement, they didn’t want the lesson to be “eBay: For when you really really need therapy!” So instead of showing her throwing her phone across the room or struggling to resist the urge to buy, they went with an extremely optimistic version where ebay customer service is so wonderful, they will call you out of the blue just to check in if they think you may have become unhappy with their services.
Right, back to now, Alia is using her camera again, which is a good sign that she is back in shape, ready to pick up the threads of her life again. And then the boat lands and Shahrukh starts to come off it, and Alia calls after “You won’t cancel again next session, will you?” And Shahrukh calls back, “No, how could I? It is our last week.” And then strolls away while Alia stares after him.
She doesn’t seem totally shocked, which makes me think this must have been something they discussed before? Like, maybe a month earlier he had said “I think we will be done after 5 more sessions” or something. She seems a little surprised that it is so soon, but not surprised that the end was coming.
(So, it’s not like this)
I think there is just one scene between this and the next session. But there’s a baby!!!! A really stunningly adorable baby. Alia picks it up, and there is Fatty in her hospital bed. And she smiles at Alia and calls her “Kokoma” and Alia smiles back. Remember my name obsession? Now Alia has a new one, “Kokoma”, for her relationship to this new baby, a new member of her family, a new level of maturity. And a new kind of relationship to Fatty, who has always been “Fatima” (ha! I just got it that there was a “ma” in her name! And she has always been the mother to her friends), but is now inviting Alia to join her in parenting this baby, instead of being left behind.
And so, final session! And, with my colors obsession, notice that Alia is in blue! I think for the first time? At least for the first time in such a deep bright blue. Which probably just symbolizes that she has been able to bring calm and peace and joy and all the things that blue signifies into her life now. She isn’t the messed up kid Shahrukh first met.
And, NOOOOO! She’s gonna say it! She’s sitting on his couch, and starts awkwardly saying “so, now that this is over, could we get together sometimes? Just for coffee maybe, just to talk, or…?” And Shahrukh immediately starts sort of smiling and shacking his head “no no no, it is not possible.” Alia keeps going, digging herself deeper “But I like you, I mean, I really like you.” AAAAAA! So empathetically uncomfortable for me!
And Shahrukh starts to give the speech he must have to give ALL THE TIME. That she felt a lot of emotions in this room, fear, anger, sadness….love. And it’s natural to confuse those feelings for others, it’s….common. Alia leaps on that, looking sincerely hurt, “I’m common?”
At least, I think that’s how this happens? I remember this scene in little bits (maybe because I was watching from behind my hands), and I can’t quite remember how they all fit together. What I remember next is that Shahrukh immediately corrects himself, and says “No! You are not common! You are special! Different! Important! And I like you too. I REALLY like you. But, although I may use different methods, I am your doctor, and you are my patient.” Alia is finally feeling the embarrassment I have been feeling all along, and says “Oh God, I shouldn’t have said anything!” And Shahrukh leaps on that, says “No no, it is good that you said something! I’m glad! You felt something and you said something, and that’s healthy. That’s good! I’m glad you said it.”
And I think this is when Alia starts to break down a little and asks “what if something comes up, what if I need to talk to you about something?” And Shahrukh pulls out his eye drops and carefully puts them in his eyes and blinks and then says “the genius is knowing when to stop”. And Alia points out to a little bit of water leaking from his eyes, and he wipes it away.
This is the second time he has used eye drops in this movie. The first time was during her first session. It’s enormously effective just from an acting stand point. It makes us wait for his next line, and then when he delivers it, he has a reason to keep his eyes closed, and then suddenly open them. But what does it mean for the character? I think, the first time, was when Alia had finished her big increasingly hysterical story in the first session about how she couldn’t figure out what to do after Kunal dumped her. And that time he was giving her time to compose herself. But this time, I think, he is giving himself time to compose himself. And maybe also hide his own tears.
(Or maybe he just needs eyedrops? It is super weird that the same specific character touch is in this movie, and in the trailer for his next movie)
And then he stands up, and sets down his clipboard. And something about his posture, and the suddenly awkward movements in how he sets it down, tells us that Shahrukh the character is feeling strong emotions too, just like Alia. Maybe stronger, because she seems kind of okay when she stands up to say good-bye, and he seems more kind of confused and awkward. He holds out his hand, she shakes it, and then he turns, and when he turns back she suddenly grabs him into a hug. And he just gently lifts his hand and pats her hair. And then she turns and walks out. And goes to the gate of his house and holds onto it for just a moment and breaks down in tears. Which, after a few seconds, suddenly turn into a smile, and then laughter. And then she’s done, and she can walk away. It’s an amazing acting moment, conveying that sense of misery that something is ending immediately followed by joy at the memory of all that has happened and anticipation of the future. But I am distracted because the way she is standing hanging on the gate, it is digging right into her upper arm and looks most unpleasant.
Meanwhile back in the office, Shahrukh turns from watching her leave, and goes to sit in the wobbly chair, which suddenly tips and skweeks (is that how that is spelled? It doesn’t seem right). And he takes a minute, and then smiles and laughs at himself. And that’s the last we see of him.
Okay, you ready for all the big debates and arguments? I’m glad I put off writing this part until today, because I saw Befikre with a friend yesterday who was the first person I’ve talked to who was on the side of straight-up “No, he was obviously in love with her.” So that is definitely a possible interpretation! For me, I live in the grey area. There is something there between them, but what exactly it is, is purposefully unclear, left for the audience to figure out.
But, let’s play it out, with the 3 most common possible interpretations:
- Shahrukh fell in love with her just like she fell for him and they are mutually heartbroken at not being able to pursue a relationship. There are certainly ways it could be seen this way. He shared personal stories with her in return for the ones she shared with him. He seemed genuinely upset in reaction to some of the things she told him. And he also seemed genuinely happy spending time with her, laughing at her jokes, etc. etc. And of course in this last scene, he straight out says “You’re different, you’re special….I like you. I REALLY like you.” And he patted her hair. And there is the chair, which he said only makes a noise “when you like someone and can’t do anything about it.”
- Shahrukh was just a really really good therapist, crafting a relationship she needed for therapy. This also works! Everything he did, every joke every story, works as part of her therapy. Just like his made up Chinese mountain story in the first session got her to listen to him, so could his stories about his son and his ex-wife and his father. Getting out of the office together, relating to her on her level through jokes and what not, even responding with “I REALLY like you” to make her feel better about her feelings, that is just good therapy. And the chair sound at the end, well, he laughs at himself about it. He could just be laughing because he made up that thing to say tp her earlier and now it is making a sound which makes it seem like he liked her, even though he really didn’t.
- Shahrukh felt something for her, maybe not passionate love, but something a little different than he does for most patients. This is where I am most of the time, although I occasionally veer towards 1 or 2 depending on how I am feeling. Because, 2 doesn’t totally work, not because of the chair thing, but because of the stiff and sad way he played that last moment before the hug. That was real emotion, not just faked therapy emotions. Probably.
But 1 doesn’t totally work either. Because everything he does DOES have a therapeutic component. He’s not crossing any lines or doing anything that isn’t also part of her treatment. You can’t assume a passionate love based on the information we have. You can’t rule it out, but you can’t say it’s the only option either.
So I lean towards “he sincerely enjoyed spending time with her, they had a similar sense of humor and attitude towards the world, and if they had met in the real world he would have sought out a friendship with her. And in addition, he had the concern for her that any good therapist would, his job is to take care of her mental and emotional health, so there is a natural emotional bond that builds. But any feelings of ‘love’ are just general amorpheous unlabeled feelings, not anything we can specifically identify as ‘in love with her'”
And, epilogue! Funky epilogue. Firstly, because it includes World’s Worst Short Film. Oh right, I forgot, at some point during her happy-healthy montage, Alia talked with her brother about how she has decided to stay in Goa for now, she got funding to finally finish her short film from school. And now, here it is! And it is TERRIBLE!
Thematically rich, about a woman who pretended to be a man so she could fight in the army, until finally being injured and rescued and had her secret revealed by a handsome doctor. Which taught her to just be herself, and she went back out to the army as a woman and was promoted to commander. Just like Alia, who was forcing herself to hide her weakness, to live in some ways like a “man”, and thanks to her own handsome doctor has learned to be better.
But it is just a terrible terrible movie! Bad period costumes, confusing images, bad voice over, and super cheesy story! It’s like a bad romance novel come to life, not an artistic short film. SO BAD! Why??? Why is it so bad?!??! Clearly they have the ability to make a good short film, heck the opening of the movie with the two actors having the fake fight and then Alia reshoots it so the woman forgives the man for cheating, and then follows someone else with her eyes behind his back, that was a better short film than this! Maybe they wanted to end it on a light note and give us all a good laugh?
Also confusing, why are all of Alia’s men there???? the movie ends (with a “By Kiera” because she has finally found herself fully, and a “thank you Dr. Jahangir Khan”), and everyone applauds, and we see a nice lawn with tables on it and candles. And Alka is there with all of Alia’s Bombay friends. But also Angad Bedi and Ali Zafar and Kunal? WHY??!?!
For Angad Bedi and Ali, why would they even come?!?!?! She dumped them, for their own peace of mind they shouldn’t have anything to do with her! Although I guess they are also really really nice guys. And this is a nice message that Alia mostly picked nice guys and had okay relationships, okay enough that they are willing to come see her film. Sort of sex-positive in a weird way? That she wasn’t making a mistake in dating around, that the guys she picked were good guys at heart.
(And also, let us not forget, really really handsome guys!)
Well, except for Kunal. Why would she invite him?!?!?!? He’s terrible! Which we see again, because he is hanging out with her father and uncle (of course he ends up at the grown-ups table, he’s way too old for her!), and they try to give him credit for this film, that it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been there. And he responds “no, it wouldn’t have happened if I HAD been there. She did it all on her own”. Which is nice of him to say, but also SUPER SUPER TRUE! Kunal! You don’t deserve to be at this event! Go back to Bombay and your wife!
Alia is at a different table, celebrating with her friends. And after a toast, she gets a tap on her shoulder, and there’s Aditya Roy Kapoor! Who got an “oooooo” from the audience at 50% of the viewings I went to (so, two). Really? Aditya? He’s at the “oooooo” level already? I just don’t see it. Handsome I guess, but nothing more.
(And I say this having seen him perform live and half naked)
He is really really nice though. At least, his character. He tells her that he really liked the film and asks how she came up with the idea. And Alia responds with a question, asking in turn if he is a filmmaker. And he says no, he makes furniture, sofas, tables. “Chairs?” Alia asks. He smiles like “that was a silly thing you said but kind of cute” and agrees “yes, chairs”. And then the start to walk off together, towards the camera, still talking, as the music swells, and Alia suddenly trips and he catches her (remember, she gets clumsy when she has a crush).
I know there’s been some debate about this ending. If it was necessary to show her success, to really show anything after that last session. And specifically if there was any need to give her a “happy ending” with a man.
I can kind of see the point from the “romance isn’t the only happy ending for a woman” side of the argument. But on the other hand, for this woman, romantic problems were the first symptom of her other issues. She wasn’t able to relax and trust a relationship. She was always running into it too fast, or running away from it. So showing her here, just talking with a guy without rushing anything, and having a healthy conversation about her work with someone who is interested and interesting, that’s an important marker of her recovery.
There’s also the whole “in love with Shahrukh” of it all. If she wasn’t explicitly falling for someone new (Ha! Literally ‘falling’ for him!), this end scene could be interpreted as her dedicating herself to her work to the exclusion of all else now that her heart is broken. But with Aditya, we know that she has moved on, that the whole Shahrukh chapter is an important part of her life but it is done now.
Although there is a deleted scene where the Shahrukh chapter isn’t closed? I just saw an article that Shahrukh said something about how he was supposed to have a scene in the epilogue but it was cut for time. Really? I can’t imagine how that would have worked without changing the meaning of the film. It was so important to just leave him behind in his room, out of her life, after that last perfect interaction. To have him show up at this event and see other people she knows, or even for him to be off by the side just having one last conversation with her, that would have spoiled everything.
And then the end end of the film, after Alia and Aditya have their little convo, is Alia walking along that beach where they played Kabbaddi. And her voice over says “Dear Zindagi… we haven’t talked in a while. So..so nothing.” It’s a lovely image, her figure finally melding into the world around her, at peace, and needing nothing but herself.