I first knew Sarfarosh for the love songs, one of which (“Hoshwalon Ko Khabar”) is one of my all time favorite songs, both the video for it and just the way it sounds on its own. And then a watch the movie, and come to find out that it is barely a romance at all! Which is what, I suspect, it will have in common with Dangal. The Aamir romance is there, sure, but it’s not really a big deal compared to everything else going on.
Aamir has given some nice interviews about his wife co-star in Dangal, Sakshi Tanwar. And she is a TV soap superstar. So both of that makes me think that she has a significant role. And her presence (or lack there of) in the trailers makes me think she has a small role. Which reminds me of how the romance track was handled in Sarfarosh!
(I’m very confused by what is happening here, but The Internet tells me it is Sakshi in the opening credits of her soap)
It’s there, it’s definitely there, part of Aamir’s character and the things going on in his life. But it is just a small segment of his life, not the over-whelming center of the narrative. On the other hand, it’s also not a forgotten afterthought like it is in some action movies, where you aren’t even sure if the hero remembers his girlfriend, and the audience certainly doesn’t.
It all starts with that song I love. All of a sudden, in the middle of this realistic police procedural, our hero goes to a concert, sees a girl in the wings, and foom! He is thrown back to another part of his life when romance really was the most important thing happening to him.
(His hair! It’s so foofy!)
The song itself is delightful, drawing out a fragile little college romance that took place through glances and unspoken messages. But what makes it something special is what happens after. This fragile little romance is suddenly pulled into the present day and made into something real.
And since it is now real, it is no longer a matter of secret glances and messages, but rather a matter of practical concerns. This lovely memory shared between them as they listen to music is followed by a not very lovely or poetic hurried conversation in which Sonali (playing the girlfriend) rapidly manages to get Aamir’s name and address so he can’t slip away again. And that is their relationship for the rest of the film, Aamir going about his job of chasing bad guys, while Sonali goes about her “job” or winning over the man she loves.
(I wish this had subtitles! If you don’t know Hindi, she is saying “why is this boy so crazy?” And then giving examples like “I say my heart hurts, he gives me tiger balm”. And right at the end, Aamir finally gives in and recites a romantic couplet to her)
In other, lessor, movies, there is this feeling that the romantic scenes are just marking time until we can get back to the action. But in Sarfarosh, they are integrated. Not by making Sonali a damsel in distress, or a femme fatale, or even the trite old “bad guy’s daughter” kind of thing. But because the romance track serves to broaden our understanding of our cop hero. And how crime affects and destroys lives.
That youthful romance didn’t fall apart because someone purposefully tried to destroy it. It was collateral damage, Aamir’s family got pulled into the criminal world when his brother witnessed a murder. After a nightmare of threats and attacks, they ended up leaving town. And during that whole ordeal, Aamir never took a moment to say “wait, what about that girl I’ve been flirting with at college?” Because, why would he? What is a college flirtation, next to matters of life and death affecting everyone in his family?
And now that the romance has come back, it is being threatened in a different way. Aamir’s life is no longer so dramatically up-ended, but he is still dedicated to his job before all else. For Sonali to keep their romance going, he needs her to do all the work and put in all the time, because his life is already very full.
Sonali’s purpose isn’t to have a gun waved in her face or to provide a vital clue, it is to show how there is more to a police officer’s life than just the job. But only because the other parts of his life have to work so hard and be so patient to make it work. Sonali’s character only has a few scenes, but she makes the most of them, which is kind of a meta statement on how she has to squeeze her way into Aamir’s life. She gets his contact info immediately, then shows up at his family store the very next day, invites him on dates, throws him birthday parties, makes all the moves in the romance before he can slip away.
Which makes Aamir look super cool, by the way. He just stands there, silent, and takes all her pursuit and eagerness in stride. And shows that he feels the same, just in his own way.
(The foofy hair doesn’t look the greatest when wet, but he is so cool just standing there at his birthday having cakes brought to him!)
Which also shows that he is making a real sacrifice by keeping her in one small part of his life. Yes, he is in love. Yes, he enjoys spending time with her. Yes, he wants marriage and happiness and everything else. But more than that, he wants to do his duty and fulfill his ambitions.
The beauty of Sarfarosh is that Aamir makes this sacrifice, but not entirely. He doesn’t give a big speech about how love is not for one such as he, blah blah blah. He even goes along with Sonali enough so that she knows how he feels about her. He just makes sure that she knows, straight through their courtship, that she will always come second to his job.
I’m wondering/hoping that Sakshi will have a similar purpose in Dangal. Not the biggest part of Aamir’s life, but a vital one none-the-less. One that supports and strengthens the other parts of his life. And one that shows her strength through how she is able to force her way into his full life and make a place for herself.
I am also hoping that we get at least SOME romance in it! Maybe a flashback like in Sarfarosh, maybe just a few stolen glances and embraces in the “present day”, but SOMETHING. I know the focus of the film will be on wrestling, and his relationship with his children, but if it follows the lead of Sarfarosh, that won’t necessarily mean that there isn’t a small corner set aside of romance.