Dangal is opening 2 days early in America, yaaaaay! So this is my second to last Aamir post, and I get to start Salman week 2 days earlier than I thought I would! Also yaaaaay! Since I am getting close to the end, I’m going to pull out a nice interesting movie, Raja Hindustani!
Not a lot in common between Raja Hindustani and Dangal. At least, not for most of the film. For most of the film Aamir is a sweet innocent mountain boy who just wants to be happy. But then at the very very end, he becomes a father and it all changes.
First similarity with Dangal, the beard! I kid, but that’s also kind of serious. For much of Raja Hindustani, Aamir’s character, and Karisma’s, interact in a way that kind of seems more appropriate for pre-pubescent children than for adults. And the beard is the most distinctive way of showing that era is over.
The sexual tension between them is more of the type of “I don’t understand these powerful feelings that are suddenly inside me” than of the “let’s flirt and talk about it” kind of attraction. Which is what makes it such a great movie, of course. Watching these two people not deny their feelings, but rather not understand their feelings.
The tension between them builds and builds for the whole first half. Aamir is more aware of it than Karisma, feeling an immediate pull towards her which makes him act irrationally. But it’s not just that Karisma is unaware of her attraction to Aamir and vice versa, she is unaware of herself as a sexual being at all! The “red dress” incident, in which she cannot imagine a problem with wearing a skimpy red dress in a public place, and is shocked at both the eve teasing she experiences and Aamir’s violent reaction to it, to me shows that she still thinks of herself as just a little girl who happens to look different now.
Aamir is only slightly more advanced, his best friend/business partner is Kunal Khemu, a little orphan boy. And his relationship to his foster parents seems still slightly childish, in that he is grateful and happy for whatever they give him, with no sense that he could give them anything in return. I don’t mean it is bad, I just mean it feels like a little boy would react, not like a man and an equal.
And this is why Raja Hindustani is one movie where that explicit kiss scene really is because “the script demands it”. Aamir and Karisma are trapped in arrested development, Aamir because he had such a difficult childhood he hasn’t really had the time to notice that he is all grown-up, and Karisma for a similar reason, being “Daddy’s girl” and ignored by her stepmother, it has been easy for her to keep acting as the little girl her father wants.
Aamir has been getting hints of adulthood all along-his fight scene, his clumsy attempts to woo-and therefore when Karisma asks him to come stand close to her in the shelter of a tree during the rain storm, he resists, knowing that there is some unknown something that might happen if they are close. But Karisma is still completely unconscious.
One thing I always notice about the kiss scene is that it is much more erotic in Karisma’s memory than in reality. The kiss, she runs back home and hides herself in her room, then closes her eyes and remembers it. But they must have re-shot the kiss for her memory, because it is very different in this version. Longer, more close ups, all of that. It’s not just Karisma remembering the kiss, it’s her feeling the sexiness of it and dealing with the aftershocks.
And poof, they are adults! Sort of. Adult enough that Aamir can “call her” to him and they can decide that they MUST be married, or else they cannot live.
But their marriage isn’t exactly a marriage of “grown-ups”. Yes, the romantic and sexual tension is resolved and they are ecstatically happy. By they aren’t exactly taking responsibility for their lives and each other, they are more living in a happy fantasy still.
It’s only when Karisma gets pregnant and starts putting her hair up and wearing saris that she grows up. And in the same way, Aamir has a physical sign of adulthood with his beard. He’s not just sexually mature now, he is really really mature, able to forge his own path and make his own (insane) decisions.
Which brings me to Dangal! In two ways. Aamir’s more grizzled look for this film signifies a more mature character than he usually plays. Clean-shaven means a boy, mustache means a man, but a beard means a Grown Man, if you see what I am saying? Someone who is past all the macho posturing of youth and focused on real accomplishments and real problems.
Sultan is the perfect case study for this, Salman went from a callow youth to a mustached Man. But then we got the 3rd phase that you don’t get to see much in Indian film. He wasn’t worried about showing off any more or winning the woman he loved or any of that stuff from earlier. He didn’t get angry any more, or act hastily in any way. He had a bigger goal in mind and a bigger idea for his life. And thus, beard!
And Aamir’s facial hair is showing us the same thing in Dangal, he’s not playing some romantic youth, or some macho young man, he’s playing a grown man who can take the long way and look at the big picture and care about things besides himself.
You know who is making that journey from being so youthful as to not even understand their own body to being an adult? The daughters! Only instead of growing facial hair, they are growing head-hair, learning that boys and clothes and toe nail polish are fun, that their body can be for more than just fighting.