Part 5! I always forget how much faster it moves once I get into the second half. Because I’ve already done all my discussion of the underlying motivations and blah blah, and I can skip all that. I have great hopes of finishing entirely in one more part! (part 1 here and part 2 here and part 3 here and part 4 here)
I ended the last part on the “Zaalima” song, which is the song that sings us back from the intermission. Shahrukh has become the biggest bootlegger of the area, of the whole state/country really. He is happy in his life, still has Sadiq with him, and loves Mahira more than ever and vice versa. Meanwhile, Nawazuddin is in exile in a distant region, resentfully watching all this.
(Shahrukh just re-tweeted this and it is now my favorite version of the song)
The “Zaalima” song is mostly fantasy, but right at the end we get a little bit of their “real” life, when we see Shahrukh take the baby into the prayer room, and then bring him back out and tell Mahira the name, “Faizan”. Also, thank goodness the baby is alive! A year ago, we learned Mahira was pregnant, and then no mention of it in this whole sequence, I was getting nervous! This baby is also almost the right age I think? All filled out like a 3 month or so baby would be, not that kind of deflated look you get with a newborn. But watch this baby, because it really does not grow the way it should.
We go from the baby to a dusty desk in a police station where the constable “Ramlal” (Sholay reference!) is delivering a box of sweets to Nawazuddin. Nawazuddin is surprised and delighted, they are his favorite, Ramlal is taking good care of him. Ramlal explains no, he is distributing them because a boy was born. Oh, Nawazuddin congratulates him, and asks what the name is. “Faizan”. “Father Ramlal and son Faizan? How secular!” No no, Ramlal explains, Raees has sent it. It’s his son. Nawazuddin tosses away the invite, and Ramlal starts to clear the sweets, but Nawazuddin stops him and says “no no, it’s my favorite, I’ll keep it.”
(I think it’s the kind all the way on the left in this picture)
A scene that becomes more interesting as time goes on! For one thing, Nawazuddin’s little joke about Ramlal and Faizan. It’s funny, but it’s also a little mean, to react to the presumed announcement of his employee’s child with a joke. Again, Nawazuddin has this little distance from the people around him.
And, in a larger sense, Nawazuddin takes this as a little invitation to start their game up again. But when we see Shahrukh in this part, he isn’t thinking about Nawazuddin at all. He doesn’t want to grow, he just wants to protect what he already has. He send the invite and the sweets, to my seeing of it, with a sincere heart and wish to share happiness. Okay, a little bit of teasing in there too, but it wasn’t like he was laying awake nights thinking “Oh boy, I wish I could see his face!” More like, he has a long list of people to send, and he decided to add Nawazuddin at the last minute and then forgot about it.
While Nawazuddin reacts by paying attention at the next accident scene he investigates and finally putting it together that the truck was carrying alcohol, on the orders of Damla Seth, and on the way to Faridapura. Notice, this is a routine occasion, he no doubt could have gathered this same information multiple times before. But he never cared enough before. It’s only because he has the excitement of the relationship with Shahrukh to bring him alive again that he is suddenly back to doing his job. And because he is paying attention, and learns that Damla Seth, along with the top ministers, are all in Faridapura. And puts it together that it is the date of Faizen’s birthday party.
Meanwhile, back in Faridapura, Shahrukh is hand delivering invitations to his son’s party. He and Sadiq are going together to deliver it to Ratna Madam, their teacher. And joking about how scared they used to be of her. As they walk, they pass a Ram mural. I’m not sure if there is a deeper meaning to it (couldn’t read the sanskrit below), or just to indicate that they are going into the Hindu area.
I’m gonna be mean to Baradwaj Rangan again. I only criticize because I care! I know he can do better! He was complaining about how this sequence seemingly comes out of nowhere, all of a sudden Shahrukh cares about some random millworker he had never seen before. And earlier in the same review he talked about how he liked the “Laila” fight scene because of the power of our hero learning he will be a father at the same time he has to kill his own foster father.
BARADWAJ!!!! How could you miss this? It’s the exact same concept over again in this sequence! Shahrukh is delivering invites for his son’s party. And he is remembering his own childhood. And Ratna Madam has been established before as one of the women who helped raise him. And his own mother was a single mother. All of that is behind him when he sees Ratna as a widow, with her own child clinging to her, and learns that her husband killed himself rather than live in debt. And quietly hands the invite back to Sadiq, because now is not the time.
(Also, totally the same as this scene, right?)
Shahrukh is enjoying being a father and thinking about his own childhood, Ratna is his “mother” as much as Atul was his father. And now he is reminded of the struggles of his mother as a single mother when he sees Ratna, and the troubles he might be bringing on Mahira by his dangerous lifestyle which might make her a single mother, and all of that goes into his decision to go a little further and try to protect the future of the whole neighborhood, as though in some way that will ensure that his son and wife’s future will be strong.
After giving him a hard time, now I have to say thank you to Baradwaj for identifying the Amitabh movie in this next scene! Kaala Patthar (Black Stones). I had narrowed it down to before 1980 based on hair and skinniness, and after 1975 based on content. But that is still a pretty large collection of films. We see a bit of Amitabh, and then a wealthy looking guy and his wife sitting in a car watching it. And then Sadiq knocks on their window and asks if he is the owner of the mill. The guy sends his wife to get security and she leaves. The camera stays tight on him talking to Sadiq, until slowly coming in from the other side of the frame, it’s Shahrukh’s face! A very nice little camera trick, made us as scared and surprised as the mill owner, to suddenly see him right there inside the car.
And, beatdown! This whole sequence is brilliant, cutting between Amitabh beating up the guy onscreen and Shahrukh in the real world. And I think I understand what they are saying here. It’s not “see? Amitabh is a hero for doing it onscreen, but it’s yuchy and evil in the real world.” No, it’s saying the opposite, that we may be impressed when we see Amitabh with his clean fight scenes and obvious motivation and Hinduism and Brahmanism and all of that. But it is the same spirit that is motivating our low class Muslim hero, with his dirty fight moves and beat downs. We just need to recognize that.
I said that this was all tied in with Faizan, Shahrukh’s son. And that’s what closes the circle. He did all of this because of a sudden fear for his son, and the future of his wife, and all the other people who depend on him. And in return, they have come together and brought a gift for his son, a cradle to hold him, just as their love and support will hold him all his life. The same way Shahrukh was raised, with no money but a lot of community.
And, PARTY! For Faizan, they have a singer brought in, and the police escort the Chief Minister and his chief rival. And, I realized on watch 3, the Chief Minister’s guest is the guy who was hosting that party Nawazuddin shut down ages back! He’s a construction guy, and he and the Chief Minister corner Shahrukh and ask for his help in clearing squatters off of land where they want to build. Shahrukh agrees, but says he will take 30% of the land as his fee. They both look kind of surprised, but they all keep their party faces on, and Shahrukh doesn’t back down, so they kind of half to agree. I wonder if this was the whole reason for the party? So he could have a face to face with them and make sure this deal goes through?
Also at the party, we see the Chief Minister and his opponent share a drink. The Chief Minister points out that the opponent spends his career giving speeches against drink, and here he is drinking. The opponent acknowledges that driving on the alcohol ban gets him votes, but he doesn’t really care about it.
See, this is what I was saying in my speculative ending, that the politicians are the real enemies. They don’t care about the issues or the people. All they care about is votes and lies. At least Nawazuddin is honest. And Shahrukh cares about his people more than anything else.
Back in Nawazuddin land, he learns that the truck he found with evidence of liquor belonged to Damla Seth, and so he raids Damla’s stores. Which results in Shahrukh striding along the halls of power with the Chief Minister, insisting that he transfer Nawazuddin, because it is interfering with his business. Again, this isn’t a personal thing from his side. He only cares about Nawazuddin as it affects business. Oh, and also, interesting shot. Shahrukh striding along in his traditional Muslim type clothing (I have got to learn the name for this outfit) next to the Minister in his politician vest, with two black clad security guys holding guns behind them. It’s a great sign of the authority of the state backed by the power of the state, with the common man running along with it and trying to get some of his own needs met.
So, Nawazuddin is transferred again. To the control room. Where he immediately notices the phone tapping station and sets it up. And also immediately, once again, gets his underlings to blindly follow his orders, clearing stuff away so he can set it up. And he starts listening in on all the many many orders that Shahrukh is receiving for his alcohol. He also describes this in romantic terms, that they cannot be close, but Shahrukh keeps bring him across the distances (or something like that). Which is interesting, first, if you are busying writing Nawazuddin-Shahrukh slashfic based on this film. But second because, again Nawazuddin sees all of these actions as being taken against him. When in fact, Shahrukh is just trying to go about his life and isn’t thinking about Nawazuddin at all.
Back in Shahrukh land, he is meeting with the contractor about the building they are putting up. The contractor says that now is the time to build, the plans are ready. And Shahrukh gives him the go ahead to do it, and immediately moves on to new business, Sadiq has brought him a newspaper article, the opposition minister is planning a march through their neighborhood. Yes, Shahrukh knows, and he is ready to handle it. He picks up his desk phone, which is a red race car phone, which looks really good with the phone in the cradle, and really terrible when Shahrukh is holding it. But I love the touch, that he is a human person who can succumb to a goofy phone. Not some perfect above it all hero.
Anyway, Shahrukh quickly dials the number that he has memorized, and there is the minister in a parallel office, with other graphs on his desk and someone pointing out on them to him. Oh, and Shahrukh is on the right side of the screen behind his desk, and the politician is on the left. It’s a cool way to make it feel like the conversation is a little more back and forth even though it’s over the phone.
But I am more interested by the graph parallel. Shahrukh is trying to actually do something for his people, build something that will help them. And the politician is trying to do a meaningless gesture, a march for an issue he doesn’t even really believe in.
Back to the actual phone call. Shahrukh dials, the politician picks up, and Shahrukh almost casually asks him not to take the march through his area. The politician, even more casually, says that he has to, that is where the votes are. And hangs up and goes back to looking at the map. Shahrukh takes a moment, and then hits redial. The politician picks up again, Shahrukh is a little more firm this time, saying that it will affect his business, and the politician says, essentially “I don’t care what you think, I’m doing it”. This time, Shahrukh is a bit vicious and he stabs his finger on the redial and says that the politician better not take the march through his area or he will regret it. And the politician doesn’t even seem to care, says he is doing it, and hangs up. Shahrukh WHAMs his hand down on the desk and Sadiq looks a little nervous. But then he taps his hand again, and again, and finally flattens it out all casual and says to Sadiq, “How about some tea?” And we cut to Nawazuddin, listening, and sipping his tea.
And then Nawazuddin in the barber shop, and that same informer that he turned earlier is running in because he has been sent for. By the way, on watch 3 when I finally recognized him in this scene, and the contractor in the previous scenes, I was all impressed by how they are building this world with small people we may forget about but who keep popping up here and there. And then I thought “wait, what if they are just cheap and re-using actors instead of bringing in someone new?” I don’t know which it is, but I guess it doesn’t really matter, because it works either way. It struck me in this particular scene though, because this is Nawazuddin’s low level informer, and now he is using him to leak stuff to the press. Shouldn’t that really be someone else’s job? Is it that Nawazuddin has so few people he can trust, or he wants to make it look like it comes from Shahrukh’s area not the police, or just an acting shortage?
Anyway, the news is out, bit headlines, “Shahrukh Threatens Politician If He Brings Procession Through His Area.” The police prepare and so does Shahrukh in his area. The Chariot comes in, and is greeted by intense organization. Little children whistle a warning, women come out and roll out bottles, and then, finally, Shahrukh leads out the men. And tosses off the first weapon, a flaming bottle into the sky, hit with another, and falling down on all of those on the ground to create a glorious fire. And with that, the swords come out. The procession folks pull out the swords they have been hiding under a saffron cloth, and Shahrukh and his men come at them with bottles and sticks. The police try to put up barricades, and eventually shoot of smoke bombs, but Shahrukh keeps going. All the way to the chariot, all the way until he can grab it and yell out as he swings it around around until it is aiming away from is people. All the way until he can grab the microphone that the politician has been using to spew out his message and tell him “Am I a real man now? Do you know who the real man is now?” And now I have to back up and give some history.
Back in the late 80s, the BJP was trying everything they could to energize the base in order to get the Congress Party voted out and take over their stranglehold on National politics. L.K. Advani was head of the BJP at the time. The BJP for the past few years had been using the Babri Masjid in Ayodha as one of their big issues. They claimed it was built on Ram’s birthplace and the national government was failing to properly share the space between Hindus and Muslims. Or give it back to the Hindus. Or prevent violence and uproar from occurring on the site. Whatever you may have objected to about the Ayodhya issue, the BJP argued that the national government was failing in it.
Advani came up with the idea of a national “Yatra” or procession. He traveled on something that looked like the chariots from the old religions illustrations (although it was really a modified truck), he used the colors of saffron (typically considered a sign of Hinduism) and he was escorted by followers wherever it traveled, usually strong young men, often carrying swords. And, in areas where the BJP was strong, the Yatra had a police escort as well. The BJP at this time was trying to promote an idea of new Hindu masculinity, a kind of militant masculinity. And the idea of a greater Hindu community, an all inclusive one (not drawn from just the upper castes where their support had come before). The Yatra helped unify the country as it traveled, and brought with it powerful images of a young strong fighter kind of Hinduism.
Of course the best way to unify is to find an enemy. Where the Yatra followed, riots came in its wake, in which Muslims died. 564 in total by the end of the month and a half of travel, according to some estimates.
This Yatra was hugely successful in terms of popularizing the BJP and the Hindutva movement. The BJP made significant gains in the next election. 2 years later, at one of the follow up rallies in Ayodha, the crowd was whipped into a fervor and demolished the Babri Masjid. Which lead to riots, in which another 2,000 people by conservative estimate (most of them Muslim), were killed. And in response to which, Dawood Ibrahim planted bombs in Bombay and tried to cause an uprising in the city, which killed a further 257 people. And then in 2002, the issue bubbled up again when there was a fire on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims to Ayodhya, in response to which all of Gujurat suddenly erupted in violence and another 2,000 people were killed in the course of 2 months, and a further 150,000 were left homeless.
(Not going to put up a picture of the riots, check out Shahrukh and a grumpy puppy instead)
But, one could argue, that first Yatra in 1990 was the beginning of it. That was when the idea of a Hindu nation was solidified, and aim was firmly taken on the Muslim minority. And so, this sequence of the film, in which the same kind of images from Advani’s Yatra are used, the same chariot, the same police, the same violent young men, has a kind of “beginning of the end” feel to it. And here is Shahrukh, saying “What if we fought back? What if we had prepared and trained and unified? What if the chariot had been stopped, what if we had grabbed it and turned it until it was aimed away from our people? What if we had stood up to them once and for all and said that ‘we’, the religious minorities, the poor, the oppressed, were real men after all and would not let them attack us without a fight?”
This whole movie, this whole story, for me, is just for this one scene. Forget the set up, forget the bootlegging, forget the cops and robbers. It is about Shahrukh Khan, The Most Famous Muslim in India, standing up and saying “I am ready to fight back”.