Previously, the entire movie happened. More specifically, Shahrukh has realized that his whole harmless criminal career, all his efforts to help the people of his neighborhood, had blinded him to how he was being used by more powerful forces. And now, after having been tricked into helping to smuggle bomb materials, Shahrukh knows the police want to kill him, and he wants to die as well. But first, he has to take out those the police can’t touch, Musa in Bombay who coordinated the whole thing.
After the whole bloody vengeance scene on Musa, we see Shahrukh standing on an anonymous street corner in Bombay talking on a pay telephone. He has called up the doctor’s house and asks to speak to Saqib. Interesting that he doesn’t ask for Mahira. I think it’s because he is already on a war footing. He knows the kind of conversation he might have to have and the kind of decisions that need to be made are going to be hard. And he wants to protect Mahira from that.
It’s good he picked Saqib, because of course Nawazuddin is there. I forgot, we had a little glimpse of Nawazuddin earlier, in a crowded rapidly moving police station, for once he is in synch with those around him, all of them are hyped up and ready. And just before this, we saw him talking to his boss, the not-white-guy who looks like a white guy. He is telling his boss that they have tracked down Saqib and are sure Raees will be coming to him soon. His boss gives the order to arrest him, and Nawazuddin says that he will just get out of jail again, stronger than ever. The boss is in his car now, he leans out the window to say to Nawazuddin “I can’t give you the orders you want in writing”. And Nawazuddin says that he knows that.
I still can’t quite get my head around this scene. I can believe that Nawazuddin has stripped away all the games and the tricks and revealed the iron hand in the velvet glove. But I can’t believe that he is going against his boss directly here. If his boss gave him the explicit nod, I could see him falling into line with the rest of the police force. But his boss wanting him to just arrest Shahrukh and him insisting on death, that I still don’t get. I’ll come back to it in a bit.
Anyway, Shahrukh is on the phone now with Saqib. He asks if they are safe, if he should come. And Saqib says “yes….Bhaijaan”. The warning word that Shahrukh told him to call out back when they were little kids. Shahrukh starts to hang up then pauses and says “So, I should come?” And Saqib says again “Yes, come…..Bhaijaan”. And then hangs up. To see Mahira standing behind crying out “Why did you say that? Why did you tell him to come?” While Nawazuddin stands implacably behind them.
(Not this kind of Bhaijaan. I wish! This ending makes me cry too, but in a happy and triumphal way)
Again, this feeling of the powerless caught up by heartless powerful folks. Mahira is just a wife and a mother who loves her husband. She isn’t dressed up all glamorous here, she isn’t even wearing make up. She is just like any other wife and mother. And Nawazuddin doesn’t even care, it’s not that he is hiding emotions like Saqib, he truly feels nothing for her. She is just another tool to be turned to his use.
Oh! I forgot! There was an early scene with this! Maybe right before Shahrukh arrives at Musa’s place? Nawazuddin watching his men as they torture all those in Shahrukh’s neighborhood. His lowly henchman, the women of the area, even the old men. They are all beaten and tortured. And refuse to break, insisting that Raees will save them, that they will never betray him, he is their “brother”. These are people, real people who feel things, and that is how Raees sees them, his people, the ones he must protect. While Nawazuddin, who is supposed to be caring and protecting them, sees them only as obstacles to be ground down in his machinery.
And it’s because of all of these reasons that, when Nawazuddin has his men with their guns ready and shoot at sight orders, we in the audience are cheering for our criminal low class Muslim to escape. Because he is the human one, the flawed by trying one, while Nawazuddin isn’t even trying to be better. It’s kind of remarkable, that Shahrukh made us feel that way for this character who all reasonable rules should say that we would hate.
When Shahrukh pulls up in his van, we want there to be a miracle, for him to escape somehow. And he does! His hand comes up, and then the other, and the gun is cocked (proving without a doubt that they are ready to shoot him down in cold blood even with both hands empty and raised), and then he is surrounded by cameras! And Nawazuddin quickly cancels his order because the media is there, Shahrukh has brought along a van full of cameras.
Shahrukh walks up to Nawazuddin, standing in front of the house with a group of police and Saqib, and sort of nods at him for permission. Nawazuddin knows what he wants without any more information and nods at him. And Shahrukh takes that as permission and gives Saqib a hug. All he wanted was one more hug from Saqib. He also gives him a little smile and says “Bhaijaan, eh?” Saqib can’t talk, because he is crying too hard. Which feels right, Shahrukh was always the strong one between them. He has to be strong even now.
Until, once again, Mahira shows up to break through his defenses. She and the magically expanding baby (now it’s like 2? how much time has passed?) appear on the balcony, crying, to watch him as he is pulled away. Shahrukh looks back over his shoulder, and his face kind of softens and pulls down as the pain hits him.
And then the end. Shahrukh and Nawazuddin riding together in the back of the transport. Shahrukh says something about how he knows how this is going to end. And all he wonders is, what happened? Did Nawazuddin stop trusting the system, or stop trusting himself?
This line bothers me SO MUCH! Because, this is the system!!!! We just had a whole sequence showing how the police have complete control over everything and everybody. How they can beat and torture and threaten with impunity. And the very last shot of the movie is how they can grind down everyone someone as large and deep and brave and wise as Shahrukh. So, how can Shahrukh say “you don’t trust the system”? He should say “you have learned to trust the system”. And in the same way, he should say “you have learned to trust yourself”. Nawazuddin has been trying to spread around the responsibility for his actions, to get orders in writing, to follow the rules to the letter, etc. etc. And now he has given up on that, and is doing what he wants when he wants without caring about how it affects the broader scheme of things.
Oh, and then Shahrukh takes off his glasses and his sacred locket and hands them over to Nawazuddin, and asks him to give them to Mahira. And tell her “what really happened”, because he had promised her that he wouldn’t run.
Interesting moment there. That he trusts Nawazuddin with this sacred duty at the same time that he is the man who is killing him. It’s kind of a way of showing Shahrukh’s greatness. That he can set aside what is about to happen between them personally, that he can accept it as the inevitable result of how the world works, and move on to thinking about what will happen next.
And secondly, it bothers me that Shahrukh says he “promised Mahira he wouldn’t run”. Because he didn’t, actually. He told her he wouldn’t, that’s for sure. But she WANTED him to run! She wanted him to save himself and prove his innocence, and he wouldn’t do it. It was important to have that conversation, so we in the audience could hear that argument played out. That, yes, a smart character like him could easily have gotten away. But he couldn’t take the whole neighborhood with him, and that meant he would never run. So really it’s not that he is keeping a promise to her, it’s that he is keeping a promise to himself, and all the people around him. And he wants his wife to know that he was true to himself right to the end.
(A much happier promise! Well, at this moment. And in the end. The middle gets sticky. But look how cute Rishi looks! You should watch this movie)
And then the van stops and he gets off. And walks out to the middle of the desert while Nawazuddin slowly follows. Finally Shahrukh turns and says “this looks like a good shooting distance, I think.” He says it just right, like all he is thinking about is whether it is a good distance. No thought about how he is about to die, just thinking about the problem in front of him. Just like he always does.
Nawazuddin tells him to turn around. Shahrukh says no, not in the back. Nawazuddin pulls out his gun and says that he he can do it in the front. Shahrukh says he knows.
I like how they are both focused on the specifics of it. This is the last thing Shahrukh is going to do and he wants to do it right. And Nawazuddin is trying to do it right, because he always tries to do things right, to be perfect.
Finally, Nawazuddin pulls his gun and shoots. Shahrukh spins around and starts to fall. He remembers the important moments in his life, his mother, embracing Saqib one last time. And finally, Mahira and the baby. And once again, that is what hurts him.
We saw his mother briefly before. Before he went home, he stopped by her grave and prayed and said he would be seeing her soon. He embraced Saqib one final time, and all the other “Saqib’s” will be okay, all the young men of the community who can find work somewhere else, who can take care of themselves. But the Mahira’s and the babies, those are the ones in trouble. The young women and the children they have to raise somehow, with no men and no money and no future and no help from those in society who are supposed to help them. We saw how Nawazuddin looked at her, like just another tool in his machine. And that’s the real tragedy, as Shahrukh finally falls into the dust and his eyes go blank, that this strong protection for all those helpless ones has now been cut down.
And finally there is the last shot of the movie. Which is right up there with the last shot of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro for cynicism. Shahrukh has fallen, this great man and this great tragedy. His whole life flashed before him, all those people who loved him and who he loved. And then the camera pulls back and we see all those cops, maybe two dozen of them, just standing there. And Nawazuddin goes over to join the rest, they distribute themselves into three vehicles, and drive away. That’s how the system “works”. 25 cops come together and kill one unarmed man. 25 cops, most of whom we saw throughout the rest of the film taking bribes and cheerfully working with the same criminal they just killed. And then they drive away, not thinking about all the pain and hopelessness and injustice they have just caused, protected by their uniforms from any consequences for their actions.