It’s DDLJ Detailed Analysis: The Return!!! I always swore I would come back to it, and now I have! Because of Bahubali 2, which got my close analysis juices flowing. And which is also sooooooooo boring for those people who haven’t seen Bahubali 2. But who hasn’t seen DDLJ? No one! So these posts should fill in the entertainment for those who can’t read Bahubali 2 posts. (my last DDLJ post, almost a year ago, is here. You can go backwards through the archives from there)
Welcome back to DDLJ! I ended, ages ago, on a song, “Ho Gaya Hai Tujhko”. The song takes SRKajol apart from each other, to their respective homes. I don’t want to go into it in detail (I have 25 freeze frames to discuss without dealing with the song!), but just in general I want you to notice the spaces, and how unusual they are, especially Kajol’s.
Shahrukh is driving through the countryside in his sportscar. It is a life of privilege, space. This sequence always felt odd to me, because it takes sooooooooooo long for him to reach his home. But that is to show his privilege. He is able to live in isolation and space, far from the city. It’s a bit exaggerated, but this is a bit of a fantasy song after all. And his fantasy is to see Kajol in these big open spaces. He no longer wants to live in his glorious open space alone, he wants someone to share it with him.
Meanwhile, Kajol has a kind of journey we never see in Indian film. Not through scenic wide open spaces, but through rainy public spaces. And they aren’t romanticized at all, this isn’t like Parineeta where Saif’s train turned into a little fairy tale playground. Kajol is walking through dingy spaces and past bored travelers. And she is seeing Shahrukh in this world, among the everyday people of her life. It’s not a fantasy for her, it’s a constant awareness of him in every boring dingy place.
The song ends with the two of them arriving at their home. For Shahrukh, that is just pulling up in front of his mansion and leaping out of his car. He travels through the world easy and free, there is no large gap for him between “home” and “outside”.
But for Kajol, there is. Doorways are a classic image in film, going all the way back to Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, and continuing through The Searchers all the way up to Inglorious Basterds. They create a frame within a frame, showing us a 3 dimensional idea in 3 dimensions, the home that is within the outer world. Or, the alternative, the outer world that beckons outside of the home.
Kajol has been traveling through this outer world for the whole last section of the film, reaching it’s peak with her long long lonely journey home from the train station. Similar to Shahrukh’s incredibly long journey home, I always found her trip a bit odd. It was just sooooooo long, bus and train and long walk. Plus, would her family really not have picked her up?
But it is all to build up to this moment. She has traveled through the gray world, struggling along with her suitcase, the finale of her whole month long journey alone through Europe. And home, warm and bright with loving hands reaching out to pull her in, it looks very tempting and safe.
We do not follow Kajol into her home, we watch through the windows as she runs in to greet the rest of her family, the doorway effect is still in place, we are aware of the outside and inside simultaneously. And therefore we are aware of the that frissure of tension when Kajol returns to the doorway, her literal portal into the outside world which represents her metaphorical portal. She means to only grab the suitcase left behind, but taking that step over the threshold, looking over the threshold, opens her up to the world again, no matter how much she might try to remain within her safe happy world of the home.
This is the “heart” that she loses when she sees Shahrukh smiling outside. Just a second ago, she was happy with her family, but now suddenly that is gone, gone for good. It’s not just that she is in love with Shahrukh, she is in love with the world, the world outside of her home. Notice, in this vision, it’s not just Shahrukh, it’s Shahrukh in a rugby shirt, a symbol of the wider world of England that her father has tried to wall her away from.
And while, in the moment, Kajol has to close the door on this vision, she watches it until the end, smiling. And the doorway slowly expands to fill the screen, showing that Kajol is now longer trapped by it, but ready to break free.
Our next shot is solidly within the home, but it shows us a different Kajol. Not one who is happily being drawn into her home world, but one that is struggling, conflicted, trying to break free. And it is not a warm and peaceful home that she is in, it is a dark and shadowed one, with the only light coming from a flickering fire.
Notice the fire in particular, and how it is structured between Farida Jalal and Kajol. Farida in red, and Kajol in white, with the fire in between, is a visual reminder of a marriage ceremony. Which is essentially what Kajol is going through here. She is committing herself, with her mother as proxy, to Shahrukh.
The way she tells her mother of her love story is fascinating! Firstly, acknowledging her errors. That she took so long to see who he was and why he was helping her. She is speaking both literally, of their first meeting when he gave his hand to help her on the train, and figuratively, of all those times he helped her along the journey, and she did not see what he was doing, and why he was doing it.
Her ending for the speech is a line I haven’t noticed when I watched it before, and I love it. Kajol says she “gave him all her dreams”. It’s not just her heart she has given him, it is all she ever dared hope for the future. Remember way back at the beginning? She asked her father for one month of her life, since he owned and controlled all the rest of it. Later in the film, in a similarly structured scene to this one, Farida will tell Kajol that she did not even have the right to make a promise to her daughter. But with this line, Kajol is acknowledging that she has dreams, and they are hers to do with as she likes. It is the culmination of all the wearing away at her that Shahrukh has been doing since his first attempt at flirtation in the train car. Getting her to admit that she has dreams, that she is alive and wants something for herself, and that what she wants is him.
And then Amrish Puri arrives and ruins everything!!!! The first thing I want you to notice about his entrance is the lighting. Kajol and Farida are both lit by the flickering fire, tied together by that light, and their conversation given a slight tinge of marriage and general holiness.
But Amrish has none of that. His lighting is regular artificial light, with grey tones. Besides the thematic meaning, this must have been so complicated to shoot! I am sure it started with Adi wanting that firelight, that symbol of home, of holiness, and of marriage, flickering over Farida and Kajol’s conversation. And he would not have wanted Amrish to have that light. But to make it work, I am guessing the earlier part of the scene was shot with natural lighting, and there were artificial lights set up just over the border. Or, alternatively, they just used the regular set-up of the house where they were shooting, finding beauty and meaning in necessity.
The second thing I want you to notice about Amrish is the doorway, again. This is not a hard and fast doorway. Kajol and Farida, they thought it was, they thought their conversation was safe. But while they were gathered around the hearth, there was no protection for them from the rest of the house. Because, within this house, any doorway is open to Amrish, he dominates them. The warm and loving home Kajol returned to, it is ruled by tyranny.
And she knows it to, our shot of her in reaction shows the fire flickering on her face, her hope of a different future and warm safe home, but the left side of her face is in the natural light, and she looks up towards Amrish in fear.
Farida is caught between. Notice how perfectly she is positioned in this shot. At first I thought it was just interesting for showing how she was still lit by firelight while Amrish was in artificial. But it is so much more than that! All the symbols of goodness are arrayed on her side, the fire, the Gods, the incense. And behind her are family photos. Farida is the heart of the family, and of the holiness of the household. And she is unable to stand up to Amrish, looming over her.
Farida has to move out of her protected warm space and into Amrish’s, a diplomat between Kajol’s raw emotions and unprotected desperation and Amrish’s logic and control. A diplomat between the genders, trying to change their emotional conversation into something simple and practical that Amrish can understand. Forcing herself away from her instinctive place into her unnatural place by his side.
Not that it works. Notice that Kajol still has God literally on her side. But she is not positioned as strongly as Farida was, appearing even smaller and with the most powerful image of Ganesh blocked by Amrish’s head. She is right, but she is not strong enough to fight back and prove her rightness. She is also Amrish’s exact mirror, they are both in white with touches of gold. She is in so many ways as he has made her.
In his final confrontation with her, Amrish finally moves into the firelight. But while on Kajol and Farida it provided shadows and flickering that reflected the flickering and shadows in their thoughts and conversation, on Amrish it is blazing light, as though he is scaring the fire into flame.
And then Kajol is left alone, in one of the most perfect frames of the whole film. Notice how it is angled a little, giving us a feeling of some of the “my world is upside down” that Kajol is feeling, having just had her father respond to over-hearing her confession of love by ordering her away to India to marry another man. “Confession of love”, that’s normally just a fancy way of saying “admitted her feelings”. But in this case, it truly does feel like a confession, something that has been weighing on Kajol and she feels the need to unburden to a trusted confessor. And she feels that way because she has been taught that love is not to be a part of her life, that to love is a sin. Which is exactly how Amrish treats it, “sentencing” her for her crime. And Kajol is left with a broken heart, and struggling with a world in which her father has sentenced her for something she has not done.
Besides the angle, and Kajol’s amazing physical representation of misery, not just a normal crying, but a straining of the body in despair, there are also the objects in the frame. The fire, representing marriage and home, and on one side Kajol in white and on the other Farida’s abandoned red scarf, with the red chairs on the edges. The red scarf of marriage is on one side of the fire, with Kajol in a widow’s despair on the other, surrounded by symbols of her lost hopes, the fire and the red all around. And she is trapped as well. Within a frame within a frame (the carpet), and overshadowed by the chairs looming behind her.
Shoot, I was hoping to get all the way to the interval in this post. I’ve got 12 more frames to go. I think I’ll just put in one more, because you have to see Shahrukh next to Kajol. Kajol is in despair, her hopes dashed, her home destroyed, surrounded by heat and fire and trapped inside it all unable to get out.
And here is Shahrukh, the balm for all her concerns. First, notice that he is on the opposite side of the frame, lower right to Kajol’s upper left. Second, his frame is firmly straight and level, his world is still in place. Third, he has water to cool her fire. Fourth, he has whites to balance her reds. And to represent his place as groom, while she is in red as bride. Fifth, while Kajol is in the flickering yellow light of a fire, Shahrukh is looking at the cool white light of the moon. Both avoid artificial light, both are in light sources with religious connotations. And finally, their respective postures. They are both looking up, but Kajol is looking up with a straining body, tight with despair. But Shahrukh is looking up relaxed, his body casually draped, looking into a hopeful future.
And I’ll come back to that hopeful future in my next installment! Whenever it is. But not 10 months from now, sooner than that.
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Those last two shots compared. Mind. Blown. I’m like a greedy kid with visuals in movies–I just enjoy them without thinking too much about them. It’s really fun to see through the eyes of someone who gets the language of visuals, and knows the style of directors and cinematographers. Like you!
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Yay, a comment! Okay, I may keep this up. It takes me for EVER to write one of this things, and like 20 minutes to do a TGIF post, and the views are so much higher.
Yes, those last two shots next to each other are so neat! This movie really rewards my slow pace of analysis, because I see so much more when I watch it like this.
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I like all of your posts–silly, newsy, Hindi Film 101-y, analytical, or reactions/reviews. It’s a good mix.
These are so good! Please keep writing them! And then publish the whole thing as your second book!
Also, the farther we get into this, the worse I am feeling about Amrish Puri. Do you think he changes or is redeemed as the movie goes along? I’m thinking of the singing-on-the-roof part, for example. Maybe it’s that he’s become bad (i.e. overly rigid and thoughtlessly traditional) in London but once he’s in India again he can relax and be a better person?
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No, he is just a terrible person. He is redeemed in the last 4 minutes, sort of, but there isn’t much before that.
On Sun, May 7, 2017 at 9:48 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:
But he feeds pigeons! The whole movie starts with his sympathetic perspective! Is he really terrible through and through?
That’s the trick of the message. He’s the cause of all the problems, but it seems like the narrative is saying “oh, he’s not so bad!” However, a closer reading, getting rid of all the moments when he softens and so on, shows that it still ends just the way SRK and Anupum plan it here. They take Kajol back into their home and Amrish is left behind, as an undeserving custodian.
On Sun, May 7, 2017 at 10:03 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:
I guess I’m torn between “he does terrible things and it’s because of toxic patriarchy brainwashing etc. which tells him this is what is best for others” vs. “he does terrible things and it’s because he is inherently terrible and doesn’t care about others”. Does that make more sense?
I would say that he has so fully embraced the brainwashing that he is unable to even admit that he might be wrong. Which isn’t so much about the brainwashing, as it is about a choice to never question it. Until the very very end.
On Sun, May 7, 2017 at 10:11 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Hey — And don’t forget how he treats Sunny and Amisha in Gadar! I knows it’s a different movie, but I still won’t forgive him.
This was so mundane, I thought your previous DDLJ posts were more interesting. Actually that’s probably because the movie was more lighthearted until this point and now the conflict has begun. Either way, I do like your DDLJ posts 🙂
The next one will probably sound similar. Lots of discussion of dialogue and social meanings and all. you know what the problem is? SRKajol are separated! this is the only bit where they are, this and the first ten minutes of the film. And the whole thing just kind of seems bland without them together, even if the filming and the characters and everything else is still interesting. I get all the way to intermission in the next bit, and then after that there is Kajol arriving in India, and that amazing conversation with Farida, and then thank goodness Shahrukh comes back!
Yeah, I think you’re right about that 🙂
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WHOAH MIND EXPLOSION!!!!!!!
Okay I love it! I saw your second post about DDLJ first but hey I wanted to say that again you make me see things that I never paid attention to. And whouah J’adore!
It is so great to read you.
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