Welcome back to DDLJ watch! If this post gets decent views, I might try to do at least one of these posts a week, add it to the rotation on Wednesdays and/or Saturdays when I don’t have anything else. And if I ever finish DDLJ, I will move on to HAHK or Sholay or another one of the classics. But only if I get the views! So COMMENT!!! It lets me know you are reading, and gets more people to read them. The lack of comments/readers is why I kind of let this die last summer. (last post here, you can go back in time from there).
In the last section, I talked about Kajol’s painful return to her home. She originally found herself happy to retreat to the warm light of the home, but in the end she could not, literally could not, shut the door on her visions of Shahrukh. And she was forced to confess her feelings to her mother in the holy light of the family hearth. Only to be blasphemed by Amrish arriving to stomp on her dreams and leave her in misery.
At which point we cut to Shahrukh, in the opposite situation in every way. Not just opposite, but curative. Like taking pepto-bismal to provide base for the acid in your stomach and put your PH back in balance (I think all the pink in the background is affecting my metaphors).
And now Shahrukh will have that same confession conversation with his parent, but it will be in a uniquely different way. As represented by the replacement of Kajol and Farida’s fire, with cans of Stroh’s beer. Although, beer does have an equally ancient connection as fire. I’m thinking of mead halls in Beowulf and so on. I could take this a bit further and argue that Shahrukh and Anupam are showing how they have embraced the ancient European traditions instead of Indian, but I don’t want to go that far. Instead, I will just leave it that men drink together and women gather around the hearth. And that drinking British beer in cans is a sign that they have found a way to bond together away from their home country, and without any woman to help tie them together.
It’s not just that are sitting outside with beers instead of inside a home around a fire which marks them as men. It is the way they are talking. The conversation is just so different from how Kajol and Farida talked. It shows both the difference in social positions between a man and a woman, and the difference in basic behavior, the different way of communicating.
Firstly the difference in communicating. Women like to talk about their feelings, to give the whole story of where things came from, how they reached their decisions. That is how Kajol talks to her mother, in one long story start to finish, trying to pass on the whole emotional journey she went through. But Shahrukh, he doesn’t want to talk at all. And when he is surprised into a confession, the whole story is in just one word.
The way Shahrukh and Kajol talk to their parents about their relationship shows their different attitudes in the same way that their behavior throughout their time together showed it. Kajol was always fighting against herself, finding her way through to her own emotions, and almost afraid to admit them. Shahrukh was reluctant in a different way, not because he was afraid of his emotions, but because he was afraid of what he would have to do if he admitted them. As a man, the responsibility is his. The decisions are his. If he admits his feelings, it’s not just a matter of admitting them, it means fighting against all the world on her behalf, turning over the whole of society, going to battle essentially.
And Anupam, as both the father of this particular very responsible boy, and a fellow man, he gets that. The admission must immediately be followed by action. And so his next question is a strategic one, already considering next steps and planning.
Shahrukh understands the message of that question. It’s not just random. It’s a “field of battle” kind of question. Anupam is ready to go to the house and propose to the family, or plan an elopement, or whatever else. And the first step is to find out where Kajol is at the moment.
And so Shahrukh doesn’t answer that question directly, instead he gives the necessary background. Not the whole emotional journey that Kajol gave her mother, but rather the basics, that Kajol is engaged to be married, and so all these plans are not necessarily going to come into play. Or, alternatively, that it will not be the simple matter Anupam might assume if they decide to go into battle, it will be a real fight.
And Anupam changes tactics, going back to the beginning, asking what Kajol is like, trying to remind and confirm for Shahrukh that he really does want her, she isn’t just another girl to him. I only caught on this watch, when I was listening closely, that Shahrukh’s exact description, the first thing that comes to mind when he thinks of Kajol, is “bohut pyari” (very lovable). It’s not beautiful, as it would be in almost any other movie, it’s lovable. And not “lovable” like “oo romantic love”, but “pyari”, like you would use for a wife or a child or a grandmother. It’s not that Kajol is easy for him to love, it’s that Kajol would be easy for anyone to love. It’s a personality trait, if you see what I mean. He isn’t saying that he is in love with her, he is saying that the first description that would come to mind for anybody asked to describe Kajol is “lovable”. He is smiling as he says it, not because he is thinking of how much he loves her, but because he is thinking of all the little things she does that would make anyone love her.
But they don’t linger on a description of why or how he loves her, the conversation quickly moves back to an “action!” level. Because men don’t like/need to talk about emotions, and because, as men, the emotions lead to an immediate responsibility for action. And that is why Shahrukh addresses it immediately, letting his father know that just because he loves Kajol, it doesn’t mean he is ready to do anything about it, or that he should do anything about it. And, at the same time, gives us the thesis statement for the film! He knows that Anupam is pushing for an elopement, a dramatic romantic gesture. But Shahrukh is holding back, because times have changed.
That was the movie that Adi wanted to make, one in which the drama of the old school love stories was replaced by something new. And Shahrukh is also correct, times have changed. He and Kajol were allowed to spend lots of time together, and at any point Kajol could have confessed her love, could have asked him to help her break her engagement. This isn’t the “old days”, when you had to look for a flick of the eye or a secret message, and then respond by storming the castle. No, the new age right thing to do is to sit and look at the moon and respect her decisions.
But, is that correct? Anupum’s response, which the subtitles messed up a little, is “Love today is still love”. That’s the bottomline. Maybe the situations and rights and freedoms and so on have changed in today’s world. But Shahrukh is still in love, that hasn’t changed. And so, he should do something about it. The thing he does may be different, but he has to do SOMETHING!
That’s Anupum’s closing. The steps from A to B may be different, but the end goal is still the same. He has to bring his bride home with him, doesn’t matter how he does it. Also, while Shahrukh is being all soft and cautious about it, ultimately the two of them are still talking about the exact same thing that has been happening since forever. They want him to go and get the girl from the other tribe/family, and bring her back to join theirs. And in that same ancient level of things, as the head of their “tribe”, Anupum is giving Shahrukh his blessing, and an offer to welcome Kajol into their group.
Amrish Puri’s response in the last section is the more obviously kind of tribal and basic, declaring that his daughter is his possession, that for her to fall in love and think for herself is a “sin”. But Anupum and Shahrukh are talking on the same kind of level, about fighting for a woman and bringing her back to their group. And I don’t find this objectionable. I find it kind of accurate.
When you are talking about something as emotional as marriage, it does get to be kind of tribal like that. And there’s really no way around it. The part that matters is what comes before the tribal ancient part clicks on in your brain. Amrish doesn’t think, at all, ever. He just gives in to this side of things. Compare him with Alia’s father in Humpty Sharma’s DDLJ remix. He is even more angry and protective than Amrish. But he thinks about his methods and considers all sides of things before acting. He doesn’t just go “daughter wants to leave, must destroy daughter!”, be works through “this boy doesn’t look like much, it’s a risk to let her leave, the boy I’ve picked out is better and she was okay with him until just now, I will test this new boy by throwing him out and see if he comes back.” Anupum and Shahrukh are working through that here, is Shahrukh really in love with her, is it worth trying their utmost? He is and it is? Okay, then we drop into our baser instincts and just go out and get her.
“Get her”, but in a new age way. Anupum doesn’t go over to present a proposal, Shahrukh doesn’t sneak up her balcony in the middle of the night. Shahrukh goes over by himself to knock on the door and ask to speak to Kajol. It would have been fun to see that conversation, wouldn’t it? If this were a 90 minute movie, that would be the end of it. Shahrukh knocks on the door and asks Farida if he can speak to Kajol. He and Kajol awkwardly sit in the backyard with Farida and Pooja Ruperal watching through the window as chaperones. After some shyness, Kajol blurts out her feelings. Shahrukh is thrown by the bluntness, but manages to pull himself together and admit he feels the same way. They go inside holding hands, Farida gives them her blessing, and suggests that Shahrukh and Anupum come back that night to present a formal proposal. That’s what Shahrukh is expecting here, to talk to Kajol, meet her family, convince her that she should agree to marry him and break her engagement, and then work on next steps to make that happen. He looks eager and nervous, but not scared or sad. He isn’t ready for some huge battle, because “times are different”, he doesn’t think that will happen.
Of course, this is also his male privilege. Shahrukh doesn’t think there will be a big drama, because he hasn’t seen that some fathers still think they have total control of their daughters. Kajol knew it, so did Farida, they knew they were in trouble as soon as Amrish came into the room. But the abuse they suffered was kept within their home, to the outside world they seemed just as free and modern as ever, as though women had been moving forward just like men had. Kajol wore modern clothing, went to school, walked around with friends. But inside the home, she was terrorized. And she carried that terror with her, like she says, she always remembers that she is “Baldev Singh’s daughter”. That’s why she resists flirting with Shahrukh on the trip, why she resists everything in life, because she has internalized that abuse. And that is why she is so apparently “free”, Amrish trusts that his power over her will carry through, no matter where she goes in the world.
But Shahrukh hasn’t quite grasped that yet, which is why he is so adorably happy and nervous as he approaches her door. And tucks in his shirt, which is SO CUTE! That he is trying to look like a “nice boy” for her family.
My last section was all about doors and portals. Kajol went through this door, but then found herself unable to fully close it, to see Shahrukh beckoning to her outside. Now, Shahrukh is here, just as she imagined him, but the door is closed. They are separated not just by space, but time, she was there last night and here is there this morning.
But Kajol has managed to leave one small trace behind, the door Shahrukh was expecting is closed, but another has been left open. There are a lot of reasons to use this bell as a love symbol, but in this particular moment, it is a “doorbell”, a little visual pun, a bell that is a reminder that the door will open if he just rings it.
It’s also, as I said in the section before last (10 months ago!) a symbol of Kajol’s heart. She had it, he carried it for a while, he gave it back to her, she realized it wasn’t even hers any more, and now has left it behind for him. This was Shahrukh’s hesitance last night, this is what he needed from coming to see her today, the “green light” to put all his manly power to use and go get her. He was expecting to just speak with her, to see how she responded and get a firm commitment. But this works too, the bell tells him that he should give in to his basic instincts and drag her back by her hair to his cave, as it were.