DDLJ Part 22: Marriage Vows Are Taken, and Kajol Makes a Radical Statement

Welcome back to DDLJ!  I’m going to try my best to put up a post every Wednesday, we’ll see how I do.  I already had to stop my box office posts when I got regular with Hindi Film 101, this may mean the end of birthday and/or trailer news posts.  I’ll check viewership and see what the concensus is as to which are more important and based on that I may need to take another DDLJ break at some point. (All DDLJ posts indexed here)

I left off in the middle of a big moment in the last section.  Shahrukh had appeared in the Punjab and, without a word between them, Kajol had understood what that meant and run to him.  But, a moment later, her doubts intruded.  What I want to show you in particular in this still is how little we need dialogue to understand what is happening.  We are so involved with these characters by this point, we know what they are thinking without them needing to say anything.  Just as they understand each other without words.

Kajol turns away and looks at the camera, unhappy.  We, the viewer, know that she is suddenly wondering what will happen next, if she should take the leap and leave her family and have faith in Shahrukh.  And Shahrukh knows that too, knows that this is his real test, if he can convince her to come to him again, not impulsively but in full consciousness, then he will have her forever.

It’s all in Kajol’s hands, and the camera tells us this.  Kajol is dominating the frame, Shahrukh is behind her, an echo of her, trying to get her to turn.

 

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She starts to turn, and Shahrukh’s figure begins to dominate the frame almost equal to her, but with her still in the foreground.  The visuals tell us that he is beginning to work his way into her awareness, to win her over.  The framing is half the story, Shahrukh’s face is the other.  His eyes, his mouth, even his nose in some strange way seem to be yearning towards her, he is putting his all into this moment, knowing that it is no longer a game, no longer a practice run like the “Palat” scene, but life and death.  If she doesn’t come to him this time, she never will again.

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And then he moves back, with his hands in his pockets.  Which is a brilliant choice, whether it was his or Adi’s.  His face and his voice (well, the singer’s voice) and even the lyrics right here are telling us how committed he is.  But he doesn’t want to frighten her off, or put pressure on her.  So he is carefully keeping his hands at his side, now that she has finally turned, he is backing away slowly and keeping it casual so as not to scare her away again.

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Notice, again, how Kajol is dominating the frame.  Even in the earlier frame, Shahrukh in the dark colors faded in front of Kajol in brilliant white.  Now, he is kneeling in the field, at a lower level than her, hidden, she is the one standing out in our awareness as the audience, just like Shahrukh, we are desperately anxious, waiting to see what she will do, what she will choose.

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And Kajol repeats Shahrukh’s lines.  But not back to him, to herself.  This is a confession being drawn out of her, not a promise, but an awareness, an acknowledgement.  While Shahrukh was telling her something she didn’t know, trying to convince her of something, Kajol is allowing herself to struggle through to a decision, to cross the line she has been jumping back and forth across ever since she was introduced, singing a love song to an unknown.  For a woman in her situation, the most radical rebellion she can do is to fall in love.  Even before meeting Shahrukh, she was primed for it, something inside was telling her that she was not made for a life of sacrifice, for a love marriage.  And this is the moment when that thing inside finally breaks free, once and for all, never to be contained again.  It is one last final struggle as she grabs her dupatta as though she is freeing herself, and forces the words out.

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But once they are out, look at the smile on her face!  The freedom, facing the camera fearlessly, dominating the screen with her decision.DDLJ138

And Shahrukh’s smile is not just “she loves me!” But “she has won, I have won, she is free”

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Her next lines, as she takes his hands, acknowledge the truth, that she has crossed a line, there is no going back, her old life is dead to her now.  Again, this is the most dangerous thing a woman can do, and the biggest thing she can do, to choose her own love, to admit to love outside of marriage at all.  And now that she has finally fully done it, there is nothing else for her in her life.

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“Let me die in your arms” is a romantic thing to say, but it is also a true risk for this couple.  Look at the expression on Kajol’s face as we hear the line.  It is not romantic, it is pained.  She really has decided that she would rather die with him, than live a long life obeying the rules of society.

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But, there is also a reward!  Admitting to love opens up sudden vistas in their lives.  the camera pulls back, they are no longer trapped within the fields of the Punjab, they can fly anywhere now that their love is admitted.

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The very first part of the song is a marriage ceremony.  Not just because it makes the fantasy acceptable, to put the marriage first.  But because it confirms that this is a marriage, what we are watching now between the two of them.  The courtship is over, they are making lifelong vows.  Any fights and misunderstandings from now on, they won’t touch the core of it, they are together forever.

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It also questions our understanding of what a marriage is.  Kajol’s family is preparing for her to marry Kuljit.  For them, a marriage is a huge family affair, the bride is on one side of the room, the groom on the other, both surrounded by their friends.  They hardly speak before the wedding.  The relationship is decided by their relatives without their input.

And now we have this song.  A wedding is the two of them, with God, in a holy place.  A marriage is the two of them together, laughing, talking, playing.  And finally walking down the road, wrapped in each others’ arms, with the recurring refrain “I would die in your arms”.  Only this time it is less about their imminent danger, and more about planning a lifetime together, ending with death holding each other.

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It makes the marriage planned for Kajol feel suddenly blasphemous, wrong.  Not just because she is in love with someone else and so on and so on.  No, on a larger level, her family and the greater society have lost touch with what we call in Christianity “the sacrament of marriage”.  I don’t know the Hindu terminology for “sacrament”, but I am sure marriage is supposed to be one.  Not just about families shaking hands and a young man raping a young woman.  But about something holy between two people, a bond that cannot be broken because God has witnessed it.

Beyond the content of the song, there is the presentation of it.  This was one of the very first Hindi films I watched, and the first time I encountered a song of this type.  What I call the “shared hallucination” kind of song.  It’s not a woman fantasizing about a man or vice versa.  It’s about a couple so in love that they are traveling into a hallucination together, their minds and dreams and hopes and hearts have become one perfect thing.

Indulge me in a small detour to discuss these kinds of songs, because I find them fascinating.  “Bol Ne Halke Halke” in Jhoom Barabar Jhoom makes the subtext explicit, after their song together, the couple looks at each other and says “we just lived 40 years in 5 minutes”.  Although they just met, from then on it is as though they have already been married, already know everything about each other.  It’s one of the reasons I love that movie, because it makes the subtext text, but somehow doesn’t disparage it.

 

The songs I am talking about, they are different from the mountain peak songs.  Something simple like “Mohabbat Ho Gaye” from Baadshah, that is just expressing the feeling of being in love, a feeling both characters have.  It’s not about the two of them having a meeting of the minds and souls, becoming one in all ways.

 

And then of course Karan took this shared hallucination idea and made it so much more complicated with his “Suraj Hua Madham”.  There is the shared, and the not quite shared.  Both of them are dreaming of a life together, but they are out of synch with each other, dreaming of their lover joining their existing life, not building a new life just the two of them.

 

Comparing with those other version just makes the superiority of the DDLJ version stand out.  Clean focus on the two of them in this dream, with bare minimum of shots returning to “reality” to confirm that it is the two of them dreaming together, not just one of them.  And no need for obvious tricks like in Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, we know without need for words what is happening.

And finally we come out of it, back to the “real”, to find the two of them curled up together in the fields.  Their closeness, and the way the camera frames them equally, tells us that it was a shared dream between the two of them.  And their posture tells us everything about their relationship from now forward.

Throughout the first half, Kajol has been struggling to trust Shahrukh, to rely on him.  And Shahrukh has been struggling with his decision to grow up and be the one she can rely on.  He resisted all across Europe, trying to maintain his “cool guy” exterior, while taking care of her all the while.  And she resisted, trying to maintain her “too smart and well brought up to trust a strange boy” behavior.  And now that has been washed away.  Shahrukh made his decision slowly, over the course of the first half, in small moments.  The “Palat” scene, telling her he wouldn’t come to the wedding, finally in that conversation with his father, deciding to formally go after her.  By the time he is here now, having come all the way to the Punjab and laid her heart at his feet, he is already far gone.

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But Kajol, she resisted until just now.  And here she is, eyes closed, head on his shoulder, his arm around her.  Relying on him to have his eyes open, his back straight, his arm supporting her.  She doesn’t need to do anything any more.

Oh, and by the way, I noticed on this watch that Adi must have really wanted this graceful effect on the return from the song.  Look at the strain lines on Kajol’s neck!  That must have been a phenomenally uncomfortable posture for her to hold.

She has shifted for the close up, looks more relaxed.  But notice, it is HER who gets the close up here.  This is still Kajol’s story, not Shahrukh’s.  He is here to protect her and plan for her if she wants it.  But the big decisions, they are still hers.  And the huge internal debates, those are all hers too.

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Shahrukh knows it is her decisions he is waiting on as well.  And he knows that, although she is now his with no take backs, that doesn’t mean he can fully understand her yet.  I love the way, in this shot, Kajol’s hair creates a wall between them, blocking her face from his sight.  And the way Shahrukh looks so kind of concentrated on her, trying to understand and prepare himself for whatever will be the reason she pulled away.

After the way her family, mother father sister and grandmother, have been ignoring her feelings, or trying to force them to change, it is a wonderful breath of fresh air for us to see someone who is fascinated by her changing moods, cherishes them, loves her independence and her anger and her passion and everything about her.  Wants her to be more herself, if possible, not less.

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Kajol stands and we can see she is preparing herself for an announcement of a change within herself.  They are standing up out of the flowers now, no longer embraced by the earth, but moving into the wider world, her decision (we can see from the visuals before any words are said), will be related to their next steps after this dream of love.  Shahrukh knows it too.  He is waiting, half afraid of what she might say.  Not that he thinks he can really lose her, again, they are passed that point in their relationship.  But that he is waiting for what new challenge she will set, him what new turn he will have to react to.

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And then Kajol turns and says the most radical words in the film.  There is so much critical focus on what Shahrukh does here, NOT eloping, that is what made this film so different from anything before.  But what if you see that reaction as only there to give us a contrast with Kajol’s?  What if it is not about the wild NRI boy refusing to elope, but about the “good” girl insisting on it?

Amrish thought she was so under control.  Farida was less sure.  But Kajol was never “controlled”, she was always her own person.  Shahrukh knew that, all along he knew that.  He is not surprised by what she says here, the only one in her life who would not be.  And the audience is not surprised either, we know this character inside and out, and we know that she is more than just the rules and roles her family has given her.

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This is remarkable!  In any artwork.  To create a female character who is so clearly a person in her own right, not just a reflection of the men around her.  At the Women’s March, one of the favorite signs I saw was one that said “Because she is someone’s daughter-Because she is someone’s sister-Because she is someone”

That’s what this film has done with Kajol’s character.  Early on, she tells her father that while traveling she will never forget she is “Baldev Singh’s daughter”.  But, we forget that.  The audience.  We don’t think of her in terms of how her actions will affect Amrish or Shahrukh or even Farida or Pooja Ruperal.  We think of her in terms of how her actions will affect herself.  And because we do, her decision here makes sense.  Just as it makes sense for millions of women everyday who run away from their families for their own survival.  Our actions, as women, are not about how they will look to society or how they will affect the men in our lives.  They are about the right to make a decision as to what is right for our own lives for ourselves.

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24 thoughts on “DDLJ Part 22: Marriage Vows Are Taken, and Kajol Makes a Radical Statement

  1. Pingback: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge: Scene By Scene Analysis in Exhaustive Detail Index | dontcallitbollywood

  2. Oh thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you for posting! And a night early than I expected! I am going to go read it now.

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  3. One of my favorite things about your ddlj post is your observation that by the point of this song and subsequent conversation in the field, Raj and Simran are married. That’s what makes ddlj unique. As far as the two of them are concerned, by little time after the interval, our couple is bound and together forever amen. The rest of the world needs to get with the program. As far as girl and boy are concerned, they’re partners going forward. It’s a fantastic observation that I didn’t catch during my many rewatches. But once you pointed it out its beautiful. Also I love how Simran drives this narrative. He opens his arms but to run into them or not is her choice. He sings to her, but the choice is hers. He is in it for the long run, but she has to say yes. Adi’s genius In layering issues of consent beautifully across the screenplay and ensuring that we see the comparison between what Baldev Singh arranges for her and what Raj and Simran find together.

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    • Yes! to the way the relationship is built.

      And it is so strong, it is something that carries through to all their future films together. K3G most of all, they barely have a romance in that one, and yet we the audience accept that they are meant to be and will obviously get married, despite family objections and everything else. This is really the last film that spends such a long time on them reaching this point of commitment, everything after this the audience just takes it as a given.

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  4. The focus on Raj saying they must not elope, has over the years taken the attention away from Simran insisting that he take her and run. To me, as an Indian woman, this is the moment that Simran became relatable. I got her now. I understood this desperation and urge to break free better than anything else. People think this is a bold request, and it is in many ways, but I think most Indian women in the same position would have done the same thing. It is more common than people like to believe.

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    • Yes! I have always thought so, not because I am Indian or anything (I’m not), but because it’s just common sense. All of that “the beauty of Indian womanhood, tradition, sacrifice” just doesn’t ring true to me. Wouldn’t anyone want to get out if they were stuck in a situation they didn’t like?

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  5. What I like about your posts is that it gives food for thought/a different perspective. I never thought too deeply about this song but the nuances of how the characters sing/act (in the song & movie overall) really make it superior.

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    • Glad you are enjoying them! This song is such an important one, it’s not just a “song break” in the film, it really changes how the characters are from this moment forward.

      On Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 9:28 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. I always thought Simran took on a more passive role in the second half of DDLJ, so I really like your perspective on this. I think the rest of the film takes on a different light with the knowledge that it really came down to Simran as to whether they ended up together.

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      • I have always thought of it as – Shah Rukh could do all the things he was doing in the second half because SHE LET HIM. She gave him blanket permission by running into his arms in the mustard field. She MADE the choice that drives the narrative. It’s one of my favorite things about their dynamic. Of course, there are a couple of points where Adi makes it OBVIOUS – he won’t eat because SHE chose to starve for him; he might stand by but SHE won’t let another man’s ring on her finger; he might sing and dance and flirt with another girl, but SHE draws the line (like in that cute scene where they are singing and he grabs Mandira’s hand, and Simran glares at him to let go. To me, it seems like Simran is giving permission: sing, dance, flirt, laugh but you can’t touch.). Shah Rukh goes along, because he is in this for her. He knows she wants her and needs her, but she makes the choices and sets the pace.

        I love Aditya Chopra. Can you tell?

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        • I love Aditya Chopra too! Although I do wonder about all these great relationship lessons in DDLJ, and then his marriage failed anyway. What did he do wrong? Well, besides falling in love with Rani Mukherjee.

          But yes, absolutely everything is under Kajol’s control! All along it has been. That was the whole conflict of the first half, she kept acting like Shahrukh was a threat, and he kept trying to show her that he was a good guy and just wanted to be a gentlemen, without overwhelming her. It’s an accurate film as to the gender dynamics and power in the situation, Kajol wouldn’t be the one to do all the plotting like he is doing because she doesn’t have the freedom to do it. But she is the one who makes all the decisions and then he acts following her.

          On Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 2:13 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. First, I don’t always get a chance to reply since I often read your posts on my phone and I have way too much to say for a phone reply. I LOVE your DDLJ posts. This last one was spectacular. I’ve always wondered about the part at the end at the train station when Shah Rukh tell his father, “she’ll come. she has to come” how he imagined that would happen. This analysis of their relationship and the fact that they consider themselves married makes sense. Can’t wait to hear the rest of your analysis.

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    • So glad you like them! And glad you commented. (the more comments, the more views, the more views, the more likely I keep writing these things!)

      I find the idea of Kajol and Shahrukh being “married” fascinating as well. And it’s not something that is necessarily limited to this film! Koyla uses the same idea, the Madhuri-Shahrukh romance is even more interesting, with the whole idea of her being married-to-Amrish-but-not-really and married-to-Shahrukh-in-their-eyes-but-not-society.

      The concept of a marriage ritual being primarily about the two people doing it (either through the Hindu exchange of garlands and circling the fire or the Muslim “Kabul”s), not about the presence of a priest (which would be required in Christianity to sanctify it) or legal sanction (which is just kind of accepted in American society as the true meaning of marriage), opens up all kinds of options. There are so many movies (Parineeta, for instance) that revolve around the explicit idea of when people are married or not. And so many movies like this that deal with it less explicitly, the couple makes a lifelong kind of commitment even if they themselves would not use the word “married”, but it feels as firm.

      On Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 1:13 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • The first time I grasped that was early in my “Hindi film career” when i saw Bunty and Bubli. They marry themselves by walking around a fire in a field and putting garlands on each other. Even when they return home to their families no one insists they make it “legal”. It took me a while to realize that Parineeta is in fact Devdas with a happy ending.

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        • Yes! To Parineeta. There’s plenty of other movies with that same kind of question, which I find fascinating, of when a woman is just breaking up with her boyfriend, versus when she is breaking a marriage vow. And the line is so much blurrier in Indian film than it is in American film.

          The really fun one is Dil. Definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it yet. They play a lot with that whole idea of “five minute ritual, married for life! Or are we?”

          We’ve got sort of distant family connections who are Chinese-American. And they had this whole massive wedding ceremony thing. And then like 2 years later the couple went to Vegas for the weekend to get an actual American marriage license before their first baby was born. Because the legal part was such an after thought, they were married because of all the rituals, not because of the law.

          Oh, and then there are all those delightful films where a couple can be married by accident just because of some ritual. I love those plots, because then you really get into “what makes a marriage?”

          On Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 1:23 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • This is also reminding me of those American old movies with similar “are they married?” plots. The Awful Truth, The Women, Three Smart Girls, My Favorite Wife, His Girl Friday, heck, even The Parent Trap. But the difference is that they’re playing with the definition of a marriage ending, instead of beginning.

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          • While talking about “accidential” marriage we must mention Mujhse dosti karoge. I love the scene when Hrithik puts sindoor on Rani’s head by accident.

            But when it comes to “Tujhe dekha..”I always treated it like typical fantasy song without much sense behind. Thank you for giving me the new view. Please keep doing those DDLJ posts.

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          • Love Mujhse Dosti Karoge! And that is the subcategory, accidental-and-divine.

            On Sat, Jul 1, 2017 at 2:55 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I know there are not many good things one can say about Devdas, but I do like how they flirted with this idea of married-in-each-others-eyes during “Hamesha Tumko Chaha”. Of course, because SLB, he has to make it over the top obvious and have Shah Rukh literally fill her maang with blood, and have them walk with her hand in his (like in the phere) and get blessings from an elder.
        But the idea that your romantic leads can consider themselves married in each other’s eyes, even though more than 90 minutes of film time remains originated with DLLJ I think.

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        • You may be right. I can think of earlier movies, like Aradhana, that had an actual religious ceremony which only the couple saw, Shakuntala-style. Or Anamika, where the heroine decided for herself that they were married, Parvati style. But this kind of sense of being married based on their own version of vows might be unique to DDLJ. And then that sense of things was copied into so many other movies.

          On Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 2:08 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  8. I will join the chorus and thank you for these DDLJ posts. Please keep them coming.

    Like everyone else here I’ve watched DDLJ more times than I can count (including once on the big screen at the Maratha Mandir in Mumbai!) But you have given me new insights which require me to revisit it. It really is in so many ways a perfect movie, which I kind of knew, and probably explains why it is so easy to watch repeatedly, but I’d never really seen so much of what you have shared here.

    I look forward to watching again, and to reading more of these posts so I can watch yet again and again, with new perspectives.

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    • Next post is supposed to be going up today, but hasn’t been written yet. So maybe tomorrow. But I have the screenshots and all! I just need to write the analysis.

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