Happy Friday! And Happy 4th part of JHMS scene by scene. I saw it for the 4th time last night, and you know, it holds up! Besides a couple of kind of slow parts in the second half, mostly just because the second half had more moments when Shahrukh and Anushka weren’t on screen together, and that’s what makes the movie work. But the songs, the character, all of that is still rewarding re-watching. But now I really need to stop, because the lack of sleep is beginning to catch up with me. (full index of JHMS coverage here)
I ended the last section with Anushka having her moment on the balcony, feeling something shift inside her as she watched Shahrukh’s confrontation with his ex, and then his strange happy whistling walk away from her. My argument is that this isn’t a simple “virgin intrigued by sexual man” kind of thing. It’s a small part that. But it’s more that she is intrigued by this sexual man in particular, something about Shahrukh calls to something within her and she knows she has to follow him, learn about him, get through to him.
And, I think, Shahrukh has the same two level thing going on. Which we see in a tiny bit of a scene I forgot that comes before the balcony moment. We see him leaving the hotel talking to his friend on his phone about Anushka. Telling him that she didn’t understand what he was saying, she doesn’t know about sex, she has a boyfriend, but what does that mean? Holding hands? Boyfriend-girlfriend, it’s more like brother-sister. And, see, he’s jealous! Already right here it’s a little odd the dismissive way he talks about her experience, there’s a touch of bitterness to it. And as the film goes on, we will see more and more that bitterness comes from longing. He doesn’t know what boyfriends-girlfriends do, he never had that. Back in India, he saw a girl twice and that was it, there was no “dating”. And since India, it has been a string of one night stands with no love there. He doesn’t know what that is like, to have someone he can just look at, joke with, hold hands, talk to.
(He wants this)
That’s his version of the “virgin who is curious”. He doesn’t want to admit it, but the idea of traveling with this good Indian girl, someone who knows how to be a girlfriend, to be sweet and fun and nice, is tempting to him. He wants that, he wants to know about it. But, again, it is also a little more. There is something within Anushka in particular that calls to him, that’s what we saw with the last scene, a combination of desire he could barely hide (all those glances at her body) and amusement at her natural confidence and personality.
Right, then Anushka balcony, sees him with that woman, begins to get a sense of just how much of a womanizer he really is and how messy his life is. And then, boat ride with the two of them! Really interesting shot. They are both facing forward with the water moving past the window behind them. In colors that kind of blend and kind of don’t, she is back in her red coat, and he is in tan, with sort of rich wood paneling behind them. Everything is almost matching but slightly clashing. Which is what happens in their conversation as well. Anushka kind of smiles and says “Nice girl, eh?” Shahrukh is back in polite tour guide mode and says “What?” And Anushka keeps smiling, like a naughty teenager enjoying teasing an older sibling about sex, says “last night. Nice girl.” (or something like that). Shahrukh tries to ignore her, and Anushka pushes it a little farther, nudges him on the shoulder and says something like, “you’re finished with her, right? You always get the job done, don’t you?” And Shahrukh takes off his sunglasses and turns to look at her straight on and says “what would you know? Have you done it with your boyfriend? No? You aren’t the type, right?” And then he turns away and puts the glasses on looking slightly regretful like he wishes he hadn’t said that.
But it’s Anushka’s reaction that I find so interesting here! Let me back up. My interpretation of Anushka’s character (which, of course, you can feel free to disagree with) is that she is growing up over the course of the film. Her family has kept her a child in many ways, never let her make decisions or do anything on her own. And also squelched any natural curiosity or instinct to try new things, the stuff that makes us adults. And so when we first meet her, she is still a “child”. Throwing tantrums to get her own way, but also surprisingly innocent and easy to control. She will force Harry to do what she wants, but she won’t stand up to her father and say she can travel alone, or ignore what her fiance wants. But meeting Harry, on some deep level, forces her to grow up. Because he needs her to grow up, he needs her to save him, and only the fully grown woman version of her can do that. He awakens something in her and she grows to meet him. But it is a painful difficult process. And now, right here, we are seeing the puberty version of it. She has gone from innocent child to someone who wants to know more, who wants to grow and change and question. But she doesn’t quite know how to do it yet, doesn’t even exactly know what questions to ask or how to understand the answers.
Anyhoo, because she is in puberty, she doesn’t get angry like a child would (like she would have the day before), she gets curious and pushes him, asking why they aren’t the type, how does he know that? And Shahrukh gives a really good answer, her fiance isn’t here with her now. That tells him. Anushka points out that he left that woman last night, and Shahrukh gets frustrated, tells her it’s not the same thing, the relationship he had with that woman isn’t what she has with her boyfriend. Anushka leaps in, asking if he will teach her what it means to be in a relationship, what it means to take care of someone, and Shahrukh gets really frustrated then, drops into Punjabi swears saying it isn’t his business, he doesn’t care (“I don’t want mangoes” according to the fan translation of the trailers, which is an odd way to say it, but I’m not Punjabi, what do I know?), and then suddenly turns back to polite tour guide and asks if she would like any tea or coffee. And maybe this is when she pushes about the relationship? Anyway, what I remember is that she doesn’t accept his turn back to tour guide, she keeps pushing.
(Friendly guide face. Also, notice slightly clashing colors everywhere)
Much more interesting is what this back and forth reveals about how Shahrukh sees her relationship. This was another moment where on watch 3-4, I went “oh, he’s jealous!” Jealous in a couple of ways. First, his comment about how he knows they aren’t having sex because her boyfriend isn’t with her now. I think he’s right, I think they are just the good socially acceptable boyfriend-girlfriend, introduced and approved of by the families, holding hands and talking on the phone but no kissing until after marriage. You can feel free to disagree with that.
But I also think he is right that if they were having sex, Anushka wouldn’t be alone now. If her boyfriend loved her enough to break social bonds, if their relationship was about more than just a “romantic engagement” in a restaurant, then she wouldn’t have been dumped on a tour guide because no one else cared enough. And for sure I think he is already revealing a little bit of how he would be if he were in a relationship with someone like her. He would be having hot sex, and he would never want to leave her. That’s what his other comment, about how his relationship with the woman last night isn’t like that, was about. He has an idealized vision of what a “real” relationship is like, and he doesn’t think it is something he can have, something he has ever had. But if he did have it, he knows he would be having sex with the woman he loves, and he would never leave her alone, or fight with her over something as small as a ring.
And that’s what Anushka is pushing for. She doesn’t even know she is doing this (I don’t think), but she knows there is something there she wants to dig out, something about how he is with women and how she is with her boyfriend, and how Shahrukh would be if they were together, that she wants to bring to the surface, she wants to learn about. Not in a conscious way, but like a teenager, who is super curious but doesn’t know enough to even know why they are curious yet.
And then song! Well, first, they reach the cheese making thing. I was watching this with friends last night, one of whom travels a lot, and she pointed out that while all the places looked really pretty, the places they went in Amsterdam in particular were super touristy. Which I think is the point, as this film goes on they will go farther and farther off the map in their adventures. But right now, at the beginning, he is just taking her to the cheese making place and the famous museum and the cute boat and all that stuff that everyone has done a million times before and will do a million times more. She is still in the safe boring world. Which is why, when she goes to look for the ring in the middle of the cheese festival and Shahrukh says she won’t find it, and she asks why she is even looking then, she lets it go when Shahrukh kind of laughs and says he would tell her but she wouldn’t like it. Later, when they are off the regular paths, she wouldn’t have let that go, she would have pressed him. And he wouldn’t have said it as a joke, he would have really wanted to talk about it. But now, they are still in the “safe” tourist spaces, both in reality and emotionally.
(This is the thing they are at. Just makes me want cheese!)
But, let’s us really talk about it! For just a moment. Why is Anushka searching for this ring? There’s a whole combo of things driving her, I think. Shahrukh, here, is just looking at the surface reason and thinks it is because she is stubborn and stupid and also doesn’t really want to get married and is looking for a reason to stay away from her fiance for a bit. Which is all true.
But there is more to it also. She has been trained to always please people, she is desperately eager to please her family and her fiance, to do the “right” thing. She is driven to find this ring because losing it is probably the worst thing she has done in her life, and she needs to fix that mistake. And she knows her family thinks that too. Sure, they want Harry with her, they don’t trust her to travel alone. But they also aren’t saying “oh, daughter, we love you so much, we don’t care if your engagement is broken, just come home.” They are saying, “okay, keep looking, no hurry, we don’t miss you, so long as someone is with you so we know you won’t embarrass us, and so long as your fiance isn’t angry about you being gone, we don’t mind.”
That’s the other thing. She wants to stay because she has to fix this mistake. And she doesn’t want to go home, because she knows they don’t really want her at home. We see her talking with her “Didi” a lot, and she calls her father some times. But it isn’t like in Queen, where her family was constantly waiting for her calls, anxious to hear what happened, worried about her, waiting for her to come home. This is a young woman all alone in Europe, and they don’t seem to care so much. Again, so long as Harry is with her. That’s what Harry is sensing already without fully understanding it himself, and what he will sense even more at the end of the film when he tells her to take care of herself because he won’t be there. No one takes care of Anushka, no one cares for her. Her fiance has left her alone on this quest, forgotten. Her family is paying someone else to take care of her because they can’t be bothered. And Anushka is determinedly saying that she doesn’t need anyone, she can take care of herself, because she has never been able to need anyone like that. She is as starved for love as him, but in a different way. Shahrukh has no one, Anushka has too many people. She listed off everyone who was at that “romantic engagement”, all the brothers and sisters and everyone, and not a single one of them is there with her now. Or even worried about her. She is a perfect daughter to a perfect wealthy family, but not a person to them. Better to be alone in Europe for a while than to spend more time being lonely in a crowd. And much better to be in Europe with a person who you can already sense might actually care about you, might actually need you.
Right, so, song montage! Anushka searches for the ring in all the tourist places, and Shahrukh talks to the managers and leaves phone numbers. Until they end up at the art museum I won’t attempt to spell and Anushka is declaring that it must be here, because this is the last place they visited, and her tablet shows the ring on her finger here. Shahrukh tries to argue that this is impossible, it’s been a month, she should just go home, her family will buy her another ring. And Anushka tries to explain, it’s a family heirloom, she has to give it back. Finally ending by saying “Do you understand emotions?” Shahrukh doesn’t really have an answer for this, just pulls out his phone like a weapon, flips it in his hand, and then starts banging it against his forehead.
(Thank you internet screen grab artist! You got me the phone thing, and a little bit of the boat!)
Let’s talk phones! Shahrukh uses his phone constantly in this movie, it’s his defense tactic, his tool, his everything. Partly just because that’s practical, that’s what phones are now. But also there are moments like this where it could have been anything to bang on his forehead, and it’s his phone. I think it’s because his phone is his life now. He has no home, he has no family, he only has the one friend. Whenever he wants some alone time, something for himself, he pretends to be getting a call and goes off into hiding. When he wants to solve a problem or is looking for an escape from a situation, he will look at his phone. When he needs to comfort himself, feels frustrated, he will play with his phone. And over the course of the film, as we get further and further into his time with Anushka, he does this less and less. Instead, he will take her hand, look into her eyes, use her as his escape and comfort and home.
But, right, not there yet. Now they are storming out of the museum, Shahrukh frustrated at himself and murmuring that he should have taken another booking. Great shot here by the way. Gorgeous huge museum vista as they leave, and these two people who aren’t even looking around because they are so focused on their goal.
And then, the difficult section! That I am leaving for tomorrow. But first, a tiny thing. They go back to the hotel, Shahrukh is holding a bunch of shopping bags. Anushka is on the phone with her sister, saying it’s all right, she will do some shopping in Prague (implying that they have now realized they will need to go to Prague since the ring isn’t in Amsterdam). And yes, Harry is here, he is being very helpful. There is a great moment when Shahrukh hears her say this and kind of half bows to her, and she half bows back without thinking. That’s what Anushka is like, she follows what other people do, always trying to do the right thing, but never quite sure that she is doing it right.
And then Shahrukh opens her door, puts the bags inside, and goes back to his room. And cut to a shot through the peephole in the door to Shahrukh exiting his room, and then pull through to the other side of the door to reveal Anushka dressed in fancy sexy clothes watching.
Although I can make you notice a couple of quick things they already set up for us. In my 1am review the first time I saw it, I complained in this next section that someone like Anushka wouldn’t even have these clothes. But I was wrong (NO! The HORROR!), because they carefully set it up for us. We saw the shopping bags Shahrukh was holding, and the dialogue on the phone about doing more shopping in Prague. But it was a little too natural for me, I didn’t notice what was happening enough. Because, doy! Of course she bought that super sexy outfit (and her other super sexy outfits later) just now, while she was alone and trying on different personas for herself. It wasn’t something her “good girl” self would have picked out and packed for a family vacation, but it wasn’t supposed to be that, it was supposed to be something this awkward inexperienced person would pick out as “club wear”.
Oh heck, I’m just going to go down a whole rabbit hole and talk about clothes for a second. This outfit is ridiculous. It is so bad that it must be on purpose. It doesn’t fit right, it doesn’t look good on her, there is a vest for no reason and a purse that doesn’t really match. Her make-up is odd, and her hair has a strange little twisted braid with sparkles in it, like she was trying to dress it up but didn’t know how. This is exactly the way a 15 year old girl would dress the first time she goes somewhere “grown up”. She isn’t wise enough yet to just be natural and do what feels right for herself.
Later, she will go out in that fabulous red outfit. Which looks great on her, and her hair is good, and her make-up. It is more what a college girl would wear. Because it looks great and makes her feel great, but isn’t really “her”. She isn’t the super short skirt and thigh high boots type of person. That’s why she has such a bad time in the end, because people mistook her for something she isn’t and make assumptions.
(Dress, boots, jacket, purse, necklace, all look perfect together. But they aren’t really “her”, not what this character is actually like. That’s why she took off the jacket and boots for the Radha song, to be her “real self” for that bit)
And finally, her last time out at night, her last night with Shahrukh, she is completely comfortable and beautiful. Natural hair, subtle make-up, that simple maroon dress that is sexy but also comfortable. And with flat easy walking shoes, a practical purse with a cross strap, and a nice neutral coat. It looks great on her, but she isn’t sacrificing comfort for some kind of “look” she is trying to achieve. And it isn’t sending any message she doesn’t mean to send, she just looks like a beautiful woman out at night with her husband, which is exactly what she is. This is the real Anushka, finally, no longer trying on different uncomfortable personas, she has found herself.
(This outfit. Try to ignore the sexiness and focus on how comfortable that dress is, and how mature the whole look of the styling is. While still different than what she probably would have warn with her family)