I’m here! I’m excited! The first scene which really needs explanation and discussion or else it makes no sense. The one that we all get to have arguments about what it really means and if it is stupid or works and how we all (and all the characters) feel about things. Oh boy! (full Jab Harry Met Sejal index here)
So, Shahrukh and Anushka are traveling together. Shahrukh was convinced to be her personal guide while she quickly looked at all the places they had been previously on their tour in Amsterdam trying to find her ring. They had an awkward conversation where he tried to explain that he shouldn’t travel alone with her because he has a bad reputation with women, and she didn’t even know enough to know why she should be nervous. Which ultimately is her protection, she is so naive that he won’t let himself think that way about her. Even though he is obviously super attracted to her, but is trying to hide it from her and himself. Anushka overhears him fighting with one of his ex girlfriends and suddenly feels something shift inside of her. She can’t help asking him about it the next day, he tries to avoid the conversation, but finally gets sucked into revealing his real feelings, that the woman last night was nothing, but her relationship with her fiance is also nothing if he is letting her travel alone. And then they go back to looking for the ring, finally determining that it is not in Amsterdam and must be in Prague and planning to go there the next day. But the night before, Anushka secretly watches Shahrukh leave, dressed in a “sexy” club outfit, clearly planning to follow him.
One of the few showy noticeable camera things is here, Anushka looks through the door at him leaving his room, looks away, and looks back through the peephole to see his eye looking back at her, and then suddenly ducks down to avoid it. Really cool looking thing, the distorted effect on his face. But also kind of takes you out of the story for a second, because there isn’t much of a meaning behind it, it’s not like he is distorted to her or something, it’s just that she is scared for a second and then recovers and starts following him.
I haaaaaaaated this sequence on my first watch (as you can see in my first review), but now I kind of love it. Because it is such a great character moment for them both. First, the way Shahrukh is striding along, with the music playing behind him. You can see him feeling increasingly confident and happy and manly as he goes. Especially that little moment when he passes a row of white women sitting on a bench and they all kind of follow him with their eyes and he starts to smile. This is his power, to know that he can go out in the world like a tomcat and conquer women. It makes up for all the “coffee ma’am? This way ma’am. I am sorry ma’am” that he has to do all day in his job.
(This is his song. Which is manly and dangerous)
And then there’s Anushka. What I totally missed on the first watch is that this isn’t about her wanting to go out to a club and thinking he can show her the way. This is about her wanting to follow him, in particular. She isn’t going clubbing, she is going spying. And we can see that in the way she hides behind a lamp post when he turns around, looking scared, like she is going to get “caught”.
And also in how she is dressed! I said in my last section that Anushka’s 3 “evening” looks show her progression from teenager to young adult to fully grown. And yes, she is dressed like a teenager going to a club for the first time here. It’s a very unflattering outfit (pulls in at the waist in a way that makes her tummy stick out and her breasts look saggy) and she also looks awkward in it, like she is aware of what she is wearing the whole time. But, what I didn’t talk about, is her motivation for awkwardly trying out club wear. I don’t think she is necessarily trying to look sexy, or looking forward to going to a club. That was my big problem on the first watch, I didn’t believe a “good girl” type like her would suddenly want to go to some loud dark boring club (as I said, I am a “good girl” type myself, and going to a club like this looks horrible. I’m not resisting my inner desires, I just don’t want to). But, I don’t think she does want to go to this club. She wants to follow Shahrukh, that’s all, and she suspects that he will go places where she will need to wear club wear in order to blend in. And this is her guess at what club wear would look like.
So, club club! I don’t know if this is what clubs are actually like (I’ve only been to them to watch my friends perform and then left immediately, so not quite the same situation), but if it is, it seems very unpleasant! Flashing lights, loud music, you can’t like sit somewhere and talk about movies, what’s the point! STUPID!
But Shahrukh is clearly in his element. Kind of. He looks very tomcat like, kind of standing back and watching the room and biting on something (a cheeto? I want cheetos. Do I have cheetos?). But he doesn’t look happy exactly. More like prepared? Controlled? This is where he belongs in the world because of who he is, but he doesn’t like who he is.
(I don’t have cheetos. But I did find a mini-bag of cheesy doritos. It’s not the same)
Okay, ready for a really really interesting moment? Which is either super sexy or just weird and unpleasant depending on your taste in foreplay?
A European comes up and greets Shahrukh, seems to be a friendly acquaintance. And he introduces Shahrukh to his new girlfriend, then goes off to get them drinks. And as soon as he is gone, Shahrukh gives the girlfriend the sex eyes, and she kind of reacts, he mouth goes a little slack and her eyes widen. And then he points at her and slowly lowers his hand until the finger stabs into her naval. It’s not molestation, he is moving really slowly and maintaining eye contact the whole time, and she is slightly reacting and he can tell. He moves his finger around her naval, then reaches out with his other hand and grabs either side of her waist and pulls her close against his body for just a moment. And then her boyfriend returns and Shahrukh neatly spins around as though he were grabbing for another snack (cheeto?) and turns back, all calm and innocent looking.
So, this is what gets him off. Grabbing a white woman behind her white boyfriend’s back and knowing that she will be dreaming about him that night. It’s not rapey or molesty, because then it wouldn’t be any good for him. He has to “win”. He has to know that the woman is more attracted to him than to the other man, not by force, but fair and square. He needs that sense of power over them.
That’s what his womanizing is about. It’s not a sex addiction, exactly. It’s the only way he can feel powerful, feel like a man, feel like himself. It ties back to what we saw in “Safar”, all those moments when he was perfect and polite and let himself be abused. And those little hints in dialogue about how he doesn’t feel “worthy” any more. But, I think, it’s not that all the sex makes him unworthy (which is what he is telling himself). It’s that he thinks he isn’t worthy and that’s why he has sex, to try to convince himself he is worthy. But it doesn’t last, soon enough he feels worse than before.
And that’s why Anushka can save him. Not because she won’t have sex with him or anything like that. But because she convinces him he is a good person and then he doesn’t need to use sex for that any more.
(Same thing Priyanka does with similarly dangerous-using-sex-to-feel-powerful Shahid in Teri Meri Kahaani. Only there it is a little more explicit, he goes from sleeping with white women to fighting the British)
Speaking of Anushka, here she is! She scampers past the 3 of them and then runs up the stairs trying not to look back. But it’s too late, Shahrukh recognizes her immediately and follows her.
Let’s talk following! This entire movie is the two of them taking turns following each other. Anushka followed him here, pulled by an invisible cord. Did he sense it? Is that why he was smiling on the way in? And now he sees her out of the corner of his eye and starts to follow her right away. Yes, there is a surface explanation for it, she is curious and he is worried about getting in trouble if she gets in trouble at this club. But it’s more than that, the recurring way they keep taking turns going after each other, right up to the end of the film, it goes back to the “what you seek is seeking you” tagline. They need each other, they can’t stay away from each other, without quite knowing why.
Now let’s talk Anushka’s personality! I LOVE her dancing in this movie! This is the first time we see it, and it is super dorky and awkward. Disco moves, they make her happy, but they aren’t that graceful and they certainly aren’t sexy. And yet she is determinedly doing them, trying to blend in the only ways he knows how.
(that’s why this song is so joyful, it’s Shahrukh giving in to the happy dorky “I don’t care what I look like” dancing style of Anushka)
So, here’s my take on her personality. I think she is loud and confident and curious and happy with herself. At least, that is how she is supposed to be. Going out and doing her disco moves. But her family and her fiance don’t want her to be like that. She can be the family lawyer, that is an appropriate place for her confidence and argumentativeness. But within the family, she should be under control, apologetic, always asking for permission. Back when she and Shahrukh first meet, he says something about “your family will let you stay back?” and Anushka’s response is “Let me? I am a modern woman!” And then she immediately has Shahrukh talk to her father so she can have permission to stay. She isn’t a modern woman at all, she is always supposed to be with her family or her family approved boyfriend, or a “babysitter” like Shahrukh. Because her family doesn’t trust her to control her Disco moves and all the rest of her personality, she is “careless”, she doesn’t do the right thing. That’s what she needs from Shahrukh, someone who likes her with all her awkwardness that she feels she can show him partly because it is him (her fated other half), and partly because he is “just” a tour guide.
And he does like her! Just not in the way she is expecting at the moment. He stops her, and she acts (unconvincingly) as though it is just a coincidence. He ignores that, tells her this place isn’t for her. Anushka blows past that and says that she likes it, and then kind of smiles and dances and Shahrukh can’t help smiling back as he watches her. He says something, she can’t hear, he leans forward to say it closer to her ear, and she pulls back saying he is flirting. And he is legitimately shocked, no! He isn’t flirting. Anushka turns that, asking if she isn’t worth flirting with, and backing up to dance a little more in front of him, asking if she is sexy, if he likes her. She says it with this kind of naughty smile on her face. Not naughty like sexy, but “naughty” like a little kid would be naughty, like she knows she is doing something she shouldn’t and is kind of enjoying it.
And Shahrukh reacts like he would to that little kid. He gets a big smile watching her, the first sincere smile we have seen from him this whole film. And he kind of laughs and says no, she isn’t sexy, she is cute, sweet.
And Anushka immediately gets mad, says he insulted her! Even a womanizer doesn’t like her, doesn’t like her body! Shahrukh tries to back off, explain, a “woman like her” is beautiful, but not to be touched. Anushka summarizes “nice, sweet, sister-type, right?” Shahrukh suggests instead “a Chinese Vase. Beautiful, but not to be touched.” Anushka doesn’t accept this and storms off.
Okay, that was a weird interaction! On both their parts. Let’s take Shahrukh first. We know he is super attracted to Anushka. And we know she can make him smile like no one else can. And make him walk away from a sure thing to chase her up the stairs for no real reason. If she were a different client, he would let her stay in the club and ignore her, it’s none of his business. Of course, if she were a different client, she wouldn’t have followed him off the beaten path into this club.
However, he isn’t super attracted to her in the way he is attracted to other women. He doesn’t want to seduce her, to “win” her. That drive isn’t there with her. He is attracted to her body, yes, very attracted. But only when he isn’t distracted by her mind, her personality. Right now, she is dancing for him, but he is looking at her smiling face and her awkward dance moves, not her body. She makes him laugh and (probably) makes him want to kiss her, but she makes him want to protect her, above all else, including from himself. To keep her with this fresh confident personality. That’s why he reacts so immediately to her suggestion that he is flirting, and to her direct question of whether she is sexy. Because, no! He would never want to do that to her.
But what’s up with Anushka? I don’t think this is an actual come on. I think she didn’t really think this through. She just wanted to follow him and see him in a different context. She was running away, hoping he wouldn’t see her. But once he did see her, she kind of got caught up in the whole thing. Was excited when she felt like he was flirting with her, and found herself trying to flirt back, the only way she knows how.
So far, so good. But then he rejects her, and she surprises herself by how she reacts, I think. I don’t know what she would have done if he had responded to her approaches. If he responded like he had to that woman earlier, with an aggressive sexual move, she would have been ashamed and embarrassed and disgusted with herself, felt dirty. But if he had responded by admitting that yes, he can’t look away from her ever, that could have started their romance a good month earlier. Only, Shahrukh wasn’t ready to say that to her yet. And she wasn’t ready for what he could offer now. So there is no good answer.
Her disgust with the “sweet, sister-type” response, I think that tells us pretty well how she sees herself and how most people see her. We already had her awkward disco moves, and now we have the other piece. That disco dance, that’s the “real” Anushka, that’s who she is trying to discover on this trip without really realizing she is doing it. But the surface Anushka, the one her parents and her fiance want, that’s the “sweet, sister-type”. Maybe that’s what frustrates her? Not that Shahrukh is rejecting her sexually, but that he is rejecting her personality, her as anything more than the same “sweet, sister-type” everyone else sees. And she wants to be more, she thought he might see more.
(and he does see more, that’s what he is saying in “Radha”, that she should try to be more than just a “sister-type”)
At least, that’s how I see it. Makes more sense than some kind of stupid “women are always offended if men aren’t attracted to them even if there is no logical reason for it” thing. Men are constantly not attracted to me (because I’m not the type), and I’m never offended!
And now we are outside. Kind of an abrupt cut, Anushka is storming off and Shahrukh is following her. The reverse of the way to the club. And skipping past the fact that both of them walked away without a look back. Anushka had no interest in staying once she was done with Shahrukh, he was the only reason she went. And Shahrukh walked away from his night out without a backward glance in order to follow her. He is trying to stop her now, to redirect her back to the hotel. Anushka is too mad to listen, says she doesn’t care, at least if she is kidnapped in this bad neighborhood it means that someone will find her attractive! Shahrukh grabs her hand, which is the first time they have touched, and she immediately reacts, pulls away, yanks it out of his grip. He grabs her again, wraps his arms around her, and holds her still.
It’s not sexual, but it is. Because it’s them. But Shahrukh is clearly grabbing her for her own good, to hold her and calm her down, that’s all. Which is what makes it sexy, for them both. For her, to have some grabbing her in order to help her, to protect her, to care that much. And for him, to grab a woman like that just because he wants keep her safe, not for any other reason. That’s strange for him, that level of contact without losing control, without feeling like turning it into something more. And then he lets her go. And they are both a bit shaken by the unspoken thing that happened. And drop back into their formal roles. Anushka strides ahead, the lady of the manor type, and Shahrukh falls behind murmuring “this way ma’am”.
And then we get a really interesting moment. We see the map tracking their journey and floating above the map, we see Shahrukh and Anushka on the train together, Anushka sleeping, curled away from him, and Shahrukh looking at her with a kind of “awakening, thinking” expression.
So, what happened to shift between them after that night? Shahrukh now knows that she can make him laugh, that he likes her. Not “like-like”, but actual like. That somehow it was more fun watching her dance than coming on to a strange white lady. And he knows that something happened between them when he held her. And he can’t quite figure out what this is. Because it isn’t the kind of reaction he is used to, she is no longer just a boring spoiled little girl to him, but she also isn’t a woman he can have sex with. So, what is she?
And for Anushka, I think she exorcised some demons that night. She made an attempt to deal with the bond she feels with Shahrukh. She expressed her frustration at her “sister-type” role. And she had that moment of being held by him, of finding peace for a moment. And now she is happily curled up sleeping, like a small child, calm and relaxed and safe with him.