Oh boy! Another great interesting section! Although not as interesting as the next section, my favorite part of the film. (full index of Jab Harry Met Sejal coverage here)
This is an odd point to come back into the film. And it’s an odd point for the characters too. In the last section, after spending a day hunting around Amsterdam together and before leaving for Prague, Anushka followed Shahrukh when he went out that night, landing at a club. Shahrukh recognized her there and tried to get her to go back to the hotel, and she reacted by asking if he found her attractive. He sincerely denied attraction, not feeling for her the kind of sexual desire mixed with danger and domination that he felt for other women (as we saw in his brief interaction with a woman before Anushka arrived). And Anushka was offended, not so much because he wasn’t interested, but because of the reason he wasn’t interested, he slotted her in as a certain “type” of woman, “nice sweet sister-type” and she didn’t want to be just that, the thing everyone saw her as, the thing she had spent her life trying to be and couldn’t. What is almost equally interesting is what happens after. Anushka leaves, and Shahrukh follows her, like he is pulled by a cord. She gets mad, he grabs her hand and tries to take her back to the hotel, she pulls away, and he embraces her, holds her tight, until she calms down. It’s caring, but not sexual. He is holding her because he wants to take care of her, keep her safe. Which is something she may never have experienced before (considering her fiance and family left her to go off on this journey with only a paid guide as guardian), and something he has never felt with a woman. And then they ride the train together to Prague, her curled up asleep and him watching her.
And now, the interesting bit! We pan up to see Anushka moving around inside her hotel room from outside the window. She is rushing about, not lingering and enjoying anticipation of going out, but seemingly kind of moving fast so she doesn’t think too much or lose her nerve. And over it we have Shahrukh speaking in English below to yet another friendly acquaintance, explaining that a tourist lost a ring, doesn’t know where, but his boss insists that they go all over looking for it. It’s mostly just to set up that he is, once again, casual and friendly and cosmopolitan with everybody. And it’s not very good dialogue, kind of awkward one-sided thing. But it is a little interesting how he is bending the truth of the situation. Saying that he is just following her around, just another tourist instead of the slightly deeper relationship we know they already have. And that the boss is insisting that he escort her, rather than that she and her family are insisting that he travel with her.
And then Anushka comes down and immediately proves false all his cool claims about how he is just doing what the boss insists. He sees her, and how she is dressed (red dress, leather jacket, high boots) and immediately asks where she is going, tells her she shouldn’t go out, this is a bad neighborhood. And she snaps back “you want me to sign another indemnity bond?” and then turns and strides away. And Shahrukh kind of shakes his head and trots along after her. And she smiles as she senses him behind her.
(the bit 40 seconds in here)
Look! Look how fast they have progressed! The first time Shahrukh tried to warn her and she reacted by confidently pulling out an indemnity bond, sure it would solve the problem. Now, she knows that it won’t really solve the problem, she is snapping it out sarcastically. And Shahrukh knows to back off and just follow her lead (literally), that she is on her own journey here and she isn’t going to let him get in her way.
Oh, and also that little smile she gives and his head shake. They are no longer pretending to themselves that he is just worried about losing his job and she just wants him to do what she is paying him for. Despite what he just told his friend. He is shaking his head at himself for not being able to stop following her, he knows he can’t stop. And she is smiling because she knows he can’t stop either, just as she can’t stop following him.
And then, nightclub! Strange nightclub! Anushka comes in past a bouncer with an arm band, it’s all black leather and scary looking. She seems slightly uncertain perhaps, but then glances back and checks that Shahrukh is still following her. And only then takes her jacket off and poses at the bar and orders “something wicked”. She wants an adventure, but only so long as Shahrukh is there. Both to watch the show she is putting on for him, and to keep her safe.
And then creepy guy in like a throne chair behind her comes up and clearly feels up under her skirt before swinging around to stand next to her and tell her how pretty she is. And kind of obviously rubs his fingers and sniffs them. It’s super unpleasant. And also kind of unbelievable, would he really do this to a woman without being sure she was into it? This kind of serious S&M type person I mean? And if the assumption is that everyone here is into this sort of thing, than wouldn’t the bouncers at the door have a way more stringent policy and not let Anushka in in the first place?
But what I like is that Shahrukh doesn’t show up to “rescue” her at this point. This guy is rubbing her hair and right up in her face and Anushka is on her own. And that’s a good thing, because she is okay on her own at this point. She looks a little shocked but not sad or afraid. And then the shock wears off and she is able to take care of herself, kicking him in the groin and then slamming her drink glass in his face hard enough that he topples backwards, falls on a glass table, and gets a big cut on his cheek. The edit is a little choppy here, possibly just to cheat around the fake cut showing up on the cheek. But I think what they were trying to show is that Anushka didn’t mean for it to get that bad. She knocked him into the crowd, and then the person he fell against shoved him, and that’s when he fell into the table. She really didn’t “need” need Shahrukh until chance took a hand. She wasn’t just being an idiot going to a dangerous bar where she would inevitably end up in danger. She was going to a slightly dangerous bar for an adventure, she didn’t like it (like Shahrukh warned her she wouldn’t), but she could take care of herself as needed.
Until the guy she hit turns out to be the head of some kind of strange Russian/Prague gang, and is permanently scarred thanks to the table which breaks his fall, which makes him angry enough to send his strange gang after her. That is when Anushka calls out for Shahrukh. And that is when he shows up, when she asks for his help, not before. The perfect guy! Holding back, there if she needs him, but letting her go her own way until then.
(Yep, we want this guy)
And he “saves” her not with a big macho fight scene, but by distracting them all. He bursts in, speaking Hindi, yelling at her, making a scene, so that the attackers are confused and not sure what to do next. And also getting out his frustration, that he told her not to go out, this was a bad neighborhood, and she went anyway! But mostly hiding his message for her, that he is telling her to “run!” And, while pretending anger, throwing her jacket and purse at her so she is ready. And then grabbing her hand and dragging her out.
Remember the first time he touched her? Just the night before? In a kind of similar situation, late at night leaving a club he wanted to guide her back to the hotel. And she resisted. This time, they grab hands and run together naturally. Already, such progress!
And then run run run, chase chase chase. On the way out they tell security there is an emergency inside and a bunch of guys run in. Which is weird, where were they when a woman was being molested at the bar? But also a sign of Shahrukh’s very specific set of skills, he knows exactly who to talk to and what to say in order to create a distraction in the bar while they flee.
Run run run through Prague, which is strangely deserted. Odd moment when they are hiding and a Nosferatu looking guy pauses and shouts out for them and Anushka can’t stop herself from squealing in response, revealing their location. And then Shahrukh drags her along again, down steps under a bridge and along a pier until he calls her back from where she has run ahead, so they can hide together. And that’s when Anushka breaks down and says she is so sorry.
And Shahrukh’s reaction is “for what?” Which is so perfect! And he actually means it, because he drops into Punjabi (the sign of his real emotions peaking through), telling her that the guy deserved it, she should have done even more to him. It’s just so great! Anushka went to a dodgy bar when he told her not to, she got molested, beat up the guy, and then while they were on the run revealed their location. And she is ready to be blamed for all of this and everything else, because she is always blamed for everything. And instead, Shahrukh doesn’t even care. He got out his frustrations in that speech at the bar, and it was just over her going to this bar when he told her she shouldn’t. Everything after that, he forgives and doesn’t care about. She can beat a guy up, she can scream when she gets scared, and obviously she shouldn’t feel bad for being molested. Heck, she can do it even more! He likes her like that, he likes her doing what she naturally feels like doing, he likes her like her.
Unlike everyone else in her life. Which is what we learn in Anushka’s mini-breakdown here. Her fiance hasn’t called her in 3 days, he says she doesn’t care, but she cares so much! She is here, traveling through Europe, trying to find his ring, that’s how much she cares!
And boom! Anushka’s backstory explained! She is always trying to be the good daughter, the good fiancee, and is never appreciated. And is used to not being appreciated, braced to apologize for everything always. And determined to fix anything she can so she won’t have to apologize again. She’s let herself experiment a little on this trip, because with Shahrukh she doesn’t feel like she has to be so perfect. But now it is all coming crashing down on her, she made her own decisions and tried things for herself, and it all went wrong. She could have ended it here, could have decided to just go home and play it safe for the rest of her life, but Shahrukh surprises her. He doesn’t say “yes, it was your fault, you shouldn’t do such risky things”. Instead, he says “You didn’t do anything wrong, you should have gone even farther”. And that changes everything.
Okay, there is too much left of this sequence, I’m going to have to pause and pick up tomorrow with the second half of the chase and the song.