Oh boy oh boy! I get to continue my favorite section! I probably won’t get all the way to “Radha” today, that will be our little Independence Day treat tomorrow. (full index of Jab Harry Met Sejal posts here)
So, previously, Anushka and Shahrukh are stuck together, her family insists he act as her personal tour guide/babysitter while she travels through Europe. He tries to get out of it by telling her that he is a womanizer and should not be alone with her. But she is too innocent to even understand what he is talking about. However, later that night, she overhears him fighting with an ex and suddenly starts to awaken to new kinds of life and to get curious about him. After more sniping at each other during the day, Anushka sneaks out in a new outfit that she thinks is “club” wear and follows him to a nightclub. He recognizes her, and takes her home, after rejecting her awkward childish flirtations. The next night, they reverse the pattern. Anushka gets dressed up in a much more flattering and confident red dress and goes out to a nearby club, Shahrukh follows worried that she might need him. And she does, sort of. She is harrassed by a creepy guy, but beats him up with no help. She needs help when his friends start gathering around her and calls for Shahrukh (who she has been aware of this whole time and putting on a show for). He rescues her by distracting the gang and then grabbing her hand and dragging her along as they are chased. Finally, they hit a dead end and hide. And Anushka breaks down in tears about how everything is all her fault, always, even losing the ring is her fault and her fiance blames her and says she “doesn’t care”. Shahrukh reacts perfectly and naturally and honestly saying that he doesn’t blame her at all, he wishes she had beaten up that guy even more, he was asking for it, she was awesome. And then I stopped my last post.
So, before Anushka can fully process the little breakdown she just had, and the balm Shahrukh applied to her fears, they hear the gang coming again. Shahrukh has been pacing a bit, and mentioned “this is not a good place” as soon as they hit the dead end on the pier. He is a “guide” above all, always aware of where they are and worried about the next place he can take her.
Now he takes her hand again and the sneak onto the boat fastened to the pier, then he opens the one window that has a sign taped to it so you can’t see through the glass, and gently helps Anushka through it to the outside of the boat, then closes it. And then closes the matching window, climbs out, and runs around to join her.
It’s a small moment, but he is careful to make sure Anushka is hidden before he hides himself. Because he cares about her, and because even in this extreme situation he is putting the client first. And then they hang off the side of the boat while the gang searches inside.
And there is a lovely silent moment. Anushka looks terrified, hysterical. Earlier, she had been surprised into revealing their location when she screamed. That might be going through Shahrukh’s head too, along with just being worried about her. So he reaches out with one hand and cups her head. And Anushka grabs onto it and holds it in place.
I mentioned in one of my reviews (cannot remember for the life of me which one) that this is kind of an awkward position for the hand to be on her head. It’s not exactly cupping her face, it’s half on her face and half on top of her head. Which must be on purpose. Because that’s the husband’s blessing position, hand on top of the head. Shahrukh reached out in that way naturally when he thought about touching her. And Anushka took his hand and held it in place there, just like a wife would.
Beyond that, let’s look at what their faces are telling us about how they are feeling at the moment. Because this is kind of what’s going to be happening for much of the film. Shahrukh is calmer, puzzled, kind of studying her face and studying his own feelings at the same time. He isn’t just reacting, he is watching his reaction.
Whereas Anushka is all about the reacting. She is scared, she is clinging to Shahrukh because he is the one who can save her. She doesn’t need to think past that, it doesn’t occur to her to think past that. She wants Shahrukh to touch her and comfort her and that’s all there is to it.
This is important because coming soon is the period when Shahrukh’s reaction will be SO MUCH stronger than Anushka’s for a while. But his actions will be the same as before, because he is so aware of and afraid of his reactions. While Anushka, who just does what she feels like doing, will be lagging behind him for a little while instead of taking the lead like she is here (holding his hand on her head).
And then they get off the boat and are hiding behind a tree for a moment. Anushka is terrified and shaking and asks “what should I do if they catch us? I mean, if they attack me? Practically speaking?” And Shahrukh just keeps shushing her. Until the men leave and they can get out from behind the tree and he bursts out in anger “Practically? Practically? Practically what?” Anushka is completely confused, says “I was scared”. Shahrukh turns away, and then turns back looking distressed and stressed and angry and confused and tells her she should just go home, she doesn’t belong here, she should give up on ever finding the ring. Anushka says, confidently, that you can find anything if you see for it, even God. Shahrukh says he hasn’t found God. Anushka asks if he has looked. Shahrukh turns away, then turns back, and says “I certainly wasn’t looking for you.” And then he kind of turns and starts walking away and Anushka stands still for a second until he gets about 5 feet away, and then jerkily starts moving after him.
(I’m just going crazy with the screenshots in this one!)
SO MUCH INTERESTING STUFF!!!!! First, their conflicting reactions to Anushka’s fear. Again, Anushka is just feeling without thinking. That’s why she can’t understand Shahrukh’s anger. She was scared, she asked him what to do. What else would she do? But Shahrukh was even more scared, and aware of his fear, and that he shouldn’t be feeling it. He shouldn’t care this much about this irritating young woman. And she shouldn’t be throwing herself into dangers in a way that he knows, on some level, is in reaction to his presence in her life. He is trying to keep her quiet, trying to keep her safe, and once she is safe, he is FURIOUS. At her, for making him feel all of this, at himself, for feeling it. And Anushka can’t understand any of this because she doesn’t understand his internal conflict, doesn’t realize he is already feeling too much for her, and also doesn’t consider that he shouldn’t be feeling those things, that he is breaking his own rules in how he treats her.
And then there’s the dialogue. Shahrukh wants her to go back. He knows she is terrified and in danger because of him, sort of. The changes he is bringing in her are leading her to this state. Anushka doesn’t understand any of it. That she is changing, she doesn’t fully realize that about herself yet. Or that Shahrukh is the catalyst and she needs to get away from him to stay as she was before, she doesn’t consciously know that either.
But then it takes a turn. When Shahrukh says she can’t find the ring, he is questioning her essential faith in the rightness of the world. And Anushka can’t accept that. She has a faith that you can find anything you are looking for, that purity of purpose will bring about results. And that is what Shahrukh has lost, the sense of purity of purpose, the sense that doing the right thing is as simple as having the right intentions. And so he has no real response besides his “real” response, that he was never looking for her. That he never considered someone as pure as her coming into his life, never considered that someone like her would be “his”, even if only for a little while.
And, boom! Theme of the movie! He wasn’t looking for her, but she found him anyway. “What you seek is seeking you.” He was seeking, without realizing it, something that would give him back his hope and faith and home. But since he wasn’t looking for it consciously, and he is resisting it now that it is here in front of him, Anushka has to “seek” him. Force her way into his life and past his boundaries over and over again without really knowing why she is doing it, just knowing it is something she needs to do.
Which is what happens here. They are no longer holding hands, he isn’t even looking at her, but as he walks away, as soon as he gets more than a few feet away, Anushka starts moving. She has to stay at least that close to him. And she stays that close as the silently walk up steps, through a gate, to a deserted castle-y looking place. There was a line of dialogue at some point earlier when Anushka started to go towards the hotel and Shahrukh told her know, the “bad guys” are that way. So they have to spend the night somewhere else. It’s a gorgeous setting, I can see why the location people picked it. But also, it fits with Shahrukh’s knowledge base. He would know about the nearby gorgeous tourist attraction that might be unlocked in the middle of the night. He would know about that before he would know about a 24 hour movie theater, or a dodgy hotel, or any of the other hide out options.
They reach the top and Shahrukh silently pulls down two hanging banners, tosses one on a bench and the other on the floor. Instead of seeing the banners as the interesting things to be described to his tour group, he sees them as potential objects to provide warmth to Anushka. His whole view of the world is changing.
And then there’s the moment when he throws his banner on the ground and hers on the bench. It’s so revealing. First, of course, that he sees himself as worthy only of sleeping on the ground, that fair beneath her, her faithful dog. Second, that he doesn’t want to sleep farther away. Surely there is another bench somewhere. But rather than look, he finds a place for her, than finds any old place for himself so long as it is nearby. To me, it feels like a combination of that same old “something is tying them together” issue, and that he feels like it is his job to be there in case she needs anything during the night, to always be ready to serve her.
Oh, I am going to get all the way to “Radha” today! Yay! Because I want it to get it’s very own post, and not have to do a little bit of set up before I get to the song.
Okay, back to here, and the last little pre-Radha bit. Anushka wakes in the middle of the night. The film does an excellent job of showing that scared middle of the night feeling. Her hair is kind of messed, the wind through the trees and the church bells sound too loud and kind of scary. And even the moon looks uncanny and strange. She stands up, barefoot, dragging her banner-blanket behind her, and walks over to where Shahrukh is sleeping, and curls up against his back.
Great image here. The bare feet, the way the banner is dragged behind her, and Anushka’s confused sleepy face, it all evokes a little girl, a scared little girl with a nightmare, only half awake, going to the person who will make her feel better. It’s not sexy, it’s not a come on, it’s natural loving instinct. Not romantic love, but something both more and less than that.
And then there’s Shahrukh’s reaction. He feels her behind him, turns, and for a second it looks like he is just going to squash her, but then he naturally arranges himself with his arm around her and she settles against his chest, over his heart (where his phone usually is. See?!?! The phone thing!). And we see little flashes of that black and white vision of the Punjab that we saw in “Safar”. Only this time, the black and white fades to color. Until he opens his eyes, gently pulls away from Anushka (who is doing a very realistic sleeping eye so we can see a bit of the eyeball and it’s kind of creepy), and walks away to be by himself. So far, it all works for me. Anushka sleeping trusting in his arms gives him back his past, his youth, his home, all of the things he was missing. And seeing that through the black and white fading to color in his memories is perfectly clear. And it makes sense that after this emotional catharsis of getting his home back, he would need to go off and breakdown for a second.
It’s the actual content of the breakdown that bothers me. I am sure this was a method thing, that Shahrukh spent a long time thinking about an emotional moment of his past (he has SO MANY) and then did what felt natural to him. But, it is a little much for the character. It’s not just crying, it’s like PTSD crying, not gentle cleansing tears but wracking sobs. And then he starts talking and it gets really PTSD-y. He says “it’s okay, it’s nothing, it’s okay”. Like you would to a little kid, not like he is self-soothing and trying to get himself to pull it together, but like he is somehow flashing back to something someone else said to him. Basically, it’s like Farhan’s break down in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Only, it’s just about being kind of homesick and suddenly regaining his sense of home, not about some massive human tragedy. So, yeah, kind of a poor acting decision. Should have gone more along the level of soulful staring into the distance and a few small tears and sniffles (think end of DDLJ), instead of the full Method.
But that’s the last bad part of this section! Or even “just okay” part. Everything here on it is pure brilliance and genius. And I will pick it up tomorrow, oh boy!