You know the only thing it isn’t the “peak” of? Sexiness. Comes in at least third, after the maroon dress bedroom scene, and of course the ending. But it’s a little sexy too, in that “people liking each other and being happy is sexy” kind of way. Not in the “I must have you right now and am shaking with desire!” kind of way that the other two scenes are. I mean, the characters are shaking with desire, not the audience. Although if you were too, I won’t judge. (full index of JHMS coverage here)
Previously, the whole movie happened. It’s too long! I can’t summarize the whole thing any more! Just accept that Anushka is a sheltered rich girl whose family doesn’t seem that interested in her or to like her much, Shahrukh is a sad aging womanizer. They had a shared traumatic experience the night before, being chased by a gang. They spent the night hiding in an old castle type building, and in the middle of the night, Anushka woke up and went over to sleep laying against Shahrukh. Which set off some kind of emotional reaction inside of him and made him suddenly remember the Punjab where he grew up. The next morning, she found him crying, and instead of explaining exactly what he was feeling, Shahrukh asked if she had ever been to the Punjab, and then told her that he left the Punjab years ago to be a singer in Canada. And then briefly sang for her, and ordered her to sing for him. And Anushka sang a little bit of a cute girlish proper song about “Radha” with little practiced hand gestures.
And now we are here! The BEST part of the movie (unless you are a sick sick person and just like that last 5 minutes best. In which case, I may agree with you). I am strongly tempted to carry out my threat from yesterday and just spend another 3 thousand words on slooooooooow lingerrrrrinnnng set-up. Partly just to prove I could (I really could, there’s all kinds of things we haven’t discussed like Anushka’s necklace and Shahrukh’s shirt and the sunlight and why this is all happening in Prague), and partly to make it part 10 instead of part 9, because part 9 just doesn’t seem triumphal enough. But no! Enough foreplay, let’s get to the good bit.
So, Shahrukh has sung for Anushka, and Anushka sang for him. And his response to her perfect good girl/rich girl trained singing was to ask if she could make it a little more “grrr”. Which is a great moment of taking their earlier struggles with her not wanting to be just the “Chinese Vase” good girl and acknowledging them, saying “yes, I believe you can be more”. And then the camera pulls way way back. Suddenly we are overhead and we are seeing the sunshine and the whole city spread before them as Shahrukh, a dark spot on the frame, moves away from Anushka to stand farther back and break into this great tripping manly Punjabi song.
This must be the reason they wanted this location. Well, one of many. When we first saw it last night, it just looked scary and isolated. But in the morning sunlight, it’s like they are on top of the world. It’s that mountain peak effect from Switzerland songs, but transported to Prague. And now, as the song starts, we can see how Shahrukh is freed, the world is laying before him and he is one small spot in the sunshine and promise of it all.
And Anushka gets her own, different, use of the space. We move down closer to them as she starts to sing. Her first song was standing in one place, hands and eyes and all moving just so. But now, after Shahrukh’s challenge, and after he has sung for her, she starts moving all around. They are in a big sunshiney open space, and she is no longer trapped within one corner of it, she moves where she wants to move, and her gestures and dance moves become wilder and less practiced, more joyful.
She is partially borrowing Shahrukh’s joy. I noticed on my last watch, when he starts to sing for her, she gets this delighted smile on her face. We see that through out the film, when Shahrukh is happy, truly happy, she is euphoric. But when she is happy, Shahrukh is calm. I love that, that they are having a similar experience but reacting in their own ways.
Skipping ahead to “Phurr”, Anushka is never happier than she is in that song, I think. It is her peak for the film, and it isn’t really related to Shahrukh necessarily, in the same way his happiness here isn’t exactly about her. She caused it, yes, somehow magically gave him back his youth and home and all that. And now as he sings, it keeps building on her reaction, her smiles and joy and singing back to him are making him happier. And in the same way, “Phurr” is Anushka feeling free and powerful and sexual and all good things thanks to the positive reinforcement she is getting from Shahrukh. But it’s not exactly “I am happy because I am in love”. It’s “I am happy because love has given me back myself”.
(I hate this music video. The movie version is so much better)
But look at the reaction to their happiness. In “Phurr”, Shahrukh isn’t necessarily dancing around with her or anything, he is walking and talking and being sensible and grounded. But in a kind of calmly happy and centered way that we don’t really see in other parts of the film. That is, other parts where Anushka isn’t happy. It’s the same to a lesser degree in “Raula”, her reactions are what make him smile and kind of confident. And in the little bits we see of their regular interactions in “Beech Beech Mein”, when she is smiling and chattering, he is kind of calm with a little smile on his face. That’s what’s been missing from his life, something that sort of centers and focuses him. To put it tritely, “Happy wife-happy life”.
(So happy this is on youtube now. Hope they put up “Yaadon Main” soon)
On the other hand, when Shahrukh breaks through his reserve and is truly happy, Anushka reacts like she does here, huge smile, huge happiness. Because that’s what’s been missing from her life, this kind of crazy freeing euphoria. His happiness is contagious to her, when he smiles or sings or jokes, she reacts like the sun just came out. Because that’s what he is to her, the sun she revolves around. That’s what the “Butterfly” song is about, he is happy because he has finally returned home (with Anushka to ground him through this emotional experience). And Anushka is happy because he is happy, that’s all she needs for herself.
Bringing it back to “Radha”, that’s what this opening section is about. Shahrukh suddenly breaks into happy song. Which makes Anushka literally dance with happiness.
Now, let’s look at the rest of it. Every time I watch this movie I think “this is the time I am going to pay attention to when all the little bits happen in this song”. And then I fail utterly and it just turns into a happy mosh in my head.
Which is kind of on purpose. You can choreograph and film in a song in a very precise way that is easy to deconstruct, for instance “Janam Janam” from Dilwale has a very careful construction. Opening “real” moment, fading into fantasy still in the “real” location, then it builds to a series of shots in the fantasy location, then back to “real”. And within each of those sections, you have specific moments, when the umbrella is thrown away, when Shahrukh dances up the stairs, it’s all carefully story boarded feeling because it is there to tell a story.
This song is here to give us a mood, not tell a particular story. Because that’s what this whole film is about, internal emotional shifts, not big story plot type moments. And so it relies on little moments of interactions between the characters, flashes of things edited together, no real sense of what comes first and what comes last.
The biggest “structure” to the song comes from the physical structure they are standing on. We start on the pavilion, on top of the city, open with a lot of space. Then we briefly move into the corridor. Then down the stairs. Then we dance freely through all the space. And then we are back on the ground walking out. Only, through out the song, while the physical space is stationary, we kind of jump back and forth through time in a confusing way.
I’m gonna stick with the physical space to ground me and help me remember all I wanted to say. First, in the slightly shadowed corridor where they slept, Anushka is dancing along and Shahrukh is following her, and they briefly go back and forth line by line. But while they are singing to each other, Shahrukh leans forward and traps her against the railing, she shoves him off, dances away, and starts to take off her jacket. And Shahrukh stands back against the railing and gets kind of an aroused look on his face, the same look we in the audience have been noticing off and on when he looks at her but which Anushka has never caught before, and also wouldn’t be able to understand.
But this time, she does. She sees him seeing her and gets a big smile on her face, and flips her jacket back on her shoulder and then starts to try to take it off sexily. But gets bored in about a second and just shakes herself lose of it and moves on.
This is one of those moments that works both on its own, and as the whole story in a microcosm. Anushka wants to catch Shahrukh’s attention. She does. She tries to change herself to build on that, but ends up just giving up and being more herself. And, from the other side of things, it was her natural shaking loose of the jacket that first aroused Shahrukh. But when she switched to being “sexy” I think (if I am remembering this correctly), his interest changed to more amused instead of aroused. What does it for him is when she is herself, clumsy and enthusiastic and a little crazy. Not when she is actually trying to be what she thinks of as “sexy”. Which is what Anushka sees here, both that she has the power to get him interested just by being herself, and that it isn’t worth it to change and she doesn’t want to, and he doesn’t want her to.
And it’s important that this comes after the last little bit, when he leaned over her against the banister. It’s such a clear “man pursuing, woman enjoying” moment, but it doesn’t even register for Anushka as such. She just thinks they are goofing off, doesn’t consciously react to his body close against her or any of the rest of it. Just dances away. Meanwhile, Shahrukh is already primed to react to her stripping, because he had just given in to his urges and tried to embrace her. And maybe Anushka is primed to recognize (finally!) that he is attracted to her because they just had that moment a second ago which maybe she noticed on a subconscious level.
This is also where Anushka’s dancing starts to get wilder and wilder. She started out with her little proper hand moves. And then when she was dancing on the pavilion, she broke out of the proper expressions on the face, and started a sort of skipping dance to go along with her little hand rolls. Then it was just sort of chase/dance through the corridors. But now, with her jacket off, she breaks out into the dorky disco moves we got a taste of at the night club.
I love that Anushka’s signature moves are disco. In India, it’s this odd old fashioned/tacky new fashioned thing. I can picture her as a little girl watching Mithun Chakraborty movies, and then happily singing along to “It’s the Time to Disco” as a teenager. And listening to everyone talking about the latest rap song or western music or Indian classical and silently thinking about the songs she likes and how she shouldn’t talk about them. And then there’s the dancing. Disco dancing let’s her spread out, take up space, be joyful. It’s not small and feminine and quiet and refined. But it’s also something with simple rules that she can easily learn and then feel confident in breaking them or sticking with them as she chooses. And the same could be said of Bhangra now that I think about it. Which we will see her doing with Shahrukh more and more as the film continues. And he will follow her disco moves. Dance, between the two of them, turns into this crazy joyful expression of personality, and expression of their personalities melding in a unique way. She brings her dorky city girl disco dancing attempts. He brings his farm boy Bhangra. But both of them are about the joy of life lived large, not small moments.
(Can’t you picture young Anushka watching this already out of date video and earnestly trying to match the moves?)
And now they go down the stairs. And they are both fully into their respective styles. Anushka is doing her dorky coltish big moves, and Shahrukh is doing good Bhangra. You know, the sexy kind, where it’s is about small controlled moves of the hands and shoulders and somehow feels more powerful for how controlled it is.
And both of them are still singing. I think this is the first time Shahid Mallya has sung for Shahrukh. He really hasn’t sung for much so far. He seems to be someone they bring in for the really Punjabi sounding songs, not only does he have that kind of musical training, he has that kind of voice, sort of rough and strong. But that doesn’t mean it is limited. In Udta Punjab, he did a brilliant job with “Chitta Ve”, but also with “Ikk Kudi”. Shahrukh’s “regular” voice in this film is Arijit Singh, who is still a bit of a rough fit for me aurally, although they are fitting together better now than they used to (“Gerua” still makes me go “wait, why is Shahrukh lipsynching? That’s not his voice!”). But they wanted something special for this song, a really rural expert Punjabi sound. So they brought in this kid who specializes in that. And who could handle a bouncy Punjabi song, but with a bit of a sweetness to it.
(Wish the film video version was available, because the other Shahid, Shahid Kapoor, does an amazing job enacting this song)
Sunidhi Chauhan, on the other hand, has been Anushka’s voice before. She did “Chance Pe Dance” from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Shahrukh and Anushka’s first big duet number. But she is an interesting choice for this song. Obviously a trained singer with a great voice, as all playback singers are. But one who usually specializes in item songs, sexier numbers. “Sheila Ki Jawani”, “Dekh Le”, “Right Here Right Now”, stuff like that. Her voice is described as “natural”, “young”. She isn’t the kind of perfectly practiced high pitch that is the Lata Mangashkar ideal. I mean, she can do the Lataji style stuff, she has a high vocal range and all. But her voice somehow doesn’t feel like that, it feels natural and broken and outside the box and too powerful.
(She also did this, a great match for Anushka’s strong personality, sexy without changing herself)
Anushka is definitely not an “item song” kind of character in this film, and this is definitely not an “item song”, and yet this “item song” kind of voice is perfect for it. Trained, the right pitch, everything that is right on paper. But too strong and rich and full for the classical to contain it. But also too strong for the Punjabi coming at it to overcome it.
Shahid Mallya is perfect for Shahrukh. Shahrukh is not a young Punjabi man, he’s not doing rap or any of that cool youthful stuff. But he needs a voice that sounds young, a voice that will remind us of the hopeful youth singing in the fields over the sound of his tractor. And a voice that trips along as though it is suddenly breaking free from inside him, this joy and youth that has been trapped within and now is coming out.
I’ll put it more simply, Anushka’s voice is from a singer who is 33, and has been working since she was 13. Shahrukh’s voice is from a singer who is only 6 years into his career and is still so young and unknown that I can’t even find his age on the internet. The voices express their inner selves. Shahrukh’s inner self at this moment is young and happy and fresh and free. And Anushka’s is sure and strong.
And then there is what they are singing. Shahrukh is singing a great bouncing song about a womanizer. He jumps from terrace to terrace, it’s hard to be a lover. It gives us this specific image of a young man in the Punjab romancing woman in the village and hiding from their husbands/fathers. It’s his life, but a happy version of his life, the carefree lover, not the tormented homesick lover he has become.
Anushka’s song is a song of Radha. She is his Radha, she follows him everywhere, she listens only to him, she thinks only of him, she keeps him always with her. It’s supposed to be a sweet girlish song, but it’s a strong version of girlish, the Sunidhi Chauhan in it keeps breaking through, this isn’t a Radha sitting by the river bank in prayer, this is a Radha crossing the river and tracking down her man. If that makes sense.
And as they go down the steps, the songs come closer and closer together. At first there is no relatoinship. Anushka is singing “I am yours I am yours”, and Shahrukh is singing (essentially) “It’s hard out here for a pimp”. Very different. And at first it is that difference that is fun, Anushka determinedly singing over and over that she is his Radha, and Shahrukh ignoring her and instead singing about the life of a lover. But now it is turning into more and more of a conversation. Shahrukh is all “you can’t tie me down!” and Anushka is all “I will follow you, I will be only with you”. And it also turns into more and more of a dance between the two of them. Instead of taking turns taking the lead, now they are both going down the steps, first one in front than the other, and their movements are matching more and more.
And the music matches the visuals so perfectly here. It’s been a long time since I saw something as perfect as the way Sunidhi’s voice rolls down the notes along with Anushka dancing down the stairs. It looks like Vaibhavi Merchant may have been the choreographer, and if so, this makes sense. She did “Kajra Re” too, which has so many moments like this, Abhishek leaping up and coming down and the music lifts and comes down, Amitabh and Abhishek effortlessly trading off dance moves just as the voices trade of lines, even that guy in the corner whistling to match the whistle sound on the soundtrack.
And now we are at the foot of the stairs, running around to another pavilion. Shahrukh is arguing that love is hard, love is fire, love is everything, and so on. Anushka is arguing that she is his Radha, she is always there. And finally he ends a long line on how love is not love unless youth burns together with a glorious conclusion of “You are my Radha!!!!” She has worn him down! Her faithful determined strong love has pulled him in, somehow his love song about jumping terrace to terrace has turned into a song about love in general, and finally into a song about love for one person, and her love for him. And Anushka’s voice comes up to join him.
Anushka has been changed by him as well. A song which began as a simple statement of faithful love has turned into an expansion on all that love means. She dreams only of him, speaks only for him, has SO MUCH love to give him. This isn’t a passive Radha any more, this is one who wants to be with her Krishna, who is chasing him down.
And one of my favorite things is that when Shahrukh gives in, he doesn’t say “I am your Radha”. Which wouldn’t make any sense gender-wise anyway. But it also still leaves them in their respective positions. He isn’t saying “I dream only of you too”. He is saying, “okay, I accept it, you are mine. I will let you love me, be with me, share my life, make me happy, stay close to me, be everything for you.” And he says it so joyfully! His head thrown back, his voice souring, huge smile on his face. And her reaction is so joyful too! Big smile, pointing at him like “Ha! You said it!” She isn’t peacefully accepting her due, she is delighted with her victory, delighted to be his, that her faithful devotion and determination brought him around.
And then we get to see what this looks like, their life with Anushka as his Radha. First, she sings again, jokingly pretending to pull him with a string as he follows her around. Then, he shows her his Bhangra moves and she follows. And finally we have glorious anarchy, with both of them dancing their hearts out with no words at all. And then the moment at the end when they are back to the place they started, the bench on the corridor where she slept, shoes back on, jacket slung over shoulders, arm in arm, smiling and laughing and walking away together.
Let’s talk about clothes for a second. I mentioned in an earlier post how Anushka’s “clubbing” outfits show her growing maturity. This outfit, the red dress with leather accessories, is super flattering, and also kind of practical. But it doesn’t full express her personality. She is all energy and enthusiasm. Not the kind of restrained cool and danger that black leather evokes. When we first see her at the beginning of this song, she is wearing her jacket but, along with the rumpled hair, it is also kind of rumpled and tells us a story of sleeping in it for warmth, not wearing it as a cool fashion statement. She strips out of it and turns into something else. Simple Anushka, hair fallen down and natural, a great dress on that is both sexy and full of personality. And barefoot, free, able to move. And this stripping down to simple Anushka, that’s when Shahrukh notices her, when the leather jacket (which just disturbed him and made him shake his head, didn’t attract him) is gone and it is just her.
Shahrukh doesn’t change clothes over the course of this song. Or over the course of the film so much. He knows who he is and is comfortable with himself. Jeans, sneakers, button shirt. He strips off the tour guide look of course way at the beginning. But once that is gone, he is comfortable with the rest. All that happens in this song is that we see why he likes this look. He may not sing and dance any more, but he still wants to be able to. He won’t wear confining shirts or cut his hair short or have tight shoes or fitted pants. He wears things that he could, at a moments notice, Bhangra in.
(Even in the happy ending, when he has resolved all his demons, he is still wearing essentially the same thing)
At the end of the song, Anushka puts her other clothes back on, shoes and purse, jacket in hand. But they are just clothes now, not a personality she is trying on, she laughs with Shahrukh while putting them on, not thinking. And he isn’t thinking either, casually slinging his jacket over his shoulder, not fully “dressing” because he doesn’t have to, he is still comfortable and ready to move with her, happy to keep his jacket slung over one shoulder so he has an arm free to embrace her and can feel her arm against his back.
And this is them putting real life back on. But putting it on lightly. The wild playtime is over, but not really. They are keeping loose, keeping close, still smiling and moving together. They have found a way to carry it forward as they move down back onto the ground, off of that great height where they started.
And this is the movie. I mean, the whole movie we are watching right now start to finish. At first, Shahrukh is a lover, free and easy. And Anushka is a good girl who just wants one man. But then she starts pursuing him, wearing him down. And he starts singing about love as love, not just as pursuing women and the thrill of the chase, but the feeling. And somehow, her concept of love for one man turns into a love which gives her joy and happiness and makes her feel herself, and then mixes and merges with his version of being a lover, but a lover on fire, until they meet in the middle. She grows to understand his version of love, it informs hers, no longer a mere matter of duty, but a joy and an excitement. And he grows to see that there can be a different kind of craziness and wild joy from accepting the love of one woman and following her everywhere, instead of being free and chasing many women. And once they come together, it all becomes a wildness, they are together but separate, each in their own moment of mad delight. But only finding this delight through the presence of the other. Until, finally, the madness passes and they reach for each other, holding tight to the other to return to normal life, but keeping that joy in their hearts forever so long as they are together.
And this is the movie. The initial fights and sparring. Finally the acceptance of what they mean to each other (this song) and then Shahrukh following her lead (“Hawayai” coming up in a second). Then the wild joy and freedom of just being together (“Beech Beech Main” and the rest of that section) and then the awkward putting on of the clothes of society and normal life and figuring out how they can go back to it and still retain that happiness inside (the last section when they think they have to break up). Before, finally, the hit the ground and realize they can find a way to be together in “real life” too (“Butterfly” and the scene before it).
(By the way, this post should have really been split in half, and gone up tomorrow and the day after, and a VIP 2 review tonight. But then a nice person sent me money in response to my donation request post, and I thought “what could I do that Anonymous Nice Person would like in order to thank him/her? I know! Anonymous Nice Person likes my JHMS posts, I will write an epic ‘Radha’ post to make him/her happy and also put it up a day early and not split it into two posts even though it is really too long for just one”. So, you should all mentally thank Anonymous Nice Person for this little bonus treat and send good vibes her way in gratitude)