Jab Harry Met Sejal Part 10: Girlfriend Proposal

Well, this is a let down.  Nothing is going to be as good as the last section.  Well, until I get to the last-last section.  Anyway, this bit has some hard work to do bringing us down from the emotional high we just experienced.  It does the job, but it’s not very interesting.

Previously, whole movie happened!  More specifically, Shahrukh and Anushka had an amazing cathartic duet in which she sang and danced her heart out as a faithful loving Radha while he sang out his soul as a wild Punjabi boy, until they met in the middle with him admitting she is “his Radha” and her perfect Radha turning into a wild crazy girl to match his wild craziness.  Only now, they are back to real life.  Walking back to their hotel.  And in real life, he is just a tour guide she barely knows and she is a rich spoiled girl who knows nothing about life or love or men and women.

Which is what dawns on Shahrukh seconds after the song fades out, and he switches from a carefree boy with a big smile and his arm around Anushka, to a responsible type, pulling his arm away from her.  Anushka notices and immediately calls him on it, asking “what, will your wife get mad at me?”  Shahrukh corrects her “no wife”.  She asks “girlfriend then”, “No girlfriend”.  Anushka says “right, you get enough action as it is” and kind of grins and nudges him like she understands the joke she is making (which just proves how much she doesn’t understand it).  And Shahrukh is surprised into honesty and says “if I had a girlfriend, I would never want action.”

Pause!!!!  Take a moment, we need to reflect on aaaaaaaalllllll of this.  First, Anushka is teasing him about a wife?  She really doesn’t know he isn’t married?  It’s kind of a reminder of how their emotional closeness has leaped ahead of their actual knowledge of each other.  Anushka follows him everywhere, calls his name when she is in danger, sings him into loving her by repeating her faithfulness as his “Radha”.  But doesn’t actually know whether or not he is married, or anything “real” about him.  And so there is this strange disconnect, the undercurrent between them is so strong, but they are struggling to catch up on top of it.

This is still something more than she would probably have done with a regular “servant” type, even on the surface level she is losing control a bit, needling to confirm that he is fully unattached.  Revealing her interest in him not just as a sexy man she is curious about as part of her strange delayed puberty, but someone she wants to know if there is space in his life for something big, more than a fling.  Oh, and of course this all comes up because she wants him to keep his arm around her, and this is the same person who was freaking out just two nights ago when he so much as grabbed her hand.  Moving so fast!  In the undercurrent, even if on top she thinks he might be married.  Underneath she has gone from “don’t touch me!” to “keep your arm around me always”.

And from Shahrukh’s side, he is the one to pull his arm away.  The crazy womanizer who warned her about himself, he is the one to resist physical contact.  And to reveal be surprised into revealing that he kind of wants a girlfriend, that if he had one, he wouldn’t be chasing “action”.

(girlfriend girlfriend girlfriend!  and now I have this song in my head)

Remember waaaaaaaaaaaaay back at the beginning I pointed out the dismissive way Shahrukh described boyfriends-girlfriends as more like brother and sister?  And then flipped it a bit when talking with Anushka, accidentally revealing that he puts that kind of relationship on a pedestal, blames her boyfriend for leaving her alone?  And now here he is.  First, carefully removing his arm, uncomfortable because it WASN’T sexual, he was holding her like he would a girlfriend.  Anushka is the one who has to push for that from him.  And, without thinking, he admits that the “action” he has is just a substitute for the real relationship he actually wants.

What I find fascinating is that this is true in multiple ways.  Sure, there’s the simple “sex in a real relationship is more fulfilling than one night stands” kind of meaning.  But beyond that, his sex and one night stands are about hiding from his depression, regaining his lost self-respect, a whole bunch of issues that he could just as easily medicate with alcohol or drugs or any of the other bad self-medication options.  Having a girlfriend would mean he didn’t do that, because it would fill the lonely hole inside of himself that he is trying to distract himself from.

And Anushka realizes that.  On the surface, she may not even know for sure whether or not he is married, but she “gets” him on a deep level that no one else does.  She immediately figures out “you’re lonely!  That’s why you were crying”.

(“Tanhayeeeeeeeeee!”)

It’s a brilliant line, because it is such a shallow diagnosis, but it is also correct.  She can’t conceive of the depths of his unhappiness, his homesickness, his actual clinical depression.  But, on the other hand, he is lonely!  She’s right!  It’s just a kind of deep loneliness she isn’t mature enough to understand yet.  But she can sense it, again it is in the undercurrent between them, she knows he needs someone and she knows she can be that someone.  Consciously, she can only label it as “loneliness” now, but she will grow to be able to fully articulate and understand what, for now, she can only intuit.

And then she makes her bargain.  Offering, so long as they are traveling together, to be his “girlfriend”.  So he won’t be lonely.  And again, such a shallow understanding of the situation.  That this little band aid she is offering will help.  And that it won’t hurt her to offer it, that “boyfriend-girlfriend” is a clear label that won’t cause any confusion or possibly go too deep.

Let me back up and clarify something.  In America where I am, “boyfriend-girlfriend” has all kinds of impossible shadings.  It can be someone you live with for ten years.  It can be someone you just started dating a month ago and it’s mostly just sex.  It can be someone you are planning to marry.  It’s a very general term, as general as calling someone “friend”.  It means what it means to you.

But my understanding of Indian culture/Anushka’s character is that for her “boyfriend-girlfriend” is a very clear specific label.  As clear as saying “I will be your driver” or “I will be your lawyer”.  Doesn’t mean it can’t still get messy, but at least the starting point is clear to both parties because it has a single accepted meaning.  “Boyfriend-girlfriend”, in Anushka’s world (which Shahrukh will understand), means holding hands and going on dates and calling each other on the phone and having little jokes together.  It does not mean kissing, it does not mean having angry emotional arguments with each other, it doesn’t even mean having intense personal conversations that last through the night.  All of that is for after marriage.  Or never (if you are a good wife and repress repress repress all those messy needs).

This is what Anushka (and all upperclass Indian young women) are trained for their entire lives.  To be sweet and pretty and keep their man happy at all times.  And so she takes on Shahrukh without fear.  She knows what this job is and she knows how to do it.  And she knows that he knows women of her type well enough to understand her offer.

Taking the deeper metaphysical side of things, Anushka has been trained in these skills all her life so that she is ready for Shahrukh.  Just as all his womanizing and sexing and stuff is because he had to be ready for her.  They are the exact people that the other one needs to be whole.

Image result for jab harry met sejal

And then they get back to the hotel, the “real world” and that perfect understanding starts to slip away from them.  Shahrukh casually orders expresso from the guard at the gate as they enter the courtyard, a reminder that he really isn’t the simply Punjabi farm boy any more.  And Anushka is thrilled to discover that her fiance has messaged her, finally!  5 Whatsapp messages!  She asks to borrow Shahrukh’s phone to call him, saying it will be a “short call”.  And then when Shahrukh starts to try to get away so he doesn’t have to listen, she pulls him back and tells him to sit next to her.

It’s an interesting little moment in the way Anushka plays it.  Asking for his phone, making him sit there and listen, it could be a return to her lady of the manor sort of attitude.  But Anushka plays it like a friend.  She asks for his phone with a kind of begging expression and clarifies “short call”.  She isn’t just expecting this from him.  And she doesn’t mention money, which before was her go to argument when she wanted something from him.  Plus, I don’t think if he was just a “tour guide” to her that she would ask for his phone.  It’s a very personal thing to ask (as I talked about before, it is his constant escape and home and privacy).  But you can ask from a friend.  In the same way, I didn’t see her asking him to stay while she talked as “I want you always at my beck and call”.  Again, it is what you would do with a friend, it’s rude to ask for their phone and then chase them off.  And besides, she likes him, she wants him to be a part of this conversation.

But Shahrukh is unhappy.  Not because he is being taken advantage of, or she is being rude to him.  He is unhappy because she has immediately switched back to innocent girl in love with her fiance, instead of the woman who was thinking about him and reaching for him just a moment ago.  And he is uncomfortable listening to them talk, but trapped since she has his phone.

I’m uncomfortable listening to them talk!  Because this isn’t the Anushka we have come to know.  She is all croony “5 Whatsapp messages baby!  You miss me so much?”  She isn’t sexy or funny or loud, she is playing the role of the perfect fiance again.  We don’t get to hear his side of the conversation, but from her reaction we learn that almost the first thing he does is send her a photo showing the ring in Budapest and giving her a new direction on where to look for it.  So, he has finally called her and she is being all sweet to him.  But he still isn’t asking her to come home.  No one wants her to come home.  Everyone in her family is in semi-agreement that an expensive diamond ring is worth sending her off through Europe alone to search for.  Shahrukh is the only one saying “just buy another one!  You should be home with your family, you aren’t safe here”.  Even at this early stage, he is the only one who cares enough to really insist on that argument.  Which both shows how worried he is about her already, and how little everyone else in her life cares about her (versus caring about an antique ring).

Oh, and then there are two sort of obvious moments.  Which are okay, but feel a little beneath the standard the rest of the film has set.  Anushka pauses her conversation to show Shahrukh the photo her fiance sent of her with the ring in Budapest.  And says “Budapest!  We have been wasting our time in Prague.”  Which you can see Shahrukh kind of wince at internally, that this whole huge life changing night they just spent together is immediately swept away as “wasting our time” once Anushka talks with her fiance and turns back into the “proper” girl she should be.  But what Shahrukh doesn’t register is that she paused her conversation with the fiance in order to share this information with Shahrukh.  She wants to bring him into the conversation, into even this part of her life.  And she does it in a quick return to “real” Anushka.  Phone Anushka is sweet and delightful.  But when she turns to Shahrukh, she whacks him on the chest and thrusts the phone in his face, not the retiring sweet “ooo, baby!” kind of girl that her fiance knows.

(Budapest!)

As soon as she is done with the phone and hands it back to Shahrukh and starts to try to “facechat” her boyfriend, Shahrukh pretends to be getting a call and walks away.  To find a waiter waiting with his espresso.  He looks at the waiter and says, in Hindi which of course the waiter can’t understand, “What is happening to me?  Why this woman?”

So, what felt clumsy to me was the very explicit “we have been wasting our time in Prague” line, and now Shahrukh actually speaking out his internal conflict.  Not horribly so, the “Prague” line is undercut by everything around it, Anushka casually asking for his phone, keeping him with her, clearly she may say Prague was a waste of time while caught up in the moment, but the changes that happened still affect her.  And this moment here, it’s a good use of Hindi.  He knows he won’t be understood, it’s really just talking to himself and this is the kind of thing you might say if you are talking to yourself.  And in addition, since Hindi is his “home” language, it would feel natural to say these kinds of things in Hindi, so natural as to be almost like just thinking them.  But still, it’s noticeable.

And it leads us into what feels like the first really not quite right section of the film to me, the “Hawayein” song and the scene after it.  I still think, after 4 watches, that they weighted the scale a little bit with these just so they could have a dramatic interval point, not because it completely made sense for the characters.

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26 thoughts on “Jab Harry Met Sejal Part 10: Girlfriend Proposal

  1. Pingback: Jab Harry Met Sejal Scene By Scene Index | dontcallitbollywood

    • Yes! Pre-release we were all wondering if he would be some big cameo from someone. But he very consciously wasn’t a big cameo. Or even some unknown cute guy.

      For me, I didn’t see him so much as a cipher, as more someone who had never moved past a very formal interaction with Anushka. Yes, she used baby talk on the phone and he introduced her to his friends. But he proposed in front of his family, he is talking to her now in a suit and tie because her sister forced him. He gets all the positive reinforcement and obedience from this relationship, but he doesn’t actually give of himself or want the “real” Anushka in return. The real play acting of boyfriend/girlfriend is between her and Rupen, they both know how they are supposed to be in this relationship, what is “proper”, and have no real interest in each other beyond that. Although, she is slightly more obsessed with him, I think because it is “proper” for a young woman like her to be overly into her boyfriend, while he is allowed to be more relaxed and always ready to break it off if she fails to live up to his standards.

      On Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 1:16 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh, that’s interesting! You are right. But when it is a “nice boy” who is in his early/mid-thirties with a good job and a lot of respectable family behind him, it seems completely appropriate for a young woman to marry him. A whole other reason to think about why Anushka is expected to be so childish, he wants someone younger and easy to control as his bride. Unlike Shahrukh who tries to help her grow up to meet his age, and tries to grow down to her as well.

        On Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 5:36 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        Liked by 2 people

  2. The bit just post-Radha when she says the bit about him “getting action” reminded me of a similar moment in the boat scene, when she asks him “did you get the job done?” about the woman she sees/hears him fighting with on the bridge. Both times she has such an odd expression on her face, and tone of voice–like a sensitive young man trying to be “one of the guys”. To me this reinforces that she knows about sex, about how people talk about sex, but it’s always been removed and academic to her. Harry’s the first person to wake that side of her up, and make her feel safe enough to express it. I really like the paragraph about how their past “training” has prepared them so well to take care of each other. Lucky, lucky Sejal. 😉

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    • Yes! I was reminded of that too! And it’s that kind of “oo, sex, I am so adult!” mannerism that is one of the things that feels so teenage to me.

      Speaking of past training, one of my friends said after the end scene “he is going to break that poor girl!” Which kind of also feels true. To go from no practical experience of sex at all to being the chosen one of Super Sexy Experienced Man has got to be a shock for her. One of the many reasons it was good that sex was off the table for so long, now they know each other and trust each other well enough that he can kind of ease her up to his level. I definitely got the impression that the sexual partners he sought out before were all as experienced as he, so someone like her would be new to him.

      You understand I don’t think he is a rough lover or anything, but he is definitely a guy who knows what to do and she is clearly a complete novice. Skipping waaaaaaaaaaaaaay to the end, I feel like that is what his kind of shocked and relieved and embarrassed expression is saying. Not that he was worried about being a bad kisser, but that he knew he had to give just the right kind of kiss so as to make her feel safe and loved and excited but not scare her off.

      On Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 2:16 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 2 people

        • I know, right????? It’s why the “dashing rake falls for spunky innocent” regency romances are so popular.

          And yeah, it feels like he kind of knew this kiss was make or break for him. It wasn’t like the “almost” moment in Portugal, when they were both so caught up in their feelings. He needs to win her over once and for all and prove that he wants her and she wants him and they can fit together. That he can have a sweet and simple sexual moment instead of that dominance and danger he used to have. Not do it “chori chori” but honestly and sweetly. And I love it that after the kiss, instead of kissing again, they just embrace. The kiss was to show what he has to offer her and vice versa, but not really foreplay. Just a confirmation, and now they can hold each other because they are so happy to be together again.

          On Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 3:50 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          Liked by 2 people

          • It’s such a perfect punctuation to that scene. Yes, he needed to propose and explain his need of her and what he has to offer. And they needed to address the sexual chemistry. But in the end, they just wanted to be with each other and hold each other.

            On Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 8:36 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. Ummm…there are quite a lot of things I see in another light.

    First: I think, the girlfriend proposal is already in her head…she would have done it anyways (the next level). Only him removing his arm makes her ask…more to get a confirmation that he has neither a wife or a girlfriend (which she had guessed anyways). But you know, it’s better to be sure… (maybe a wife or girlfriend in one of the cities…what does she really know) and she would not like to ask someone who just sang to her you are my Radha and getting a no because he’s already taken. I like her matter-of-factly statement about enough action as she has no qualms to be with a man who told her to be a cheap character – among others…He wasn’t cheap with her – in the contrary. And friendly, honest (at least towards her) Harry gives her the perfect prompt (like in a theatre play).

    Second: play acting (y o u r prompt) … that is something I feel, Sejal loves a lot. Just some minutes before, Harry gave the signal that a playful mind is okay…that he likes to play, too.
    And now, as she is sure that his sadness comes from loneliness, they can play act girlfriend-boyfriend so that he feels less lonely at least the time they will be together. I agree with you that she means the ‘proper’ Indian type of girlfriend-boyfriend couple that you described (baring the hand-holding). (When I was in Mumbai I could witness both types…the leaning on one another one – shoulder and head touching – and the hot kissing and touching all over one…latter immediately stopped their doing when the police patrolling the promenade approached.)

    Third: the phone scene blends in wonderfully because she still is seriously engaged (she doesn’t yet doubt that she should/would marry Rupen) – Harry is now her friend (but in no way her future). Oh, how much I can understand his sigh: What is happening to me? Why this woman? Sejal is in no way his ‘type’. For Sejal, Harry is just the right guy to learn something new about romance.

    I think that will be the next level: Learning that playing can become serious…

    As for Rupen being present during the travelling or getting in contact with Harry…I think that was planned at a certain stage when building the story (Ranbir as fiancé), but I’m happy that Imtiaz decided this way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First: On some level, I can believe that. Not the specifics of how it happened, but her wanting to somehow open up their relationship beyond guide-client. If it wasn’t this, it might have bee breakfast the next day, inviting him to eat with her. Or out shopping, suggesting she gets him a gift. This is a lot tidier, but the message is the same, “I want more, and I am letting you want more too.”

      Second: I feel like Sejal does a lot of playacting in this part because it is part of her growing up. Just like trying on different styles of clothes, she is trying on different personalities. And also, because she has really been “playacting” her whole life. Trying to be the good Indian girl when inside she is something different. This whole experience is just making her more and more aware of when she is “real” and when she is “fake”, and that she has actually been “fake” most of her life.

      Third: I like how this picks up on the last point. Because she is “playing” at being Shahrukh’s girlfriend, but we can see that she is also “playing” at being Rupen’s. She just doesn’t see it yet, doesn’t see that she is putting on an act with him, being something she isn’t because it is what is expected. I think she thinks this is just what being in a relationship is, to always be forgiving and loving and sweet and grateful. It isn’t until much later that she sees a real relationship is just being yourself with the other person.

      And yes, this way is much better. If nothing else, having a stronger fiance character would have turned it into a love triangle, a battle between the two men over a woman. This way, it was purely about her making her own decisions for what she wanted.

      On Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 3:20 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 2 people

  4. Just saw the official video of the song Ghar. Oh my, nobody conveys emotions through their eyes and face like Shah Rukh. You can almost feel his pain and loneliness. I can’t wait until I get to see the whole movie. Not that I want it to be a flop, but the sooner it’s released to Netflix, the better!

    Liked by 1 person

    • He really does an amazing job with his performance. That song is essentially all we get of the “sad” part of the movie, but in just a few minutes he manages to convey a whole emotional journey.

      On Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 5:21 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. Just curious, why do you think there is such a negative backlash against not only the movie, but SRK as well. I don’t get it. There have been alot of so so movies made before but I can’t get over the vehemence of the outcry around this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I could see two reasons to it. First, that Shahrukh is seen as a limited resource that somehow we the audience “own”. And he has wasted himself on this slight movie.

      Second, that it really is bad for the industry to have this flop here, seems selfish of him (I did a post on that right before this came out). although, it also isn’t really that damaging of a flop (also have a post on that). He should have made a movie that could make more money.

      and third, that this isn’t the movie people felt like they were promised. It is a reflective character driven love story, not a big fun silly love story they thought they were getting.

      and I can kind of agree with all of these? At least, agree that Shahrukh is a limited resource and he probably could have picked a better project to work on. and I agree that it is ultimately his responsibility more than anyone else to make sure his films make the box office needed to keep the industry afloat. And I agree that the promotion campaign didn’t sell the film we got.

      But this is a really interesting film, I can see why Shahrukh-the-actor wanted to work on it and have this experience. And the flop was carefully controlled, there have been much much worse results this year. And finally, yes the promotion campaign was flawed, but if you went in open to the film this was instead of the film you thought it was, you could really enjoy it.

      Or maybe something else is going on, I don’t know, I haven’t actually read any of these angry articles or bad reviews!

      Liked by 1 person

      • At least part of the backlash is that the movie is just too sexy and I am seeing that sort of stuff even from SRK fans. A lot of Indians watch movies as a family activity and some claim to have walked out because it was too uncomfortable to watch with kids/parents. Some even claim to be disappointed in him for that reason which just seems bizarre to me.

        Oh well, more for me! Jesus. How good did he look throughout this movie? He always has these kind of sparks in most movies but here he seems to be ON all the time. I don’t know if it was Imtiaz Ali or the costume people or the cameraman or what but SRK was probably the hottest he’s even been on screen. Anushka is a pretty girl herself but you could completely buy why this sort of plain/sweet girl like Sejal pretty much went bonkers after seeing him.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Agree totally! And this would be the part that i feel like is more on the promotion campaign than anything. We got flashes of sexiness in the trailers, obviously the stills were heartstopping, but then there was the fun Radha song and the bright posters and it was kind of sold as a happy family movie in a way it shouldn’t necessarily have been,

          I completely agree about how he was always ON in this film. I have a whole discussion of how he can turn it on and off somewhere on some post. You can see him turn it on a little more in interviews, especially with the western press, trying to get them to pay attention to him. And then in movies like K3G, it’s suddenly ON with Kajol, and then totally OFF in scenes with Kareena.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I agree that the audience wants their heroes to follow their guidelines. I remember the outcry when SRK kissed Katrina in JTHJ. People were outraged (and those kisses were just pecks). There was also similar outrage with KANK and the extramarital affair aspect. People seem to want fantasy romance (and sometimes, so do I), but that isn’t real life. I do respect Indian culture, but to believe that there is something shameful in showing passion as it really is feels sort of weird. Believe me, I don’t want to see my actors actually having sex, but to totally deny that they do seems a little strange. After all, India has one of the largest birth populations in the world. I agree that the promotions for the films could have been more clear on what you were going to get. From the latest overseas reports, the film is doing better in more western markets.

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  6. I did not feel happy with some things said in interviews or in front of the crowds during the promotion…I got the feeling that ShahRukh didn’t want to honestly warn the Indian audience that it is in no way a family film, that it is a bit like a theatre play with (many) songs that would tell about the emotional journey the protagonist would do (that was what I figured because of the videos published by RedChillies). They knew that the movie was in more than one way an ‘unusual love story’ (albeit a happy one), but they may have thought that – in the worst way – the movie would make a good first weekend…

    What came as a shock are the bitterness and nasty (even cruel) comments they had to face.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Now that I’ve watched this movie several times it strikes me that it is much more a Western movie than Indian audience are used to from SRK. All the movies, My Name is Khan, Chak De, Swades, Fan, that were Indian movies but did not really follow the Indian cinema formula. The masala formula. Oh, another one – KANK also was not liked by most Indians. These movies did better in other countries than they did domestically. SRK has stated that to become truly global, they were going to have to adapt their way of making movies. He wants it to be all Indian but not just “Bollywood”.

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    • What’s really interesting is that the broad plot outlines are very familiar. I just did that tweetalong watch of Raja Hindustani, mostly because RH had just appeared on Netflix, but it also made me notice how incredibly close RH is to JHMS. Down to pivotal moments like her wearing a short red dress and him saving her. On top of him being a tour guide and her a rich girl and all the other similarities.

      And there are other key similarities with DDLJ, with Guide, all the way back to Jab Jab Phool Khile. And yet, the way it was presented, the dialogue and acting style and everything else, was completely different.

      On Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 9:59 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Absolutely, the style is different…I rather quickly got the impression that I am in a theatre play turned into a movie. Both have learned and worked in theatres where western theatre was played…so they had a combined approach to that kind of intimate play. The challenge was, to make it into a visually stunning movie with Indian movie elements keeping the intimicy. I think, they succeeded (if this was their idea) because they used the lyrics and the changing locations and the lights & colours for the narrative. The cinematographer, too, mostly underlined the intimacy of the play.

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