Yay, post-Interval! More importantly, post my least favorite scene of the film (the last one I covered, right before the interval). And now we get to move back into the fun stuff (full index of Jab Harry Met Sejal coverage here)
Previously, stupid things happened! Well, not all the way, just a little stupid. Anushka loses her engagement ring while on a family tour of Europe. Her family hires Shahrukh, their tour guide, to go around with her because they can’t be bothered. Anushka and Shahrukh have a strange connection which makes her curious about him, especially when he admits that he is a womanizer and a dangerous man she shouldn’t be around. They reached a truce in the last section, she realized that he was lonely and offered to be his “girlfriend” so long as they are traveling together, according to the definition they both understood, meaning he was allowed to spend time with her and hold her hand and put his arm around her, but no more, because that is all “girlfriend” means to the kind of proper rich girl she is. They had a bit of a falling out after the first “girlfriend” day, Shahrukh started looking at her and imagining what it would be like if he let himself fall in love, but when she started reacting, he immediately pulled back, rejecting her. And she got nasty, saying she would never fall for a tour guide anyway, she will pretend to be sweet and nice and his girlfriend, but that’s it. And he got all intense saying she had to promise to get on the plane and leave no matter what. And then it turned into a stupid competition, as to who would win over who. That was the stupid part. And, luckily, it is left entirely in the background after the interval, never to come up again.
We start with a song! Which is really unusual. There is always a song post-interval, but usually after a bit of a place setting dull talky scene. For the people who are still looking for their seats and stuff, and then the song tells you to sit down and shut up, the movie is back. But, just like how this film opened with a song, the second half is opening with a song too. A really great song.
Remember how I was talking about Anushka’s disco moves? How it is just the right kind of dorky and old-fashioned but as close as she can come to cool for her? The thing about Disco is, it’s also really fun! It’s not necessarily sexy, it’s not complicated, it’s not graceful or beautiful, but it’s fun to do! Especially with somebody. And that’s what this song is about, Shahrukh giving in to the whole silly Disco vibe of Anushka’s life and enjoying it. And Anushka letting herself fully give in to that silly fun Disco person inside that she has been hiding away.
We open at a deserted Karaoke bar. I love that this whole song is diagetic, that is, it isn’t them fantasizing about doing fun things, it’s the actual fun things they are doing while they actually sing to each other. And the Karaoke bar sets the tone. This isn’t a touristy kind of place, and it also isn’t the kind of dark dangerous place Shahrukh would normally be at. There’s a couple of people sitting at tables, the machine isn’t even attended, Shahrukh has to start it himself. And, you know, it’s Karaoke! In Europe, not in Asia where it is cool and serious. Or even in America where it is kind of retro fun cool. No, this is a dingy dirty place and a dingy silly thing they are doing, just because they want to. We can even easily fill in the gaps, Anushka seeing a sign and saying they should do it, Shahrukh resisting because it’s a grungy bar in a bad neighborhood and eventually going along, and then having a wonderful time.
I love the opening of the song too. Anushka is in the background, doing her thing, going back and forth with her little disco moves, lost in her own head. And Shahrukh is trying to be cool, posturing with the mic, starting the song. Only, he starts to early. And then flubs up again. And finally when it starts on the screen, he is ready to take it seriously, not to be all “oh yeah, I’m enjoying this ironically and using it to make myself look cool”, but actually paying attention to the words onscreen and trying to match his movements with Anushka.
(See? At first she is just happy and he is trying to be cool. But a second after this, he is focusing on the words and kind of out of his own head)
This is the first time they really dance in synch in the film. In “Radha”, they were dancing together, but not in the same way. He followed her around, she tried to Bhangra, but it wasn’t a perfect fit. This is a perfect fit. He is doing her dopey disco moves in all sincerity, and then goes even farther, leaps on a chair and tilts it down, really gets into the whole disco fantasy. And they walk off together laughing.
Let’s talk clothes again! This is a great odd outfit on Anushka. A bright short yellow dress and opaque black tights. And her hair is sort of crimped. It definitely feels like a “costume”, like “Let’s go out and sing disco Karaoke, and I will dress up for it!” But it feels like she knows it is a costume this time, it isn’t like her other awkward going out clothes, this time she has figured out the key of “sometimes I want to dress like a different person and do something different, but inside I am still myself”.
What’s even better is that Shahrukh dressed up for it too! He is still more or less in his normal clothes, jeans and a shirt and a jacket. But he is wearing a tight white t-shirt, and has his hair a little higher than usual. She talked him in to it, I am sure, but now he is enjoying himself, the whole silly “childish” experience. I wish we had that little bit of them with the bridal shower that we saw in the trailer for this song, because that really gets into the “he would have been too cool to enjoy this a minute ago, and she would have been too repressed, but now they can both let loose”.
And that’s what we see over the course of the song. Them slowly coming to actually enjoy each other. It may have started with the pretense of “I’ll be your girlfriend!”, but now they are just friends, friends who like to talk and laugh and spend time together. I am trying to remember what all we see. I know we start with them laughing their way out of the Karaoke bar. And then I think we see her studying her tablet and clearly miming out things she did in the past, looking for the ring. And Shahrukh looking kind of attentive and interested. But this is still them as tour guide/engaged client. They like each other now, they are no longer fighting or frustrated to be stuck with each other. But she is focused on finding her ring, and he is being as interested as is correct for his role, and no more.
Only then it shifts. We see them getting coffee together and toasting each other. We see them hanging out sitting together on a wall, she has drawn waves on his shoe which makes him laugh. And then we see a tour group go by with matching jackets and all the rest, just like their group was, and they both look at each other and laugh.
It doesn’t feel mean spirited exactly, not “oh how lame those tourists are, we are cooler than that”. More like they are laughing at where they were just a month ago, she was part of this mass group and he didn’t even notice her, he was a charming responsible tour guide who would never get angry or frustrated or sexy or reveal anything of himself. And that full movement, from there to here, that takes place mostly in this song.
That opening Disco moment, that feels removed from the rest, but the rest of it has a clear start and end point. They started with their new friendliness, but still just guide and client. But then after they finished quickly looking in all the ring places, they had free time and chose to have coffee together. Chose to do a lot of things together (I don’t remember all the stuff we see in this song). And eventually landed sitting on a wall laughing together, so in synch that they just have to exchange glances to know what the other is thinking.
Before finally the culmination of the song, them cooking together. I love this section, because it is so silly and fun and also it makes me think of Jab Tak Hain Jaan. Remember when Kat does pantsless cooking for Shahrukh? And it is supposed to be like this, kind of fun and silly? Only it veers more towards sexy and odd? Which is not what I think of when I cook dinner. And also, I usually wear pants. Because burns! But this sequence, this is so silly! And so not sexy! And not only are they wearing pants, they are wearing aprons!
(So much of this makes me go “is that sexy? Or just really really uncomfortable?”)
You can see them cooking together every night for the rest of their lives, the kind of enjoyment they are getting from setting the table together, that’s the stuff that lasts. If you can have fun setting a table together with no sex, that’s when you know it is a good relationship.
Also, you can really see Shahrukh totally won over to Anushka’s style in this part. He is in a colorful apron, very not cool, and leaping around with huge disco moves, also very uncool. And putting on a show for her, just like that little bit in “Radha”, he knows she likes it if he is goofy and big, and the more she smiles at him, the bigger he gets.
There was a different choreographer for this song, not Vaibhavi Merchant, Bosco-Ceaser I think. They are very good, very experienced, did “Senorita” (which feels kind of similar to this) and “Yeh Tara Woh Tara” (which does not feel similar, but was also a good use of SRK). But they also have a very different feel. Loose and joyful and improvised. I bet that is why they ended up cutting the bridal shower sequence. They probably improvised a lot of this cooking bit, and ended up liking it so much that they kept it. I hope they improvised it, actually, because if they forced Shahrukh to jump up on that table with his knees, they should never work again! The man is already working on like his fourth set of joints, don’t make it worse!
And let’s talk clothes again! Like I said, we open with him kind of joining her in her enthusiastic enjoyment. But then her clothes slowly start to match his. Her colors become muted. That scene with coffee and looking at her tablet, she is already dressed in a way a little closer to him. Jeans and a shirt, but with a vest and the leather boots. The leather boots that didn’t quite make sense for her personality when paired with the sexy red dress. But which she kept, and found a way that worked for her, to wear them with jeans and a shirt. She isn’t “sexy” exactly in this song, that’s what her previous experiments were about, trying to be the kind of woman Harry might notice, that might fit into his sexy life. But now she is just slowly growing up. The sexy black boots are added to a modest outfit, the jewelry is less, the make-up is less, she is figuring out how to dress like a woman that isn’t trying to be anything besides herself, isn’t hiding her sexuality or her practicality or anything else. The last bit, when she draws on his shoe, she is in a knit hat, a black jacket, basically an outfit that matches his. They look like a long term couple who have grown together in style.
Anushka here, she is buying clothes constantly, trying on new looks in rapid succession. And this is the point at which she finds herself subconsciously matching to Shahrukh’s look. Those clothes that seemed so natural on her when we first met her, the childish t-shirt and bright colors, those no longer fit how she feels inside, she wants to enter into Shahrukh’s adult world of cool European style clothes. That’s what their shared laughter is about looking at the tour group, she has achieved his world and now they can laugh together at where she used to be and how he used to hide himself.
And then, finally, they are cooking together in happy confusing, wearing different but same things. Aprons, comfy open necked shirts, sunglasses. And pants, can I mention again the importance of pants as part of a cooking outfit?
When the song is over, she is back to colors. But really faded colors. And clothes that look kind of old and don’t fit right. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, she is wearing green pastel denim pants and a pink pastel jacket, and that combo (light colors and denim) really really shows wear, like, immediately. It could have just been wanting to put her in something slightly childish for these next few scenes to make us more aware of how far she has come, and the old and not fitting was a coincidence. But either way, it works! We look at her and think “girl, you got to get new clothes! These clearly don’t fit you any more, and they are wearing out.”
I also really love how the song ends, Anushka jumping off a tram, Shahrukh gesturing into a restaurant and then as she runs in behind her, smoothly asking directions to the bathroom and then gesturing to her where it is. Such a nice moment to show how close they are now in the realest way possible. This is romance, this is love, a guy who will help you find a bathroom.
Toilet: Ek Prem Katha just came out, a whole movie about a guy helping the woman he loves to the bathroom, and it was less understanding of the situation than this one little moment. Anushka isn’t embarrassed to ask him for help, and Shahrukh understands how urgent the moment is, helping her essentially break into a restaurant just to use their restroom with no embarrassment or hesitation. Lovely!
And she isn’t asking him for help in a demanding “I am paying you, help me!” way. No, she is more “gah, I really really need a bathroom!” and he is helping her like a friend, because he knows the town better and just generally, as a man, is better equipped to go into a strange place and ask a strange question. And this isn’t like a “filmi” moment, I have TOTALLY done this in real life (as, I am sure, have we all). Both been the person saying “please please, can you ask for the bathroom?” and the person saying “this is silly, you really need to use the bathroom, I know this restaurant, I’ll help you.” I guess this is the kind of thing that maybe made the film not work for some viewers, the “romance” didn’t feel romantic, it felt like “yeah, so? I’ve done that myself lots of times, why should I care that this character is doing it?”
Shoot, 2 thousand words already! I am trying to stay around that for each of these posts, not because I couldn’t keep going, but because 2 thousand words/5 minutes of screentime seems like a good length to facilitate discussion (for instance, we can now all debate “pants-kitchen requirement, yes or no?”). So I am going to break off here, but maybe do another post in a little bit because I am just itching to get into the next scene.