What an interesting scene this is! Followed by a couple less interesting scenes, then another interesting few ones. We will see how far I get today. (full index of JHMS coverage here)
Previously, many many things happened. Anushka and Shahrukh are traveling together in Europe. They aren’t supposed to be “together”, they are supposed to be a woman traveling alone with her guide/babysitter hired by her wealthy family. Only Anushka felt something draw her towards Shahrukh and vice versa which lead them into sharing multiple exciting experiences as she followed him in his off hours. And after all of that, they aren’t quite tour guide/client any more and Anushka suggests that from now on he thinks of her as his “girlfriend”. That is, a woman he can talk freely with, hold hands, do fun things like karaoke, instead of calling her “ma’am” and lowering his eyes. A woman like Anushka would only allow a non-related man to behave like that if she was his “girlfriend”. The girlfriend experiment had a bit of a rough start, Shahrukh got caught up in his feelings a little and Anushka brutally shut him down. But post-interval, they had a super fun song re-affirming that they just like to spend time together doing whatever, so long as they are together it is wonderful. And then the song ended with them going into a cafe where they have bumped into Shahrukh’s angry ex Klara. Oh no!
I was talking with someone about this movie (not in the comments, in real life) and they mentioned that we saw Shahrukh “rescue” Anushka multiple times, and this is kind of her rescuing moment with him, only it didn’t feel (to this real life person) as though it was enough of a rescue to balance the scales. That conversation made me look at this particular scene in a new light the next time I watched the film. Yes, it is light and kind of played for laughs. But that’s because Anushka doesn’t see this as that much of a problem. Which is how she saves him, really, taking this whole thing that has weighed Shahrukh down and somehow folding and patting and mashing it down until she can show it to him and say “See? This wasn’t anything at all.”
In the last section I talked about the first conversation with Klara, awkwardly standing outside the bathrooms with Shahrukh trying to talk fast and get Anushka out of the way, and Anushka rapidly assessing the situation, understanding that this woman is attacking Shahrukh emotionally and the best way to defend him is to grab on to him and claim him and deflect the anger towards her instead of him. This is very much a “defending my man” moment, not from physical violence, but from emotional. And Anushka has exactly the tools needed to do that, even if Shahrukh thinks of her as a young innocent who needs to be protected. She is confident in her ability to argue someone around, has a naturally aggressive personality, and most of all has an unshakable faith in Shahrukh to guide her. Nothing Klara can say will hurt her, because she “has” Shahrukh and that is all she needs.
(Just gonna put this out there.)
So, Klara says that Shahrukh left her two years ago and he will do the same to Anushka. Anushka brilliantly responds by turning to Shahrukh and saying “yes, this is very bad” and giving him a kind of a headshake. See, this is brilliant in two ways that I don’t think Shahrukh (being a stupid man) is advanced enough to understand. First, when confronted with an angry woman, passive agreement is the way to go. I see this all the time at work, angry clients call in and my boss’s instinct is to explain and compromise and apologize. My instinct is to just say “yes, you are right, that is terrible” over and over and over again until they get confused and end up telling me “well, it wasn’t really that bad, sorry for bothering you, you have been so kind”. Never apologize, never explain, let them take the lead until they run out of energy.
But beyond what she is actually saying, she is still defending, by the way she takes responsibility for Shahrukh with that little head shake towards him. She is Shahrukh’s agent, Klara should talk to her and she will decide judgments and punishments. And Klara had better not try to get through her to get at Shahrukh, or to think she can shake her faith in Shahrukh and hurt him that way. Anushka is saying without saying, again, “He is mine now, and you better not forget that. Any problems, you talk to ME.”
We didn’t get the big violent fight, but this is physical in a different way. Klara is standing there, stiff backed and stiff necked, her whole body ready for a fight. And Anushka is holding onto Shahrukh and pulling herself up to her full height, not a shrinking violet. If it had turned physical, if Klara had slapped him, I have no doubt that Anushka would have shoved Shahrukh aside and punched her in the face (now I kind of want to see this version). This is between the two women from now on and Anushka is ready to do whatever needs to be done to protect her man. There is a kind of primal feel to what’s going on between the two women here that Shahrukh is just not feeling. He is still trying to get out of the restaurant without being embarrassed, to keep this all calm and civilized and reasonable. And Klara and Anushka are soooooooo past that.
(Again, just gonna leave this here)
Which is what needs to happen for this situation to be resolved. Klara is so angry, what Shahrukh did to her has brought her to a kind of crazed level of emotion. And Shahrukh just doesn’t feel the same way, so he is afraid of her feelings. Anushka does feel the same way. Not about Klara, but about Shahrukh, she can respond to her with that same kind of crazed, “I don’t even care, I am going to end this” attitude because she is not going to let her man be talked to like that.
Tragically, it does not end with a huge girlfight. Well, not a physical one. Instead, Anushka kind of herds them all over to a table, sits down, and tells Klara to tell her what happened. Klara lists out, Shahrukh had fun with her for years, then ran away without telling her, and she went through many troubles. Shahrukh is sitting between the two women, but neither of them are looking at him at this point. Anushka has successfully drawn the focus to herself.
Anushka neatly minimizes the situation and lists off 3 points “Fun, Run Away, Troubles”. And then goes on the attack, asking “he just had fun, you did not have fun?” (love it that Anushka knows perfectly well any woman would have fun with sexy SRK and knows this is a trick question). This is the one moment that Shahrukh is drawn into the conversation, Klara kind of looks at him, and he gives her sort of “well, you know you did” eyebrows, she kind of almost smiles in memory and then agrees that yes, she did have fun. Anushka neatly categorizes it as “consensual fun! Not a legal offense in Europe.” And then moves on, “run away? You have signed legal document from him promising not to leave? You have?” Klara kind of hesitates and says, “No, I don’t have document”. Anushka smiles in triumph, “No legal offense!” and then moves on, “troubles? You had many troubles? What kind of troubles?” Klara is put on the spot now and finally pulls out “He did not even leave his key behind!” Anushka nods “Ah! And you had to get a different key made! And it cost money! How much money?” Klara looks confused and hesitates, Anushka pulls out her fingers listing off, “One Euro, Two Euro, Three Euro….?” Klara bursts out “20 Euro!” Anushka nods and then turns to Shahrukh (who has been invisible to both of them this whole time) and tells him “pay her!” Shahrukh kind of hesitates, Anushka nods at him like “yes, really, I mean it” and he pulls out his wallet and starts pulling out money but doesn’t seem like he knows what to do with it, so Anushka just grabs it and hands it over to Klara, and finally tells her “Now, what you just did? That is harassment. That is legal offense in Europe. And if you bother him again, he can sue YOU.” Klara takes the money, wads it up, throws it back, and storms off.
(I haven’t seen it yet, but I have heard about what happened the last time Anushka’s man was attacked in one of her movies. Klara is lucky she just got threatened with a lawsuit)
Pause! Let’s talk about SO MUCH STUFF in this scene! First, an acknowledgement, Klara is totally in the right. Absolutely 100% in the right. Shahrukh got her twisted up in complicated emotional knots and then rather than dealing with it, he just left, “ghosted” her as the kids call it these days. She has been stewing in this for 2 years, feeling like he never respected or cared for her (which is probably true), that she was an idiot, doubting her entire self-worth. And now she has a right to an explanation from him, to venting her anger on him.
But that’s not the point of this scene. The point isn’t who is right or wrong, the point is who Shahrukh was in the past, and who Anushka is now. Anushka doesn’t care one bit if he was right or wrong. Just like he didn’t get mad at her for getting into a fight at a sleazy bar. He is “hers” and she is going to defend him to the death. And Shahrukh didn’t know she would do that until just now. He didn’t believe anyone would do that for him, defend him even when he was in the wrong. He is so used to not standing up for himself, to taking the blame with his clients, with the women he loves and leaves. And here is someone emphatically taking his side no matter what, even in a case when he is absolutely totally in the wrong.
We also get to see a bit of Anushka-at-work. It’s an interesting balance that we already saw a little in the “indemnity bond” scene. She may be innocent with worldly matters, but she is also smart and really good at her job. This is a balance that I don’t think you would really get in America. If you are a “career woman”, that usually means you are out there having a career, meeting people, living alone, so on and so forth. But in India, there is a particular type of woman who is well educated and well trained for her job, but still lives at home and is treated by her family as a child in every other way. And we know Anushka is that type of woman from back in the “indemnity bond” scene when she specifies that she does all legal matters, FOR THE FAMILY BUSINESS. It’s the equivalent in some ways of a girl who went to a cooking school, so she could come home and make really nice meals for the family. She has the training and she is doing the job, absolutely. But it exists in this strange relationship where she is still primarily the daughter of the family, not her own person. Kind of in the same way she got singing training, but only so she could perform at birthdays and family events, not so she could actually learn to enjoy singing.
(Remember Kangana in Queen? She was going to college and studying cooking. But only so she could work in the family sweet shop)
But this scene is a nice reminder that, ultimately, she does have those skills. They are hers, not her family’s, she can take them with her and use them to defend Shahrukh or for anything else she wants. And without turning into a different person, I love her English in this scene, it is clear and confident, but it isn’t smooth worldly English, it is Anushka-English. Including the casual “Klara-behan” thrown in, a nice little “I am being extra nice because I hate you” moment. The Hindi equivalent of the nasty English “dear” or “sweetie”. A little thing women do with each other that is so much meaner than an actual insult. Anushka is very angry here, but is able to channel that anger into her legal skills and negotiation experience.
Jumping wildly ahead, procrastinatrix (Hi procrastinatix!) in the comments posted an interview where Shahrukh explained what he pictured for the life he and Anushka would have had after the movie was over. And he saw her as going back to work and being the primary wage earner for the family while he stayed home with their kids. This scene is where we see the most why that would be a happy ending. Anushka is thriving in this challenging moment. Most of the film is her on vacation, from her life and herself and everything else. But here we get to see her at her job, and she is good at it and likes doing it. She still needs someone to take care of her emotionally (and Shahrukh is there for her!), but she can take care of herself professionally. She just needs the little push to tell herself that is okay, she can go out and fight in the world instead of staying awkwardly trapped in her family. I wouldn’t be surprised if along with canceling her wedding after returning to India, she quit her job with the family business and started looking for a place that would hire her for her skills, not just because she is their daughter.
So, that’s what’s up with Anushka. She is enjoying pulling out her skills, and she is completely amoral in using them to defend Shahrukh, right or wrong. But what does this tell us about Shahrukh?
After Klara leaves, he turns to Anushka and tells her that he has been afraid to go back to Frankfurt for 2 years because of Klara. So, let’s take a second and think about this. We can put together a little timeline! What fun!
Shahrukh left the Punjab as a young man, let’s make it simple and say 17 years ago when he was 20. His tourist guide ID card is noticeably younger than his face looks now, and he is clearly so experienced at his job that he has been doing it for a long time. So, say that was about 10 years ago that he started working in Europe. At some point, his friend “Mayank” joined him and started working with him, long enough ago for Mayank to feel close enough to ask him to help with his wedding, and to know the whole Klara story. 4 years ago he started a fling with Klara, sounds like it was just sex, no emotion. But routine enough for them to exchange house keys. After 2 years, he wanted to break it off and didn’t know how, so he left town. And for the past 2 years, he hasn’t gone back to his apartment in Frankfurt, or has a significant relationship beyond a few weeks during or between tours.
(One of the many things we see in the full film version is flashes of his empty apartment. That lose nags at him, it’s not his true home like the Punjab, but it is another place he misses and can’t return to)
We are looking at a very slow slide to the point where we first met him in “Safar”. At one point, he must have loved and been excited by this job, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to fake it so well now. Figure that he lands in Canada, his singing dreams fail, he falls into tourism jobs and loves it, is excited to move to Europe, gets an apartment in Frankfurt and decorates it with old comfortable things, gets better at his job, trains Mayank and befriends him. And starts a slow slide into not knowing how to relate to people any more. The Klara relationship, that was a real turning point for him 4 years ago. A messy selfish just sex relationship which left her broken and angry and him guilty. And after 2 years of that, he didn’t know how to end it besides just leaving, which left her angrier and him guiltier. And homeless, because he is too guilty to allow himself to return to the only home he has.
And now Anushka is starting the process of slowly walking him back through his life. She has already begun to give him back joy in his work and a sense of integrity as a person (that was the last to go, the most recent failure is the long string of complaints against him in his job), now she has resolved the Klara situation freeing him from his guilt. Soon, she will force him back to Frankfurt, back to his home. And fix his relationship with Mayank. And make him sing again. Step by step, she is erasing the past 17 years of his life, bringing him back to that happy youth singing for the people. Until, at the very end of the film, she brings him all the way back to the Punjab and restarts his life for him.
And that’s 2700 words! Sorry Mayank! Your sudden arrival and reactions to their relationship is going to have to wait for tomorrow.