How am I going more slowly through this than through Bahubali 2 (total of 26 parts, definitely feels like this one’s going to be more than that)? Oh that’s right, I skipped the sad bits of Bahubali. May have to skip the sad bits of this too, I’m not sure yet. Anyway, this part isn’t sad! Sort of. Wistful? Poignant? Anyway, not straight up sad. (full index of JHMS coverage here)
Previously, Anushka and Shahrukh were traveling together and falling in love, but with the understanding that as soon as she found the lost ring she was looking for, it would all be over and he would go back to being just a tour guide and she would be just a client. And then they were attacked by some people who they thought had the ring, it was very emotional, Anushka was distraught seeing Shahrukh hurt, almost maddened, and in the middle of treating him she suddenly found the ring in her bag. But decided not to do anything, just hide it in her hand.
And now they are carefully leaving the workroom where they were captured. Shahrukh is overly protective, not just guiding Anushka, but almost guarding her, putting his body between her and the rest of the world. Even on an empty street. Meanwhile Anushka is looking at him like she wants to memorize his face. They are strangely out of tune with each other, both focused on the other but in very different ways. Anushka is internal, trying to decide what she feels. While Shahrukh is external, his feelings have moved outside of himself, he is trying to show them through his actions.
The lighting here is this gorgeous warm yellow dark light. It’s the same yellow of the “Radha” song, but deeper. Just like Anushka dress is that same red, but deeper, and Shahrukh is in the same black, but with a blue shirt underneath, and a darker black leather jacket. Their feelings haven’t changed in substance since then, just in depth.
They go from the yellow street to a streetcar. Really interesting choice to set this song here. All along they have had intimate moments while traveling on trains. There is something unique about train travel, while airplanes are just a matter of moving from here to there as fast as possible, and cars put a distance between driver and passenger, on a train they are all the same and there is a feeling of being in transit while still somehow tied to the earth. Shahrukh first started to fall in love with her on a train, watching her sleep on the train from Amsterdam to Prague, and again on the train from Prague to Budapest. Budapest to Prague, they both felt it, shared that important moment of preparing for a good-bye, holding each other. Prague to Portugal was an airplane, no visuals of that. But now they are on a train again. Only, separated. Anushka sits, while Shahrukh stands at the back.
(Remember when this song teaser first came out and I used it as an excuse to do a TGIF post on men in leather jackets? Good times!)
You know the movie Flying Down to Rio? Famous for a couple of reasons. First, it was the first Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie. Second, a bunch of chorus girls were strapped to the wings of tiny prop planes and did a kickline in mid-flight. Yes, for real. Oh, and third reason, very catchy title song! And for me it was the first movie where I saw the trick of editing to astral project characters (not Fred and Ginger, the boring actual hero and heroine Gene Raymond and Delores Del Rio).
(Go 2 minutes in for the plane dancing. Just speaking for myself, you could not pay me enough to make me do that!)
So, this movie is from 1933, there are probably other movies I haven’t seen from even earlier that used the same trick. Because it’s one of the simplest and most effective film tricks. You just show the same thing in two ways, what the characters are actual doing in real world, and what they wish they could be doing, what they want to be brave enough to do. It’s not a fantasy exactly, not like they want to change everything around them, they just want to change themselves.
It’s what we do all the time in real life, that’s why it works so well on film. You wish you could say the smart thing in class discussion, or were brave enough to ask your boss for a raise, or to just walk out of the room before you got in a fight with your mother. Or didn’t walk out of the room but stayed there and had the fight. You wish you could be a braver better version of yourself. Or, sometimes, you accept that you aren’t that braver better version and it will never happen, but you have learned to live with it by fantasizing that you are, by imagining what you want to do instead of doing it. And film is the perfect way to show it, because just like our minds rewind what just happened and then imagine it a different way, you actually can film the same thing multiple ways, changing only what the characters are doing within the scene.
Shahrukh in this scene has bifurcated himself. What he desires is so strong, he is almost projecting it into the world. But at the same time, he is under such firm control that in “real life” he is barely moving. He stands at the back while Anushka sits down. Again, the farthest apart they have been in ages. And the pain of that makes him send himself forward to her. Skipping ahead to the end of the film, after Anushka leaves, we see Shahrukh just broken, empty, barely able to function. His soul is locked to her now, if she is more than 6 feet away from him, he has to send it forward to her. And when she is all the way across the seas from him, his soul is lost forever. He has nothing left inside. It’s not just heartbreak, it’s an emptiness, a heart-loss.
And to avoid that here, put it off temporarily, he has to send his heart forward to Anushka. He can’t be with her right now, his feelings are too fragile, but he also can’t be away from her. So he stands at the back of the train car while she sits in front, and his heart sings to her “Yaadon Mein”, and inside he is moving ahead, sitting behind her, singing into her ear.
Purely from a technical side of things, Imtiaz had a very light touch with fantasy versus reality. The one other passenger in the car disappears in Shahrukh’s fantasy. And, more interestingly, Shahrukh is cleaner and nicer looking than in reality. His hair is nice and fluffy, his jacket and shirt are a little more put together, and the scarf Anushka tied around his head is gone. It’s not a huge difference, but we can see that his ideal fantasy version of himself, someone slightly better than he is in reality. He needs to improve for Anushka.
There are only a couple of shortcuts between “reality”, with Shahrukh standing back with his heart in his eyes, and “fantasy”, him singing to Anushka. It’s a really simple moment. And the two parts fit together perfectly. Even with just the song and the look in Shahrukh’s eyes, we could almost get the same message. He loves her so much he can’t contain it, but he isn’t going to say anything, he is going to put her far away and just look at her. The fantasy part fits in naturally with the gaze he gives her, we in the audience don’t need any more explanation than that to understand what is happening in his heart.
Now, what I find even more fascinating is Anushka’s part. Shahrukh sings his heart out to her, silently, and she senses it. She looks back in reaction to fantasy-Shahrukh singing into her ear, to see “real” Shahrukh standing alone, just looking at her. And then the female part of the song starts. But, see, Anushka doesn’t split into ego and id or whatever, she is still just herself.
This is what I have been saying all along, and will really get into in the fight after “Raula”, Anushka isn’t aware enough of herself to have ego and id. She doesn’t know how to examine her emotions, to want something or feel something and set it aside. And so Shahrukh feels love, and he projects it onto an idealized version of himself. Anushka feels love, and she has no other self to project it onto, she is just her feelings, integrated with the rest of her. And that is why she is able to act. Shahrukh can keep denying and dealing with it and projecting and dreaming. But Anushka doesn’t have those coping strategies, and so she has no choice but to do in reality what she wants to do. And so when she feels that love, she stands up and goes over to him. They don’t touch, they don’t even exactly look at each other, but his face registers that she is there, and her face registers that she is there with him.
For much of the film, since “Radha”, Shahrukh’s reaction to Anushka has been kind of muted puzzlement. He truly can’t believe someone like her keeps coming to someone like him. But he can’t understand it because he is thinking too much, and thinks she is thinking as well. That’s what he can’t puzzle out about her, that she isn’t doing this because of a big plan or a decision she has made or anything like that. She isn’t strong enough, experienced enough, to have a plan or to make a decision. She has no other self that she uses to test out emotions and imagine what might happen next. And so when she is overwhelmed by love for him, she just goes to him. No second thoughts or hesitations.
Woot! Sexy scene! We open with Anushka gently checking Shahrukh’s head, she’s taken off the scarf-bandage, and her coat, and his coat. His shirt has fallen more open (Shahrukh’s poor shirts in this movie, they just can’t keep themselves together). Her early focus on his injury above all else is still there, but it has somehow expanded to a focus on his whole body, you can see in the way she is touching him and moving her hands over his face, she is suddenly aware of his body and her body in a way she never has been before. She has been feeling glimmers of this all along, the moment on the beach at the end of “Phurr”, grabbing his hand to hold during the song in the cafe. But those were, as Claudia says in the comments, “butterflies”. Little flickers in her stomach that were exciting and new and different, but just flickers. Separate from that is the love she has felt for him, that strange bond they have had. The “Radha” effect. One of the wonderful things about the “Radha” song is how non-sexual it is. They barely touch each other, there is no moment where it feels like they may kiss, or want to kiss. Yes, they are attracted to each other, that is always there, but the point of the song is more the meeting of the minds and spirits. And then later “Phurr” gives Anushka the meeting with her own body, the joy of finding it and what it can do for her. And now we have this scene, starting with “Yaadon Mein”, in which those two things come together.
This isn’t a man and a woman making love because they are aroused, because Shahrukh likes her legs and she likes his attitude. This is a man and a woman who want to make love because it is the only way they will be able to feel physically the closeness they feel emotionally in this moment. That is what Anushka has been growing towards, she needs the closeness with him that only physical intimacy can give, but she wouldn’t have been able to handle that intimacy, wouldn’t have known what to do with it, just a few days earlier. Now she can. Her body is ready, and the moment is right, and they are both overwhelmed with love for each other in this second. They don’t even really need to say anything, their bodies are talking for them.
Now, I may be missing a moment here and there (correct me in the comments!), but as I remember it, Anushka finishes taking care of his head and then gently embraces him. He pushes her away slightly so they can be on an equal level and sitting opposite each other. Their hands are moving over each other, their faces brushing against each other. They aren’t kissing, or even fully embracing, just touching. Shahrukh stands and Anushka follows him up, his shirt is now almost fully open, there is a promise of nudity. Her hands brush along his chest, his hands are moving on her body, they are both breathing deeply of each other. He says to her, once again, “raula pe jaan de” (chaos/shouting/craziness will happen), and she says “let it happen”. They move into the bedroom and kind of gently fall onto the bed, with Shahrukh on top. Again, their hands are moving and their eyes are looking into each other, but there is no kissing. As their mouths get close, Shahrukh stops and says “no. Not like this. Not chupke chupke, not with you.” And he takes a deep breath and rolls off of her until he is laying next to her, looking a little away. And Anushka says, “you say you are galat, but any other man in this situation would not have stopped. Maybe your thinking is what is wrong.” And Shahrukh turns back to her and says “I am wrong. But sometimes, I think you can save me”. And Anushka grabs him and says “let me save you”. And he turns in her arms until she is holding him, comforting him like a child.
The most brilliant part of this sequence is the ending. And that it doesn’t feel contrived. The whole thing is building towards Shahrukh being held and comforted in her arms. What they needed, more than anything, was to find a way to express love for each other, something that would make them closer than close. Sex could have been that way. But this moment, with Shahrukh admitting his innermost fears and Anushka soothing them, this works too. It isn’t a “I need to rip your clothes off” kind of desire that they are feeling for each other, it’s a different deeper kind of desire, a “I need to open myself up to you entirely and have you open yourself to me” desire, that could be fulfilled in more ways than one.
What also makes it brilliant is that they don’t kiss. Well, that makes it sexy too. But it’s the kind of sexy that is what is so different about it. All along they have been talking about rules, Anushka in particular has been struggling with figuring out what this relationship is and isn’t. But this scene shows that with love, there are no rules. They don’t kiss, they don’t touch any more than they have touched before. But it is the way they are touching that is different, the way they are feeling on the inside that makes it powerful. Sex and love is all mixed up together, you can’t separate one from the other, if you love someone like they love each other, something as simple as a stroke of the head can be sexual more than loving. And something as intimate as sleeping in each others’s arms can be loving more than sexual.
Beyond that, the lack of kissing shows that they are on an equal level in this scene. Anushka is completely inexperienced and Shahrukh is completely experienced. But they both want the same thing, they both just want to touch each other and be with each other right now. And they are both so swept away in their emotions that they can’t control themselves, Anushka to maintain her “virtue” or Shahrukh to seduce, her to woo her, to do anything besides what he naturally wants to do. This is where they have met in the middle, finally. They love each other so much that this is completely new to both of them.
In my interpretation, I don’t think Shahrukh, in all his experience, has ever felt something quite like this before. Just in the last section, we learned about the first love whose memory he clings to, Kulwant Kaur. From his description of her, and the light way he refers to it, I think we can be sure that at the most they shared a brush of the fingers in passing, nothing more physical than that. But on the other hand, if this is the memory he clings to, I don’t think there could have been anything after that which measured up. I don’t think any of his many many relationships since reached this level of love before, during, or after the sex. And certainly Anushka, with her tepid family approved kind of relationship, would never have felt anything like this. They are, finally, no longer guide and client, but both of them a little lost.
All of that is just from the body language, I am sure this scene was extremely improvised, it feels like they both just threw themselves into it. But I am also sure that there were a couple of dialogue markers they had to find a way to hit naturally. Which they did, more or less. And all of that dialogue is important.
First, there is the “raula” line. This is the third time it has come up. It was Shahrukh’s initial casual comment about what would happen if he seduced another client, it was Shahrukh’s comment after “Hawayein” when he first realized that Anushka had fallen for him as well even if she didn’t know it yet. And now he is saying it again. It’s a very general term, in the first usage it could have just meant “my boss will yell at me, I will lose my job”. In the second usage, it could have meant “we are about to lose control of ourselves” or “you are going to get mad at me, there will be a huge fight, we will hurt each others’ feelings”. And in those first two times, Anushka didn’t fully understand what he meant. Because, again, it’s a general phrase. It’s something whose meaning is conveyed more through context and intonation than the actual specific words. Heck, Shahrukh himself may not have known exactly what he meant by it! But now they are communicating as much with their bodies and eyes as their words and they both know what it means. If they keep going, keep touching each other, there will be orgasms and ecstasy and love that they can never forget. That is what Shahrukh is taking one last time to warn about, and which Anushka is rolling right over saying “yes, I am ready, let it happen.”
And, jumping ahead, it does happen! Like I said, the ending of this scene is where it was going all along. They kept going, and “raula” happens. Not because they had sex, but because they gave in to that need for closeness and ended up bonded to each other. “Raula”, the song we get in a few minutes, changes the meaning once again. Their “raula”, the chaos and madness and wildness, wasn’t sex. It was being together, it was planning a wedding together, hosting a family, experiencing life as a married couple, beginning to build a life. That’s what Shahrukh is most afraid of, and that’s what Anushka, in this moment, is embracing.
And then there’s the moment when he stops. They both play that second so well. It is difficult for him to stop, but it isn’t frustrating. And it isn’t frustrating for her either. The peak they were reaching for wasn’t sexual desire, it was love. And she loves him more after his confession, and he loves her more for comforting him, that is the peak they needed to satisfy themselves. And we can see that because he doesn’t roll fully away. This isn’t “oh no, I can’t control myself!”, this is, “I choose to change this from a moment leading to sex to a moment of just being together, and for me, they are equally satisfying”.
I don’t usually try to put in Hindi words, because I am not the greatest at Hindi, but in this scene I want to use the 3 actual words because they were translated wrong in the subtitles, and I don’t know if there is a really good translation out of Hindi. “Raula” is the first one, “chupke chupke” is the second. The subtitles have it as “on the side”, which is just completely wrong! “Chupke chupke” means silently, or secretly. It gets at a whole world of meaning for Shahrukh. His previous relationships to him were things to be hidden. Not just by himself, but by the women. We saw that in how he came on to that girlfriend of a friend in the club in Amsterdam. That was part of what made him feel good, to have this secret power over other men, that he had taken their women and they didn’t even know. But it was also part of what made him feel bad, that he was something they women didn’t want to admit in the bright light of day. With Anushka, he doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want to be something she is ashamed of, for himself. And for her, he doesn’t want her to feel like she is shameful, feel like this is something wrong.
It’s not just “no sex before marriage!”, it’s “no sex in a way that implies we are doing something we are ashamed of, we are doing something that we don’t want the world to know about.” All the things which should be making them feel free, the hotel room all to themselves on the other side of the world from everyone they know, are what is restricting Shahrukh. He wants to be in India, he wants to be in their own home with a sign out front saying “Mr. and Mrs. Mehra are having procreational sex inside this house right now”. Or, you know, just “Mr. and Mrs. Mehra” but we all know what it means. This different kind of sex, this sex that is really love-making, for him it is incomplete if it isn’t done in such a way that tells the world what is happening, that makes it clear they are proud and not ashamed.
(He wants this. As do we all! This is the scene that caused my friends and I to discover what we call his “you forgot I was sexy” face.)
And then there’s “Galat”. “Galat”, as I understand it, can be “wrong” like “it would be wrong to do that”. But it can also mean “wrong” as in “not right”, like “the fruit has gone wrong”. Shahrukh is saying that he himself is wrong/rotten/broken and Anushka is changing it, saying that it is his way of thinking about himself is wrong/bad. And her argument shows more than anything else her own new maturity. I don’t think the Anushka we first met would understand what was happening between them right now enough to know that most men wouldn’t be able to turn away. After all, her fiance had never tried to have sex with her. But now she knows that this moment right here, with a warm receptive woman offering herself, is something that most men wouldn’t be able to turn down. And she knows that she is that woman, that there is something different about what she is in this moment than what her fiance or any other man has ever seen from her. I mean, she asked him to tell her exactly what he does with these women! Well, now she knows, it is something that can’t be described, it just has to be understood.
And there is also her understanding of exactly what he needs to hear. At first, she was so in love with his bad boy image, trying to make sense of something different than what she had ever known. And most women are probably like that with him, enjoying the danger and the badness of it. But just as she is different, he wants that stamp of social approval with her, so is he different for her now. She doesn’t want the bad boy any more, she wants to remind him that he is better than he thinks, that she believes in him even if he doesn’t believe in himself.
And that is why he thinks she can save him. Because she believes in him, and because she makes him want to believe in himself, to be a better person. He is trying, that is why he turns and curls into the fetal position at the end of their conversation. He is turning back into a child, a baby, wants to be reborn and start fresh. And she turns into his mother, calming him, wrapping him in her arms, soothing him.
And it works. For the first time, he feels worthy of spending the night with her not on the floor, but in her bed. The next thing we see is the next morning, him waking up wrapped in pillows and blankets. Loved and pampered, for once in his life.
And there’s another double length post for you! Come back tomorrow to have a big fight with me over the meaning of the whole “Raula” sequence!