I have SO MANY thoughts! SO MANY! And you probably won’t agree with them based on what has already been said in the comments. But that will just make it more fun for all of us! (Full index of JHMS posts here)
Previously: Almost the entire film happened. Anushka and Shahrukh were traveling together through Europe, he was officially the guide her family was paying to keep her company while she looked for a lost engagement ring, but within a day of traveling together they had begun to be more than that to each other. Now, they had survived a dangerous experience, in the middle of which Anushka found her lost ring. But she hide it from Shahrukh instead of telling him. And when they went back to the hotel, they almost had sex. But Shahrukh stopped just before a kiss, because he didn’t want to do it “like this”. So instead Anushka just held him until he went to sleep.
I mentioned in the last section, or the section before last (I’m confused) how we have been primarily within the minds of both characters simultaneously. What I mean by that is, for instance, when they are meeting Karla, Shahrukh and Anushka are thinking different things, but we know what both of them are thinking. They are both onscreen together, the camera shows their reactions and the dialogue gives us a clue as to what they are each feeling. But there was a break in the last (or before last) section when Anushka found the ring and didn’t tell Shahrukh, keeping herself outside of him for the first time. And when Shahrukh briefly loses track of Anushka after he is attacked and panics until he can see her again.
And now we have another break. We are with Shahrukh as he wakes up. He is huddled in blankets and pillows, still in the clothes from last night, but rumpled. His phone goes off, he reaches for it, disoriented. We can tell that he slept, slept well, for a long long time. I mentioned at the end of the last section that this is the first time Shahrukh has slept in a bed. The other two times they slept together, Anushka had to get down on the floor to join him.
(I didn’t notice before how he is lightly touching her hip. Just to make sure she is still there)
Remember, Shahrukh has been in the habit of sleeping for shelter. He admitted that he just finds “someone” at the end of a tour to kill a few weeks until the next tour starts. And we saw in “Safar” how he gets thrown out of one woman’s bed, and goes to sleep on a train bench. Being able to sleep safe and warm and comfortable is a luxury for him. And Anushka has given him that, brought her into her bed and asked nothing from him in return. Made him feel safe and loved and happy.
And now he wakes up and sees her, with this glow behind her. She is fully dressed, moving around, packing, in front of the window. She sees he is awake and informs him that Mayank has sent tickets for Frankfurt, but they have two hours, plenty of time.
The safeness and the love from last night, when she embraced him, it is still here in the morning. This is why he could sleep so late, because she was still taking care of him. We can fill in the blanks, that she crept out of bed without disturbing him, arranged his blankets and pillows around him, got dressed without making noise, called Mayank from another room, and now she is packing for both of them. It’s the little things, the wifely things, the “I am doing this not because it is my duty, but because you had a hard night and this is the give and take of love and life” things.
And then there is one of the best interactions of the film. Shahrukh looks at her, all rumpled with sleep, registering that she did all of this for him, and gives her a sexy “come over here”. And Anushka has this tender smile that flicks in and out of existence before she switches to a bigger brighter smile and a casual “Oh fo! Anywhere, any time! Tch!” and turns and walks away while Shahrukh smiles after her.
This is the start of their true married life. They are past the insecurities over sex, they are past flirting and being nice to each other, Shahrukh can give her a casual come on with no hang ups, he has the right to ask her for sex whenever he is in the mood. And Anushka can turn him down with laugh and a joke and go back to packing his socks. And Anushka is so tenderly proud of this. So proud that Shahrukh is treating her like this, feels comfortable treating her this way. And so proud that she knows how to respond now, she knows what will make him happy. Not the awkward fumbling before, and not the eager response that would put pressure on him, but a laugh and a turn down, because sex isn’t all she wants from him, isn’t all she needs him for, and isn’t all she can offer him.
And we go right from this scene to “Raula”. There was a mention in the last scene about how Frankfurt is where Mayank’s engagement is happening, a little reminder for the audience in case we forgot. And now we are at the engagement. Anushka is running around everywhere, one of my favorite touches is that she is still wearing the old pants she had on when she was packing underneath her fancy Kameez. She is coordinating the candles, bossing everyone around, rushing out to greet Evelyn Sharma when she and her parents arrive at the venue. And she isn’t doing it in an elegant “I am a beautiful graceful marriageable young woman” way. She is doing it like the sister-in-law of the groom, the woman in the background of all those “I am a beautiful graceful marriageable young woman” songs, the bossy one who is trying to get the heroine to focus and hang marigolds or whacking her on the knuckles when she tries to steal sweets.
(Very different from this. The Anushka in this is that white woman in the background in “Raula” with the odd twisted sari, the sexy young woman flirting around. And the Anushka in “Raula” is one of the older women who are sitting in the background doing the food and stuff)
That’s one of the best parts of this sequence, that Shahrukh and Anushka are showing the kind of romance we don’t usually get to see in films, Indian or otherwise, the married couple who is in love, but has a lot of other stuff going on in their lives too. It’s a partner with SRKajol in “Bole Chudiyan”, or “Aye Meri Johra Zabin” from either Waqt or DDLJ. So, Anushka isn’t in her perfect sari with her perfect hair at the beginning, she is in her old pants because she still has too much to do. And the first time she interacts with Shahrukh isn’t a perfect flirtatious couplet, it is to boss him around and get him to light candles. Only, with a big smile just for him, just because they aren’t having a beautiful poetic wedding moment doesn’t mean they don’t love each other.
And then the song starts. First with Shahrukh carefully putting on his turban, not just a wedding turban, but a real one. He does it seriously, we know this is a big deal for him. He is regaining part of his identity. One thing I noticed on a rewatch and forgot to mention in my last post was that even “dream” Shahrukh of “Yaadon Mein” (whether it is Anushka’s dream of him or his projection of himself) is still wearing his steel bracelet. It is that much a part of himself. And getting back the turban, that is a big deal too.
And once again, just like in that morning scene, Anushka has the perfect reaction. He comes out kind of shy, she sees him, sees on his face that he feels shy, and instead of making it even more uncomfortable for him, even more of a deal, she consciously overreacts, pretends to faint, makes it such a big deal that it becomes no deal at all. While still acknowledging that it is a deal for him. This is why Anushka is perfect for him, he needs that light/heavy touch. He needs someone to make fun of his angst while still letting him have it.
And then he comes out and taps the microphone into a rhythm before he starts to sing. This is the one song of the film done by Diljit. I find it fascinating how many singers worked on this soundtrack. There is almost a pattern to it. Arijit is the voice of Shahrukh’s inner self. He sings “Safar”, he sings “Hawayein”. But then he also sings “Beech Beech Mein”, which is also partly a “real” song! And then Shahid Mallya only does “Radha” and Diljit only does this. And Mohit Chauhan does “Ghar” and “Phurr”. And there is a whole different crew of musicians who come in for “Butterfly” and “Yaadon Mein”. I think it’s because this is such an incredibly deep soundtrack, and they wanted each song to be presented in the best possible way. And the film situations allow for that as well, Shahrukh has his internal voice, his disco karaoke voice, there is the voice Anushka hears through her headphones, the voice he uses to sing to her just for fun, and now, here, his performing voice. Which is why it is so great to use Diljit for this. He has a natural light voice, a voice that isn’t just for playback singing, but sounds good outside of a studio. And he also doesn’t sound super complicated, super practiced. This isn’t Arijit’s crazy complex presentation of “Hawayein”, or Mohammed Irfan’s soulful long notes in “Yaadon Mein”. This is something you can believe a young man from a village would have taught himself, and would still be able to do years later with no practice.
Plus, the song itself is right. Yes, in the context of the film, the use of “Raula” has all kinds of meaning for these two people. But remove that added layer, this is a simple song that could be easily used for any occasion. We can picture Shahrukh singing it dozens of times as a boy in his village for every major celebration, and in the early years in Canada when he was hired for weddings. And then setting it aside for over a decade, only to find, after some initial hesitation, that he can still perform just as good as he ever could.
What really makes it, again, is the interactions with Anushka as he sings. He starts, she smiles (because she always smiles when he sings) and then one of his first lines references “Lal dupatta” with a little wink in her direction. And she gives a big reaction all “Oh my gosh, you mentioned me!” A sincere reaction this time, not a purposeful overreaction like before, but she is sincerely delighted that he thinks she looks pretty. A good sign for their married life, 20 years from now she will probably still be delighted every time he tells her she looks pretty.
What makes it a “married” moment, is that after her reaction, she turns away to give more directions about seating and stuff. And comes back to dance for him not just because he is singing to her, but because she is trying to get the rest of the people to dance. Yes, he is singing to her, and she is loving it, but they are also aware that they are hosting this party, that they have to make sure everyone has a good time, it isn’t just about their love story, it is about their love story as part of a bigger world. They are taking the love and support they give each other and giving it out to the rest of the world.
(Am I the only person who kept thinking “well of course she knows how to work a wedding crowd, she had all that experience from back when she was a wedding planner”?)
They get everyone up and singing and dancing, and then the song shifts, they are still singing to each other, or at least hearing the song in the background, but they have moved on to routine tasks, setting tables and putting out flowers. This is the rhythm of life now, happy and bouncy even if it is just everyday things. And flirty too, soft flirting while setting the table. It’s a nice pairing with the end of “Beech Beech Mein”, once again we see that they have the kind of relationship that makes something as everyday as setting the table into a game. This is supposed to be a movie about traveling through Europe, but in fact they have the most fun when they aren’t doing the exciting travel things, but just the regular life kind of things.
And then, my most interesting bit, the money stuff! Towards the end of the song, the caterer arrives, Shahrukh has his hands full with bags, so Anushka grabs the receipt, then signals to him she needs his wallet, digs in his pocket for it, pulls it out, hands over the money, then teases him and holds the wallet away for a bit, before tossing it back to him. This is the culmination of all the money-money-money moments that have come up between them in the rest of the film.
Way way way back at the beginning, Anushka was pushing Shahrukh to take her back to the hotel, to take responsibility for her. He finally agreed because he had to, and she translated it as “It’s always about money!” As in, the poor servant class only cares about money, he was just holding her up for more, he doesn’t have anything else on his mind ever. It’s so dismissive and infuriating on all kinds of levels, that poor people have no inner lives beyond greed. And that attitude of “why can’t they just forget about money?” which is something only people so rich that they have never had to think about money think.
Later, when Shahrukh is trying to get rid of her, he offers to buy her a coffee, he will pay, it is free for her. Trying to speak her language, give back the money she is offering, and she rejects it. Casually, without thinking, only getting the message of “coffee”, which she dismisses as having caffeine, not the message that he is trying to put them back on an equal footing by offering to spend money on her like she spent money on him.
And later in that scene, Anushka brings it back to the money, saying he should accept the job of escorting her, she will pay him daily wages for very little work, it will be like a paid holiday for him. She doesn’t understand that offering any money at all makes him an employee, and that is exactly what he is trying to escape. She just keeps offering more of it, and that’s what makes him more and more reluctant.
Once he takes the job, money doesn’t come up again at all for a long time. In a kind of surprising way. He is organizing hotel rooms and tickets and she is going shopping, and we never see money change hands or even a credit card. Which means that, most likely, she has given him control over her money. He is technically her employee, but he is also using her money (or more accurately, probably her father’s money) to pay for both their hotel rooms, their tickets, their food. This is probably what Anushka is used to, as a rich girl she would have various employees who just “organize” stuff for her, invisibly. She most likely doesn’t think about money beyond knowing that it is a way to maintain power over people by giving it to them. And now Shahrukh is one of those people who invisibly control and use her money, a trusted employee, but still an employee. And, I am guessing, this is also something Shahrukh is used to. Having an open line of credit while working for these kind of people, saving receipts and submitting them for reimbursement, living a good life so long as he is with them, and then falling back down to homelessness once the tour is over.
But then Karla appears. And suddenly Anushka switches into professional mode, where money has meaning for her. And when it comes up, she orders Shahrukh to pull out his wallet and give money to Karla, even takes it from his hand when he is reluctant to hand it over. Money isn’t unlimited or meaningless here, she is showing an awareness that Shahrukh has a limited amount of funds, but also an awareness that she has a right to order him around over what to do with them. Well, order in a limited way. Money has gone from being how she controls him, to a sign of his growing control over her. She went from thinking of him as someone who only wants money to thinking of someone who has money that she wants from him. She is giving him that power over her that she used to have over him. And in a much greater way than simply accepting a cup of coffee from him.
And now, at the end of “Raula”, the money dynamic has completely shifted. From her offering unlimited funds for him to use for tickets and hotels and his own salary, now she is expecting the same from him, taking the bill, grabbing his wallet, paying it, all without him even seeing the amount. And teasing him about giving the wallet back. It is no longer “her money” as it was at the beginning, or “his money” as it was with Karla. Now it is “their money”.
And I can believe that “their money” was enough to put together this event. That’s the other part of this sequence, showing how happy Anushka is in this tiny little middle class party. Heck, she is the one who put it together! It’s not just that she is happy there, it is that this is her dream, this is what she wants, this is what she designed.
It’s in a nice room, but a small room, just the right size for the small party they have put together. The performer is Shahrukh. The waiters are Shahrukh and Anushka setting the tables. The chef is the take-out restaurant who brought the dinner over. And Anushka’s outfit is gorgeous, a bright pink Kameez and gold Salwar, but it isn’t perfect and fancy. It isn’t even that fitted. And she can move in it, and does move in it, she is dancing Bhangra for Shahrukh, crawling on the floor with the kids, having a wonderful time.
Now, jumping ahead, this is very different from the wedding Anushka would have had in Bombay. There is no big staff to greet the guests by showering them with perfume, an elegant receiving line for formal wishes and gift giving, showy professional decorations. That is what Anushka is “supposed” to want, the big impressive wedding. But she doesn’t. This is what, in her heart of hearts, she always wanted. She just didn’t know it until now. Didn’t know that the reason she always felt uncomfortable with her fiance, with her family, was that she didn’t belong there, she belongs here, where she can be loud and bossy and in charge, she can wear jeans and play with kids, and not worry about being perfect all the time.
It’s a cliche that the “poor little rich girl” is happier once she married the poor man. But it’s also, in some ways, kind of true. At least, what is true is that leaving the class you were born into can make it easier to figure out who you are outside of what you are supposed to be. And for this particular character, the freedom available to the wife of a educated globe-trotting middle-class Punjabi man is a lot greater than what would be available to her as either a proper daughter to a wealthy father, or a proper wife to a wealthy husband. Not saying marrying some random Punjabi farmer would necessarily give her a better life, but this particular man, this aggressively free-thinking man, he can give her a whole new life.
(Amisha probably ended up with a freer life too, but that’s just because her father was Amrish Puri, under normal circumstances marrying traditional farmer Sunny probably wouldn’t have been the freest life for her)
That’s also, I think, why Evelyn Sharma’s family has to be white. This is a Punjabi wedding party, but with a twist. Anushka and Shahrukh can put it together however they want, because the guests won’t know any better. And it isn’t anything that fits into any established rules, because this is a situation outside of the rules.
It gets more rule breaking at the end of the song once they get back to Shahrukh’s apartment. They are having chai, but chai in miss-matched cups, without enough chairs, with the bride’s white family. But everyone is happy, and that is all that matters. There is another wonderful moment here, while they are making chai, Shahrukh looks at Anushka and is suddenly overcome with love and blows her a sweet sexy kiss. Anushka takes a moment and then, again, she knows that the overreaction is the best reaction. So she blows him a big smacking kiss in return and he pretends on overreaction, and then the moment is over and they return to their guests.
The thing is, this is how Shahrukh expresses love. He is just naturally sexy when he does it. Especially with Anushka, both because he knows she is starved for that kind of affection, and because he likes seeing how easily he can throw her off with it. But Anushka can’t respond in kind. It’s not in her nature. But she has learned that she doesn’t have to change her nature, she has found a middle way, big enthusiastic response, her way of showing love. It’s an odd back and forth, a super sexy soft kiss with a big smacking childlike kiss in return, but it works for them, because they know that the same love is ultimately behind both gestures.
And then they bring the chai, serve everyone, have a small moment when they realize there are too few cups and make Mayank and Evelyn share. And finally, photo time, Anushka fusses and pulls the towel off Shahrukh’s shoulder at the last minute, and then drops into her photo face. But a different photo face. A “Bhabhi of the groom” face. A dignified smile, not a shy one or a soft one, a mature happy big smile. This is what Anushka should be, a confident mature woman running her own household. And this is what she probably would never have been allowed to be with “Rupen”. Not with all the sisters and mothers and everyone else in his household, all the people she was worried about nagging her over the ring. This is another reason that Shahrukh is a better husband for this “poor little rich girl”. He is at a level of society where it is easy to lose track of relatives, to end up striking out on your own. And Anushka can strike out with him, so long as her husband is happy with her, she doesn’t have to worry about anyone else.
At least, she doesn’t worry about anyone else until she is shocked awake from this dream and shocks Shahrukh awake too. But that is for another post. I’ll be back with that tomorrow (or today? Depends on what time zone you are in and how fast I write it).