I am so excited to write this part! Because in the middle of a discussion in the comments about it like 4 days ago, I had a sudden revelation and I have been holding off on sharing it until now, because why waste it on a comment when I can use it in a post? (full index of JHMS coverage here)
Previously, Anushka and Shahrukh were traveling together, officially with him as the paid guide/servant her family had hired for her and her as the wealthy client looking for a lost ring. But they rapidly moved beyond that, feeling a strange connection which bonded them together. Finally, Anushka actually found the ring, in the midst of an emotionally heated situation, and chose to hide it from Shahrukh so they could stay together. They almost had sex that night, with him turning away at the last minute saying “not like this”. The next morning, they had a new closeness and comfort with each other, no longer acting like a couple falling in love, but like a couple who are already married and love each other. Anushka organized their next stop, a trip back to Frankfurt to stay at his apartment and help plan his friend Mayank’s wedding. And she organized the entire wedding party as well, casually taking Shahrukh’s money to pay for it (a reversal of their previous relationship where it was all about her paying him). And now the wedding is over, the last few friends are leaving their apartment after the party moved there for late night chai.
This whole last section was Shahrukh and Anushka seamlessly working together as a married couple. Entertaining the guests, setting up chai, even joining in the wedding photo as the family of the groom. It wasn’t flirtatious exactly, or romantic, they are past that, they are not the young people using a wedding as an occasion to hide their own romance, they are the older people actually hosting the wedding, too busy for romance beyond a quick kiss blown over the chai table or a wink across the room while they are both talking to guests.
And now they are looking super married as they say good-bye to the last guests, Mayank and Evelyn Sharma, the engaged couple that this was all for. They are looking more married than them, Mayank and Evelyn are holding hands and smiling at each other, while Anushka and Shahrukh aren’t really touching, just leaning in their doorway with Shahrukh behind Anushka. It’s a classic posture of “wishing farewell to guests”. They aren’t standing like that to be romantic, they are standing like that because they are sharing the doorway of their shared home. Mayank and Evelyn look in love and happy and all that, but not quite as perfectly in synch as Shahrukh and Anushka.
By the way, let’s take a moment here for Mayank and Evelyn. In the last section, I mentioned how important it was that Evelyn’s family was not Indian. This is a different kind of an engagement party, a rough one that doesn’t follow any set rules. Some of the guests are desi, some aren’t, some are in suits and some are in saris, and that doesn’t follow a particular ethnic pattern either (a Sikh in a turban is in a suit, and a white young woman is in a sexy sari). But they are all there having a great time and feeling joyful about this engagement. This is the life that Anushka and Shahrukh could have. He gives her the freedom to break the rules, and she reminds him of the joy in his heritage, that he can dress desi and sing Punjabi songs even in Europe, that’s okay.
And Mayank and Evelyn are a small part of that. Way back when we first heard about Evelyn, it was Shahrukh telling Anushka that she should travel with Mayank instead of him because Mayank is “in love” and about to be engaged, and therefore “safe” for her. But it was another small moment of Shahrukh accidentally revealing his sort of “kid looking through the window of the toy store” attitude towards love relationships. He puts Mayank’s love marriage on a pedestal, something he thought was not going to ever happen for him. And that was possibly part of his resistance to being part of the planning for it, that he didn’t think he could have this in his own life.
And when we finally meet Evelyn, for me at least, that pays off. Yes, she is gorgeous, much more attractive than Mayank. But she is so happy with the engagement party Shahrukh throws for them, so clearly happy with Mayank, and he with her. They are a couple that shouldn’t work to the same degree that Anushka and Shahrukh don’t really make sense. She is German with (at least in the film) no desi blood at all. She is tall and gorgeous, and he is shorter and over-sized and straight from the Punjab (based on his accent). But they found each other and they make each other happy. Because they believed in it, they threw themselves in to this cross-cultural romance without fear or hesitation. That is what Anushka and Shahrukh are missing, the fearlessness of believing that it will all work out, and then the magic when it does work out, her parents come dressed in German style formal wear, but throw themselves into the Bhangra, Mayank thinks he has no friends to help him put on a show from his side, and then Shahrukh and Anushka step up and show that even if he is alone in Germany, he still has family.
And that is why Mayank and Evelyn are the ones to bring up this question of “what next?” for Shahrukh and Anushka. Because they have come out the other side, they had a love that made no logical sense and now they are engaged and happy. Shahrukh and Anushka, without realizing it, have already gone past that point, but haven’t paused to think it through. And so Mayank forces the issue, and Evelyn supports him.
(Here is Evelyn with Imtiaz in great sunglasses)
It’s very important, to me, that Mayank asks this question directly to Anushka, and tells her to “keep Shahrukh out of it”. Although, wait a second, let me make sure I am remembering this correctly. First, he says a general “what is this?” And Shahrukh kind of hesitates and doesn’t give a clear answer. That is when Shahrukh could have leaped in and said “we are in love. I want her to be with me forever”. But, he didn’t.
So Mayank switches, because, as he says, he knows what this is for Shahrukh, he has never seen him like this before, but what is this for Anushka? Keeping Shahrukh out of it, what does this mean for her? Again, remember that he and Evelyn probably JUST had this conversation. Does she want the saris and the Punjabi flavor and the “exotic” husband? Or does she want him, himself? Is she rebelling against her parents, or is she really in love? So Mayank knows what to ask to make her really think.
And Anushka really does think. Here is where I diverge a bit from a lot of you in the comments, I know. To me, in this moment when Mayank really pushes, she isn’t saying things she has been keeping secret, she is putting it all together as she speaks, there is no filter moment, this is her raw thought process. And she starts with the discovery that she is a different person now, a person she never dreamed she could be, and happier than she ever thought. Anushka has changed so much, and so rapidly, over the course of the film, I don’t think she had a moment before now to catch her breath and look back 6 days to where she was before. It’s scary to realize that, I mean, I get scared when I look at photos from college and start thinking about how different I used to be! And she is looking back only a few days, discovering for the first time that the person she always thought she was inside isn’t the person she is. And her first reaction is happiness, because she loves her new person.
But quickly following that happiness is doubt. Again, this is the very first time she has discovered this about herself. It would be natural to feel doubt, to need to try to understand what this all means and be cautious. I find it more believable for her to try to rationalize, to say “but this can’t be real. It can’t have happened so fast. The logical thing is to go home, back to real life, and try to forget” then for her to say “Oh my goodness, I have changed so much without even noticing! I will have faith that these changes are permanent and jump off a cliff”.
(Remember, even Kajol in DDLJ didn’t speak up and say “let’s just elope” right away, she needed time to process everything before she got there. And she needed to know, for sure, that Shahrukh was willing, not just half-heard statements and magical moments)
Plus, remember, Shahrukh is silent here. And Mayank told her not to think about him. So the question is, does Anushka, just for herself, want to risk never returning home, embracing this new life forever and ever? And the answer has to be “no”. In this moment, it has to be “no”. You can’t make a decision like that in the very first second the choice is presented to you, especially when it is presented with no promises. Later, Shahrukh will give her the same choice, but promise to keep her feeling always beautiful and worthy forever. Now, Mayank is making her think about it with no guarantees, not even the guarantee that Shahrukh will be there for her at all.
It is only after Anushka has fully finished speaking that Shahrukh slides to the other side of the doorway. He was waiting for her verdict, and then he moved. It seems like he would have moved before, as she starts talking, to remove himself from the equation. But he doesn’t, he waits until he thinks it is all over, and then accepts. Or, actually, HE is the one that decides it is over! If he had stayed behind her, if he hadn’t made that shift, might she have kept talking? Reached another conclusion of “but my real life in Bombay doesn’t fit me any more, so maybe this is now my real life and that is my vacation”?
Mayank and Evelyn leave with kind of “I’m sorry” about Anushka’s decision and as soon as they are gone Shahrukh says “Are you tired?” and Anushka smiles and says “no, I have been looking forward to this all night” and Shahrukh says “wine and chill on the balcony?” She says “Yes, exactly, you knew!” And Shahrukh says “that is the problem, I know too much.” As they talk, they walk the short distance from the door to the balcony, and then he casually pulling the cork out of a bottle of wine and pouring two glasses while Anushka is smiling in the background. She comes forward to take a glass, and they fall back onto the green couch next to each other. As they sit, Shahrukh casually asks “so, where too next?” Anushka frowns and tries to remember where the tour went next, listing off cities. And finally Shahrukh has had enough. He goes from sitting drinking wine to standing and yanking his Sherwani off over his head, angrily demanding “what are we doing?” (at least, that’s how I remember it, if I missed a line somewhere or had the wrong person say something, correct me!)
So, I know a lot of you in the comments see this as the height of Anushka’s selfishness and cruelty. That she would make this big speech about how it is just a vacation and she has to go back to real life, and then expect Shahrukh to immediately return to serving her fantasy, aware that it is a fantasy. But I don’t see it that way at all.
(This isn’t related to anything, I just thought we could all use a little break from all this emotion)
First, for what actually happens (as I remember it), it is Shahrukh who says casually “are you tired?” and then suggests wine on the terrace. He is the one who leads the way physically, who opens the wine, who hands her the glass, who asks where they should travel to next. Anushka gave her big speech, and his reaction is, well, nothing. He is the one who puts it back on the footing of the fantasy. Not firmly there, the opening is available for her to say “no, I’m not tired, let’s have a long difficult conversation about what just happened”. But he isn’t forcing it on her, he is offering the option of letting the fantasy continue. And she takes him up on his offer.
Which is saying something all by itself. She just said “this is a vacation, and vacations have to end”. And now she is saying, through her actions, that she is putting off that end. That she doesn’t want it to end. She is leaving the door open, just a little. She is telling him through her actions “logically I know this makes no sense, but my heart is ruling my logic. And maybe, if you give me time, I will overcome logic.” That’s what has been happening all along, she has very slowly and shyly been moving towards him, while he patiently waited for her to get there. And his patience has been rewarded, in 6 days she has gone from a naive girl who knew nothing about men and women, to a woman ready to offer herself to him. One more day, two more days, and she would have let go of that last bit of herself from before, that last bit of logic and fear that was making her think she couldn’t embrace this life. And now, he is the one changing the terms, saying that she doesn’t have any more time, he isn’t going to wait any longer, not even one more day.
Which, and I get this argument from the comments people have made and agree with it, is his prerogative in a lot of ways. She just said something incredibly hurtful, he is a person with feelings, it is his right to show that hurt and demand a showdown over it. But the problem I finally put my finger on is that he is the one who opened himself up to that hurt, and who is forcing more of it on himself right now.
This was my big revelation a couple of days ago: I don’t find Anushka sympathetic in this scene because in real life I am Anushka; it’s because in real life I am Shahrukh! Not a super sexy dangerous club crawler (although what do you know? This is the internet, I totally could be a super sexy dangerous club crawler! Sure, let’s say that, I write my blog posts and then go out trawling for hot men). But because I have a level of emotional intelligence and empathy so high it is almost like a superpower. And, like all superpowers, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Let me back up. Emotional intelligence and empathy are two different but related things. Emotional intelligence is looking at a person’s face or reading their comments on the internet (I know SO MUCH about you all that you probably didn’t intend to tell me) and picking out all sorts of hidden things from it so quickly it feels like mind-reading. Like walking into a party and immediately going “person A hates person B but person B doesn’t know it, person C is shy and trying to hide it, person D is really depressed today for some reason” and so on and so on. Like I said, it’s a super power.
And then empathy is something different, although they usually go together. Empathy means “I feel your pain” and also “I feel your happiness”. So if I am empathetic, it means without even wanting to, I always always always have to make everyone around me as happy as possible. Because if you are unhappy, it’s contagious, and it makes me unhappy too. Or stressed or depressed or whatever else. And so my emotional intelligence keeps getting trained and forced to higher levels so I can figure out how to make everyone happy, and the more I focus on you and how you are feeling in order to figure that out, the more I end up feeling what you are feeling and it is just this cycle that keeps going and going.
So, bringing it back to this film, I know “Harry” because I am “Harry”. I am always always always in control of relationships. I know what the other person wants from me and I usually give it to them (to make them happy so I don’t have to feel their unhappiness). And I know how to force them to do what I want too. It may not look like it, because I am so sweet and nice and smiley and seemingly accommodating, but I am actually running things.
(Speaking of emotionally manipulative and controlling SRK….)
And this is a terrible system! As my family will be happy to tell you. Every single birthday and Christmas of my entire life, I have had a massive emotional collapse. Partly because it’s exhausting keeping everyone happy all the time in invisible ways they don’t even notice. But mostly because I forget other people don’t have my “superpower”. The constant refrain of my childhood (well, through to today) was “if you want something, you have to tell us!”
And that’s what Shahrukh has forgotten in this scene. He expects Anushka to know exactly what he is thinking, without ever telling her. Not just general stuff like “I love you”, but stuff like “I need you to reassure me that I am more to you than just a vacation fling and I need you to do it in this one particular way right now or else I will feel hurt”. And sure, she can get some of it, but she just isn’t as attuned to other people as he is and never will be, and he needs to know that and understand that she doesn’t mean to hurt him, this wasn’t purposeful cruelty. He needs to tell her what he wants from her, straight out and clear. And if he doesn’t do that, he needs to accept that she isn’t going to be as fast at figuring their relationship out as he is. Because they are different people.
And so when Shahrukh explodes here, well, it’s as much his fault as it is when I have my annual Christmas breakdown. If you want her to stay with you, TELL HER!!! Just like he asked for the hug earlier, or told her he didn’t want to have sex “like this”. She is very attuned to his needs, but she isn’t a mind reader. And if he doesn’t want to tell her, he needs accept that she isn’t in that place to offer it voluntarily yet and be patient and wait for her to be ready. Most of all, he needs to not blame her for controlling the situation when he KNOWS he is the one really in control.
He is playing her like a fiddle in this scene, start to finish. He is making her be cruel, making her be the “bad guy”, and doing it so skillfully that even though she can sort of see what is happening but can’t stop it. After her first confession, he immediately steers it back to safe ground, making her think she can relax. And then he pulls the rug out from under her without giving her a moment to catch her breath, to martial her arguments. He’s out of control, but not with anger, with self-hatred and destruction. He wants her to do this to him, because he would rather it end like this then drag on any longer. And sure, that’s his right, but the honest way to handle it would be to say “If this is a vacation, let’s end it now”. To take equal responsibility. Not to manipulate her into doing it all so he can just stand there and say “yes ma’am” and pretend he doesn’t care.
Let’s look at Anushka’s side of this. Anushka has been running to catch up with him in her awareness of her emotions this whole film. And in this scene, she is almost there, so close to the same place as him after talking with Mayank. Mayank forced her to do the adult thing, to examine her emotions and her needs and wants and plan for the future. But he said “plan without thinking of Shahrukh”. So, okay, she did that. Now all Shahrukh needs to do is say “this is where you are at, but here is where I am at. Let’s sit down and try to find a middle ground.” That is what Shahrukh has been doing this whole time. He has sensed where he is, and where she is, and constantly adjusted his plans based on that. Because he has the emotional intelligence to be able to understand this information, and the empathy to want to make it easy for her.
Now Anushka is ready to have this adult conversation. She knows what she wants and has come up with a plan for herself. This is an awareness that is new to her, like as of 5 minutes ago. The “fair” thing for Shahrukh to do is to give her time to consider his side of things, to consider her side in a little more depth, and to let her make those same series of compromises and decisions he has been making all along. But instead, he chooses to force this emotional confrontation before she has a chance to really think. He isn’t giving her the option, which is what Mayank confronts him with later, he never asked her, he just decided what would be best for her and made it happen. Not directly, but with the same emotional maneuvering he has been using all along and knows perfectly well she is susceptible to.
This is a really important fight for their future relationship, because this is the fight they are going to be having over and over again, and Anushka needs to learn how to deal with it. Shahrukh is going to constantly be hurt by things she doesn’t even realize she is doing, and is going to respond with a big emotional outburst as everything he has repressed comes to the surface. And he is going to try to put this all on her, to drive her away or make her feel guilty or otherwise manipulate her into feeling or doing or saying something she doesn’t actually want to feel or do or say. I’m kind of impressed with how Anushka does manage to stand up to it and see through what he is doing! After he yanks off the Sherwani (great visual metaphor for pulling off this pretense of happy married life) and starts yelling, she literally goes toe to toe with him, trying to force him to say, out loud, “what do YOU want?” She just bared her soul, everything she is thinking, even if it was cruel, and he owes her the same in return. And he won’t give it to her. Instead he retreats to his same position of authority from their first meeting in the hotel, he knows more than her, she is just a child, it will sting but they will both get over it. It’s infuriating! Any response she gives will just make it appear that she is more immature, that she doesn’t have the great wisdom he is claiming for himself.
Look at how perfectly he arranged this! He throws her off a little at the door by seeming so “normal”, so she follows his lead and is “normal”. And then suddenly out of nowhere (because she thought he wanted to be “normal”) he gets dramatic and emotional. So she gets dramatic and emotional. And then he switches again to be all “no no, it’s serious and sad and heartbreaking but I am in control and you aren’t”. There is nowhere for her to go from here! Even if she had said “I was wrong, I want to stay here, this is my real life now”, his response would still be “love stings but you will get over it you silly little girl”.
(Just like poor Sridevi in Lamhe. Shahrukh doesn’t actually slap Anushka, but he gives her an emotional slap, tries to drive her away)
And so she has no choice but to walk away. Because he really isn’t willing to deal with things now, even though it seems like he is, even though he makes it appear that she is the one in denial. And after she walks away, the fate of Skype intervenes, that is the moment she gets another call from home. And actually answers it, because Shahrukh has driven her there.
And Rupen! Finally! Who after all that build up is exactly as dull as you thought he would be. And suddenly Anushka makes so much sense after this final piece comes in! Because, Rupen is terrible. Well, not terrible, but not great. Anushka is young and pretty and smart and very rich. And this is the best she could do. No wonder she didn’t think she was “layak”. He isn’t that handsome, he isn’t that young, he isn’t that sensitive or charming. His big pitch to make her come home is to just say “come home”. Not even a soulful “I love and miss you”. And he is only doing this much because her sister forced him. She spent the whole first half of the film talking about him and their “romance” while Shahrukh rolled his eyes, because Shahrukh knew exactly what this was. A rich girl who was presented with an appropriate husband and is trying to talk herself into being in love with him because it’s what her family wants, and she doesn’t know she has any other choice. And now Anushka doesn’t even have her illusions to protect her, she knows what real love and romance and excitement feels like, and it isn’t Rupen. But she still doesn’t seem to have any other choice. Shahrukh just told her, as clearly as he could, “I am not an option for you”. So, what’s left? Spend her life running away? Or go home and accept the small life she is offered? That’s why she is crying and struggling before going out. It’s not just saying good-bye to Shahrukh, it’s saying “hello” to Rupen and all he represents.
(Why does Shahrukh keep doing this to women??? Offering love, and then saying “oops, wait, my mistake! You have to go marry your fiance now!” So cruel!)
Okay, yes, literally minutes earlier she said that she would return home soon, that this was her real life. But it works for me that this would be her logical journey from that point to this. That moment of consideration, that was her head, not her heart. Mayank told her that, told her to ignore her feelings for Shahrukh, and without that, this is the answer. And then Shahrukh forces those feelings on her, forces her to feel emotional, to feel his emotions as he has been suffering through hers. And it all comes flooding over her, her head is overcome and she is all heart and doesn’t want to leave. But now both head and heart are telling her she has to go. Shahrukh won’t let her stay, and Rupen is offering a reasonable life back home. A miserable depressing life, but at least it is an option.
And again, this is on Shahrukh! Right now, while she is crying and pacing, he is just sitting outside, calm. Because he knows what is going to happen. He knows he has positioned her so that she has no other choice but to leave. He is ready when the moments come, more ready than she is, because he has seen it coming all along, has been preparing the way so that she would do this to him. And so while she keeps her face carefully blank and her words short, telling him to arrange tickets home, he speaks easily and calmly, saying “Yes Ma’am”. Yes, he is sad and in pain, but he isn’t in shock. This was his plan all along.
Okay, now go to the comments and disagree with me loudly and long. I’m ready!
Also, woot! Only a little bit left! And also, phooey! We won’t beat Bahubali 2 after all, looks like this will be done in an even 25 parts.