We are finally here! This is going to be another epic length post, I can just feel it. But it won’t finish everything. Because I have decided, the very very end of the film is going to get it’s own little post. Because I kind of suspect it is something you will want to be able to easily find and read and reread and reread as we suffer through the long long wait for Netflix (full index of JHMS coverage here)
Previously: Whole movie! All you need to know is that Shahrukh was a lowly tour guide and Anushka was a rich girl whose family hired him to take her around looking for a lost ring. And they fell deeply deeply in love. In a kind of spooky sensing a soulmate before they even liked each other way. But last night, Anushka was directly asked what she saw happening next in her life, and when forced to think about it, realized that this was a vacation, her real life was back home. And Shahrukh reacted by forcing an emotional confrontation, saying unforgivable things, and essentially driving her away, even though she directly asked him what he wanted, was clearly ready to stay despite what she had said if he just asked her. But it was too late, he had crossed the line, her fiance was calling her home, so she asked him to organize tickets for her return trip.
We go right from this deeply emotional moment late at night in the Frankfurt apartment to the two of them sitting in the car, driving down the same road they drove down when they first came together, when she stopped him outside the Amsterdam airport and insisted on him helping her. Kind of confusing geography and timeline here. I think we can assume that after a sleepless few hours of separately sitting and staring into space at his apartment, they either took a car or a train to Amsterdam from Frankfurt (The Internet tells me it is only about 4 hours), and now here they are at the airport.
It’s a lovely visual thing, to have them go back down the exact same road to the exact same place. But it also makes logical sense, I am assuming her visa had some entry-exit restrictions, plus it would be easier to change the return tickets from the same airport. Seemed odder to me before The Internet told me how close the two cities are, but 4 hours really isn’t bad. And it also explains how they could really not talk between the last scene and now. The kind of massive blow out fight they just had, it takes at least 4 hours to cool down from that. I can easily picture several hours of pacing in separate areas of the apartment, a sad getting dressed, a silent drive, and finally the last moments hitting them as we, the audience, come back.
They both have set faces, matching faces. Way way back in the first sequence, I pointed out that they aren’t matching in the car during that first car ride, dramatically so after you watch the rest of the film. They are facing different directions and the camera isn’t catching them at the same moments. But now they are equally miserable. The camera has them lined up next to each other, staring into a sad future.
So long as I am talking about that first drive, looking back on it from where I am now in the film, I think there is some extra stuff I didn’t pick up quite on that first go round which is coming back now. Anushka was legitimately terrified and upset when she first approached Shahrukh. Her engagement was over, everyone was mad at her, she had to fix this. But as soon as they were in the car together, as soon as she was fully away from her family and the adventure was started, she relaxed.
I don’t subscribe to the “Anushka consciously planned this thing all along” theory. But I am beginning to lean strongly towards the “the first panic was partly about finding the ring, and partly about getting away from all these angry people blaming her and yelling at her, and once she was free, she suddenly felt happier than she ever had before just because she was away”. And I don’t think Anushka knew that herself, that she was so much happier and freer on this little break from all the family pressure, but Shahrukh knew it, knew this little girl with all the pressure and expectations was enjoying her freedom. And then by the second day it had already changed, she followed him in Amsterdam not because she was enjoying freedom, but because she was looking for a new kind of purpose, a new kind of meaning. And their relationship sort of went from there.
But now, remove Shahrukh from the equation, go back to that early Anushka who was delighted to be cruising down a road in a car with an open top and almost forgot about the ring until she suddenly reminded herself of it (that great moment of going from “this is the way to travel! Open Top!” to sudden memory and forcing herself to try to care, “Oh God, I just have to find the ring!”), that same Anushka is being forced back into that same trap. Anushka calls her time with Shahrukh a “vacation”, but what it really was, was a jail break. A chance to be loud and silly and goofy and happy, for once in her life, without the Didis and the Rupens and the aunties and the uncles all coming after her. And now he is delivering her back to all that. He is killing this free and happy Anushka, forcing her back into that suffocating little box.
AND, also, they are heartbroken. But the two things are existing at the same time here, just as this trip has been both about Shahrukh and Anushka falling in love with each other, and finding themselves. Anushka is being delivered back to her little box. She has accepted this decision, this sentence he is meting out to her. She sentenced herself with her own words, and then he delivered the final blow in that fight that they can’t recover from. That is part of her set face here, as I see it, an awareness of what she is returning to and what she is leaving behind.
For Shahrukh, I don’t think he is thinking about himself at all. He is heartbroken, dying inside, but he isn’t thinking about next steps, about what his life will look like, any of that. He is just thinking about delivering her to the airport and saying good-bye.
And that’s what their good-bye is. There is no anger any more, it is just sadness. Sadness for her, for where she is going. She pulls out the ring from her bag and tells him “I found it two days ago”. This is both a final gift to him, a statement that it wasn’t just a convenience or a detour, she made a choice; and a statement as to what her life will be like. She is putting the ring back on, accepting all the restrictions she used to have as her lot. And, I think, that’s why he gives her the tickets, make sure she knows she has everything, and then tells her “take care of yourself. Because I won’t be there to do it for you”. Her response is that she can take care of herself, she is “very selfish”. But the fact is, she has to be selfish, because there is no one else. Shahrukh is sending her back to the family that dumped her on him, that left her completely incapable of existing in the world or understanding anything, that has arranged her sad dull relationship with a sad dull man who valued a ring over her. It isn’t changing his decision, but it is making him more sad, to picture her going back to that,
Imtiaz gives us a great shot as she walks away. Her hair is down and straight, she is wearing an embroidered jean jacket, it is a funky look, the “new” Anushka. But it is also childlike, the jacket is slightly oversized, the hair is simple down her back. It is a reminder that she is still fragile, still isn’t used to her new strength, still has that little girl inside that can be hurt so easily. She looks like a little girl lost, which is just what she is. And which is how Shahrukh sees her, this little girl who no longer has him to take care of her.
And I think that’s maybe why he finally gives her his speech, as she walks away. This is what he didn’t want to say to her while she was there, didn’t want to admit how much he needed her, how much this little girl had gotten under his skin. And didn’t want to pressure her into doing anything she didn’t want to do, anything she may not have been old enough to do.
I think part of the reason the audience had such a hard time with Anushka’s character is that she changes so much over the course of the film, it is hard to get a grasp on her. And it’s hard for Shahrukh to get a grasp on her for the same reason. This is a woman who went from teenage teasing him over his affairs, to holding him in her arms and comforting him in just 5 days. The woman at the end of it, the one who held him and flirted with him, and stole his wallet, she is someone he could have asked to stay, could have admitted how much he needed her. But could he know for sure that was the real her? That it wasn’t an illusion? Especially when she herself said that this wasn’t the real her, she had to go back to Bombay?
In the morning, after the fight, feelings have calmed as they always do. But that doubt is still there. He has made his decision, she has to go back. And he lets her go with a last sincerely concerned wish that she take care of herself. She does not say the same to him, and he doesn’t expect it. She is already beginning to grow down a little to that person she was before, in a sad and lonely way.
But once she is out of hearing, that is when he can say it. Admit how much she meant to him. Admit that perhaps she was the thing he was looking for. And take one last look at her sad fragile face.
And song! Oh, and also moment-that-could-have-been different. Like, as a writer, you could have written it differently. This song is essentially the same as my favorite song from Jab We Met, “Tum Se Hi”. In which Shahid takes his discovery of his love, the healing Kareena gave him, and brings it back to his regular life. Lives a fuller happier life thanks to their time together, even knowing he may never see her again.
This could have been the happy ending. In fact, the more I listen to “Jee Ve Sohaneya”, the more I think that the lyrics make as much more more sense as a good-bye song between the couple, a real ending song, than how it was actually used. Even if they aren’t together, they wish each other a good life. Shahrukh could have gone back to his life, cured. Rediscovering peace and joy and friendship and all of that. And Anushka could have disappeared out of his life just like she appeared in it, a face in the crowd at the airport.
But it can’t end like that. Not because of Shahrukh’s character needing something different to make sense, this speech right here, that is what he needed to acknowledge for his own mental journey, that he was looking for something before, and that something was this time with Anushka. He needed to know he was looking before he could do something about it. Like, I don’t know, getting into intensive therapy. Writing a letter to his family. All kinds of things unrelated to Anushka.
But this can’t be a happy ending for Anushka. Not because she is leaving Shahrukh, in a slightly different film she could have gotten over that. But because she is going back to this miserable life that she has been running away from. And in order to get there, Imtiaz had to give us a different song right here. Shahrukh is healed, he isn’t all better just because he gave a big speech. He needs Anushka here, with him, always, or else he will never survive.
Let me back up. This romance in this film, in slight ways throughout, has leaned towards the soulmates/connected by an invisible cord kind of romance. Not like Jab We Met, for instance, which was more about an influence on each other that would carry through even if they weren’t together. But this romance isn’t about that, it is about physical proximity above all else. And so they can’t be separated at the end. That can’t be the happy ending for either of them.
However, let’s change it a little. Let’s say you cut a moment here or there, make it a little less obvious how much Shahrukh needs to see her after they are kidnapped, how much she needs to sleep with him at night. So now it is all like “Raula”, they are happy together because they have healed each other, but they don’t need-need each other. Then, Shahrukh can have his realization at the airport, and return to his life a better man.
But can Anushka? Even in this new version, where they are slightly less physically bonded to each other, can she ever be happy in her life back home again? Hasn’t she outgrown that? If we had the Jab We Met version, where Shahrukh is all “cured” and happy, I would still be worried about Anushka, wearing that ring again and getting on the plane all alone. She isn’t just the “manic pixie dream girl” type that existed to fix him, she has her own problems, and in many ways they are worse than his.
And so we get this version. Where Shahrukh is cured, but not cured. His depression is gone, his initial depression from “Safar”. But a new worse problem is here. Before, he could go through the motions, hide the emptiness inside. Now he can’t even do that. Without Anushka, he is broken entirely, just the pieces of a person.
And it takes a while to hit him. Which kind of retroactively makes sense of everything he just did. He thought he would be okay, to fight with her and deliver her to the airport and say goodbye, because at first he was okay. It took a day away from her, and then another and another and another just getting worse and worse and worse until finally there was no other option than to do something because he was in so much pain he had to.
In the comments, anonymous (by the way, anonymous, if you don’t want to have your comments stuck in moderation, you can create a username so the system knows who you are and knows I already approved you) pointed out how Shahrukh was always happy after a break up. We saw him calmly walking away from the woman in “Safar”, and later whistling and happy after being yelled at on the bridge in Amsterdam. I think this is what he is used to. That feeling of freedom after a break, knowing that the woman is probably better off without him and will recover, and enjoying going back to his regular life.
He knows Anushka isn’t the same as the other women, that she got to him in a different way, but I think he still thinks he will be able to walk away from it intact. Not just because that’s how it was for him with the other women, but because that’s how it was for them. Those other women (except for Klara), they yelled at him and so on but ultimately, they were happy once he was out of their life. He was “bad” for them, and he knew it. So now he thinks that Anushka will be happier without him, but also whatever pain he has, he is expecting it to be more like what the women he dumped felt. Sure, it hurts, but you just grit your teeth and come out the other side, no big deal. He has had no real experience of the kind of heartbreak that is about to come down on him, he just thinks he has.
(this is the only heartbreak I can think of from another Shahrukh film that feels the same. Which makes sense, because it’s the only other time I can think of where he lost a marriage, not just a lover)
And so we have “Ghar”. Where he falls apart. The tie, the shirt, the look, the professional tour guide patter, it all leaves him. He sits on his bed in his apartment with an empty space beside him where she used to be. He forgets what he is saying in the middle of sentences.
We have a tiny glimpse of Anushka in the middle of “Ghar”, two tiny glimpses. Her on the airplane, and her in a fancy wedding/engagement dress. Okay, you ready for me to blow your mind? Since we just have those two tiny glimpses of her (and the second ultimately doesn’t make much sense), what do you think of them as being in Shahrukh’s mind? He pictures her alone on the airplane after he sent her off, pictures her preparing herself for the wedding she doesn’t really want? Kind of similar to (possibly) Anushka’s vision of him during “Yaadon Mein”? I know, it’s a reach, but it’s interesting to think about.
And this gets at a bigger thing, I think part of his issues in “Ghar” are that he knows he “did her wrong”. He keeps remembering the good times, when she was dancing and free and happy. And has these flashes of her sad in the present day. I don’t think that’s most of it, I think it’s like 88% him realizing that he is broken without her. But there is this little hint of “and what if she isn’t better off without me after all either?”
We end with Shahrukh trying to lead a tour group, but forgetting his lines. Mayank rescues him, once again using the phone (remember the phone? His prop and comfort for the first hour that was substituted for Anushka later?). Shahrukh and Mayank meet later for a meal, a sad sandwich in a cafe. I don’t remember the exact order of this conversation (I’m sorry!), but I remember the main points.
Mayank starts by suggesting he needs to move on, to forget her. I think he thinks Shahrukh is wallowing, that this is a symptom of all his other problems, doesn’t realize that it is something entirely new and different and more powerful than anything Shahrukh has faced before. Shahrukh responds that he can’t believe it is this woman, THIS woman, this childish silly shallow woman, who has done this to him. He even imitates her little “Sejal” wave hand gesture. What I love is, while he is making fun of her childish silliness, it is also the most childish we have seen him in the film! This is what she has reduced him to! Name calling and mimicry behind her back.
It’s also a little glimpse into the torture he has been going through in his mind for the past few days. He has been trying to argue himself out of heartbreak, reminding himself that “she’s not that great”, he didn’t even like her, she isn’t the perfect fantasy woman, she is just a silly human person. But of course, he can’t argue himself out of it. Because all those things he hates are also the things he loves. Because they are part of her, and she is the one woman in the world for him. Even if she is silly and childish and all that other stuff. That’s what we see when they are together, he can’t help but smile and enjoy all that childish stuff that he is trying to convince himself he hates. In a different movie, it would be “he loves her for her innocence”, or “he loves her despite her immaturity”. In this one it is a little different, “he loves her and therefore he loves her innocence/immaturity”, even though he is trying to convince himself different. In the same way, I don’t think Anushka loves him for his pain or his sexiness or all the other stuff that makes up “him”. I think she loves him because she is meant to love him, and therefore also learns to enjoy those other parts of him. Okay, sure, any woman would thank her lucky stars that the man she loves is a Sex God, but I don’t think that’s WHY she loves him, there is something far beyond all of that which calls to her. Just like there is something within all her silliness that Shahrukh can’t explain which still makes him want her, even when he knows there is no reason he should.
This is also when he acknowledges, out loud, that she is the one woman to do what he “feared”. I don’t remember the exact wording, but the implication I got is that his fear was missing home, wanting home, wanting a regular life, in general feeling connected to the world again. And that’s why he is in such bad shape now, not because he is sicker than before, but because he is healthier.
Before, when we met him in “Safar”, he was in the kind of cotton wool of depression. He didn’t feel anything any more, was just going through the motions of life. Which is very very very very bad. That’s when you start doing self-harming behavior (like, for instance, destructive sexual encounters) in order to feel something for a brief moment. But Shahrukh was telling himself that this was a good thing, he didn’t feel “sad” any more, or homesick, or guilty, or have this massive desire within him for love and home and family, because he didn’t feel anything at all.
And now Anushka has woken him up, healed him. Healed him enough that he feels pain again, and that pain he had before has now doubled, tripled, quadrupled as he fully discovers what it is like to miss her. Again, there’s that lag. That moment when he thought he was okay, which was just sort of the hang over, the still having the drug of unconditional love in his system. But once it wears off, the further he gets from her, the more he desires it, needs it to survive.
And that’s what he is working through in this scene with Mayank. Mayank asks Shahrukh about Anushka, his first reaction is “she’s childish and stupid and I don’t even like her, so there!” And then Mayank keeps asking, and gets to the second level of “I love her”. But, notice, even while acknowledging that he loves her, he still isn’t willing to admit that they could be together. Saying “No, I can’t ask her”. Mayank pushes, and it shifts to “I can’t ask her NOW, not after she asked me three times already and I turned her down”. And then he pushes again and it becomes “No, I’m gonna do it. I’m going to her wedding, I know where to find her on November 25th, I’ll ask her and then she can get married.”
Before dealing with each of those statements individually, let’s just look at this pattern. Mayank asked Anushka “what do you think, what is this?” And her reaction was similar to his first reaction “this makes no sense, this can’t last, I reject it”. And then Shahrukh jumped in and cut off any more questions. But this time there is no one to cut it off. Mayank asks again, and Shahrukh goes a little deeper and admits that he wants it, but doesn’t see how. And finally Mayank keeps pushing and this is when Shahrukh sees daylight, sees that he can go for it, he can have a happy ending after all. I’m not saying it would have necessarily been exactly the same with Anushka before, she is a different person than Shahrukh after all, but I do wonder if Mayank had asked her again, if Shahrukh hadn’t accepted that first statement as final and cut off any more questions, if she would have kept going and admitted that it isn’t possible but she wants it. And finally made her peace with finding a way that it is possible for her after all. Just like Shahrukh does here.
Now, for the specific things he says! I already talked about how silly his initial “no, girls are stupid! I can’t love someone like that!” denial is. But the second protest, that one I find FASCINATING. First the specifics of saying it was 3 times. I am sure about the first and last times, but I wonder what the middle time was supposed to be? The first time was at the Amsterdam club, innocently trying to attract him. The last time was in that big fight, asking him “what do you WANT?” But what was the middle time? Was it when her response to his warnings after “Hawayein” was a breathy “So?” Was it her words during “Radha”? Her offer to be his girlfriend? That night they almost had together in Portugal? Her pole dance during “Phurr”? Heck, was the 3rd time during the fight, or was it when she told him she had the ring in her purse for 2 days? She has been offering herself to him over and over and over again, and he has been rejecting her. And finally, to the audience and to himself, Shahrukh is acknowledging that. It was in his power all along.
And that’s what has been killing him for the past few days during “Ghar”. The “What might have been” of it. And, more than that, the “it’s my fault, I turned her away” of it. Again, going back to that moment in the doorway when Anushka says this is just a vacation. Shahrukh’s admission here means he KNOWS that wasn’t true for her. Yes it was a hurtful thing to say and it was what she was thinking in the moment, but on some level he knew she had offered herself to him over and over again and he had rejected her and now she is rejecting him. His rejections came first, small ones, but still there. And now that’s why it is too late. He sent her away, why would she ever take him back?
And leave it to Mayank, once again, to point out the obvious. He never gave her a chance to make her own decision. Just like everyone else in Anushka’s life, Shahrukh decided what was best for her and cut off her ability to make that choice herself. Maybe she would say no, but that is her right, to get the offer and reject it. Just like she offered herself to Shahrukh and he had the option to accept or reject her.
Here’s where Shahrukh’s cockiness comes into play in a delightful way. Well-deserved cockiness, he knows what a hot property he is, and he knows how Anushka feels about him. And so once he realizes he does have the right to ask her, once he allows himself to believe that he deserves a second chance and, more than that, she deserves a first chance, then he kind of knows it is a given what will happen. No way she is turning this down.
At least, that’s one way to see it. The other way would be a kind of zen like loss of control. It’s no longer about whether or not she says yes, it is about him being willing to ask the question, feeling worthy of her, feeling like she might think he is worthy too. Unlike those other 3 times when he turned her down. And then if she gets married, she gets married. He can life with that.
This next section is so joyous! We can feel it building in him, a kind of adrenaline rush now that the decision has been made, now that he is actually reaching out for something in his life. He is traveling again, but he is no longer traveling with that magical remove from origin or destination, now he is traveling to get somewhere, he wants to get somewhere. And so he sits in the cheap seats of the airplane, squashed between travelers, uncomfortable and anxious. He gets to Bombay and runs through the airport, down the hallway, into the bathroom for a last desperate wash and change. And he has that combination of anxiety and happiness that is so recognizable (plus the last minute change into a suit), that it makes the pilot washing his hands at the neighboring sink give a knowing “Wedding?” Shahrukh’s anxious nod is this great combination of “oh if you only knew!” and honest groomlike excitement. And his response to the pilots “good luck” is the same sort of trying not to laugh but also sincerely grateful for the good wishes.
And then there is the moment I mentioned in my first review, when he is running through the airport, and I am all happy thinking “I’ve been there! This is such a realistic touch to actually film inside the arrivals area” until I suddenly go “wait wait wait! He is about to run by a massive mural of his own face!!!!” And he doesn’t. Either because they have changed the mural to something with cars in real life, or because they had to change it up just for this film. Either way, it was a weird moment of “I am about to lose my ability to suspend disbelief because the actor in this film is so big, it is literally unbelievable for the audience to see a version of India that does not include his real life identity.”
(This mural. See “Dard-E-Disco” down towards the end? Devdas is in there somewhere too)
And then he arrives at the venue. Which, similar to the airport, I suspect is something that is recognizable and real. This isn’t the usual “rush to the wedding” on some fake soundstage, just like these aren’t the usual “bad boy” “good girl” characters, removed from recognizable real world influences and behaviors. My cousin’s at one of these weddings right now, by the way. Her family is all very impressed, but I (and my sister who is similarly tuned in to Indian stuff) are looking at the pictures going “yeah, so? This is what a wedding is like”. It’s not, how can I say this, imaginative? It’s not like the “Raula” wedding, or the Saathiya wedding, or the weddings from Band Baaja Baarat. It’s the sort of “wedding package A” that a rich family that is worried about appearances would pick out. The version that best displays their wealth, but has nothing to do with love or religion or anything besides what other people will think about it.
(Now this is a wedding! Fun and full of love and sincere happiness for the couple)
And Shahrukh doesn’t quite fit here. He can sort of fit, just like he can sort of fit anywhere, he’s that kind of person. But it isn’t “right”, not in the way the “Raula” wedding was right for him. His suit is too basic, his face is too solemn, he is supposed to be showing off his wealth and putting on a fake smile for the bride and groom, and he just isn’t doing it right.
Let’s take a moment for this suit. DAAAAAY-YUM, is what I have to say!!! Basic black, tight in the shoulders, slightly thin tie, perfect white shirt. The thing is, this is a very very good suit, that also somehow looks slightly cheap. In a “ooo, the dangerous poor man is here, he has deep dark things on his mind so he can’t focus on clothes like the shallow rich people who aren’t as good at the sex” kind of way. But it’s also cheap in a smart way, which fits with Shahrukh’s character. He is cosmopolitan, he has seen the world, he has been able to find the best possible option out of everything out there. You don’t need a big budget for suits and ties, you just need one well fitting black jacket and a basic black tie and you can go anywhere.
He was happy with his suit in the airport, and confident that he could come to this wedding and make his move when he left Frankfurt, but now the doubts start to come as he gets farther and farther into the room. This room is like the external version of Anushka’s internal life when he first met her. Money money money and lots of it, that is what matters and will make us happy. Appearance is all, never break the rules, never be different. And as he moves farther in, gets closer to the dias, he has one last moment of doubt that makes him suddenly stop and brace himself before going in. He remembers Anushka’s voice confidently talking about her wedding, about how good she and Rupen will look together.
I think what he is feeling here is that sudden moment of doubt that the “real” Anushka is the one he know. That the Anushka he knew is the happiest and best version of Anushka. What if she has returned to that earlier person? The wedding he is in right now certainly looks like it, looks like that old her. And, even worse, what if she is happy as that earlier person? What if he will turn the corner to find her with a bigger smile than she ever gave him, truly “looking” right with Rupen in every way?
But he overcomes it, that one last moment of doubt, and turns to enter the queue to see the bride and groom. And then notices something and jumps the queue.
So, one of the times I saw this movie, my friend leaned over to whisper in my ear as all the people turned to look at this unshaven intense guy in the black suit in the wedding queue “they are all saying, ‘who is he?’ ‘oh right, he must be the guy in love with the bride come to break up the wedding!'” Because if I have learned anything about big fancy Indian weddings from films, it is that there is ALWAYS an intense guy in a dark suit there to break up the wedding. I’ll have to ask my cousin who it was at the big fancy thing she is attending. Possibly her? No, that seems unlikely.
(Yet another reason to elope! Avoid the inevitable big scene as someone declares their love at the last minute and tries to break up the wedding)
Anyway, Shahrukh goes up to the bride and groom who have the perfect vacant smiles on their faces you would expect of people who are hosting this kind of wedding, and asks them what is happening, where is Anushka? The bride is trying to be nice (come on, it’s Shahrukh in a dark suit, of course she is trying to be nice), and recognizes the name and says “oh, that wedding! That was canceled, that’s how we could get this venue last minute”. So, first, I am right and this is TOTALLY just “wedding package A”. The venue became available, and they sold the exact same “look how rich we are!” deal to this couple that Anushka’s family was going to buy for her and Rupen. Second, I love that it takes Shahrukh a moment to register this. And his first reaction is to hug the bride (poor girl, to have a Shahrukh hug and then marry “bridegroom package B” standing next to her), and then to formally hand an envelope to the groom and wish him well.
Shahrukh has spent this whole film parceling out his physical favors to women, it’s all about sex-sex-sex, or else “don’t touch me”. With Anushka, slowly, she reminded him of the possibility of physical contact outside of sex, just simple human connection. And now, with this bride, he is showing that the lesson stuck. He is joyful and relieved and grateful to her. So he hugs her. It’s not sexy (well, not on purpose, again this is Shahrukh in a black suit), but it also isn’t formal, it’s a spontaneous gesture of happiness expressed through physical connection.
And then that envelope tells a whole story, doesn’t it? What was his plan? To show up, let her realize he was there for her, and if she didn’t react, just hand the envelope of money (I assume) to her fiance and leave? If so, that brings together a whole bunch of stuff. First, again, always, he has worked out the way to do things that would be easiest for everybody. If she didn’t want him, there didn’t have to be any embarrassment or discomfort, he could just be there and leave. If she did want him, well, I guess he would cross that bridge when he came to it. You can’t really “plan” an elopement from a wedding, can you?
(Or can you plan an elopement? Watch Running Shaadi to find out! and also because it is a great movie!)
But the fact that it was clearly an envelope of cash, that’s interesting too! If she rejected him, this would be how he regained his own dignity. Maybe the woman he loved paid him for his time, but now he is taking that money and giving it back (maybe not literally that money, but symbolically that money). He is claiming his position as her equal, at least financially, if in no other way. But he didn’t have to use the envelope that way after all. Instead, the bride gets a hug of happiness, the groom gets a gift of cash, and he leaves, dazed.
Well, this post is already over 7 thousand words, what’s a few more? One of the best things about this film has been all the openings for possible alternatives. What would happen if this, or if that? So, I already did “what would happen if Shahrukh showed up and Anushka wasn’t interested?” But what about if Anushka had wanted to go with him. If she had seen him in the queue and reacted? Based on what we know of her, and the connection they have, I think she would have sensed him when he walked in the room. And once she saw him, she would have gone to him. Probably awkwardly pretended that she had just come down to greet him because he came so far, until her family came over to find out who this strange guy is that made Anushka leave the dias to go speak to him. Shahrukh would have left, anything to avoid a scene, and we would have gotten a showdown with Anushka standing up to her family when they tried to hustle her back, saying that she wasn’t going to marry Rupen, giving him the ring back, telling him “I am sorry”, and following Shahrukh out. And it would end in the same place it ended here.
Because really this is how it always had to end. In two ways. First, this is how Anushka always had to end up. She was on a path for her whole life that didn’t make sense for her. Inside she was always that disco dancer enthusiastic loud talker, who didn’t want to spend her life talking baby talk to a boring guy her family picked out for her. At some point, she was going to wake up and realize this wasn’t her life, shouldn’t be her life, and walk away from it.
And this is how Shahrukh always had to end up to. Well, this or suicide. If he was going to survive, he had to start to feel again, to let himself feel again, and once he did, he was always going to come back to India. To walk back home.
The other way this is the ending is that, at least since “Radha” if not sooner, this couple had to be together. They can fight, they can deny it, but it is fate and truth and the realest thing in the world. If they had met now, or if they had met ten years later, or ten years earlier, it would have been the same thing. Ten years later, she would have left Rupen for him, walked away from her kids and her whole life if she had to. Ten years earlier, she would have run away from school for him. And now or then, Shahrukh would resist, would try to hold out and think it was wrong, before finally realizing it is the only thing that is “right”.
Okay, congrats on reading all of that! Thank goodness I already decided to break off the last few minute into their own post, or else this would have been impossibly long, instead of just really really really long.