I think this is it, isn’t it? It’s such a tiny focused movie, we have the two characters and their future together, and there isn’t really any other large area to talk about. Anyway, here is where we can all fight over our visions of Harry. I’ll give mine, which is neither wrong nor right but just how I see it, and you can give yours which is also neither right nor wrong. God bless Imtiaz for giving us such an open-ended character! (full index of JHMS posts here)
So, Harry! Someone early early on mentioned in a comment that Imtiaz had said in an interview, his initial vision was to make Harry suicidal. That really resonated with me, because I think the Harry we see in “Safar” is suicidal, or next door to it. This is what deadly depression looks like, not Devdas with all the swanning around and drama. Depression is deadly because it is invisible. He just seems sort of out of touch, like he doesn’t even care any more. He isn’t crying, he isn’t monologuing, he is just tired.
Give him 2 more months, or 2 more years, like this, and he will start to think “Maybe I should just slip away, maybe I should jump into that river, or take these pills, or cut myself with this razor. I don’t feel anything anyway, it’s a waste to be alive.”
(This is sad, this isn’t depressed. Still bad, still could lead to suicide, but it’s not depression)
How did he get here? To me, Harry’s journey starts with depression. Maybe it came originally out of homesickness combined with guilt. He made it to Canada, and his life never really came together the way he thought it would, he never felt the same as he did in India, and he started to feel guilty for leaving. He tried to run away, took this job in Europe, but he never really dealt with those feelings, never went to therapy or tried to change his life drastically to address them, and it kept building until it turned out of control.
Or maybe he had a bad break-up, not Klara, but someone years ago. Maybe his first sexual experience was with a woman in Canada who made him feel used and dirty afterwards, and he could keep running from that feeling, but it would always catch up with him, make him feel like he had no right to go home again.
Or maybe he just had wrong brain chemistry. He was depressed because he was depressed because he was depressed.
(This is depressed)
Either way, I feel like everything we see of “bad” Harry is just a symptom, not the problem. He isn’t depressed because he drinks or sleeps with women or travels a lot or has no home. He is depressed, and therefore he does all these things. And they don’t help him, they just make him feel something for a while. Only, and this is I think where we are getting close to the fatal end of his depression journey, even that isn’t working for him any more. Women can yell at him, throw things at him, and he feels nothing. He can sleep on a train station bench as easily as in a bed. He drinks in dive bars and doesn’t even look around when a fight breaks out. Pretty soon he is going to look for something more than this, cutting or self-medicating with drugs is in his future.
Enter Sejal! Who does make him feel something, right from the start. Anger at first, but that’s still a feeling, cutting through the grayness of his life. And then desire, then amusement, all of these things he had almost forgotten. Until finally she brings about the emotional catharsis before “Radha”, the thing he should have had after multiple intensive therapy sessions (and probably some heavy meds), but magically was given through love instead.
And that’s why he falls in love with her. Or falls in something deeper than love. She healed him, without even knowing it, and he is trying to puzzle out why her, why now. And he is patient while she goes through her own journey, because he is paying her back for what she did for him.
(Why this woman?)
For the specifics of Harry, well, there is a lot more mystery there than with Sejal. Sejal, like I said in her post, is still at “factory settings”. She clearly grew up in a wealthy house, probably went to convent schools and was sheltered from everything going on in the world around her. Went to law school, but no doubt lived at home the whole time or in a very chaperoned girl’s hostel. And then moved right back home to work for the family business and be introduced to the family fiance, and finally be sent on the family trip to Europe for the family engagement. At which point, enter Harry.
But with Harry, there is so much unknown! How old was he when he left home? How long was he in Canada before coming to Europe? What is his romantic history? How did he go from being an aspiring singer to being a tour guide? All of this is open for us to decide for ourselves. I will give you my guesses/theories, just to start us off, and you can do the same.
I think he left home no older than 22 and no younger than 18. As I imagine it, he had some connection in Canada already, someone who secretly helped him with Visas and everything else, and all he had to do was leave his house in the middle of the night and go. And then in Canada, a struggle to find a place to sing, to start a career, taking jobs to keep going while he followed his dreams. Learning about the city, learning languages from his co-workers in minimum wage jobs, and falling into tourism because he had those skills. And then falling up in tourism, easily getting promotions and better jobs until he was offered the European job.
(This. I picture this. Wow, the films really are connected! This could easily be Shahrukh from JTHJ who never meets Katrina, keeps falling up in the world based on his charm, and ends up being a tourist guide and meeting Anushka before she ran away from home to make documentaries)
For romantic history, I have to imagine that the young boy from the Punjab dreaming of Kulwant Kaur couldn’t have been that experienced. But I also can’t see someone as sexual as the older Harry becomes not sincerely enjoying it at some point. So for myself, I picture the excitement of discovering casual sexual encounters after arriving in Canada, no big love affairs but the joy of physical passion balanced with friendships and everything else in life. Only as time went on and his depression grew, that physical passion became an escape and finally a drug, instead of a joy.
And then Europe, another joyous adventure for him. Followed by a slow slide into depression for whatever reason, increasingly toxic relationships, sabotaging his jobs, all of that unhealthy stuff that Sejal puts a stop to. And now we are back to where I started, Harry is depressed.