DDLJ Scene By Scene Part 28: Shahrukh Plays the Woman

Part 28!  Missed it until now because I ran out of time to pull screengrabs.  But now I am back!  And I am ready to give my massive theory of the second half of the film.  What fun! (full index of DDLJ coverage here)

I’m not sure if I’ve given an overall thesis for the second half yet?  I’ve hinted towards it, but I don’t think I have said it straight out.  Well, we haven’t really gotten to the “action” part of it yet anyway.

The first half was about Kajol coming to terms with her desires and what that meant in the real world.  She had a dream man in her head, but she didn’t know how to talk to a boy in reality.  Shahrukh, and the traveling situation, forced her to confront who she really was and what she really wanted.  It peaked with her confession to her mother, her saying out loud that she had fallen in love.

Through out this, of course, Shahrukh had his little “b-plot”.  Which still revolved around Kajol, the center of the film.  First, because her resistance and anger forced him to grow up and try harder.  And second, once he began to realize how he felt, his only goal was to win her over.  Kajol was about so much more than just Shahrukh, getting drunk for the first time, traveling alone for the first time, finding herself in every way.  Falling in love with Shahrukh wasn’t just about him, it was about breaking that barrier and letting herself fall in love with anyone, instead of planning for her arranged marriage.  But for Shahrukh, he was what he always was, just now with a particular goal in mind (winning over Kajol) instead of a general one (having fun, flirting, then going home to do Business).

The break before the interval teased us towards a second half which would be more about Shahrukh accomplishing his goals while Kajol takes a back seat, but then post-interval we are back to Kajol.  Her struggles, her problems, her unhappiness.  Until the mustard field scene in which Shahrukh declares he is here “only for her” and will solve all these problems.

As I said in that scene, the second half works because we know in the background is the love story.  Even though Kajol has many fewer scenes, and even fewer from her perspective rather than Shahrukh’s, anytime Shahrukh is onscreen trying to do anything, we know there is Kajol in the background supporting him and inspiring him.

But, what are Shahrukh’s goals?  What is the overall movement of the second half, as the first half was about Kajol moving away from being the trapped traditional daughter?  The movement is Shahrukh moving towards being the trapped traditional daughter.  Or rather, daughter-in-law.

Anupama Chopra’s theory of Shahrukh’s popularity as a romantic star, post-DDLJ, is that he embraced his feminine side.  And we can see many many examples of this, ranging from the Lux soap ad to his constant willingness to make himself into a sexual object.  Women can relate to him partially because he is enacting our struggles onscreen, not his own.  This was true as far back as Deewana and Dil Aashna Hai, when he took the smaller supporting role that normally would have been taken by a female star, while the heroine was the active one making decisions and moving forward.

But DDLJ, especially in this second half, greatly expanded on that idea.  Shahrukh is the one bending to the patriarchy, trying to please everyone, invisibly helping around the house.  Changing clothes depending on the situation, changing personas.  Doing all the things that women usually do to accommodate men.  And he is doing all of this to please his in-law’s family.  To prove he will be a helper and a jewel to their household.  A daughter-in-law, in other words.  That is the theme that goes throughout this section, he uses female weapons in a man’s world, taking the passive rather than the active part in order to get his way.

Until, of course, the end.  When his masculinity is reaffirmed through both the fight scene, and ultimately taking away “his” bride with his father to support him.  He is both male and female combined, able to take the woman’s place when it suits his needs, but still with the strength of a male inside.  And therefore the perfect hero for a female audience, he knows our pain but he has the strength we wish we had to fight back.

So, with all that in mind, let us move forward through these next scenes!  As Shahrukh leans ever more into the female role.  Starting with this very sort of “young girl sneaking home from meeting her lover” look of climbing through the window.

The main reason I pulled this shot was because it is so pretty!  The yellow and red inside and light green outside, plus Shahrukh climbing through the window in white.  And over all the great natural look to the room.  I’ve never actually been to a Punjabi farmhouse, but this looks way more like a real room than anything you see in movies like K3G or Mohabbetein.

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Now, speaking of the feminine, look at the interaction here!  First, Kuljit is a bully, he turns everyone around him into a feminine persona because he has to be the most masculine person around.  His son is going to haaaaaaaaaaaate him!  And probably run away from home and never return.  Actually, his son is Arjun Kapoor in 2 States.

But see, Shahrukh is leaning into it.  He is letting the dominate masculine energy control the moment, so that he can escape in the only way possible, by playing the weaker role.  Look at their postures here, he is firmly in bed, it’s a lot harder to get someone up and out of bed than it is to get someone to bend down to the bed.  That’s what he is relying on.  Making himself into the immovable object, knowing Kuljit is not an unstoppable force.

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Okay, this is just so masculine/feminine it has to be on purpose, right?  The whole “poking him with my gun while he lies in bed” thing?  And look how the actors are playing it, Shahrukh with this kind of “oh, what, I don’t really care” attitude, while Kuljit cares SO MUCH.  That’s the thing, it’s always easier to just not do something than to try to get someone else to do something.

One other thing you can see really well in this shot is the way Shahrukh’s western shirt is drapped over the headboard.  Which works both for a sort of feminine drapey saris effect, but also to remind us that this whole dhoti persona is something he can put on and take off, the western shirt is right there to put on again whenever he wants it.

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Now, remember how I said it is easier to get a standing person to bend than a laying down person to stand?  Check out how they show us this.  Kuljit comes in, tall and straight.  Shahrukh is laying flat.  Kuljit bends slightly, Shahrukh stays laying.  Kuljit bends more, Shahrukh reaches up to grab him, now Kuljit is down at his level.  Kuljit still feels like he is in control, like Shahrukh is asking his permission for all of this, but in fact he has literally been forced down to Shahrukh’s level.

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And look at what Shahrukh is saying!!!!  He isn’t arguing, he is asking permission.  Apologizing.  Being pitiful.  A very female kind of thing.  See, men never want to admit weakness, to give in, they always have to be strong strong strong.  But Shahrukh is a new kind of man, he has no problem lying to Kuljit that he is sick, playing the “I am a weak pitiful foreigner” card.  And this is endearing, because of course he isn’t really weak here, he is just strong enough and confident enough to be willing to pretend to be weak.  It’s all of a piece with his declaration in the mustard field that he needs Kajol to be with him, he can’t do it all alone.

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Plus, he’s smart!  Thinks on his feet, comes up with explanations, a bit of a trickster.  A little bit of Krishna in there with all the female weakness.  And we enjoy it because we enjoy how much he is enjoying tricking Kuljit.  See in their faces, how confused and unhappy Kuljit looks, and how open and innocent Shahrukh looks?  Just makes it all the sweeter.

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But then he is back to the feminine.  You know all those studies about waitresses and tipping?  If you do something as simple as touching a patron’s shoulder, they tip more?  Male or female, it’s not a sexual thing.  It’s a trust thing, bodily contact builds trust and connection between people.  That’s what Shahrukh is playing here, grabbing Kuljit and forming that connection.  Plus, playing into Kuljit’s ego and protective instincts.  Being the “Beta” so Kuljit can feel like the “Alpha”.

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And Kuljit completely buys into it!  Glories in manhandling Shahrukh, worrying over him, feeling like the strong man.  Look at their posture here.  If this was a husband and wife, it wouldn’t be that out of the ordinary, would it?  Shahrukh is playing the “woman” so much that he has convinced Kuljit to see him that way.  Which will have benefits beyond this scene.  This is one of the last times we see Shahrukh and Kuljit interact one on one.  From now on, Kuljit doesn’t really care what he does, or worry about him, he writes him off as a “weak foreigner” who he can forget about.

Kind of odd when you remember that they first met when Shahrukh rescued him from a tiger.  But that’s the thing with guys like Kuljit, they are constantly making the world fit their new sense of it. He can forget Shahrukh’s “bravery” from the past as soon as he slots him into the “weakling” category.

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Shahrukh has him so convinced, Kuljit even feels bad about leaving him!  Touched by Shahrukh’s bravery in still wishing him luck, even from his bed of sickness.  Of course, only because this is what would bother Kuljit, to not be able to go hunting, to have to lie in bed all day.  If you said to Kuljit “I feel terrible because I did badly on an exam”, who would say “get over it yaar, exams are stupid” and force you to get drunk and do whatever he wanted.  But if you say to him “I feel terrible because I can’t go hunting today”, that he will relate to.  And even be touched that you are able to get over your misery to wish him luck.

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Okay, I think this is the most unattractive screenshot I have managed to get of SRK so far.  The reason I wanted it was for the spoken monologue.  I didn’t even remember this was here!  In Baazigar, there are these ridiculous monologues, not just from Shahrukh but from a lot of the characters.  And in plenty of other films, it’s part of the Indian film style, or at least it used to be, to have these occasional spoken internal monologues.

But in this film, Shahrukh plays it very carefully.  Yes, it is technically another spoker internal monologue.  But in this case it feels like something the character is actually doing.  Shahrukh in this film is such a chatterbox, and so social.  If he doesn’t have anyone around to share his plotting with, he will talk about it with himself.  It’s not just a good narrative trick, it makes sense for the character.  And it will be dropped once Anapum arrives to provide an actual person to talk to.

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6 thoughts on “DDLJ Scene By Scene Part 28: Shahrukh Plays the Woman

  1. Very interesting hypothesis about SRK playing the “woman” not only here, but in general in his films. I haven’t heard this particular idea before, and I find it quite fascinating. I’m sure you know that that fight scene wasn’t in the original script, and was only put in at SRK’s insistence? He didn’t want it to prove his “masculinity”, but because he thought all films needed a fight scene at the climax. Apparently SRK and Aditya argued about it a lot, and Adi finally gave in reluctantly, and SRK later said that he wished he didn’t insist on it, as the film works better without it.

    And your suggestion also explains to me why I can’t stand SRK’s romances, despite that being his supposed forte. (I like him well enough in other kinds of films and roles). It’s because I, as a woman, reject all these “feminine wiles” type of approach in real life, and can’t stand the women who follow that path.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post!

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  2. My ever vivid interest for ShahRukh started with my six-films of Hindi Cinema viewing on a weekend, five being with ShahRukh. My daughter was following a class about Indian cinema and brought the DVDs to get me out of a period of sadness.
    Already in the first one (Mohabbatein) I noticed opposing vibrations I got from that actor I’d never seen before. The other movies affirmed this impression that I was watching someone who had no qualms with the ‘female part in him’ that allowed his female counterparts to show the ‘masculine forces in them’ (K3G, MHN,VZ and finally DilSe – in between the famous Lagaan where the actor was as good as so many actors I find good but he didn’t touch me). As I would get to know, it wasn’t only a characteristic of the roles I just had watched ShahRukh playing but that it is a characteristic trait in the man himself.
    So, Margaret, I’m happy that you elaborated more intense about what you already hinted at. Still, I look at his behaviour in two ways: what he needs to do to build a certain image and what Simran would need to not crack under pressure. Almost till the end he will make her aware that he could do whatever it needs as long as she doesn’t lose trust in him (very important Simran’s sister for that matter, if I remember right).
    I wonder what Adi’s concept for the end had been…and I look forward to your detailed analysis of that scene which fits absolutely to Kuljit’s most probable reaction.

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    • The next sequence is the kitchen scene, which is fascinating for how he balances the two roles, playing the “perfect daughter-in-law” for the other women, while playing “man in love” just to Kajol.

      On Sat, Sep 23, 2017 at 5:55 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

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  3. Pingback: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge: Scene By Scene Analysis in Exhaustive Detail Index | dontcallitbollywood

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