Well, now SRK is just exhausting me. I write this whole long thing for his birthday today, and he surprises me with another scene I need to discuss! It’s too much! I know he loves me, but the man has to let me alone sometimes. (full index of JHMS coverage here)
Thank goodness, this is a silent scene, so I don’t have to beg you for translation. But it’s also a really really sad scene. And kind of a confusing one, because it changes a bit of how we saw things happening before and after.
It starts with the bit we saw, after the fight, Anushka coming out and telling him she wants to go back, and Shahrukh bracing himself and then saying “Yes Ma’am.” But then it keeps going. She turns and walks away, and he turns and picks up a wine glass, slowly rolls it along the railing letting it drip out, and then smashes it.
Such a wonderful moment. The breaking of a glass and the pouring out of liquor has all kinds of powerful meanings in a variety of cultures. In Indian culture, I believe, breaking glass can be used to punctuate a vow or a declaration. The pouring out of wine or alcohol in European culture is something you do as a gesture of mourning, a tribute to someone who has died. And then their is the simple meaning of anger, of wanting to break something in misery.
All of those things are coming together here. Shahrukh is in mourning for something that has died, his time with Anushka and what they had together. And he is marking the end of it with the breaking of the glass. And at the same time, letting out his emotions in the only way he can, in one violent controlled gesture.
He goes inside and sets the broken glass on the table, but his hand is unsteady so it takes him a couple tries to get it set properly. He goes around the corner to look at Anushka sitting on the bed in the other room but can’t quite bring himself to fully make eye contact with her, just stays around the corner of the doorway.
Anushka, inside, is breathing shallowly. It doesn’t seem as though she is sad so much as in pain. In too much pain and shock to move or do anything. She is aware of him there, but not capable of turning to look at him.
Shahrukh walks away, and Anushka lays down on the bed, arm beneath her head. Shahrukh settles on the floor in the other room in the same posture, arm behind his head. Both of them, or one of them, or Imtiaz Ali controlling the film, suddenly remember their previous nights. Sleeping in increasing closeness, where now they are far apart.
The next morning, Anushka comes out of her room fully dressed and packed. Shahrukh is moving in the kitchen. He puts out a plate of toast on the table, then a glass of orange juice, then turns as though he has suddenly remembered something and comes back with a mug. He stands back for a second, as though waiting acknowledgement, with a very slight nervous look. Anushka looks at him, then puts on her purse and turns dragging her suitcases behind her.
There are two big points that I find from this new sequence. Neither of them contradicting the rest of the film, really they were there all along, but they do slightly change how it feels. The slightly less surprising one first. Seeing the way they sleep identically even while separated by a wall, combined with those flashbacks to their previous nights, gives us the message, again, that these two people are mean to be together, belong together. And gives it to us in such a way that we can’t ignore it, that it is kind of reassuring. They may be fighting now, but we can see that fate will win out and bring them back.
But the second is their contrasting attitudes post-fight. Both are sad, yes, but Anushka is sad and hurt and Shahrukh is sad and apologetic. They both know that it was he who crossed the line and ended this. He breaks the glass in anger at himself, not her. He is too ashamed to go in and talk to her, although he wants to, knowing it is up to him to fix this. She is too hurt to see him there.
The next morning, the breakfast, it feels like an apology, like an “can we start over?” Again, he knows he is in the wrong. And I don’t feel that Anushka is spurning it, just that she can’t forget that easily, she is too hurt. And notice the final action of the scene, for her, is to put back on the purse. The purse that we the audience know contains the ring. She is trying to find comfort in her previous life.
So, with these two new ideas (that they are definitely fated to get back together, and that Shahrukh is apologetic and Anushka is hurt), the next scene is very different. For the audience, we can relax a little, because we know that they will get back together later. It’s not quite the heartbreaking wrench. Which is a loss, in the film as we got it, Imtiaz dialed back the “fated!” moments right before the end in order to create uncertainty in the audience if they really were fated.
But the hurt/apologetic dynamic, that really changes things. Shahrukh gives her the tickets and tells her to take care of herself. It’s not just that he is sad to see her go, he is guilty, he feels like he has to send her off with some kind word, he truly is worried about her, but he doesn’t feel he has the right to say anything more, not after what he has done. He can’t say “I love you and I have been looking for you”, that whole speech he gives after she walks away, but he also can’t say nothing at all. And Anushka, telling him about the ring, that is her moment of “I am still hurt, but I forgive you”. More than that, “I am still hurt and I can’t be sure how you feel because you hurt me, but I also need to say this”. She can’t say “don’t put me on the plane” because she doesn’t want to get hurt again. But she also can’t say nothing at all.
In the film as it stands, we had lots of lovely discussion over who was right and who was wrong and where this fight came from and why they didn’t say more at the airport. Generally speaking, we could fill in the gap, a sleepless night, an early morning drive to Amsterdam, good-bye at airport. But there were other emotional gaps that we could fill in for ourselves.
Now, those gaps are gone. Shahrukh was wrong, Anushka is the injured party, they both know this. And now, so does the audience. And that’s a loss, to not have the gap any more to be filled in by our own experiences and interpretations. So I am sorry to have lost this amazing moment of acting from Shahrukh, but I think it was probably the right decision to cut the sequence.