Welcome back! A fun bit this time, the first time SRKajol are in the same frame in ages. (full index of DDLJ coverage here)
This is an Antakshari scene, just as was in Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aapke Hain Koun. But one of the more realistic Antakshari scenes. There is no elaborate song and dance associated, playback singers are not used (just the natural voices of the actors). And it is played by old people and children, not only flirtatious young people. Compare it with the most famous/elaborate Antakshari sequence, also from a Yash Raj film, but a later era of Yash Raj.
The later version is delightful, but it is kind of doubly removed from reality. First, it is calling back to the nostalgia of these old songs. And secondly, it is calling back to the nostalgia/fantasy of when people used to play Antakshari.
This version this is a simpler version, it is simply showing a real game of Antakshari, just like the previous scene was a real version of sari shopping (not saris perfectly falling from the sky, but being pulled from packages and moved around), and before that there was a real version of a kitchen (not gleaming modern surfaces or beautiful ancient tools, but sitting on a floor cutting carrots with a modern knife). It’s part of what makes the romance so romantic, and Shahrukh such a satisfying hero. He is the perfect man, but the perfect man in a real world. You don’t have to fantasize yourself to be any place other than where you are, you just have to picture him suddenly appearing here. Unlike Mujshe Dosti Karoge, for instance, where everything happens in a world of mansions and designer couture and so on.
And so here is a simple courtyard, a group of girls of mixed ages, 8 to 18, and an elderly woman entertaining them by leading a game of Antakshari. Not with sexy love songs, but with a simple children’s tune they can all sing along with.
Small thing, but I love the row of the back of heads we see here. Messy braids, varied clothes, this is not a perfectly coordinated row of ideal child extras, this is a bunch of little girls who had their hair braided and put on clean clothes, but that’s it.
I wasn’t able to capture it well, but this scene is one of the most interesting in terms of camera focus shifts. Because it is trying to give the feel of an open courtyard. Unlike most other scenes of this film, this group is not trapped in one place, through out the scene people leave and arrive. And they are not going anywhere either. In the European travel portions, cameras and characters tended to move in straight lines, instead of circling back and forth. In most of the sections here so far, even in the mustard field scene, characters stayed in one small place together instead of moving back and forth.
But in this scene, we follow Shahrukh and Kajol as they move back and forth in this space in a little dance with each other. Starting with the camera moving from behind the seated crowd like Shahrukh, then moving back to capture him now sitting next to Kajol.
This is of course yet another moment of Shahrukh finding his place within a group of women. Or more accurately, “females”. Young girls and an elderly women. And Kajol, who is set aside slightly from the rest, as she exists not quite with the young girls any more.
Shahrukh and Kajol together in this context is a bit of a radical statement. Saying that Kajol is set aside from the young girls, but does not belong back in the room looking at saris alone with Himani Shivpuri. Instead, she belongs here, with her partner. Young man and young women are the natural grouping, not women together or men together. Which is kind of the point of this whole film as well, the two of them as equal partners.
I love how, through out this scene, Kajol and Shahrukh move together. Not the same, but in complementary ways. For instance, in the still above, Kajol is leaning forward and looking slightly up, Shahrukh is leaning slightly back and down to make eye contact with her. In the still below, she leans back, he leans forward, he angles his head down and to the left, she angles up and to the left. Its not the same, but it is similar angles. He is as far forward as she is back. His head is as far lowered as hers is raised. And, of course, they are both clapping.
And now both their heads are straight up and down, hers turned slightly to the left his to the right. And both their hands are clasped. The remain tilted slightly back and slightly forward respectively.
Both postures identical here. Heads turned in a perfect line, hands hanging down, bodies straight. Oh, and the dialogue is interesting too! Achala Sachdev explicitly calls Shahrukh a “girl”, the thing this whole sequence has been indicating. And she is calling him that because he is acting like a man, resisting joining in this girls’ game, preferring to merely be an observer.
Another lovely shot. Not just their perfectly balanced body language, but the message they are giving with their eyes. Kajol has such a great shy “I enjoy asking you to do things for me, but I am still not used to being able to” expression, and Shahrukh has such a delicate “what do you want? Just tell me” look.
And of course he immediately reacts. Leans slightly closer, gives her a clear message with his eyes of “anything for you”, and she lets her self smile slightly at their shared secret. So romantic!
And then we pull back again, the camera moving as Kajol and Shahrukh move, her to look down and away, him to look up and out. Their arms and postures are again perfect, both have their right arms bent slightly, their left knee turned out. The smooth move of the camera with their movements serves to give the audience a general feeling of everything working as it should in this world in this moment.
And because it is all working so well, Shahrukh takes a risk. He puts his hand over Kajol’s. Lightly. And her hand rests in his lightly, see how the pillow is not even weighted down by their touch?
Another moment when their bodies move together, her back to the left and him forward to the right. And their eyes match too, his shooting over to the left at the same angle that hers shoot right. But the expressions! So perfect! She’s got a great “do you really think you are going to get away with that?” look, and he has such a great “hey-hey! I got away with it!” expression.
And then the “dance” breaks with Kajol moving back and standing while Shahrukh stays seated. No more perfect togetherness in movement.
I should say, I don’t think all those things I pointed out were done on purpose, like Adi stood there and moved their arms and all that. I think the general stage directions indicated that they needed to communicate with their eyes when he first arrived, when she asked him to sing, and then carefully not look at her when he grabbed her hand. But they were also so perfectly in character that, as their characters, they knew there would be this unspoken byplay the entire time. And as a regular viewer, you aren’t watching this scene thinking “aha! Their arms line up!” But you have this general feel of the two of them constantly in secret connection, in secret conversation.
And it becomes super striking when Kajol leaves and Mandira sits down. Somehow, she just doesn’t feel “right” in the same way next to Shahrukh. And he is not as aware of her, see the way he is gesturing for the crowd now, no longer for Kajol? Which is partially just a requirement, they need that gap when he stops paying attention to explain how Mandira can slip in. But it also reinforces that, on some level, he must have known Kajol was gone.
And this hand grab isn’t quite “right” either. Shahrukh is squeezing her hand, she is braced and resisting slightly. It isn’t the simple coming together it was before. Which perhaps means Shahrukh would have figured out quickly that it wasn’t actually Kajol’s hand he was holding, since he is holding it in such a different way.
Okay, here is where you can clearly see that Mandira is not the one for Shahrukh. She can’t just “be cool” as it were. While Kajol reacted with a slight smile and lean away as Shahrukh leaned forward, Mandira is too stunned to move her body, but turns her head all the way around and gives a big surprised happy look. Very different from the casual slightly naughty attitude Shahrukh is going it with.
and in the same way, their postures continue to be slightly “off” from each other. Mandira remains stationary the whole time Shahrukh is going back and forth. And remains with her head turned towards his instead of moving with his.
Again, I don’t think there was a specific direction for all this body language. Mandira was probably told “act surprised and shy and look at him and then look down”. And Shahrukh was told “really move around a lot so we can see that you aren’t paying attention and don’t notice Kajol has moved”. But part of that is also to show that Shahrukh can be a self-involved showy person, and Mandira is a quiet still retiring person. Which is why they do not fit together. And that is the message we subconsciously get from their body language.
Until Shahrukh finally looks up to see Kajol smiling at him. I love that she has her arm drapped around Archala at this moment. It is an embrace of her powerful older wise woman position. Literal position, going up on the raised platform where her grandmother is sitting. She is no longer equal to the young man courting her, but briefly superior.
And while Kajol is enjoying her superiority, Mandira is not. Shahrukh gives her a big “so embarrassed and foolish feeling!” face, and her only reaction is more of a shy smile. This is when Kajol would be triumphant, we just saw two hours of her constantly enjoying proving her superiority, and Shahrukh enjoying her enjoyment. Or else enjoying his brief moments of triumph all the more because he knew it was a worthy adversary. But Mandira, she is sweet and nice, but there is just no spark.
Kajol, all kinds of spark! Also, really pretty hair in this shot, I love the natural way it parts. Speaking of! Back at the beginning I said that this whole sequence feels so “real” in a way later films do not, which is part of the fantasy. That it isn’t that much of a fantasy, just real life with a really great guy strolling through it. And Kajol’s appearance and whole everything in this film, especially this sequence, is part of that. She is pretty, but not breathtakingly beautiful. And yet Shahrukh is enamored of her, constantly following her, this guy who has charmed every other woman in the house just wants a nice pretty normal woman. Very easy for you, the viewer, to insert yourself into this fantasy! No need to pretend you are model gorgeous, or even brilliantly clever or anything else. Just slightly more confident than Mandira Bedi.
And here is Mandira Bedi again. Who is prettier and with more elaborate dress than Kajol. And more of a “perfect” young woman, shy and sweet and all. Which makes it easy for the audience to NOT relate to her. We don’t feel like the young woman with perfect hair and big jewelry and casually draped duppata. We feel like the laughing young woman with the casual hair sitting far away.
And that’s the one Shahrukh wants to. The camera moves again here, again showing the fluidity of space right now. Kajol is free to leave, Shahrukh is free to stay. And he chooses to follow her. Which is of course why she leaves, to see if he will follow. And he knows that, I think that is the slight crooked look to his face, the “she’s just started the game again, how can I follow her without following her? Because I know I have to follow her because it’s no fun otherwise.”
One thing that just occurred to me, watching the brilliant yellow of Kajol moving in and out of these scenes with Shahrukh following her, this is the same kind of idea that Adi picked up on again with Shahrukh, over a decade later, in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Only that time it is a shyer Shahrukh and a woman who does not even realize she is being followed. His fantasy is to be “Raj” her, to be confident enough to follow and flirt, and for her to recognize and welcome his actions.