DDLJ Scene By Scene Part 33: Chess And Lovers Quarrel

A little bit of Amrish Puri, and the our first terrace scene!  Yay!  (full index of DDLJ coverage here)

By the way, my streaming was funky.  So try to think of these screenshots as a nostalgic experience, watching the film as you would have seen it on a grainy VHS back in the 90s.

It is kind of interesting, with the fuzzy focus so you just see blobs of color, you can appreciate how well all the blobs work together.  In this shot, we have the 3 men lined up on one side with Amrish on the other, and Shahrukh bang in the middle.  The over all color tone is brown and white with a little bit of pink on the walls.  Amrish and his friends are the “establishment”, the ones who fade into the structure around them.  Shahrukh is the special visitor, leaping in in blue.

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But not fully out of tone, the faded blue easily blends in with the the white and doesn’t completely clash with the pink.  And of course he fills the gap, the space between Amrish and the others.  Literally, placing himself in that area, and also figuratively, cheerfully joining the conversation and trying to bring the two halves together.

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Just as Satish Shah is triumphing over having finally won a came of chess, Shahrukh leaps in and moves the pieces, easily seeing the opening that is available and giving victory to Amrish Puri.  Everyone is briefly happy, Satish Shah and his friends are happy to have seen such a clever move, Amrish Puri is happy to have avoided defeat, Shahrukh has brought them together.

Until Amrish realizes it was Shahrukh who did it.  He turns to smile and congratulate the person who helped, happy with whoever it was, no false pride.

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But then he sees it is Shahrukh and his face falls.  Why?  It makes sense to use the viewers, Shahrukh was rude to him in their first meeting in England, he wants to marry his daughter and take her away, there is a natural conflict.  But why does Amrish dislike him?

I think there are two reasons.  First, Shahrukh is just kind of odd and off-putting with him, overly eager, overly friendly and ingratiating and so on.  Of course Amrish will instinctively try to keep his distance, not trust someone who is trying this hard.

But second, I think there is also an undercurrent of competition here.  Amrish doesn’t know yet that Shahrukh wants to “take” his daughter, his whole family really as he wins them over one by one.  But he has already seen Shahrukh trying to take over his pigeon feeding, take over the role of host at the engagement party, and now he has proved his superiority at chess, the game that Amrish used to be master of.

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But then, this is what a son-in-law is.  Or a son.  The person who is going to take over for you when you are gone, who will become the new head of the household, who is younger and stronger and better.  Shahrukh is acting that way, because that is the role he wants.  He wants Farida and Kajol to love him more than they love Amrish, he wants to prove his ability to care for them and keep them happy.  Amrish may not know why he is acting like this yet, but he is still reacting the way you would expect, disturbed and distrusting and strangely aggressive.

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Satish of course is unaware of all these undercurrents.  Which sort of makes them stronger, there is something happening that only Shahrukh and Amrish are fully aware of, a special relationship between them. Like in the kitchen when Shahrukh focused on Farida, ignoring the other women there, here he has focused on Amrish, ignoring Satish Shah and the other.

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As Shahrukh backs away, it’s not just leaving this conversation, it’s leaving this whole world.  The older men are still sitting, focused on the game.  Shahrukh is moving athletically, backing up with big steps, crouched over so as not to be noticed, but also in a way that only a young man could do.  And he is bored, tired of sitting there just looking at a game board.  Ready to move on.

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As are we, the viewers!  So let us move on to a more interesting scene, with our nice young people.  A scene which introduces us to a new location, the terrace of the two houses.  We will see it a few more times in this film, always at night, and there is a lot of meaning to that.

The terrace is a space that is private, but not hidden.  That is, Shahrukh and Kajol can be alone together there, but not in a way that makes them seem, or feel, ashamed.  They are in plain view of the sky and the stars and the moon, they can be free and open to move around, leave or arrive whenever they want.  There is no sense of being trapped together, they are there of their own free will.  And no sense of shame, they have nothing they want to hide from the world at large, only from the few people in the house below.  And no sense of fear, the world is theirs, spread out before them.

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There’s also the slight tinge of youthful danger to it.  That’s why they are alone on the terrace, after all.  It’s a lovely place during the day, cool and breezy and so on.  But at night, it is chilly and dark and not necessarily a place that people would want to be.  Although personally I still find a bit odd that there is this big family party going on and NO ONE is sleeping on the terrace?  Maybe because it is a bit of a private terrace just outside Kajol and Pooja’s room.

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Anyway, the youthful danger, that is what we see here.  Shahrukh tiptoeing over a rickety ladder, than easily leaping down to land soft footed below. And I can’t help think of “Radha” from Jab Harry Met Sejal here, the line about love being a danger and leaping from terrace to terrace.  This is what was evoked in that line, young men and women sneaking around in the dark, breaking boundaries between houses and households that were not meant to be broken.

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Shahrukh loves it.  We can see that in his smile.  He is enjoying the trickery and the danger and the challenge of it all.  Especially when his reward is this secret meeting with the woman he loves.  But Kajol, she takes it a little more seriously.  She is the one in the trap, he is the one moving around trying to break in or out of the trap.

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Oh, and this moment when he kisses her shoulder, I had forgotten about it until this watch, but it is just perfect.  It’s not sexual, not exactly, he is kissing her through 3 layers of clothe.  And choosing the shoulder rather than the cheek or the back of the head or forehead.  But of course that’s also what make sit so sexy.  That even something as boring as her shoulder, through several layers, is attractive to him.  Literally attractive, draws him in.

It’s also a little gesture of loving.  He wants to get her attention, but not by startling her or scaring her, so he just does one small soft considerate thing to get her to turn.   A tiny peck of “I love you and I am here”.

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And then she does turn and she is NOT happy!  Kajol gives such great expressions in this film, which is important because her character is largely silent.  But we have to understand the conversations she is having with Shahrukh through the looks.  The same way he is conversing with her, reading her face and body language and trying to joke her out of it.  Heck, his decision to kiss her shoulder was probably partly passed on the stiff and still way she was standing, which told him she was upset and needed comforting.

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Of course Shahrukh gives great face too.  And he has to in this scene.  He has to convey “I am pretending not to understand you are upset because I think I can jolly you out of it, but in reality I do understand”.  Not so much for Kajol as for the audience, we need to believe that he is the kind sympathetic boy we think he is, not some kid having a good time sneaking around while his lover’s heart is breaking.

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He keeps selling it even in profile, eyebrows raised, fake surprise face, like he thought she would be all smiley and happy all the time.  But it is clearly fake, because clearly he knows Kajol is almost never smiley and happy and always serious and worried.

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There are so many camera changes in this scene!  And I didn’t even notice until I started pulling screenshots.  The conversation goes seamlessly, and so do the acting choices.  The only difference I can find between shots is that Shahrukh’s bangs blow around a little.  Which goes back to a conversation we were having in the comments a few days ago about why he doesn’t use his natural unstyled hair in films.

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It’s not just Shahrukh’s acting choices which make him seem goofy and out of place, the styling is shooting for that as well.  He’s wearing big casual western style clothes, complete with cool dude necklace.  And Kajol is very classic, duppata thrown over her clothes, long hair down.

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The duppatta, I wonder if that was added on purpose to give this look?  It appears that she is wearing a full modest outfit underneath, and then the blue scarf thrown on top which gives her a clear different color from Shahrukh, and a simple silhouette, all in blue.  I could easily see them starting this scene, realizing her loose white clothes looked too much like Shahrukh’s, and arranging the scarf on top so she would have more of an elegant classical look.

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I love how Shahrukh can’t resist the joke.  The goony “why are you upset” joking face, I think that was to try to jolly her out of it.  But this reaction, I think is both trying to jolly her out of it, and because he always instinctively leaps to the joking response, the treating everything as fake kind of attitude.

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And Kajol calls him on it.  As no doubt she will call him on it many times over the course of their married life.  Part of what I love about this fight, and some of their later fights, is how they are realistically personality based.  This isn’t some grand romantic misunderstanding, this is because Kajol always goes inside herself and gets way way too serious, and Shahrukh always turns everything into a joke.

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Which is why they work so well together.  Kajol is the only person, besides his father, who can get Shahrukh to be serious, to live up to his potential instead of dodging it.  And he is the only person who can get her to be selfish, to have fun, to let go.  That is what they love in each other, she loves his joy for life and he loves her strength and conviction.  Of course, that doesn’t mean those same things can’t irritate them as well.  He can want her to just relax and be the happy person she can be on the inside, she can want him to be serious.  But they will be fine so long as they listen to each other and understand what the other needs.  Like here, once Kajol lets her full upset show, says “be serious!”, Shahrukh realizes that just joking her out of it isn’t going to work and does indeed become serious.

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This movie has lasted so long because of scenes like this.  It’s not about the hero playing the Krishna type and joking with the heroine until she smiles, or about the heroine giving him some impossible task to achieve.  It’s about a couple having a couple conversation, finding a middle ground between each other, and knowing there is a firm foundation of love and trust below it all.

 

Okay, I can’t resist, it’s been in my head this whole time anyway-RADHA!

 

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3 thoughts on “DDLJ Scene By Scene Part 33: Chess And Lovers Quarrel

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

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