Part 37! I skipped last week because of the holiday, well, the 3 holidays (my blogaversary, Niki’s birthday, and Thanksgiving). But now I am back. And it’s a super cute bit. (full index of DDLJ coverage here)
The last section was about that “morning after” feeling, what it is like after love is triumphant and then the lovers (temporarily) separate. Kajol goes off to giggle and talk about Shahrukh with her sister. Shahrukh goes striding around like cock-of-the-walk. They each had that moment of remembering what the other was like separately, Kajol worried that it wouldn’t work out, Shahrukh extra confident that it would. And now they are coming together again, with that little shock of reality after living in memories.
Shahrukh feels the shock first, he has been all happy and sure, and then he sees Kajol coming downstairs, catching a glimpse of her that he is not even supposed to see, the beautiful vision before she is revealed to the rest of the family, still in the woman’s quarters. And suddenly his confidence drains away, it is just about being stunned by her vision.
Speaking of vision, apologies for the terrible image quality! Santa might be bringing me a new laptop this year, but until December 26th, I am limping along with the same one I’ve had for 6 years now and it is beginning to get a bit tired. So you will just have to enjoy the blobby lumps of color and broad strokes of the facial expressions in my screenshots until then.
Right, Kajol-the-vision-of-beauty! Here she is. With Farida carefully arranging her scarf and Pooja smiling from the other side. She is being treated as an object again, like in the earlier scenes of events. But a precious valuable beloved object. Not half-forgotten sitting alone in a room to be admired, but treated tenderly. A reminder of everything Shahrukh has to win her away from, the soft cushion of love surrounding her that she will need to abandon for him.
And so his reaction, after that initial awe, is the slightest bit of humility, concern. His eyebrows come together, his chin drops a little, his smile goes away. It’s getting real to him again all of a sudden, there is a moment of doubt, is he really worthy? Can he really do this? Not because he is afraid of Kuljit, or Amrish, he has no fear when facing them. No, he is afraid of Kajol’s beauty, of Farida’s love, of the good things that he may not deserve.
And Adi through in some dialogue to remind us of this. Shahrukh is alone in the frame, alone in the world, and everyone around him is reminding him of the same things that make him doubt. Kajol is too beautiful for him.
And she is already engaged to Kuljit, who will surely be loath to give her up. Shahrukh’s face here, it’s just a moment, but it flickers through to full despair. He has given up, for just a moment, she is too beautiful, it is too hard, he is not worthy, it is all hopeless.
But no, he pulls himself back. Firms his lips back into a tiny smile, lifts up his chin, straightens his shoulders, confidence returned.
One thing that is really interesting, this is the first time in a long time that we have had Shahrukh fully revealing his emotions to the audience. He’s been casual and loving and all of that for the past several scenes, and he’s told Kajol what he felt, but this is a Shahrukh that is hidden even from Kajol, this is the same person who secretly went back to pray for her in Europe, or hid the photo and then gave it back without anyone realizing. This is a hero with an internal life, and internal doubts, shared only with the audience.
Very unusual in Indian film! Characters and performances tend to be a lot more direct, if you feel something you say something or do something, you don’t just think about it. Especially the male characters, while the female characters are passive and sit and sigh and dream, the male characters are more likely to chase, to attack, to make announcements and pronouncements.
This is a big part of the reason that Shahrukh’s “Raj” is such an iconic hero. He isn’t just a hero to look up to, he is a hero to identify with. He is human, he has moments of doubt, and then he overcomes and keeps going.
And so he toughens up and returns to his song. Not with the cocky confidence of before, not quite, but more as a sign of determination, of resolve. He is going to keep his eye on the prize and get through it.
And we cut to this shot. Which I included partly because it is an awkward transition. We go from a single shot of Shahrukh, very intense and internal, to this very public situation, two hands exchanging rings in the middle of everybody.
I also included it because I wanted you to see how firm Kajol’s hand is here. This is not a shared shy bride with a shaking hand guided by her mother. At least, not yet.
And see how public and happy this is! And yet, not as public as it could be. I am comparing it with other engagement scenes. They are not romantically alone, but they also aren’t sitting on a dais in front of 200 people. It is more of a family event, the people closest to them gathered around and happy for them. It’s kind of a nice engagement really, and now that I think about it, most of the events around the marriage are like this. People are happy, it’s close friends and family, no one is putting on a show or worrying about their pride, everyone is just happy. Of course, the couple is a terrible match, but does that matter when the families get along so well?
And now Shahrukh! Standing off to the side, watching, happy, not interfering. He is letting Kajol take the lead here, he knows this is her fight, he made his position clear last night, he does not want to get involved here.
But he is ready if he has too! See how the smile slips slightly off his face here? Kajol has stopped smiling too, and is looking down. Something is wrong, unlike the smiling happy person she was earlier.
There’s a few layers to this. First, obviously, Kajol explained last night that she didn’t want Kuljit’s ring on her finger, so we know that’s what the issue is. But let’s unpack this a little, why was it not a problem to put her ring on Kuljit but not the other way around? Because she was in control the other way. She was taking charge of him, and she was the one moving her hand while he was passive. But for Kuljit to put his ring on her finger, that means she has to give up control to him, both the immediate control as he does the gesture, and the later control based on what the ring means.
Essentially what this film is saying is that there is no problem with a woman claiming multiple men, even including a man she doesn’t like. But there is a problem with a woman being claimed by a man she doesn’t want. Kajol doesn’t care about the part where she puts her ring on Kuljit, but she doesn’t want him to put his ring on her.
This is the bit that suddenly reminded me of Bahubali 2. Shahrukh is standing back, letting Kajol fight her own battle. But right here, where Amrish starts to look nervous and things are maybe about to go bad, his face shifts a bit. He is ready to unsheath his sword and leap forward to save her, as it were.
It’s only a couple seconds of screen time, but it is enough to see his face shift. Kind of serious, to looking down and ready to move. More importantly, I finally figured out where I have seen the hairstyle of Kuljit’s dumb friend before! It’s Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley, right?
Nice build to this scene, the audience is on tenterhooks just like Kajol’s family and Shahrukh. We know she was really upset about this. And we can’t read her face. What is about to happen? Is Shahrukh really going to have to come forward and take her away in front of everybody?
And then Farida gently pushes out Kajol’s hand and reveals her bandaid. First, Kajol is being treated like such a doll here, her mother controlling her very arm. Different from just a minute ago when she was all smiley and doing everything herself. Such an odd way brides are treated, they can be adults in control of their own lives one minute, and scared babies the next, and everyone just accepts that as a normal part of how a woman is at marriage.
And, bandaid! It’s not just me that thinks this makes no sense, right? Like, why would you ever bandage your hand that way? I don’t understand. Unless you somehow sprained a finger and need to keep it immobile.
Ugh, don’t make me be part of this family! Everyone is so focused on Kajol’s sprained finger, she can’t do anything even to a bandaid without making it a massive family issue. Or, I suppose, another way of looking at it, the whole marriage thing is so stressful that this small personal matter really does affect all of them, all of the ones who are caught up in the success of this marriage.
Kajol explains without guilt, but with a tinge of shame. She is taking this marriage very seriously, wants to please them all, feels bad for her momentary weakness, was so ashamed that she hid it until just now.
And she passively waits for her mother to move her other hand out in place, she is that unsure and passive and willing for others to decide for her.
Shahrukh stands and watches like everyone else. But he is looking at Kajol’s face, not just the hands exchanging rings. And so he sees something everyone else misses.
Kajol gives him a look, and it’s not a “we share a secret” look, it’s a “I am revealing my true face to you” look.
That’s the big take away for me from this scene. Kajol is faking it, really really faking it, for the first time in the movie. She is presenting a false front to her entire family. And none of them notice it, whether it is willful ignorance or that they never truly saw her to begin with, but they are all falling for it, even Farida thinks she is appropriately shy and timid in this moment. But she doesn’t want to fake it with Shahrukh, not here and not ever.
And that’s what Shahrukh loves about her. That she is naughty and tricky and strong and will always get her way. He loves the Kajol he met in Europe, the angry one who tricked him in to singing at the nightclub, or yelled at him over and over again as they traveled together, bossed him into visiting a church, did all of those things. And so he loves that she is just faking this shyness, that she is willing to go against her whole family and share that as a secret with him.
He knows it is crazy for her to do this right now, knows she is being stubborn and risking everything for just one sentimental moment. So he has to be practical and give her a bit of a “what do you think you are doing?” look in response to her “check out what I just did for us” moment.
But then he has to smile. Because after all those doubts he just had, the roller coaster he has been on, this sweeps it all away. She loves him, he loves her. She knows him, he knows her. And she isn’t some princess for him to steal away, or some prize he has to earn. She is his friend and his partner and his lover and she is going to rescue herself if he doesn’t do it for her.