DDLJ Scene By Scene Part 41: Mehndi Laga ka Rakhna Continued! Kuljit Gets a High Five

I forgot how much the outsiders in the love triangle have to do in this song!  There’s Mandira Bedi all over the place, but this bit has Kuljit too, and he will show up again later.  (full index of DDLJ coverage here)

At the end of the last section, Shahrukh had playfully led a charge from the male to the female side of the terrace.  Or more accurately, to the middle of the terrace between the two.  And once he was in the middle, he did a little dance off thing with Mandira Bedi and let her win.  Sort of.

What I was saying in the last section is that Shahrukh voluntarily chose to play Mandira’s game.  He could have been all “male” and come into the dance off with big leaps and muscular moves she couldn’t hope to match.  But he set the tone with his first moves, small graceful hip-y moves, light gestures with flowing scarves, the kind of things she could imitate and improve on.  It isn’t exactly that Shahrukh was trying to set it up so she could win, it feels more like he likes women, he likes female style dancing, he sincerely wanted to see if he could beat her at it, and when he couldn’t, he was sincerely disappointed.  Which is what made Kajol smile, that Shahrukh was so earnest about trying to be feminine.

After his loss, Shahrukh reacts by going even more female.  If you look at this sequence as a whole, Shahrukh and the other men are constantly enacting female movements, gestures, right now he is doing an exagerated hair toss.  The lines are blurring between male and female and Shahrukh is leading that blurring.  While the women stay female, no need to become men, no gestures indicating masculinity.  Femininity is the desired quality.

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This is such an interesting frame.  Shahrukh is in the foreground with his male dancers, but the women are in the background and filling half the screen.  We are constantly reminded of their “presence”, going back to my feminism versus feminist film criticism post.  This is never men performing for men, men existing in an all male world, we are always reminded that women are there too.

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Okay, really neat thing I only noticed it when looking at these screengrabs!  When Shahrukh is acting out “flowing tresses”, holding his hand like it is hair, the male chorus is watching and doing nothing.  But when he says “suitable bachelors are waiting with bated breath”, they all do the same gesture.  Shahrukh is playing both roles!  In a way that is unique among the men.  He is acting out the female, and then the male while the others join in.

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Also notice how the byplay has become male versus female again, but now male versus female with both playing the humble victim instead of the aggressor.  The song opened with “these girls are poison pills” and “these men are rogues”.  Now it has become “these men cannot breath because the women are so beautiful”.  They are competing over who is most fully won over, not who is most fully resisting being won/hating the other side.

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See, Kajol picks up what Shahrukh is laying down.  The response isn’t “Oh yeah, we are so beautiful and awesome!” it is “we are even more overcome than you, hiding in our houses while you are breathless.”

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What really sells it is how un-demure and un-scared both sides look as they are saying these lines.  They are telling a story, they aren’t actually waiting with bated breath or hiding in houses.  Or, put it another way, they are proud to be this emotional, proud to be this in love.

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And then Kajol really makes a leap and explicitly starts talking about Shahrukh. “Madmen from the city”, that is clearly him, not Kuljit.  It is the appropriate response after all, Shahrukh is the one leading the male singers so why not attack him personally?  But then, that is why Kajol is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE SINGING!  The bride shouldn’t be interacting with the entertainment, making it seem like she is more interested in the guy singing than in the groom he is singing for.  She isn’t even warning him off, saying “madmen stay away from this village girl!”, she is saying “this village girl is blushing and hiding because she is so effected by the city boy.”  It’s a back and forth, an invitation for the madmen to go further and come closer, not sending him away as a bride might send away an unwanted suitor who is not her fiance.

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The other thing I love is the identification of Shahrukh as a madmen from the city while Kajol belongs in a village.  Because that is, sort of, what we have seen all along.  Or at least a reframing of what we have seen.  Kajol was raised as a village girl in the very strict household of Amrish Puri.  And it took a madman, who lived fully in the west and was a complete city gentleman, to consider breaking through that “house” she had built up around her to reveal her blushing eagerness inside.  In terms of personality, their romance traveling through Europe followed the same pattern as a traditional city boy coming to a village and flirting with the village belle sort of story.  She was shy and shocked at his un-villagelike behavior, but eventually won over by the way he awoke the inner rebel in her.  He was unaware of how very different her life was, but at the same time intrigued by the differences he sensed within her from the other women he knew.  And so on and so forth, Barsaat.

(Barsaat)

See?  This is super similar here!  Even if they are both NRIs, Kajol was an NRI-like-a-villager while Shahrukh was an NRI-who-embraced-Western-life.

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Ugh, I have this translation!  I think the original word is “sharam” not “chaste”, totally different!  “Modest” might be a better translation.  “Chaste” implies that he is literally telling her not to be a loose woman who sleeps around.  But what he is actually saying is “keep pretending to be uninterested and shy, don’t be so obvious”.  It’s behavior, not reality, that he is suggesting she change.  And the way he says it, performs it really, conveys it as a recommendation rather than an order.  See here, he sings this line slightly softly at first, with his own eyes lowered and face blank.  He is acting out what he recommends, but also following his own advice and being careful in how he presents himself.

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And then he sings it a second time, slightly louder, with a bit of a crooked eyebrow and hidden smile as he shoots her a glance.  He caught that last line, where she revealed her interest specifically in the man from the city.  And in general, the way she leaped in to lead the singing instead of letting Mandira take the lead as would be proper.  And he is responding to it, warning her that she went a little too obvious on that last line, although his smile and eye twinkle says he also enjoyed that she went so far.

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Kajol isn’t sure how she feels about this.  Is he telling her to go back into her little box and not venture out of it?  She catches his warning, lets her face go blank and covers it with a veil, but she doesn’t seem super happy about it.

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That last little interaction, that was Shahrukh with a smaller group, he had made his way almost to the women’s terrace.  But as he says this line, he follows his own advice and moves back to the all male area.  It seems stronger, more masculine, to be dancing surrounded by men.  But it also means that he has retreated, he is no longer attempting to plunge forward into the female area and reach Kajol, he is backing up and letting his words convey the message.  For now.

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And here is the second half of his message for Kajol.  She shouldn’t keep her eyes lowered and remain modest because those are good womanly virtues.  It is because she shouldn’t do anything, it isn’t her job.  She can just relax and let him do the work.  Her “beloved” will come and take her away, take all the risks while she hides and keeps herself safe.

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The risks are what Shahrukh is taking right here.  Singing this very on the nose line, and then pointing right at her while everyone else does a different dance move.  It’s obvious if anyone is looking for it, but Kajol is protected, she is doing nothing, just sitting there and reacting.

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And so she reacts both to the line, and to the way he set it up, first warning her to be still, then explaining he will take care of things for her.  And showing that he really means it by taking as big a risk in how he says the line as she did with her “men from the city” slip.

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And now he is back to “paint your hands with henna”.  And you know, looking at these screenshots, Shahrukh is much better a dancer than he gives himself credit for!  Not that he is doing terribly complicated moves, but he is doing them very well.  Look here, the way his body is perfectly straight with just that one moving hand for this gesture.  Of course, it’s also Bhangra, the kind of dance he would have done as a young man in Delhi, would be most comfortable with.

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Okay, I am going to make a huge leap here.  This sequence has Shahrukh warning Kajol to be quiet for a lot of reasons.  First is just an acknowledgement of their different positions.  As a woman, she is risking more by speaking up here, let him do everything if he can.

Second, an acknowledgement of his protectiveness.  He boyishly likes it when she takes risks for him, it gives him a little thrill.  But at the same time, as a Man, he is more concerned for her than for himself, he feels extra responsible.  And it goes back to that earlier terrace conversation that had the underlying meaning of “he can literally order her to jump off the terrace and she has to obey.  Because she has accepted him as her one true love and that is what Indian women do for their one true love”.  He knows he is in control, it is up to him to tell her when to stop and when to go.

And third, Shahrukh’s character really likes taking these risks!!!!!  All along he has pushed the envelope in what is acceptable, and he is doing it here too.  When Kajol goes too far into danger, it makes him nervous.  But when he goes too far, it makes him feel alive.  And so not only does he declare “your lover will take you away!”, he follows it up by going over to Kuljit and getting a celebratory high five.

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Kajol is obeying his directions.  She is letting Mandira sing for her, as is proper.  And Mandira is doing the same thing Shahrukh does, acting out that she is singing for the bride, going over to sit near Kajol and point towards Kuljit.

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See, that’s the other thing, Shahrukh is bringing Kuljit in partly as a little risky thrill, but partly as cover.  If he goes over by the groom, it will make the crowd think that he is singing for the groom, not for himself.  But it also lets him play their love theme right next to Kuljit, get Kuljit’s enthusiastic approval for it.

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He is loving this, the secret and the danger and joke he is playing on everyone else.  It’s a gamble, but he loves gambles.  So long as it is just himself he is gambling with.  See, this is why we love “Raj”!  He has the combination of that boyish thrill of the prank with the manly responsibility.  He is the best kind of boy-man, not the stupid manboy hero that they have been putting in as substitutes lately.

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And the camera keeps reminding us of the reason he is doing all of this.  It’s not just for the thrill, not because he wants to trick Kuljit, it is because he wants to impress Kajol, wants to make her happy, wants to show her he loves her.  And so we end this sequence not on the funny little fake hug with Kuljit, but on the sincere glance towards Kajol.

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11 thoughts on “DDLJ Scene By Scene Part 41: Mehndi Laga ka Rakhna Continued! Kuljit Gets a High Five

  1. I think that last screen shot is what he means when he talks in interviews about not “inviting” the audience to come with you into the film, but “grabbing them” and dragging them into the film. I was forcing my daughter to watch old INXS videos with me (the 30th anniversary edition of Kick was on my Christmas list this year), and Michael Hutchence could grab you right through the camera like that. Oof.

    Like

    • You are so cool, I don’t know any Western music people from after 1965. I just had to google all those words.

      And yes! That final shot works so well because in the movie we know it is his flirty look towards Kajol, but outside of the movie it feels like he is flirting with us too.

      On Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 12:22 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, that just made me spit out my afternoon coffee. I am a magpie with music–not great taste, tend to go for shiny stuff, and just grab whatever gets my attention. I have a sis who’s 7 years younger than me. For a while she helped me keep track of who’s who on the US alternative pop/rock/R&B scenes. But now she’s too old to keep me hip. The circle of life.

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        • My father was all excited to be the “cool Dad” who listens to his childrens’ music and stays hip and in touch with the young people and all that. And then he ended up with two daughters who only like stuff from the early 20th century. Although we do keep him all up to date with the latest Hindi soundtracks, so I guess that is something. Not sure if it makes up for insisting we listen to “The Complete Fred Astaire” on all our family car trips as kids.

          On Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 12:36 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

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          • Dean Martin was my jam for a while as a teenager, along with the Beatles, Motown, and Duran Duran. Now I have the urge to go listen to Everybody loves somebody sometime”.

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          • Dino is great. Volare is my favorite.

            Maybe it is just what teenagers do? Rebel by finding odd things to listen to, whether that is new or old.

            On Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 1:25 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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            Liked by 1 person

    • Procrastinatrix, how did your daughter like the album? Michael has/had a great voice. I never watched the videos (others neither, not MTV interested) but I very much liked the songs.
      Then he went the way other really talented lead singers went before…I was inclined to believe Paula’s accident-story…

      Yeah, it is indeed more “grabbing” than “inviting”, this gaze 😀

      Margaret, I may repeat myself but I am genuinely grateful about this detailed work you’re doing…you make an analysis that opens the eyes for the (undercurrent) subtleties. So many things I feel/felt while watching the movie on which I couldn’t really put my finger get kind of names now. Raj always had been the boy-man for me…even the fight at the end and his stubborness, but then also the little risks like getting a kiss from Simran with all the people around makes the man-parts even more endearing. And now, with Davos in my mind, his genuine respect for women shown in this movie is even more heart-warming for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I couldn’t really tell what she thought, to be honest. She’s 13, and is so skeptical of “old” things. I had better luck when I convinced her to watch The Lost Boys (late 80’s/early 90’s vampire movie) with me. She couldn’t resist the charm of the 2 Coreys and their lovely Siberian Husky, whom I’d completely forgotten about.

        However I have really enjoyed listening to Kick again. They had something special, and much of it was Michael’s voice, yes. So sad to have lost him, however it happened.

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        • Ha, ha 🙂 I bet she prefered the Lost Boys 🙂 Yes, the “two Coreys”…I liked the other young actors, too. I think, Kiefer and Jason have become the most famous of the lot, I think…and I remember that both were involved with Julia Roberts…but all that was far before my discovery of Hindi Cinema and ShahRukh 🙂

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

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