“Mendhi Laga Ka Rakna” continues!!!! But I think I will be finishing it next week. So sad. Then it’s all drama and angst and Anupam Kher straight through to the end. (full index of DDLJ coverage here)
We have finally reached the finale of this song! Which is as good a time as any to go through the general narrative of it. There are 3 parts of it, and this is the start of the last part. First, the male and female chorus compete and fight. Second, Shahrukh appears to take the lead of the male chorus, turning it more of a love song, and inspiring Kajol to respond and create a dialogue between the two of them. Third, Shahrukh begins to lead advances into the female area, culminating in this part, the joyful intermingling and dance. And fourth, the epilogue, which will come next week, when the older generation joins in.
The last section ended with Shahrukh and Kajol reaching the peak of their dialogue, Kajol admitting that it is a “stranger from the city” who she is singing too, and Shahrukh warning her to continue to appear modest and wait for him, he would take her way. And then quickly turning his lines around to appear to be coming from Kuljit by going over to Kuljit and position himself with him, and then smiling towards Kajol so she is still sure this part is an act, the message truly was for her. Kajol smiles but, obeying instructions, does not look towards him again or make her feelings obvious. Although Little Girl behind her does! Look at that nice big smile. She is ALL ABOUT Shahrukh showing up and taking her away. Little Girl is all of us.
Over on the other side, Shahrukh is leading an actual attack. But a playful attack. He has gotten Kuljit and his friends to stand and the others in the chorus are surrounding them all. This could easily feel like Kuljit surrounded by supporters, about to take unfair advantage. But instead, it feels like Kuljit is controlled, his influence dampened by all these others. Kuljit has his 3 friends who stand out by their non-matching clothing and posture, but Shahrukh is the joyous boyish type who is leading a much greater group, similar joyous and boyish.
Look at what we can see from their posture. Shahrukh has this carefully fake expression, pretend anger and determination. And a frozen running posture, a pretend threat to run at them without actually running. While Kuljit and his friends are standing, firm on the ground, there is no pretense about their confidence, no sense of fun in their attitude. They seriously think they are just this awesome.
The women are being playful too, putting on their own determined postures, about to run at them. In almost the exact same way as the men, same expression as Shahrukh, the same posture. And even the same color! Which didn’t have to be, there were multiple colors among the chorus, and Mandira was in red. But for this part, Adi chose to contrast the two matching colors, showing that male and female aren’t that different after all. At least not if one of the males is Shahrukh.
And then the raid! Which has been promised since the start, male and female conflicting. And it is a healthy does of reality, while seemingly the genders were equal, as soon as it turns into the men running at them, the women turn and leave. The dialogue has been hinting at this all along, Shahrukh warning Kajol to be careful, the women saying they are afraid in their houses. But then at other times the gender roles were flipped, the men saying they were struck in the heart, Kajol warning Shahrukh to be slow and careful. But underneath all that playing, the reality has always been that it would be the men who were the aggressors and the women who would flee.
But not Kajol. Notice her like an anchor in this shot, still and waiting while the other women run. As the bride, she is there to be observed and silent and still, not to run and dance and sing like the others. She is trying to break free of that, but can’t quite manage it on her own.
Which is where Kuljit comes in! I didn’t notice this until this viewing, after all my many many many many many viewings, but Kajol joins in the dancing because Kuljit reaches over and grabs her hand and drags her into the dancing, while she responds with a big smile, delighted to be rescued from her boring loneliness.
I find this FASCINATING!!!! It’s a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, but some thought must have been put into making this choice, figuring out this way of getting Kajol up versus Shahrukh grabbing her, or her standing and running with the other women. The choice to have Kuljit be the one tells us something about both Kajol and Kuljit.
Kajol may be singing to Shahrukh, singing as a bride when she is supposed to be silent, but she still isn’t quite able to break out of her shell, even if she may want to. She is delighted to be dragged into the dance, but not able to stand up and go for herself just because she wants to. It is the same push-pull that went on with Shahrukh and Kajol all through Europe, that continues to go on now, she wants to have fun but is still just learning how.
And there is also what it says about Kuljit. Really, on this close watch, I am beginning to see a lot more of his “not so bad” parts. He’s borish and stupid and insensitive. But his family doesn’t seem to be asking for or expecting dowry, his father is kind to Kajol, there is a general attitude that a bride is a desirable thing, not a burden. And this moment gives us a glimpse of what the happiest moments of their marriage would be like, rather than the unhappiest moments we have previously had foreshadowed. If Kajol married Kuljit, she would need to ignore a lot, his infidelity, his clumsy lovemaking, his stupidity. But at moments like this, joyful songs at weddings, he would go to her and want to share that joy with her. He isn’t a great guy, but he fits a sort of template of a husband, and not a cruel or evil husband, just one who takes a lot of things for granted and never seems to see his wife as a person. Kajol’s life with him wouldn’t be tragic, it would just be empty, punctuated by these brief moments of joy.
The two groups are now joyfully dancing together. And dancing the same, male and female using the same gestures, because ultimate they are more alike than different. Gender barriers have completely broken down, that is Shahrukh’s triumph, to get the men to attack and then hold back and choose joyful equality, and to get the women to stop running and stop and join in as equals.
And it is in this joyful equality that Shahrukh and Kajol finally are able to meet. Which is a bit how they met in the first place, Shahrukh breaking down the barriers between the male and female traveling groups. But this time, Kajol is not running from the idea that male and female can meet without shame or fear, she is delighting in it.
This moment is so memorable, I thought it lasted longer. But it is just one small moment, which we remember because we know it is the culmination of all the other moments. Shahrukh finally reaching his goal, “taking” his bride, while Kajol looks at him adoringly, so happy to be his bride.
This is also, in a way, a culmination of their last conversation together. Kajol said she did not want to wear Kuljit’s engagement ring, Shahrukh jokingly suggested that he go up in front of everybody and declare himself. And now he has done just that, declared his intentions clearly in front of them all, and finally gone over to her, and danced with her, with everyone around them.
“Danced” with her in their own way. The other couples around them are face to face. But Kajol and Shahrukh are back to back, not performing matching steps but complimentary ones. It’s the same as their little seated dance during the Antakshari, they are so perfectly attuned to each other that they can do their own movements, but still somehow in some way match the other.
It is after this interaction that Shahrukh draws back, brings his male chorus away from the women. He has achieved his goal, he doesn’t need anything else. But he does it with grace, saying that this is mere youthfulness and they are somewhat equally to blame.
Great framing here, again. Mandira and Shahrukh are in the foreground, but Kajol in her green is in between them. Always in the background of these interactions, the real purpose and meaning of them.
And Shahrukh’s final line, he says he should not be blamed because it is natural, but he also in so doing takes all the blame on himself, that is, he makes it that he was the one who was carried away, he initiated everything. No need for the women to seek an explanation or wonder what they have done wrong.
But Mandira surprises him! Mandira has been surprising me through out this song as I do a close watch of it. In my memory, it is all about Kajol, always. The green dress, the magical moment when they dance together, her great lines to him, and so on. And there is something special there. But if this were a normal wedding party, Mandira would be the Queen of it! If this were a regular back and forth challenge song, she would be wonderful at it. Like right now, she pulls out the line that there is magic in her beauty, proudly takes responsibility for her own sexuality, as it were, even when Shahrukh has given her an out, that it was all the men getting carried away. It’s the kind of thing that is going to get her her happy ending in my fanfic.
Her gestures are more aggressive too, she is beating him back at the same time she is grabbing his shoulder. Just as the moment when Kuljit pulled Kajol into the dance must have been planned on some love, so must Mandira’s transformation in this song. We see her as the shy lovestruck girl, silent in the presence of her father or brother, but this sequence reveals that she has something more hidden inside as well. No women is really that perfect shy innocent, they all have strength and anger and bravery and fire and, yes, sexuality hidden inside of them. Mandira has just trained herself to only let it out in these dance moments, we can picture years of weddings and other functions where she danced all night before returning to the kitchen. It’s the flipside of Kuljit, the groom who knows it is his responsibility to drag his wife into the dance, this is the future “wife” who knows she should save all her joyfulness for these brief dancing moments.
And she is taking more and more control, saying that she was clearly so powerful he could not help but come to her. She called him to her, she is the one controlling this relationship, not him. And she is glorying in that idea.
Shahrukh changes the conversation again. He was talking to Mandira, saying “sorry-not-sorry, and it’s all my fault”, to which she responded “hey, I wanted it”. But now he has switched back to Kajol. Mandira would not leave the door ajar for him, for is talking about casting a spell with her beauty, she is still thinking in terms of what she has done to him, not them working together. The working together, that is what he does with Kajol. Telling her “I am singing to you now, let me in”.
He starts off quiet, but then sings loader and loader as his confidence grows, turning on the charm, trying to win Kajol back to singing to him. Also, I love the variety of expression on the dancers behind him. Have a mentioned yet that part of what adds to the realness of this song is the variety of the look of the people with him? This isn’t the perfect metrosexual we would see in today’s songs, this is a believable collection of village boys.
He grows in confidence as he keeps singing the refrain, moving from barely whispering it, to saying it with a smile, and finally dancing it out again, he was scared off by Mandira, but he has now regained his confidence. He is sure she will be waiting for him, that the door will be open.
And his final reminder, her beloved will take her away. I just looked up the lyrics to be sure, the original Hindi is “tere Sajna”. Which is “your sweetheart”, roughly. That’s what I was checking, it isn’t saying “the brave one” will take her away or anything like that, it is defined as the one she wants, HER sweetheart. She is the one who made the choice. And just in case it isn’t clear, Shahrukh goes so far as to briefly circle his face with his hand. He is the one Kajol wants, he knows she has picked him, that is what gives him confidence more than anything else.
And it works! Sort of. He has now teased Kajol into singing back to him again. She is nagging him, but only slightly. Telling him to be quiet, but also admitting that he is troubling her, he has gotten to her.
That’s what he likes, when he gets a reaction from her, any reaction, that is the triumph.