It only took a month, but I have now finished “Mehndi Laga Ka Rakna”! There’s really a lot in that song, much more than in the other ones. It’s also, I think, only fully “real” song, even “Ruk Ja” feels like it has some fantasy in there, and certainly all the other songs are a mix of real and not-real. (full index of DDLJ coverage here)
And now here we are at the final part of the final movement! We went from boy versus girl, to Shahrukh and Kajol going back and forth, to the men invading the women and being forced back. And now the aftermath of that. Which includes a small important moment that somehow I had never noticed before.
First, Kajol’s order of “no more words and no more troubles from you”. It works on a lot of levels. First the general male-female dynamic, that Kajol is giving him an order and not being afraid at all, not saying “oh I am fearfully hiding in my house!”
It’s also in terms of their specific back and forth in this song, Kajol is saying “put up or shut up” basically. No more words and no more troubles, time to be quiet and plan for action.
And finally in terms of the position in the film, the last time they spoke was Kajol challenging him to confront her family and put the engagement ring on her finger. And now she is satisfied, he has shown his love to all as much as she wants for now.
What I never got before is that Shahrukh reacts so clearly to this! First with delight, that she has reached the point of not wanting any more words and troubles from him, just the action he has been planning all along. Their argument was really about “do you love me enough? Do you love me as much as I love you?” And he has proven it, she is satisfied that he loves her and ready to trust his slow and steady plan. This is the final make-up for their argument.
I love how this is shot. Kajol is looking so steadily at Shahrukh. Even Pooja is distracted and looking at the dancers, and the dancers are all over the place, looking across at the men but not at any one person. Only Kajol is totally still focused on just one person.
And her final request, to keep things secret. She is satisfied, for now, with their secret romance and secret love. She trusts Shahrukh to play it out however he wants, and doesn’t want anyone else to know. The culmination of this song is silent between the two of them, because she wants it that way.
This is the part I never noticed before. I remembered the unusual concept of the hero standing still in front of moving chorus members, but I didn’t catch that it was in careful obedience to her orders. She says no more words, and so he is silent. Even if it makes no sense, even if it goes against his personality, even if it risks being noticed by others, his final moment of communication with her is to aggressively say nothing at all.
And in case we didn’t catch it, Adi pulls back to show us the full frame. Notice how Shahrukh is even leaning in a slightly opposite direction from the rest of the men, emphasizing more and more that he is not one of them, he is doing something slightly off, just for Kajol, and he is happy doing that. Breaking from the masculine group in obedience to his secret connection with one of the women, just as Kajol sat still and quiet and kept eye contact with him while the other women sang and danced.
This is our final back and forth, mirroring the opening before Shahrukh and Kajol joined in. All the boys and girls singing to each other. But unlike the aggressive insults of the opening, now it is the two groups in their own kind of harmony, the men telling the women to be ready, the women telling them to come prepared.
And then we end with “Shah Wah!” from both sides. In joy at the wonderful song they have completed, in admiration towards the other side, in just joy at this evening and this dance and all the wonderfulness of it.
And as a finale, on the women’s side, the young girls rush to bring the older women up to join the dance. That’s what would make this really special, to have them join the dance, a rare moment of return to youth, something different and wonderful. Notice that Kajol, The Bride, leaps up as well to pull them forward. After this whole glorious orgy of dance and song and youth, the women are feeling bold enough to shatter the final barrier, to bring the matrons out onto the dance floor.
Not that all the women come, are able to break through. I’m not sure who the woman in blue is, perhaps Kuljit’s mother, but we can see that Amrish’s mother is refusing, backing away, while Farida and Himani are being pulled forward.
The group reforms, the young women helping the older to find good vantage points for viewing, and gathering around the other older women as they prepare to dance. It’s another version of that earlier all-female space we saw, the kitchen and the Antakshari game, all the women joining in together and performing for each other with no thought for others.
But of course the difference is that they aren’t truly performing just for each other, there is another larger audience around. They are not protected within the walls of their homes and courtyards, they are freely and bravely being themselves out in public. And we are aware of that by how the camera moves here, staying outside the circle as it opens up to reveal the women inside.
The other women are so joyful to see the older women dancing, it’s not a moment of “respect” or “duty”, not something you put on for show, but pure joy. Look at Kajol’s happiness, seeing her mother act as she had only been before within their home. Remember how they danced to jazz together until Amrish came home at which point they hid their music away? They aren’t hiding any more.
And the camera pulls back so we can fully grasp what is happening, there are men and women on rooftops all around, watching and cheering.
And then Shahrukh runs in to join. Notice that we don’t have a shot of the men he is leaving. The focus is not on him abandoning his gender, but rather that the female group is having so much fun, and is so wonderful, obviously he wants to join them.
I like the kind of anarchy of the choreography here. Multiple levers of anarchy. First, Soraj Khan is just letting them do whatever they want for their individual dance moves, Kajol and Farida dancing together, Himani doing her own thing, the other women clapping, and Shahrukh boogying on over in his own special way. There is no firm professional choreographer at work here.
Second, the breaking of the frame, Shahrukh entering from nowhere on the right with the seated women behind him, the dancers over on the left, there is no center of the frame.
And of course the anarchy of a man just deciding to join the women, no big dance move to get him over there, he’s just going.
Total anarchy here, instead of a woman dancing for men, then is a man dancing for women. And joining in their circle dance, the private has become public and has now become co-ed. Joyfully co-ed, this is not a man “deigning” to join in with the women and their petty joys, this is a man delighting to join them, happy to join them.
And the women are thrilled too! He grabs the scarf from Mandira and gets whistles and applause for it. Not because he is undressing her or flirting with her (although she probably sees it that way a little, poor Mandira), but because he is being a bold dancer, moving to another level and adding a scarf to his dance.
And finally the full joining in the dance. No longer merely imitating the female dance moves, but actually fully doing them, not a parody of them, but the actual moves. That is the careful line Shahrukh draws in this moment, he is not a man pretending to be a woman, but he is a man acting like a woman.
Gender has no meaning, masculinity and feminity have no meaning, it is all just joy and community and happiness. Until, suddenly, the outsider arrives to break the trance, the bubble in which they could all live together happily. And in a moment, it all ends.
Yes, it is the entry of the Old Powerful Man. They always ruin all the fun!
This sequence was so influential, I hadn’t realized until just now how that particular mixture of male and female and Bhangra anarchy has happened in times since. So, to round out this post, let’s look at my favorite three recent examples.
“Gallan Goodiyaan” expands the mixture of voices and lyrics to include not just gender divisions and a dialogue between hero and heroine, but gender, class, family, and racial divisions (the white people on the outskirts of the song). And the dialogue to be between brother and sister, husband and wife, parent and child, other husband and wife, and so on and so on.
The Badrinath Ki Dulhania version, on the other hand, has the older women actually joining in the song instead of shyly standing by the sidelines.
And finally, “Radha” removes the chorus, the crowds, everything else, and creates the same anarchy and mixing and dialogue between just two people.