I’m back! Because you promised to comment and make it worth writing these. And I’m gonna hold you to that! Very depressing spending 5 hours on this and then getting no comments. (full index of DDLJ coverage here)
One thing that struck me watching this scene is that DDLJ truly is a “masala” film. The romance is the center of the plot, yes, but we also have action (at the end) and comedy (in this scene). All without losing the right tone for the film, it never yanks you from a world of high drama to high comedy, it all feels like it fits together. It’s the kind of construction that is familiar to me from Hrishikesh Mukherjee, early Yash Chopra, even Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt. A very old-fashioned solid carefully put together kind of film.
And so even in this comic sequence, it isn’t terribly over the top. Satish Shah is loud and funny just as himself, but his clothes, his furniture, even the dishes are all as you would expect for this family in real life, and in tune with how characters have been presented in the rest of the film.
Even the set-up isn’t ridiculous, it is more light humor than slapstick. Shahrukh has been staying in their house for a few days now, he was polite and nice to Mandira, perhaps she even shyly told her parents about his (seeming) flirtations. Not a huge leap for Satish to decide to talk about marriage with Shahrukh. Not like some kind of Rohit Shetty “and then I will pretend to be someone else for Reasons” humor, but small misunderstandings we can all understand.
I really love this actress in this scene. I can’t find her name, and she has almost no lines here or elsewhere in the film, but she fully commits to going along with the physical humor part of this scene.
See? Right from the start. Satish is being loud and effusive, and she is playing up to him with her careful sweep of the scarf over her head and big smile.
Shahrukh, on the other hand, a tad too big here. Always a problem for him with comedy. The way he is fiddling with the dhoti is perfect, a great touch of being this clueless young guy caught unawares, but his “caught unawares” face is a bit much,
This is better, putting on his fake “happy to be here and talk to you” face, well enough that we can believe the people in the film would be fooled, but we in the audience can see through it.
And here’s where the physical comedy really starts. The two of them grabbing him and smashing him between them until he can’t move. Satish is funny on his own, but his wife brightly smiling as she manhandles Shahrukh over to the couch is what makes it really wonderful.
Also wonderful, how handsy she gets once they are sitting down! And how visibly uncomfortable Shahrukh is with her handsiness! Oh, and Satish’s sweat stains. That’s realism there. And gives you this subconscious feeling of a big hot sweaty man crushing Shahrukh, we can feel how unhappy he must be feeling.
I can’t tell if Shahrukh is exaggerating this, pulling his shoulders up and his arms in to look more trapped, or if Satish and his onscreen wife have really committed to the scene to the point that Shahrukh can’t move.
There’s her hand on his knee again!
I hope this is a pun in Hindi too, that he is so “close” to them as he is being held so tight he can barely move and she is feeling all over his body.
Shahrukh finally give sup and just grabs her hand to stop it moving around. I wonder how much of this scene was improvised? I’m guessing a lot, I’m guessing the directions were just “Shahrukh, look uncomfortable. You other too, hold him in place and get all up in his face”.
And then there’s poor Mandira Bedi. Not part of this conversation that is deciding the rest of her life. Although looking very pretty in peachy-orange.
Interesting framing here. Notice that Shahrukh is trapped between her parents but has the open doorway behind him, a different world implied behind him, and a possible escape. While she is standing, blocked in by tables and furniture with walls and walls behind her, no real opening, it is all the same color.
This little exchange of glances is also perfect. Because it isn’t really an exchange, it is Shahrukh looking at Mandira and her smiling and looking down. Mandira is passive in this situation, she is there to be looked at and talked about but not speak for herself or even look up and make eye contact with anyone. And then she quickly leaves the room. It is up to Shahrukh to look at her and decide whether he wants to accept or reject her.
BIG BIG THING!!!!! This is the only internal monologue in the film besides Amrish Puri’s opening speech. And it is completely non-meaningful. So I say “big big thing” because it is a “big big mistake”. Adi (or someone) didn’t trust that the audience would be able to follow what was happening. So they cheated and put in an internal monologue. It’s lazy and clunky and doesn’t fit with the rest of the film and I wish I could just remove it entirely.
SEEE???? We can get the exact same thing from his face and the double-meaning lines here. He can’t have any objections, objections would mean he would be expected to politely leave the household.
Let’s take a second to break down his options:
- Tell them he is already in love with/engaged to someone else
- But that means he has misrepresented himself to them by not mentioning this before, meaning they will no longer trust him as much, perhaps no longer bring him along to all the wedding events.
- And it might also mean, if they know of his flirtations with Mandira, that they would go so far as to be offended and angry
- Worst of all, there is a chance they would put two and two together and realize the girl he is in love with is Kajol, because if he wasn’t flirting with Mandira, that is the only other choice.
- Politely turn down the proposal flat
- A hard thing to do! But not impossible, he could say he wants to marry a London girl or something like that.
- But even the most polite refusal would still come with an expectation that he would leave the household, not be as welcome in the family and he needs that access.
- A jerky thing to do. To Mandira, and Satish, and the whole family.
- Also, Kajol would be mad at him
Satish and his wife know they have him a bit trapped as well. The best time to ask is now, when he is living on their generosity, isolated in their house from his own family and other friends, it makes it hardest for him to say “no”. Their confidence is not misplaced in making this proposal.
The perfect answer! Not a flat refusal which would mean he would have to leave the house out of common decency, or a complicated explanation they might see through. Just a delay to keep him there a little longer.
Once Shahrukh has his solution to the puzzle, he is all smiles and all confidence again, he has successfully put Satish Shah on the backfoot.
And now he is happily able to take her caresses, has managed to wriggle free a bit both metaphorically and literally.
But, ha-ha! He has underestimated his opponents! They are ready to push for this more than he expected, even to the degree of long distance phone calls.
Part of the reason this scene is funny is because the audience has no particular sympathy with Shahrukh in this moment. We enjoy seeing him wriggle a bit. Because this is a mess of his own making. He knows perfectly well that this family is letting him stay in their house partly because they want to get close to a millionaire’s son, and he used that. If he had been more standoffish, less effusive, he wouldn’t have been invited to all of Kajol’s wedding events and given free reign of the house. But the price he pays for that is giving them the impression he would be open to a closer alliance.
We don’t mind seeing Shahrukh wriggle, because we also know these are very nice people. They may be loud and a little excited by money, but they are cheerful and happy and willing to believe whatever he tells them.
And very very generous. If Shahrukh hadn’t been using them, hadn’t needed access to Kajol’s marriage, if he had presented himself as less wealthy, less friendly, they still would have invited him into their home. This is a nice family with a nice father and a nice mother and a good daughter and a really terrible son.
One thing this scene does is show us a couple working as a team, a surprising couple. Satish teases her for being always late, sends her away when the men are talking, she is working in the kitchen while he is playing chess, and so on and so on. But when it gets down to it, in moments like this, they are one and the same mind. Under all the social roles and everything else, this is a couple that likes each other and likes working together. This is a very different proposal scene than Amrish reading the letter from India to Kajol. In both, the bride/daughter was excluded from the conversation and ran away in confusion. But in Kajol’s scene, Farida saw something and thought about things that Amrish was missing, and hid her feelings from him. In this scene, while the daughter is separated, husband and wife are together in all ways.
And then the final laugh of this sequence, Anupam arrives just as Shahrukh is thinking he made an escape by making sure he will never arrive!
Let’s talk placement for a moment! I said this is a reminder that this is a Masala movie. The idea of a “masala” movie, or the general rasa theory of drama, is to have a combination of “flavors”, each one providing contrast to the others. Our last scene before this was also slightly comic, Shahrukh and Amrish, but less so than this one. Before that, we had “Mehndi Laga Ke Rakne”, which was comic and also joyful and fun. And before that, the engagement sequence. And before that, the silly semi-fight between Shahrukh and Kajol followed by her conversation with Pooja Ruperal. There were more little comic bits thrown in, really there has been no moment of true total seriousness since Shahrukh’s arrival. Moments of stress, yes, moments when he and Kajol had a little fight, or Amrish seemed to have almost caught him, or when Kuljit was creepy. But nothing as serious as the conversation between Farida and Kajol.
This sequence here is entirely comic. And there are a few more lighter comic moments coming, after all that is why Anupam Kher arrives at this moment, to make it all even lighter. And that is two prepare us for the last 20 minutes of unrelenting drama. The audience needs this little breather space here to get us through the last conversation on the terrace, the final speech to Amrish Puri, all that stuff right up to the final “Senorita” line when we can all laugh again and go out with a smile.