I’m back! Sorry, it was the screenshots I didn’t have time for. Takes about two hours steady work on my home laptop, and I haven’t had two hours straight at my home laptop in a while. But tonight I did, and I got enough screenshots for two posts, so I should be good for next week too. (full index of DDLJ here)
The last section was some light comedy, and this is a little more of the same, but with some interesting bits slow beginning to crawl in related to father-son relationships and NRI identity.
Anupam Kher has arrived, Shahrukh’s father. And his arrival really does feel like the arrival of a father. Everything is suddenly a little lighter and happier, but at the same time also a bit more out of control. Or, actually, too much control. Shahrukh had a plan, and Anupam is here to take over and try to do it his way, there is a fight for control between them. Which should be familiar to any child who tried to convince their parent they were on top of things and it was all under control and they didn’t need any help. It’s even a little bit familiar from how Amrish Puri and Kajol interacted.
Amrish Puri has an unhealthy need to control his children, he orders his daughter to forget her love, to marry the man he chooses, and forcefully blinds himself to the truth of the situation. It’s wrong, but it’s also not that far off from what parents always do, especially parents of young adults. And how young adults treat parents.
Kajol isn’t wrong in how she handles Amrish, because Amrish is truly incapable of hearing her side of things. But her “handling” him also has echoes of a normal relationship. She is a teenager, she pretends to be something she isn’t in order to get him to let her do something she wants (being the saintly praying daughter), she makes extravagant promises (I will always remember I am your daughter before anything else) that she can’t keep, and then she tries to avoid confrontation instead of facing her punishment head on like an adult (wanting to elope). It’s self-defense for her, because Amrish cannot control his reactions to what she does. But it’s related to what teenagers and parents are always like.
Anupam Kher and Shahrukh, they show that “normal” option. Anupam wants to fix everything for him, make it happy and perfect always. And when he thinks he has found the way to do that, he will plow ahead without paying attention to anything else. It’s what parenting is, you start out seeing them as these dumb little babies who can’t do anything for themselves and you get used to doing it all for them, to ignoring their own wants because they don’t really know what they want. And then it’s hard to adjust, to discover that they are adult people with their own opinions and needs and thoughts and should be allowed to make decisions for themselves.
It’s also hard for the kids. They are young and confident and sure they know everything. It’s easy to get angry at your parents, to resent them, to be frustrated and embarrassed. That’s how Shahrukh starts out in this scene. They are both at their worst, Anupam blinded by his own Dad-confidence, and Shahrukh blinded by his own child-frustration. But they talk it out. That’s all you need to do, just talk. Anupam listens to Shahrukh’s explanation and tries to understand what he really wants, instead of just what Anupam thinks he wants. And Shahrukh listens to Anupam and understands that everything he did was done out of love. So much healthier than Kajol’s reluctance to talk to Amrish, and Amrish’s refusal to listen to Kajol, and neither of them being able to see the middle ground, that it is all just a desire to do the best they can for the people they love. Okay, I’m still not convinced there is that middle-ground for Amrish, does he really think this is best for Kajol or is he just afraid for himself if his daughter tries something new?
But first, Anupam has to deal with his soulmate, Satish Shah!!!! I love watching these two guys play off of each other, each of them more loud and cheerful and Punjabi than the other.
The first thing I want you to see in this (very fuzzy, sorry) screenshot is the way Anupam is sitting. While Satish and his wife are proper and sitting up on the couch, Anupam is sitting casually knees up on the couch, Indian style. He is in European clothes, but his posture says he is still comfortable with being Indian.
He also knows how to charm Indian people, telling them that he wanted Shahrukh to marry an Indian girl all along, that of course he fell in love with the river Ganges, not the river Thames. But what I find even more interesting is that Anupam is telling this story as though it was all his idea. Just, such a Dad thing! He’s proud of course, but he also is resisting the idea that his son is capable of making a decision on his own.
And all 3 parents together congratulate themselves on being awesome and making awesome decisions for their kids and everything being happy always.
Until the actual children arrive and break through the fantasy (as children tend to do). Raj and Kuljit walk through the door, casual and happy, no idea what is being decided for their own best interests while they were gone.
The thing is, it goes both ways. Anupam is sure he has done everything perfectly just as Shahrukh wanted. And Shahrukh is too stunned to respond, because he was so sure that he had done everything perfectly, that he was in complete control, he forgot his father even existed. Which is what 20 year olds tend to do, think that they are the king of the world and their parents don’t matter.
Anupam is also so quick with all of this! It is one of the first scenes that helps us see how Shahrukh and Anupam are related. Shahrukh talked fast and worked his way into this family while secretly laughing at them. Anupam talked faster and got in faster and is laughing more.
Two kinds of tight construction in this shot. First the tight construction of the quick explanation for how Anupam landed up here, a photo in the market. Which also paints a picture of (again) how Anupam is like Shahrukh but older, even quicker to find a way to insert himself in their lives and evenmore knowledgeable about how to navigate India.
And second the tight construction of this shot, everyone lined up in order of height with Kuljit in the center. It just takes an extra 5 seconds when setting the scene to think of these things, which order the actors should stand to make a pleasing image, but most directors don’t bother with that extra 5 seconds.
Oh, and I just enjoy this tiny little slam at religion. Satish congratulating himself on how the marriage is clearly meant to be, while the audience knows it is all a lie and Satish’s faith is just self-delusion and a little funny.
And Anupam reveals his on version of Dad delusion, actually believing that Shahrukh was waiting to confirm the marriage for his permission, a lie that Shahrukh is stunned to see his father believes instead of figuring out it was a con.
And then Anupam shows another version of delusion, unquestioningly dropping into the model of Indian society, asking for sweets and proudly declaring his son as the “son-in-law”.
Followed by Satish declaring his wedding plan without bothering to consider what might be convenient for anyone else, like, for instance, Shahrukh being able to invite his friends to the wedding.
Anupam agrees, revealing his own blindness because, like, what about Karan Johar??? And all Shahrukh’s other friends back in London? Anupam is so ready to leap headlong into what he thinks his son wants, what is best for him.
Followed by the ultimate disturbance for Shahrukh, Anupam and Satish doing the special handshake and hug that was Anupam and Shahrukh’s thing. Disturbing because it is Satish and Anupam as friends, which upsets his plans, and also just because it is a reminder that his father is a real person who can make friends and joke with other people. Always unpleasant!
Anupam is thrilled, Anupam has no idea he did anything wrong, and all Shahrukh can do is grin and bear it. The usual routine of the embarrassed child.
What’s really remarkable is that Anupam doesn’t notice! Even when he hugs him.
And then the switch! Once they are alone, it is Shahrukh’s turn to take control. Pasking and yelling and trying to make Anupam understand. It’s a funny scene, but it’s not a good look for him. Poor sweet Anupam just wanted to make Shahrukh happy, why should Shahrukh make him feel mad now?
I also like that Anupam is sincerely trying to follow the whole story. There’s no defensiveness or anger, he just accepts he made a mistake and listens to what it was that he was missing.
Culminating in Shahrukh actually snapping at Anupam. Which, if Kajol did it to Amrish (or Farida for that matter), they would immediately be shut up and shut out.
But Anupam’s reaction is to try to reassure, to hear that underneath the snapping is a sincere worry of what is happening and what will happen next.
But Shahrukh is still using Anupam as his punching bag, taking his hat and pretending to be him, making him seem ridiculous and also blaming him for it all. It’s extremely teenage. It makes me laugh, but it doesn’t really make me like him.
And then it flips. Anupam is wise enough to cut through all of this and get to the heart of the matter. He missed his son, he came to help him. That’s all that matters, and how can Shahrukh be mad at him for that?
Answer: he can’t.