Shahrukh Month Review: Yes Boss, Shahrukh and Huckleberry Finn

Such an interesting movie!  A light tone and a dark story.  In keeping with it’s predecessor, The Apartment.  Oh, and don’t worry too much about SPOILERS on this one if you haven’t seen it before, everything is more or less predictable.

This is a movie that is all about class and gender, as was the original.  A beautiful love story wrapped up in a nasty world.  It’s generally remembered as one of Shahrukh’s lighter films, because the songs are light, and there are a lot of comic moments, and it’s Juhi and Shahrukh and they are always fun.  But if you break it down to its essentials, this is a dark dark story.  Told in a fun way.

Image result for yes boss poster

That’s part of what makes Shahrukh such a perfect lead, like Jack Lemmon before him.  Because he has a lightness and kind of every man charm, but he is also capable of showing the acid underneath, a very particular bitter every man kind of acid.  Not the glamorous dramatic pain of a hero, but the slow burning daily inconveniences and lost dreams of the every man who dreams of being a hero.

And on top of it, the hopefulness of holding on to those dreams.  This is in some ways the classic Shahrukh 90s hero, ambitious and forward looking and sure of himself.  And romantic and cheerful and all the rest of it.  Only, his poor innocent dreams have been tricked and twisted by those above him until his good instincts are thought of as bad, and his bad as good.

It’s an interesting pairing to consider this film as a trilogy with Pardes and Dil Se.  In all 3, he is taught what society says is the “good” way to be, but then he falls in love and finds himself doing the “bad” things against his will.  And in each case, the woman he falls in love with represents something different as well.  In the first, the pure spirit of traditional Indian womanhood.  In the second, the battered and broken real woman of India.  And in this film, the modern urban woman trying to make a life for herself despite myriad pitfalls.

Juhi does a wonderful job as Shahrukh’s partner in this film, managing the difficult task of getting the audience to fall in love with her as much as Shahrukh does without really knowing her.  It is that lack of knowledge which makes Shahrukh’s character barely forgivable.  He does terrible things, but he doesn’t know, for sure, how terrible they are because he doesn’t know how Juhi feels about things.  And we can sympathize, because we aren’t sure ourselves.

 

 

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

 

 

 

 

Let me start with The Apartment, the American classic that created a plot which has almost nothing in common with this film, but did grasp the mood of it.  In 1950s-60s America, there was much talk about “the man in the grey-flannel suit”, meaning the interchangeable office workers who worked for the major corporations born by WWII and were desperate for the small symbols of advancement such as a key to the executive washroom.  Our hero is one of those men, and in a bid for job security and potential advancement, he let’s his boss’s use his apartment for their affairs, sadly staying away from home until they tell him it is all right.  He knows it isn’t noble or good, but it is selling a little bit of his soul so that he can advance at work, eventually be one of those men who abuse him now.  But then he comes home one night to find a woman who tried to kill herself in his apartment.  He saves her life, and at the orders of his boss/her married boyfriend, he keeps her at his apartment while she recovers.  Slowly he falls in love with her, against his will and feeling like he is betraying his boss and the corporate structure the whole time.  And he also starts to realize his own guilt and smallness, in allowing these men to take advantage of him in order to further take advantage of innocent young women.  Of course, there is a happy ending, they both walk out on the boss and start life free and clear of the toxic power structures, but it is still a tad bittersweet, seeing how nearly they were captured, and thinking back on all the terrible things they did and felt in the past.

 

Now, this film!  Shahrukh is the assistant to Aditya Pancholi, he does all the little clean up tasks, like finding a last minute present when Aditya forgets his wife’s birthday.  And in return, Aditya promises that “someday” he will give Shahrukh the money to start his own advertising firm and free him.  Shahrukh lives in hopes of this, even has a model built of his dream office, and tells his mother constantly that someday things will be better.

And one day, Shahrukh meets a pretty girl at a traffic stop, Juhi.  They hit it off right away, and he is in love, but she is hard to read.  Friendly, certainly, but in love?  Not sure.  And then the next day she shows up at a model casting call at Shahrukh’s office and Aditya falls in love with her.  Shahrukh stifles his recently born feelings and helps Aditya run the usual scam on her.  But there is something a little different, unlike the other eager young models, Juhi isn’t sure she wants to have an affair with a married man.  So Aditya gets Shahrukh’s help to convince Juhi that he is planning to leave his wife and is really in love with her.  And he leaves it at least a little open for Shahrukh to believe that too.

So here is Shahrukh, hopefully dreaming his own little dreams and so close to accomplishing them, with a young woman that he isn’t sure how she feels about him, and a boss who probably is going to do right by her and then will fulfill his dreams as well.  Should he do the sensible thing, the thing all the business society is telling him to do, and kill his own love out of loyalty and common sense, stay quiet about the things he doesn’t really know for just a little longer?  Or should he do the nonsensical thing and declare his own love for this woman who might very easily end up turning him down and at the same time kill any chance he has of getting ahead in the world?

And, as the film goes on, rather than make a decision, he tries to have it both ways.  At first he kills his love and spends time with Juhi on behalf of Aditya, doing the sensible thing since it is up to Juhi to make her own decisions and he to make his.  And then he begins to be asked by Aditya to do more than just arrange surprise birthday parties, to do things that help excuse him from being married, from lying to Juhi at first.  Aditya claims that he loves Juhi and will do the right thing eventually, but Shahrukh must know him well enough to know he is lying.  And Juhi begins to reveal her own doubts about what she is doing.  If Shahrukh talked to her, revealed Aditya’s full history of cheating, that he was lying to his wife as well, then perhaps she would have left Aditya.  And so instead he tries partial measures, gently interferes with Aditya’s plans, tries to get Juhi to himself, is agonized with guilt for doing too much and not enough at the same time.

What The Apartment and Yes Boss are both getting at is that the “other woman” and the peon at the office are ultimately in the same position.  Both of them are being jerked around by false promises and false dreams provided by the same selfish man.  And both of them are doing it for some strange version of love mixed with fear mixed with envy.

And so Shahrukh feels more and more guilt, coming from his heart and his head, and in conflict.  As Aditya asks him to do more extreme acts in service of his charade, Shahrukh protests, and then is won over as Aditya declares his true love, his heartbreak, and so on.  And then he spends more and more time with Juhi and finds himself falling more and more in love with her, which his head tells him is wrong since Juhi is surely in love with Aditya by now and there is no reason for him to upset both their futures by pursuing her.

What the film does through the construction is show us how, ultimately, Juhi and Shahrukh are the matched set, even while Juhi believes herself in love with Aditya.  Aditya overwhelms her, charms her, brings her into a fantasy world of romance and extreme gestures.  Shahrukh talks to her.  And Juhi talks to him, all the “real” self that she is too overwhelmed to reveal to Aditya, she cheerfully brings out for Shahrukh.  She laughs at him, and with him.  She enjoys a walk through the streets.  She doesn’t need the wealth and the romance to be happy.

By half way through the movie, when Shahrukh and Juhi have to pretend to be married in order to trick Aditya’s wife, it is obvious that this is the couple that belongs together.  Juhi likes his simple home, his simple mother, his simple cooking.  And he loves seeing her there, wearing traditional clothing and being sweet and simple, not the glamorous beautiful model Aditya sees her as.  The only question is, will the characters realize what the audience knows in time?

And that is where the ending is somewhat perfect.  Shahrukh has gone from helping Aditya, to subtly sabotaging him.  And Aditya has gone from semi-harmless tricks in order to spend time with Juhi because he is in love with her (as Shahrukh thinks) to directly desiring her body.  No more pretense of “love”.  This, by the way, is what I suspect happens in real life.  The predator uses not just the woman, but the other people in his power.  Scared underlings and others who are forced to look the other way, leaned on, tricked just like she is.  And at the same time, kept away from the reality of the situation, lied to that it is just a romance, just a flirtation, just nothing.

But the reality is that Aditya is a manipulator and a user who has brought Shahrukh so far under his power that he can’t get out again, not until he sees something that makes right and wrong suddenly clear, wipes out all the mind games and gaslighting and reveals the truth.  Which is what happens at the end of the film when Aditya goes so far as to drug Juhi.

Shahrukh knows this is wrong, and also knows that he can’t attack it directly, Juhi is too drugged to understand an explanation, and Aditya will block him at every turn.  So instead, in a last ditch attempt, Shahrukh uses all his tricks to try to save her, convincing party goers and dancers to help in a mad dance as he tries to separate Aditya and Juhi.  It fails, which leaves Shahrukh to try one last mad gamble, sincerity.  He simply puts his heart into his voice and sings to her, begs her not to leave him.  And it works, somehow his truth, the first real truth he has risked in the film, reaches out to her and saves her.  Aditya’s reveal of his true evil is matched by a reveal of Shahrukh’s true good, the two men who have worked together more or less for the rest of the film are finally separated.

 

And again, the key is that Shahrukh (and the audience) do not know really how Juhi feels at this point.  He is making an entirely selfless sacrifice, which may end up meaningless in the end.  He is killing his own dreams and career in order to save Juhi in this moment, and it is entirely possible that a week later in her love for Aditya, she will throw her neck right into the same noose.  That’s the real culmination of the film, when Shahrukh decides in his own heart what is right and follows through, in complete selflessness.

Okay, stick with me while I make a bit of an odd connection.  This ending is the same as the ending of Huckleberry Finn.  Huckleberry Finn is arguably the greatest American novel.  A lowclass worthless boy runs away from the spinster women who are fostering him and ends up sharing a raft and a friendship with a male slave who is also running away, in fear of being sold.  They travel together, they have adventures, they form a bond that isn’t quite father and son but is more than just friendship.  And then the slave, Jim, is captured.  All of society, even the ministers from the pulpit, tell our boy hero that to help a slave escape from captivity is wrong, just a terrible wrong.  So he agonizes over and over again in his heart, and finally decides “All right, then, I’ll GO to hell”.  And he commits the ultimate sin, standing by his friend and freeing him from slavery.

That is the culmination of the whole book, showing us how a boy who has spent his whole life being told one thing can look deep into his heart and know there is something else he should do, even if he thinks he will go to hell for it.  And then the rest of the novel is, frankly, a bit of a let down.  It builds and builds to Huck’s revelation, and then Tom Sawyer shows up again and it all kinds of dribbles out before getting to an unbelievable happy ending.  Which is the same thing that happens in this movie, the culmination of it is Shahrukh setting aside money and ambition and all those things he thinks of as virtues in order to give in to the sin of falling in love and openly trying to save Juhi.

And then we have the happy ending, the delightful surprise.  Shahrukh rushes to rescue Juhi again when he hears she has been tricked into going to Aditya’s love nest.  There is a fight, in the midst of which he confesses his love, and Juhi joyfully reciprocates.  Reciprocates in a way that tells us she has loved him all along and thought he did not feel the same way, that Aditya was her second choice.  The moral being, if Shahrukh had followed his heart from the beginning, his happy ending was always waiting for him.

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19 thoughts on “Shahrukh Month Review: Yes Boss, Shahrukh and Huckleberry Finn

  1. This movie is a regular re-watch for me. It makes me so happy. So does The Apartment. As you say it is a dark story in a happy wrapper. Similar to the other Shah Rukh/Juhi/Aziz Mirza collaborations. I find the songs except for Chande Tare forgettable, but it’s just those little moments of tension and resolution that go on throughout the movie between Shah Rukh and Juhi, from the moment they meet, to the final scene, that are so enjoyable and satisfying. You make a good point about Juhi pulling off making her character likeable. Both of them had to walk a fine line during the initial set up.

    I miss the neighbor doctor and his wife from The Apartment–who disapprove of what they think Jack Lemmon has done, but help him anyway out of concern for Shirley. Maybe Reema Lagoo plays that role to some extent as Shah Rukh’s mother. She is seriously the perfect mom and mom-in-law in this movie. The only thing I’d add to your synopsis is the subplot about her being really ill, needing surgery, and supposedly needing to avoid shocks (though she seemingly does just fine with them). It gives another, more noble motivation to Shah Rukh’s character for his (really pretty terrible but not unforgivable) behavior in the early part of the movie.

    Aditya Pancholi’s creepy behavior in real life makes his parts harder to watch. I feel so bad for Sheila-Babhi, so I have a happy ending head canon for her. And I’ll never understand who thought it was a good idea for the conniving brother in law, or nephew, or whatever, to sniff that sinus thingy all the time. Yuk. And of course Johnny Lever is skippable, except when he gets drunk with Juhi.

    Shah Rukh’s protegee/friend is a nice partner/foil for him. Is that actor known for any other roles as far as you know?

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    • I think Shahrukh’s protegee-friend shows up in Baadshah too, and maybe Deewana. So maybe he was a friend in real life that Shahrukh got in the habit of throwing work towards?

      I forgot about the neighbor in The Apartment! It adds an interesting combination of social forces, the world of the corporation is telling Jack Lemmon that he should do whatever it takes to get ahead. The world in general is telling him that Shirley MacLaine is a bad woman for sleeping with a married man, and it is her decision and he shouldn’t feel bad. But the neighbor is telling him that Shirley is an innocent and he is culpable in driving her to this. The neighbor is misunderstanding the situation, but not completely.

      I just rewatched some scenes of Yes Boss for this review, and I forgot how at the end Aditya snarks that Reema will never accept Juhi after what she considered doing. And then Reema comes in and declares Juhi as innocent as Shahrukh, both of them caught up in false values and easily forgiven. It’s I think the one time in the movie that it directly addresses how society can forgive what Shahrukh did (lying and cheating to succeed) but will not forgive a woman for sex out of marriage. It’s an interesting flip of everything we saw before in the movie, wehre Shahrukh was the evil one and Juhi the innocent to be rescued, a reminder that the outsiders would not see it that way at all.

      I feel so bad for Sheila-Bhabhi too! And another scene I randomly rewatched was one where Shahrukh was agonized by guilt specifically over what he was doing to her, not Seema or “marriage” in the abstract, but to this nice woman with whom he feels a bond. Another moment where the character has natural instincts to do the right thing and is convinced by social pressure to ignore them! Maybe she ends up divorcing Aditya and taking over the agency and then hiring Shahrukh to run it?

      On Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 1:26 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I saw her marrying a wealthy NRI and leaving her whole terrible family behind, but I like your idea too! She could be godmother to one or more of Shah Rukh and Juhi’s kids.

        Interesting link with Huck Finn, but it’s been way too long since I read the book. I liked Tom Sawyer better (heresy, I know).

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        • Heresy!!!!! Tom Sawyer is more fun, but Huck Finn is the classic. Anyway, that one section is beautiful, I resisted the urge to put it in full in the review, but I will paste it here:

          “It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come. Why wouldn’t they? It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from ME, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting ON to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth SAY I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger’s owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie–I found that out.

          So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn’t know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I’ll go and write the letter–and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:

          Miss Watson, your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send.

          HUCK FINN.

          I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking–thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ‘stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the ONLY one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.

          It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

          “All right, then, I’ll GO to hell”–and tore it up.”

          On Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 2:02 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Tom Sawyer! Adventure and childish romance and fun times in caves with hidden treasure! Huck Finn! Examining the rotted core of the American identity through the eyes of an abused abandoned child and the slave who was ripped from his own family and has found a surrogate son in Huck!

            I don’t know why Tom is an easier sell (sarcasm).

            On Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 2:36 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • And even today I go for escapist reading and watching! With the exception of dystopian fiction/movies–but only if there are scrappy revolutionaries fighting the system.

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          • Well, Huck does do the right thing at the end, but there is also quite a bit of blech. Although, and this can easily be extrapolated out to general discussion, I think I prefer Huck Finn which directly addresses slavery to Tom Sawyer where it is always sort of in the background and the book never takes a stand. I find Sadak, directly about prostition and the problems it creates, far more enjoyable than the movies that have the random tragic prostitute character in the background but don’t really look her in the eye.

            Dragging this whole conversation back to Yes Boss, what I love about this movie is that it does look the issue in the eye, but manages to do it in a light-hearted manner, Juhi is harassed and in dangered and Shahrukh is complicit, but we can laugh about it.

            On Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 2:47 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • It’s always a bit of a relief when we move from a Juhi/Aditya or a Shah Rukh/Aditya scene to a Juhi/Shah Rukh scene, because we know that though they may unintentionally hurt the other’s feelings, they are safe with each other in a way neither is with Aditya. The scene where Aditya is screaming at Shah Rukh in his office, then winks at the guy in the doorway to show it is all an act is such a classic emotional abuser move. So good when he gets beat up at the end!

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          • Yes! That’s the brilliance of the movie, showing that both Juhi and Shahrukh were just being used. Unlike Pardes, where the skate around a little how Shahrukh and Manisha were both prisoners of the patriarchy and the Old Hindu Men mafia.

            On Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 3:53 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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            Liked by 1 person

  2. I wish Juhi realized that she was in love with Shahrukh a bit earlier. I felt like I was waiting for her to realize it for a long time.

    I think this is only like my third or fourth Juhi movie but she looks so pretty in this! I thought she was cute in Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke but she looks great in this movie. I don’t know, I just loved how she looked in this.

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    • Although, I love the conversation at the end where it becomes clear that she was in love with him and waiting for him to say something before she confessed her feelings. Anyway, you can watch One 2 Ka 4 if you want to see a movie where she is the one chasing him.

      She does look so cute in this! I think she started coming into her own sense of fashion around this time, wearing clothes that were “adult” but still sweet and youthful.

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      • I loved that conversation too! I just wished it happened a little earlier.

        Yeah, that totally makes sense. This came out like 7 or 8 years after her debut right?

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        • Yeah. And she is even more sort of mature dressed in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani.

          Agree about that conversation! It’s an interesting tension with Shahrukh having to go in blind not knowing how she feels, but maybe she could have had a conversation like that with Reema Lagoo or someone earlier?

          On Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 4:52 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • And then the tension would be Shahrukh running from his feelings while we know that Juhi feels the same way!

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