Friday Classics: Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Everyone Gets a Happy Ending! And Katrina Gets Her Best Ever Role

Huh!  This was an even better movie than I remembered!  Managed to balance real feeling relationships and specific characters with broad comedy.

So glad you all reminded me about this movie!  It’s so fun and so well-made.  Every little piece fits together just right and makes sense.  Plus, the songs are fun (although not spectacular, this isn’t a soundtrack I remember in particular) and the performances are very good.  It’s just nice seeing a fun clever movie that isn’t trying to be the greatest biggest movie of all time.

Image result for mere brother ki dulhan

Now, first I have to give acknowledgement to the best most interesting view of this movie which belongs not to me, but to my friend Dina.  She gave a talk at a conference a few years back on this film and Katrina in particular and she pointed out that it is a statement on Hindi film and the fantasy Hindi film heroine.  Katrina is even named “Dimple Dixit” combining two of the biggest heroines in one name.  Our hero, Imraan Khan, plays an aspiring filmmaker.  And the plots and plans he comes up with fit neatly into a filmi view of the world.  That’s it, that’s the best possible interpretation of the film.  But it’s not my interpretation, so I’m just going to leave it there and then move on to try to find something original to say.

Okay, new interpretation!  What’s fun about this movie is that everyone gets what they want.  Usually the end of a film involves someone sacrificing something for the happiness of others.  But in this case, no!  The Happy Ending for our central characters is a happy ending for everyone else too.  They just have to arrange things so that everyone else sees a different possibility than the one they think they want, a different way to be happy.

No, wait, it’s even more than that.  Our hero and heroine are destined to be together as part of a grand plan for everyone else in their lives.  If they are together, than it all falls into place and everyone else gets to be happy too.  In most of these “forbidden love that would destroy the family” kind of stories, the tension is that being together means everything goes wrong, everyone else is sad.  In this movie, being together means everything goes right, everyone is happy.  Imraan and Katrina can work to find their own happy ending knowing it is the right thing to do, ultimately it is what everyone wants.

Let’s see, what else can I say that is a Margaret-thing not a Dina-thing?  I guess I can talk about Katrina and Imraan.  Both of them are just effortlessly perfect in this movie.  So good that you don’t notice how good they are.  Except that I’ve seen them play similar roles in similar movies that felt very effort-ful.

Kat plays a confident globe trotting somewhat kooky woman with a big heart who just wants to make everyone around her happy but sometimes loses track of her own happiness.  Imraan plays a guy so cool and laidback that sometimes he forgets how to show people he really cares about things.  The crazy girl who doesn’t care what people think but does care how they feel, and the cool guy who is just sort of around all the time but never wants to be seen making an effort.  Put these same actors and characters into Jab Tak Hain Jaan or Gori Tere Pyaar Main and they are unbearable.  But in this movie, it’s perfect.  And they are perfect together.

(I hate him so much in this movie)

 

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We start with an intro of our two brothers.  Ali, the successful money and consumer goods obsessed brother in London, fighting with his girlfriend Tara D’Souza about his new flatscreen.  And then we cut to Imraan and his friends, goofing around and getting into a party in Bombay, unnoticed and enjoying themselves on the coattails of the hit film they just finished working on.  Ali is all about appearances, Imraan is all about not caring and enjoying.  And then Ali calls up Imraan and begs him to find Ali a bride.

In another movie, this would be all about the brother-brother relationship.  Ali is the successful one, Imraan is the unnoticed casual one.  And then either Ali is revealed to be “evil” and not truly good and so Imraan has to go against him, or Ali is good and Imraan is revealed to be truly faithful and obedient and has to sacrifice for him.  Yeh Dillagi, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, etc.

But this movie is truly about what the title promises, the “Bride”, not the brother.  We really should have had equal time given to both sides as they prepare to meet, but I suppose then we wouldn’t have had the surprise?  No, scratch that, it would still work.  I guess they just wanted us to spend more time getting used to this new kind of hero so we would be rooting for him by the time the heroine appears.  Imraan may act like he doesn’t care, but once Ali asks him this favor, he obediently leaves his life in Bombay and travels to Dehradun where he grew up, talks to his parents, and then takes the lead in finding a bride.

I forgot how good this sequence is!  If this is the reason they didn’t give Kat as much of an intro, in order to make time for it, it was worth it.  Imraan, our cool modern open-minded relaxed dude has to go around and meet all these fragile perfect brides and their eager families.  The problem isn’t with the brides, it’s with the whole system.  Ali would not be happy with any of them, because Ali would only be happy with the kind of modern woman who is unlikely to be looking for an arranged marriage.  But then, they wouldn’t be happy with Ali either, the kind of modern man who doesn’t want a traditional bride.  So Imraan has his next brain wave, advertising Ali for exactly what he is and starting from that end of things, seeing who comes to them.

And thus, Kat!  Her character is so perfect for her here.  Most of her characters are written for her to some degree, purely because of her language issues.  Even in something as light as Bang Bang, they explained that she was raised in Canada until she was 12.  But in this film, it’s not just the language that is written for her, it’s what that means.  She is a woman who speaks English as her first language, who is more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt than a sari, who is willing to try the traditional Indian woman thing but wears it awkwardly on top of her true self.  And yet, who also has the ultimate Indian female virtues of loyalty and obedience and love for her family.  She is the perfect woman for Ali, modern on the outside and traditional on the inside.

The only problem is, Ali is not the perfect man for her.  That’s what gets the engine of the plot started, Imraan knows Kat a little bit more than what is revealed in her official “first meeting” appearance.  And therefore he knows both that she is the perfect woman for Ali and (in his heart of hearts) that Ali is not perfect for her.

The flashback section here I guess makes up for the lack of Kat in the start of the film.  We get to see Kat long long before this wedding was thought of, her “real” self not her “Dulhan” self.  And I definitely like the way the “flashback” part of it is handled, the meaning of it being so many years earlier.  Because the characters as we see them back then, Imraan and Kat, are distinctly younger and less formed than the characters we know now.

Back then, they were both on college trips, Kat was the wild leader who took all the college kids on insane adventures.  And Imraan was the quiet one who sat in the back and watched.  There is an immediate bond between them, something just “clicks”, but it’s at too deep a level for any college relationship.  Imraan sees from a distance when one of the other boys tries to sneak into Kat’s tent and she violently throws him out.  Imraan is the one who rushes down and calms her down, including grabbing her and pulling her away.  And then they have an honest conversation about how she just wants to have fun and not be afraid and make friends and live her life and yet boys keep trying to put her in a box, to make assumptions.  At the same time that Imraan is learning he can physically restrain Kat without her breaking away, that she will open up and be real and honest for him, he is also learning that she does not want a serious relationship.  Yes, there is something there between them, but it’s not the right time for it.  And so they both walk away without anything really said or done between them.

Such an unusual situation for an Indian film!  The couple who wasn’t, who could have been.  Not as simple as “love at first sight” or anything like that, but instead a couple that made a start of something before backing away from it. The only other film I can think of like this is Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, and even there it was far more explicit (Deepika at least knew for sure she was in love).

And that also means their position in the present is uncertain.  They never acknowledged their feelings back then, and they don’t know each other in this new time, so is there any logical reason to break off this seemingly perfect engagement?  Not for Imraan at least, he never knew for sure what her feelings were for him and he can hardly veto an engagement on her behalf just because of that.

And for Kat, she is already halfway to the decision and can’t back up.  Her loyalty to her family has made her agree to an arranged marriage, here is a perfect proposal, it just makes sense to say “yes”.  Especially since turning it down doesn’t guarantee anything will happen with Imraan, and might kill her one chance of a marriage to a nice man in a nice family.

In theory, the whole movie could have just been about Imraan picking out a bride for his brother and then falling in love with her.  But that would have been him learning to love a woman who was a “bride”, who was being perfect and proper, who he loved because she brought out a tray of tea.  This way, he is learning to get to know even more a woman he already liked for years, he has a special bond and knowledge of her that even his brother (her groom) does not share.

The rest of the film just flooooooows.  Nothing unexpected, but all delightful and natural.  These aren’t characters who fall in love and admit their love because the plot is telling them to, these are characters who fall in love because they are people who would fall in love even if the plot wasn’t forcing them together.

Of course Katrina would be too thoughtless and carefree to realize what was happening in her own heart.  And of course Imraan would be too slow and thoughtful to take a leap and admit what he was feeling.  And of course confident crazy Katrina would delight cautious careful Imraan.  And of course reliable and fuddy-duddy Imraan would amuse confident crazy Katrina.

The easiest part of it could be the “they are in love and making great sacrifices” moments.  We’ve seen them all before, love songs with double meanings at the sangeet, farewell letters that go astray, etc. etc.  But this one goes a completely different direction.  Instead, Imraan’s big moment of showing his love is to sneak Kat out and take her off to get drunk and have a wild day out one last time before she has to be a bride.  Because that’s what Kat, this particular person, wants.  Not just a general one-size fits all gesture, but something specific to her.  Even the wild day out is specific to Kat, she isn’t a character that is going to want to go to a club and do a sexy song, she is the type to eat street food and do motorcycle stunts.  And Kat’s gesture in return, confessing her feelings, isn’t a beautiful sacrificial poetic love letter.  Instead it is a bold spontaneous announcement of her emotions as soon as she recognizes them.  Followed by a failed attempt at a kidnapping and elopement.

Oh that elopement!  So satisfying!  Every other movie, the hero is ready to elope and the heroine is all “no no, my family honor, it wouldn’t be right”.  But in this film, it is the reverse.  She is the one to decide it is the right thing to do, to drug him, to take him away.  It ends in comedy when he wakes up and is furious and they sneak back into the house.  Oh, and there is no punishment for it!  They get away with it, Katrina never is confronted by a furious father or anything trite like that.  Kat is a wild impulsive confident fearless woman, and that’s why Imraan loves her and that’s why she loves him, because he loves that part of her.

If you try to look at the rest of the plot as some grand plan, it doesn’t make much sense.  Why would they be so sure that just inviting Ali’s ex-girlfriend to the wedding will make it fall apart?  What’s the point of getting Ali drunk on bhang?  Why let the ex in on the scheme and have her flirt with Imraan?  It kind of hangs together, but only if you look at the big picture.  Big picture, Ali should marry his ex and not Kat.  She is the woman he picked for himself, the woman he loved for years, the woman he truly knows and who truly knows him (unlike Kat who is still pretending to be something else with him and vice versa).  All the rest are just details.  The “happy ending” for everyone is if Ali marries the woman he loves and vice versa, Kat and Imraan marry each other, and all their families see and agree that Kat and Imraan are the better pair.  It could have been achieved any number of ways, but this is how it happened.

(Fun song, no real plot reason for it.  They need to get Ali drunk so he will talk about his girlfriend?  And there was no other way to do that?)

And of course it works.  Ali is back in love with Tara D’Souza and they elope.  Kat and Imraan plant the idea that they should get married to save face for the family.  It falls apart at the last minute, when the two fathers get into a fight, but then is solved by, essentially, just telling the truth.  Kat and Imraan allow their fathers to overhear a conversation in which they admit they have come to care for each other, maybe even love each other, and might be heartbroken if they are separated.  They don’t say that they met 5 years ago, that they have been in love for days, but they get the gist of it right, that they are two people who came to care for each other and are sad to be parted.  That’s all they needed, to tell the truth, and then everyone else will want them to be happy and be happy because they are happy.  If that makes sense.  Things are only a problem if you look at them and see “problem” instead of “solution”.

Which is why Katrina’s brother Arfeen Khan is there.  He has Aspergers, and no one ever says it directly.  He is introduced as Katrina’s brother and the son of the household.  Later, Katrina casually lets slip that of course Arfeen knows she met Imraan years earlier, he’s her brother, she tells him everything.  They could have made his character “normal”, or they could have made it a big deal that he had abnormal mental processes.  But instead, it just wasn’t a thing because Katrina and the rest of her family (and then Imraan and Ali and his family when they met him) decided not to make it a thing.  He is just Arfeen, their brother and son and future brother-in-law.  Acceptance, the same kind of acceptance Katrina got for her wild youth and which she is paying back with trust that her parents will find her a good husband.  And Imraan and Katrina (and later Ali and Tara) have the same acceptance and trust.  If they can just live their love and show their parents how they feel, everyone will be happy.  And they are.

 

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14 thoughts on “Friday Classics: Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Everyone Gets a Happy Ending! And Katrina Gets Her Best Ever Role

  1. I haven’t finished the film yet, just got to the part where Imraan takes Kat out for her last wild night. But it is a delightful film, love the chemistry between Imraan and Kat and all of the nuances you laid out.

    I was particularly struck by Kat telling Imraan how upset she is that the boys all think she’s down for sex just because she likes to party and have a good time and how Imraan just quietly listens to her and takes it in. It shows the respect he has for her.

    It’s set up nicely right from the start that Ali truly loves his girlfriend and is only pursuing an arranged marriage because she hurt him. There’s a scene where Imraan is talking to him on Skype and Ali says something, “Ever since you found Katrina I haven’t even thought of my girlfriend” which is such a riiiiight buddy, because bringing her up in a call about your fiance isn’t thinking about her.

    As you know my son is on the autism spectrum and I freaking LOVE Katrina’s brother. You are right, he is just part of the family. She confides in him because he’s her brother and he’s part of all the activities right from the part where they are identifying marriage candidates for Katrina. No one makes a big deal out of his being different and he’s obviously a loved, accepted and most importantly, respected part of the family. I used to follow a blogger who was an NRI with a son on the spectrum and she always said that when she brought her son home to meet the family they completely embraced him and his quirks, just total acceptance. That is one thing I love about Indian culture (also Latino culture, where I’m from, which has a similar attitude toward disability)

    I know Imraan doesn’t seem to care about acting anymore and he had some big flops but I really enjoy him onscreen. He has an energy I haven’t seen in any other actor. He brings something interesting to his roles and it’s too bad there doesn’t seem to be a place for him in mainstream films.

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    • So glad you are enjoying the film! And I completely forgot about the brother on the spectrum when I recommended it to you, which shows how well it was handled. It was such a non-thing that I didn’t even remember it was in the movie, he was just her brother,

      This is such a great movie for Imraan. Going back to that scene where he just listens to Kat vent without trying to fix things or explain things, that is the kind of energy he brings to all his films and which is so rare. The problem is, it looks so similar to a guy who doesn’t care versus a guy who cares but won’t try to take over. If that makes sense.

      In this movie and Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na and the second half of I Hate Luv Stories and Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola, it came through really well that he respected the heroine too much to try to take over her life, that he was the type to just sit back and support. But then in the first half of I Hate Luv Storys and Gori Tere Pyar Main (and maybe some of his other films I haven’t seen), the filmmakers mistook that quiet support for not caring and turned him into a bit of a sociopath character. The type who picks a girl up at a bar and then lies to her the next day to get her out of his apartment. Or rolls his eyes when his good time at a club is interrupted by a family death. And refuses to do any emotional labor in the relationship and expects the heroine to make all the moves. It almost retroactively ruined his “good” characters for me, because now I keep seeing the bad ones.

      But if you want more “good” Imraan, Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na and Matru Ki Bijli are very similar to this. The heroine is working out her own things and he is just there for her with no judgments. And the second half of I Hate Luv Storys, but you have to fight through the first half to get there.

      Is this your first Ali movie? He’s one of those handsome actors that is so much better as a comedian than a hero but is cursed with good looks so they don’t always give him a chance to be funny. I am so happy that this film treats him as the shallow comic relief instead of trying to make him noble.

      On Fri, Dec 7, 2018 at 9:53 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yes my first Ali movie, he’s really good in this.

        Re: Imraan, his response to #MeToo made me think he really respects women and that’s what’s coming through in his performances.

        I’m thinking about how autism is treated so very differently in Indian films than Hollywood films. For one thing, autistic people get to have romances. My Name is Khan is the obvious example but I was particularly struck by Dhoom 3. There’s a scene where Aamir is going on his first date with Katrina and he can’t tie his shoelaces so she does it for him and then at the end of the date she kisses him. You never see that in Hollywood films, the autistic character is either an automaton like in The Accountant or is a basket of adorable quirks like in Rainman. They aren’t fully realized human beings.

        This all reminds me that I’m going to push you to watch the Thai martial arts film Chocolate which is not only fantastic at dealing with disability but has a feminist take as well, all the women have personal agency and drive the narrative. Yes, it sucks on portraying trans women but it’s sort of shockingly progressive in other ways.

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        • I’m fascinated by your point about Autism. Especially compared to the poor way other mental health issues and just general disorders are treated in Indian film. I have no idea why it is that Autism is handled so gently and acceptingly while other conditions like, for instance, schizophrenia or depression or alcoholism don’t get nearly as much care. On film, or with real celebrities who suffer from these conditions. Although we are also talking about a small subset of films, it could just be that the people working on them all share a personal connection that gives them added insight. If Aditya Chopra is autistic (which is a big “if”, because he never gives interviews or makes public appearances so there is no way to make even an uninformed guess), that could explain it. My Name is Khan, Dhoom 3, and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan were all made by his close friends and mentees.

          And now I am thinking about Chocolate as a possible sororal viewing while I am with my sister over the holidays. What do you think? Good for a girl’s movie night?

          On Fri, Dec 7, 2018 at 11:33 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • He’s Adi, he’s weird. He never gives interviews or goes to social events, he is very formal and focused in his interactions with people, he is obsessed with details. When he was a kid, he used to see every movie first day-first show and then write down his estimate of the opening weekend box office in a notebook and compare it with the final results as reported on Monday and tabulate his rate of error eventually getting it down to less than 10%. He definitely has some kind of social anxiety, everyone just knows that, he never goes anywhere even to parties his own family is hosting (like, his daughter’s first birthday). And he’s a genius who is 5 steps ahead of everyone else at all times. Built up a multi-million dollar studio, the largest and most powerful in India, before he was 30. That’s not a normal person in many many ways.

            It honestly didn’t occur to me to think of him as Autistic until just now, because I always thought of him as uniquely Aditya Chopra, hates crowds and public interactions, but those few he lets in love him forever. But I could see it, autism would fit as well as anything else based on the minimal data available. This video is as close as we the public ever get to knowing what Adi is like, through the eyes of the people around him:

            On Fri, Dec 7, 2018 at 12:45 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • And for more good Imraan Khan, I recommend Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. I think this one, Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola, and this one are my three faves. And then for something completely different that works for him try Delhi Belly. I think he will either come back to acting as a character actor or he’ll go into directing.

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  2. Sorry for being mood breaker again but I didn’t like this movie. It was ok, I agree it was perfect role for Katrina and she was quite good in it, but I hated that Ali didn’t participate in looking for a bride. He was like: oh take whatever you like, I’ll be ok with it. But it’s not ordering a meal, it’s choosing your future wife dude.

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    • At least this movie challenges that idea. It really was a terrible idea, he only did it on an impulse after a fight with his girlfriend. And he had his brother do it, someone who knew him well.

      On the other hand, if you need cheering up, the TGIF post has two Tovino photos in it! And 2 Maddy, but that’s less unusual.

      On Fri, Dec 7, 2018 at 1:00 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. Thank you for this post. I’ve loved this movie for the way it treats the characters and the love story itself. People think I’ve gone crazy for liking a Imraan-Kat movie. Preconceived notions about the actors are the problem. In this role Kat really did well, didn’t she. Be it her wild phase in college. The song Dhunki. So lovely to see a truly free person who actually isn’t suppressed by her family. I loved her brother too and yes I agree the portrayal is as natural and loving as it gets. I like how she’s the one with all the plans even in her relationship with Imraan. The thing is, what I loved best about this movie is unlike other movies they plan things and get away with it. Including the twist in the climax. It’s the truth but it isn’t spontaneous they play their families the way they want to and yet it’s a happy resolution. Not tears on finding out the truth. I just loved that quirky element they added. I can’t think of any other instance where a plan was made and it succeeded without the family getting a whif of it. I like this movie, I think it was Ali abbas zafar‘s first. I wish he’d stuck to this genre instead of making action movies with Salman and others.

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    • I really like this movie too! And I was so disappointed in Tiger Zinda Hai because I was looking forward to Ali Abbas Zafar reuniting with Kat. And then her role wasn’t nearly as good as her part in this film.

      On Fri, Dec 7, 2018 at 2:40 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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