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.
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.