I really liked this movie. And you should watch it without SPOILERS, if you can (Kirre Ranin! This means YOU!), read this other review instead. But if you really really can’t see it and want to know what happens, you can read this. Honestly, it’s such a slow happy family movie, it’s more about the experience than the details, I can’t “spoil” it
We open with a wedding flashback, mostly just a song number with lots of happy Anil and all that. And then we go to Rajkummar, a struggling scriptwriter in Delhi rehearsing a new play. His father is a big deal in the movie industry, but he won’t take help from his parents. And then Sonam sneaks into his theater to hide from her brother. Rajkummar helps her escape, even gets into a fight with her brother on the train. And then finds out her address from the police station after they are arrested and goes (with Juhi Chawla, middle-aged aspiring actress and caterer who offers to let him stay with her and her aunt) to Sonam’s small town to track her down. Rajkummar sneaks into her house, accidentally giving his love note to Anil thinking he is a servant because he is cooking (his secret passion). Anil decides that Rajkummar must be Sonam’s secret lover she was sneaking to Delhi to meet. Rajkummar hears them talking about her being in love with “The Muslim boy” and thinks it is him and is thrilled. But then he finally gets a chance to speak to Sonam alone, and Sonam bursts out that she doesn’t love him, or any boy, she loves a girl. INTERVAL
Post-interval, Rajkummar prepares to leave town, but Sonam asks to meet him one more time. He meets her, and she tells her story. She fell in love with her best friend when she was 14, and everyone at school laughed at her. She retreated more and more into herself, resigned herself to never being loved. And then at a wedding, she met Regina Cassandra and they fell in love. Her brother caught them together, but she still spent a year sneaking off to Delhi to meet her. Now she is trying to get a Visa to get to London where she and Regina can be together. Rajkummar promises to try to help, and then there is a surprise twist when Anil Kapoor (who fell in love with Juhi at first sight and it helped him to think about things in a new way) invites Rajkummar to dinner and proposes a marriage, he just wants his daughter to be happy, even if it means marrying a Muslim boy. Rajkummar has an idea, he agrees to the engagement and uses his leverage as the new potential son-in-law to suggest that Anil Kapoor put on a show to advertise the new fashion line at his clothe factory. Rajkummar writes up Sonam’s love story, and even invites Regina from Delhi to play herself. He sells it to Anil as a “comedy” and they prepare it. The night of the show, Sonam’s brother returns from a work trip and reveals everything. Anil is stunned, and Sonam finally stands up for herself, says that she is normal and Anil is wrong for not accepting her. Anil goes home and reads her sad diaries and remembers how much he loves her, meanwhile the play goes on with constant walk-outs and angry shouts from the audience. Finally Anil storms in, and sees his daughter on stage and understands how much she is hurting. He defends her and declares no one can hurt his daughter. Happy Ending. Rajkummar gains the approval of his parents, and then decides to take his play on the road, to the little towns. Sonam wishes him well and says good-bye. Anil Kapoor and Juhi are going to open a restaurant together. EVERYTHING HAPPY
You see what I mean about it being a very old-fashioned movie? Anil falls for Juhi at first sight, Rajkummar does the same with Sonam, and Sonam and Regina with each other. First love is true love, and it is also sweet and romantic love. Sonam and Regina hold hands and hug and write each other love letters. And one very sincere live play is enough to change minds and change the world.
But, isn’t that what we come to the movies for? To see a nice man from the Punjab love his daughter so much that he is able to turn his whole world upside-down and accept her for who she is? To see two woman find each other and fall in love? To see Juhi Chawla play a cheerful divorced middle-aged woman pursuing her dreams and a new love with complete confidence? To see Rajkummar play a nice guy who wants to go the extra mile to help Sonam just because he cares about her? To see a world that might be a fantasy but, by showing the fantasy, we might be bringing it a little more to reality?
That’s the explicit message of the film at the end. Sonam’s character declares she wants to do this play, no matter what, for those little kids in the audience who feel all alone and wrong. And then she tells Rajkummar to take it to all the small towns and make everyone see it. This is not a film for the urban multiplex audience that already knows these stories (that movie is Kapoor & Sons). This is a film for the small towns, the folks who just like the happy family love stories and songs and all. And it gives that side of a same-sex love story. If you can make a happy sincere film about a heterosexual love story, why not make the same kind of film about a same-sex one?
And since it is a happy sincere film, the focus is not on troubled 30-somethings coming out, or even on troubled college kids, but on children. The childhood flashback sequence is tremendously effective. And in case you think it isn’t needed, I was seeing this movie with two lovely desi women, about ten years older than me, cosmopolitan and American and super liberal. And their reaction to the flashback showing how Sonam fell in love and dreamed of marrying a woman even when she was just 14, was “but, are there women who really only love women?” Yes! There are! Sometimes you can’t just suck it up and get married and have babies and keep yourself to yourself. Sometimes you know from childhood that you aren’t like the other girls, that you are in love with girls. Just like boys know they like boys. It works both ways, except girls are better at (or are forced to be better at) hiding it.
This movie has two equal aims, two lessons it wants to teach, and both are said explicitly within the film. There is the goal of reaching those kids and telling them there is nothing wrong with them and they aren’t alone. And there is another lesson too, Juhi tells Anil that after marrying the man her family picked, giving up her dreams, and raising her kids, she divorced him and pursued her own dream of being an actress. She says the problem is that parents are trying to live their own life through their kids. Parents should live their lives and do what makes them happy, and let the kids do the same. Anil and Juhi’s late in life romance, it’s not disconnected from Sonam’s forbidden love. Anil deserves his own life, after all these years of raising his kids and running the factory. And taking that life for himself means that Sonam doesn’t “owe” him anything, isn’t the sole reason for any happiness in his life. Kids deserve to go after their own happiness and maybe the easiest way to let them go is if you go after your own happiness too.
It’s a family movie. It’s about loving your kids and loving your family and just wanting to live together and be happy. Sonam is willing to marry a man, any man, just to make them happy. Anil is immediately instinctively ready to stand by her and protect her from harm, no matter why it comes. Rajkummar, he wants to make his parents proud. And gets strength when his mother tells him she is proud, already, just because he is trying even if he is failing. Even Sonam’s brother, the closest thing this movie has to a “villain”, just worries about her. We see in flashback that, when they were little kids, he was her protector. He is trying to protect her now, just doesn’t understand correctly how to do it. That is the loveliest way to handle a coming out story, not about a family falling apart but a family coming together.
And Anil is the hero of it. He’s a single father, which is never addressed. Presumably his wife died, maybe she left, however it happened, he ended up being all the parent Sonam had and all she needed. He isn’t the authoritarian kind of father, he is one who holds her in his lap while they watch TV when she is little, who turns off her light and takes her book away when she falls asleep reading, who takes the time to try to learn Urdu from his phone in order to properly propose marriage to the boy he thinks she likes. And he is a different kind of romantic lead too. He falls for Juhi at first sight (with any other actress, it would not be believable that the funny bossy caterer is also so beautiful to be love at first sight worthy, but it’s Juhi, so absolutely makes sense!), and he is delighted to learn she divorced her husband, and intrigued to learn that she wants her kids to marry whoever they want, and even likes that she dreams of being an actress. And he is a different kind of man. He loves to cook, it is his passion. But his mother doesn’t let him in the kitchen, because it is women’s work, and so instead he cheerfully goes to his factory everyday and tries to kill his dreams inside of him. The film doesn’t underline this, because it doesn’t have to. It’s right there for us to see, gender roles hurt everyone. This nice nice man isn’t allowed to be as happy as he could be just because what he likes to do is a “girl” thing to do.
And while Anil suffers by being judged for his soft side, his mother takes over Sonam’s brother and teaches him to kill his soft side. The little boy who used to share sweets with Sonam grows up to be a little boy who beats up the gay kid “for his own good” and eventually threatens Sonam and chases her and tries as hard as he can to stop her from being who she is. Hero and villain, both created by the same forces, but one bent and grew flexible, and the other hardened.
Rajkummar is another kind of hero too. He starts out the same as other heroes we have seen. Sensitive writer type, falls in love at first sight, makes a crazy impulsive choice to follow her and offer his heart. But once he learns the truth, he is something different. He helps Sonam not because he is in love with her, but because he is a decent person and sees that she is in a terrible position. There is no moment of “what do you mean, you are in love with a girl?”, he just accepts the premise. And accepts that of course the two of them should be together, hopefully with the blessing of her family. He is a decent person, that’s all. A decent person doesn’t need a big reason or a big convincing to do the right thing, he just does it.
But he is no Fred Astaire!!!! Not a total non-sequitor, about half an hour into this movie I went “Hey!!!! This is Damsel in Distress!!!!” And then I am SO PROUD because in the end credits (along with Red Chillies Color, woot woot!), they mentioned PG Wodehouse and D in D!
It’s kind of funny, because they took the central clever twist from the original film/movie, and untwisted it, and then twisted it up again a different way. See, in D in D, the heroine goes to the London to meet her secret lover. She is helped by Fred Astaire (it’s something else in the novel, but he’s Fred Astaire to me). Fred falls in love and follows her to the country. Her family mistakes him for her secret lover, he thinks she really loves him, then learns the truth but is still willing to help her, eventually she comes to love him instead of the secret lover. And in a running gag, the servants have a lottery to see who she will end up with, and the “Mr. X” card keeps passing from the bootboy to the snarky butler and each of them in turn either helping or sabotaging Fred. That’s what made me really recognize this plot, when the servants in Sonam’s house started up the bet with “Mr. X” as one of the options. But the funny thing is, in this movie the heroine remains in love with her secret lover, the hero is really just there to help her. Only there is a different twist related to who the secret lover was.
Anyway, you should watch the original movie! Not for the heroine, Joan Fontaine is a terrible actress. But Burns and Allen are the comic relief, and there is a great Madrigal bit, plus Gershwin soundtrack. Which is just one hit song after another. But fastforward the Joan Fontaine bits.
You can try to read the novel too, but it’s not peak Wodehouse. Really, for novels, you are better off reading Uncle Fred in Springtime. Or French Leave, the Most Romantic Wodehouse. At least, that’s my feeling.