Kal Ho Na Ho has come up remarkably often in the comments as we talk about our ideal version of a love story. So I want to use it as kind of a jumping off point for a greater discussion.
Preity and Saif are best friends. Preity has a difficult home life, her father killed himself and her mother and grandmother are constantly fighting. And her younger brother is disabled. Preity is grumpy and not interested in romance or happiness or anything, just getting through the day. Saif is cheerful and always flirting with woman while Preity roles her eyes.
Then, Shahrukh appears. He moves in next door to Preity’s family and falls in love with her at first sight. He teases her and makes her smile, gets her out of her shell and happy again. And finally she discovers she has woken up to love with him. But, it can never be. Shahrukh lies to her that he is already married, breaking her heart, but in reality he is dying and that is why he is pushing her away.
Meanwhile, Saif has come to love Preity. He is depressed because she loves Shahrukh, but Shahrukh convinces him that he can still win her over. He asks her to take dance lessons with him, she starts to smile, they laugh together, and finally he proposes, aware that her heart is still with Shahrukh but wanting to make her happy as best he can anyway.
Before the wedding, Preity learns the truth, that Shahrukh is dying. And she realizes that means he does love her, just as she loves him, but he is forcing her to marry someone else. Saif learns the truth too, and after at first considering calling off the wedding, decides to go through with it because he loves Preity enough to marry her knowing she is in love with another man. Ten years later, we find Preity and Saif still together and seemingly happily married, although they still think of Shahrukh.
SPOILER PLOT SECTION OVER BUT SPOILERS STILL REFERENCED IN THE DISCUSSION
So, the first time I watched this movie, when I was 19, I was HEARTBROKEN. Preity had her perfect magical wonderful love at first sight that she would never get over, and instead she was forced to marry boring weird funny friend guy. At the time, I desperately wanted Preity to marry Shahrukh and have a few months with him and then live with his memory for the rest of her life. One love, true love, nothing else is worth it.
As I got older, I had a different take on it. Yes, Shahrukh was Preity’s One True Love, but the rest of her life was built in such a way that she truly did HAVE to get married. Her family was horrible and she was trapped in their house. She needed to get out, find someone who could love and care for her, someone who could take care of her instead of her taking care of everyone else, start a new life. Maybe Shahrukh leaving her all his money and a charity school in India that she could run would have had the same effect, but marrying Saif isn’t bad. She gets to start a fresh life, she gets a clean escape from the complications of her family, Shahrukh is leaving her in a far better position than where he found her. At 19, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate what Preity’s life would have been like in that house as a widow, forever solving arguments between her mother and her grandmother, raising her sister, eventually becoming the sad poor relation living with her brother. She needed to get out and start fresh somehow, falling in love with a dying man wasn’t the only problem in her life and marrying a dying man wouldn’t have solved all those other things.
And now I am very very old and I have come to a whole new level of understanding. Late in the film Jaya talks to Preity and tells her to marry Saif, because he is the better man. And she’s right! Shahrukh falls in love at first sight, sweeps into her life and makes her smile, makes her feel confused and happy and unhappy and all kinds of things. But Saif was there all along. Yes, he isn’t charming and confident like Shahrukh, but he is a really good friend. He makes her smile too, in his own way, and he has been making her smile for over a year while they are in class together. He knows her, and she knows him, and they still like each other even after knowing each other well. When she is embarrassed by her family, he is the one she turns to for support (inviting him over for family dinner to pretend to be her boyfriend). And he stands by her, all along, he is always her friend whether they are “just friends”, or he is in love with her and knows she doesn’t feel the same way, or he is in love with her and knows that she knows. He has many times to turn away, to say “this is too hard”, but his feelings are strong enough to keep him going through it all. Their love story isn’t about a magical love at first sight, and it isn’t about giving her a good enough option to rescue her from her life situation, it is about the best possible love and the best possible life.
Which isn’t to say that Shahrukh couldn’t have given her all those things too. They barely knew each other, but there was something there. If he hadn’t been dying, if they had been able to spend more time together, what they had could have grown into what she and Saif had. But what she and Saif had (in my current feeling of the movie) was far more valuable than what she and Shahrukh had already. The spark, the magic joy of love, that’s easy and quick. Having someone you can tell all your secrets too, you can always rely on, who will always be there for you, that is hard.
Indian film is big on the “magical love at first sight” kind of story, but it is also really good at the other kind of story. The love triangle where it is the safe sane marriage love that lasts, that is better. Whether that is because the marriage love promises a better happier life overall (Jeet, for instance, Karisma really really should not have married murdering thug Sunny Deol), or because the love at first sight didn’t have much more behind it (Manmarziyaan, where it was just chemistry between them and nothing else), or because the love with the safe sane person you know well is ultimately deeper than the quick passionate love with a stranger (my feeling about Silsila and Kabhi Kabhi).
Anyway, that’s where I am at. Where are you? Either using Kal Ho Na Ho, or some other film, what’s your feeling about the magical quick perfect love versus the sane love based on mutual interests and friendship? Or do you have a totally different take on this sort of love triangle?