Well, shoot! I was all set to just repost my Arjun Reddy review with the names changed and call it a night, but by golly this version slightly changed things just enough that I can’t do that!
Whole plot in two paragraphs:
We start with our hero Shahid in the present day, a depressed drinking bitter surgeon who is desperate for sex, but foiled in his attempts. And then we flashback. The rest of the first half is in flashes backwards and forwards, but in the present not much happens besides him drinking himself to death and ignoring his friend who keeps trying to cheer him up, and his worried older brother who keeps ordering him to do better. In medical college, he had a nasty temper and was about to be expelled. But then he saw a young female student Kiara who had just joined and fell in love at first sight. He warned off everyone in school from her because she was “his” and started taking her around with him on his bike. On Holi, boys from another school broke in and put color on her, he was furious and beat them up and declared he loved her. She hurt her foot and couldn’t walk, he insisted on taking her into the boy’s hostel to stay with him, and she initiated a kiss and then sex. They and their friends found a house to stay at off campus for the rest of the year. At the end of the year, he left for more studies in Mussoorie and she stayed. For 3 years, they had a long distance relationship, her going to Mussoorie, him coming to visit her in Delhi. Finally, they are both back in Bombay, she has graduated and he has his masters degree. He goes to her family home to start the process of a proposal, and offends her father. The fight, she comes to his house and meets his grandmother, they make love, he tries again the next day and again it goes badly. He leaves her home, furious, she follows, he gives her an ultimatum that she has to call him within 6 hours or they are over. He goes home and drinks and drugs himself into an overdose, she arrives too late and is sent away. INTERVAL
Shahid wakes up and learns that Kiara is married. He immediately runs to her house and calls for her to come to him, but she sits with her back to him. Her family beats him up, but he comes back again, this time they call the police. His family bails him out of jail but then throws him out of the house. He stays with his friend for a while and finally gets a job as a surgeon and his own apartment. His life is what we saw in the opening, he drinks carefully all night and writes crazy things on his walls, and then goes to work and is a perfect kind respectful doctor to his patients and a brilliant surgeon. His friend convinces him that he has to get another girlfriend, so he tries with a new patient, an actress. She is beautiful and smart and they spend a lot of time together. But when they are finally going to have sex, she says she loves him and he rejects her immediately because he will never love again, doesn’t want that. That night, he drinks and drugs himself into a stupor and then gets a call from a nurse that they really need a surgeon even though it is his day off. He performs surgery drunk, and finally passes out. The patient lives, but the hospital reports him to the medical board. He tries to sober up, and fails, and then in the hearing admits it is all his fault and loses his license. He sells everything in his apartment, then starts living in a run down room in a bad neighborhood. His friend tracks him down there to tell him his grandmother has died. Shahid returns home for the funeral, finally, and thanks to his own pain and grief knows the exact right thing to say to his father to comfort him in his grief. Shahid is finally healed and leaves to go to the family vacation home in a hill station. But on the way out of town, he sees Kiara, pregnant, sitting in a park. He gets to the hill station and stays a few days but when his friends come to visit, decides he has to leave and go to Kiara. He finds her in the same park and tells her that none of it matters, he will accept her baby as his, he will talk to her husband, they belong together, everything else is meaningless. And Kiara tells her own story, she was so angry with him, but she couldn’t be married to someone else. She left her husband and left her home and has been living alone for 9 months waiting for him to find her. And yes, it is his baby. HAPPY ENDING
Watching this movie and knowing how it would end (because I’d seen Arjun Reddy), I could appreciate more the little seeds put in through out the film. In the Holi sequence, Shahid explains that there is only one person in this world who hurts when he hurts, and there is only one person who he feels hurt when she feels hurt. And at the end of the film we learn that while Shahid was killing himself with alcohol, Kiara was suffering through pregnancy. He vomits, she was vomiting. He lost weight, she gained. He is thrown out of his house, she was thrown out of her house. He found a job, she found a job. He had one faithful support (his friend), she had one faithful support (the old woman in her lodgings who cared for her). They were the same, beginning to end, and both their hurts were doubled because they were feeling the hurt of the other.
And even better, there are two conversations where he specifically talks about their child. The first, he tells his friend that they were meant to have a child, there is a child who should be in existence who belongs to them. Later, he asks his brother if his wife is pregnant, and his brother says they are “planning” and Shahid is dismissive, that a baby should come naturally and unplanned through love. Shahid can sense, somewhere out there, that there is a child that exists which is theirs, which came naturally from their love.
The point of the film is to trust your instincts, to believe in yourself and what you know above the common sense that everyone tells you. Shahid knows, for the whole movie, that he is meant to be with Kiara, that something has gone terribly terribly wrong. And for the whole movie, people keep telling him that nothing is wrong. That he just needs to learn to accept and move on like everyone else has. Like every other movie hero has.
This is a movie that is all about the hero, his name is even in the title, but only so we can better understand what these “hero”s do to their heroines. If Shahid had been less autocratic in his demands when he visited her family, she would not have been angry enough to marry. More importantly, if he had trusted her and believed in her as he should have, he would not have given up and walked away, left her to be married to a stranger she didn’t love, not fought for her or even looked for her.
Every other movie says that once the heroine is married off, she is dead to the hero and the narrative. Marriage is the end, she is a different person now, that woman he loved is gone. But that is just not how people work. Marriage is not a magic potion that makes you forget, that changes you. If the hero of those films is sad and sorry, than so is the heroine. It just easier to pretend she isn’t, easier to pretend that she adjusts, easier to pretend that she can forget.
One of the smartest changes in this remake was removing the many many MANY scenes of the hero’s best friend giving humorous dialogues on the state of the hero that were in the Telugu original. It made him seem like an authority, like he had clear sight. In the remake, we see that he is a fool, that they are all fools and only Shahid is wise. His friends tell him that she is married, she has forgotten him. He says that is not possible, how could a ceremony and a few days erase a relationship that lasted years? His friends say it is too messy now, too much of a scandal, move on. He says, what does that matter against our whole lives? His friends say, sleep with someone else, fall in love again. He says, how can I do that when I will never feel the same way again?
It is that last point which I find most fascinating. The opening of the film implies that Shahid has been sleeping with many women to try to forget Kiara. But later in the film, he has a conversation with his friend which reveals that opening sequence was the first time he was ready for sex. And he couldn’t do it. He almost did but then was interrupted. He couldn’t find another willing partner in the moment, the urge passed, and he moved on. He tries again with the actress, the “Chandramukhi” character. But while Chandramukhi cared for Devdas for years and he accepted her care, Shahid in this is more honorable. He is willing to have a friendship, trust, which will lead to sex once they know each other well. But when she admits love, he rejects her brutally. There is no stringing her along for years on end with a belief that he can ever love again, it is honest and quick. And right.
Popular culture from really any country argues that men have sex without love, that men don’t care in the same way, that it doesn’t mean anything to them. But this film says “no”. Why do we believe that? And why do we believe that women can only have sex with love? Shahid isn’t sleeping around, hasn’t had sex with anyone else any more than Kiara has. And he will not have sex unless he knows the woman, unless he trusts her and she trusts him (even the woman at the opening sequence is one who approached him first and who he has been talking and texting with for weeks). And he will not have sex if he thinks it is unfair and emotionally damaging to either of them, will not have sex with a woman who loves him when he does not feel the same way. This is basic humanity, basic decency, and yet we are trained not to expect it. Even within the film, Shahid’s friends assume he just needs sex, not love, because he is a man and that is what men are like.
Which brings me back to Kiara. If we have been trained to believe that men only want sex and not love, we have also been trained to believe that woman only want love and not sex, and this film contradicts that also. In Shahid and Kiara, we have the “typical” bad boy hero and good girl heroine. But that is only if you look at the surface. Below it, we have two real people with their own inner lives and hopes and dreams that they do not show on the surface.
Late in the film, Shahid says that Kiara picked him. She was a beautiful girl, she never looked up and made eye contact with any boy. But she looked at him, she looked straight at him. I was thinking about that on this watch and waiting for it, and the film delivered. Kiara sees Shahid before he sees her. She is in the classroom watching when the principal yells at him for getting into a fight at a soccer match. Shahid stands his ground and refuses to apologize. And Kiara watches him, her eyes keep flicking to him and away. It is after that that she sees him in the common area and looks directly at him and holds his gaze for a moment. Their whole early romance is just in eye contact, he talks and she listens and watches. But with Kiara’s performance, that is enough. This is a girl who was trained always to be silent in front of men, to keep her eyes lowered, to not go too far or too fast. The mere fact that she is with him, that she does not object, that she looks at him directly, that is a sign of love.
From Shahid’s side, he is a “bad boy”. But he is also the top student in the school. And he has no other romance in his past. And he counts among his closest friends two female students who he treats as friends. This is not your typical hero who sees woman as objects to be acquired. He talks to Kiara, he spends time with her, and he learns to read her face and understand her.
It is up to the audience to put in that same work. To notice that Kiara is the one who initiates their first kiss. That she is the one who comes to visit him first after he leaves campus. That she fights with him and makes up with him and is a whole free healthy happy person of her own self who is choosing to be with him. She isn’t just the “good girl” her background and upbringing have trained her to be. And she is not someone who will ever be happy in an arranged marriage to an oafish clod. Shahid knows that, and the audience should know it too.
That ending is a bit of a slap in the face of the audience as well. We have been going along watching this film like the usual film. The hero will fall in love again and move on. Or else sink into misery. There is no third option. The heroine has ceased to exist as soon as her marriage vows were said. But, why do we think that? Why do we write these women off, in film after film after film? Why do we say “oh, they will adjust, they will be happy in marriage” when we have no evidence to show it? And, most of all, why do we forgive our heroes for doing the same thing? Why do we accept less, accept that “of course” he will have to move on and forget, that once she is married he must leave her behind and not search any more? That woman are a disposable part of the hero’s life?
That is the larger meaning of this movie. Don’t accept the lies, don’t adjust to what society says is right. Keep fighting for what you know in your heart to be true, because living a lie will kill you in the end and fighting for truth may bring you to a happy ending you never imagined possible.