Thank you Emily for the suggestion! This is the perfect song to do a lazy Saturday when I don’t want to think that much.
In Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Shahrukh creates a false identity to cheer Anushka up based on the idea that movies cheer her up. And so his character is a movie hero come to life, speaks only in one liners, dresses impractically, has wild unpredictable emotional shifts, and all the rest. Anushka doesn’t consciously know this is a fake person until the very end, but this song indicates that, on a subconscious level, she does know. And it indicates to the audience how shallow the connection is between Anushka and the fake-Shahrukh. She likes him like she likes the movies, she loves him like she would an onscreen hero, he isn’t “real” to her.
In this song, Anushka goes through the whole history of onscreen romance in Indian film and pictures Shahrukh playing the roles. To her, he is a combination of every movie hero in Hindi film in one person. And thus we have this very fun song that hops between eras and stars, and also a moment of character growth.
Here is the song in full:
The song opens with Raj Kapoor and Nargis and “Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua”. Raj and Nargis were the first major “jodi” of Indian film and this is the greatest love song of Indian film. It is referenced again in “Janam Janam” in Dilwale. Shahrukh and Kajol playing Raj and Nargis is them claiming their place as equals to the first greatest pairing onscreen. From a film buff stand point, the opening is also fun because it is Farah Khan’s little nod to Busby Berkeley. Specifically his “Forgotten Man” number. I don’t think there is any deeper meaning to that, besides another sign of the wide-ranging film knowledge of Farah Khan.
The song moves on to Bipasha and Shahrukh playing Heroine and Dev Anand. Dev Anand began as a hero in the same era as Raj Kapoor, young and devestatingly handsome. He continued playing hero roles after his contemporaries had decided they were too old for such parts. Dev in his later years developed a distinctive style, above and beyond the role he was playing, involving a scarf and a jaunty hat. He also developed a way of dancing and moving loose wristed and stiff backed. This same “hero” style is imitated by Aamir Khan’s character in Raja Hindustani and Hrithik’s in Koi Mil Gaya. It was so distinctive, and Dev kept working for so long, that it became simply “hero” rather than Dev in particular. So far as I can tell, this isn’t any particular Dev song, more just evoking the feel of him and one of his 1960s heroines together. He didn’t have a great pairing anywhere close to Raj and Nargis. Dev is famous for “discovering” and launching actresses, through out the many decades of his career he had several hit jodis, none particularly more notable than another. Below see a song of his that plays with the frames in the same way as this song does at the end.
And then we have Shammi! Shammi Kapoor was briefly the king of the 60s. He played wild crazy teenage style characters, partying rich kid types. And famously at the start of one song, he called out “YAHOOOOOOOOOOOO!” before leaping and rolling down a hill. He has been imitated/homaged many times since his death, he has a distinctive wild rock and roll kind of shake to him. But this song was the first, slightly before his death. Again, the heroine in this case seems to be just a miscellaneous heroine, no particular reference. The song reference is specific though. Except for the “yahoo”, everything is from “O Haseena Zulfeenwali”. There could be a deeper meaning to choosing this song, it is about a hero and heroine who are lying to each other. Come to think of it, so is “Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua”! Or, maybe it is just that most Hindi films are about a hero and heroine who are lying to each other.
And then Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz/Sharmila Tagore! The opening of this sequence is a clear reference to Aradhana, where the hero sees the heroine for the first time through a train window. But it moves on to “Jai Shiv Shankar”, a different Rajesh and Mumtaz song. The colors are bright and happy, everything is joyful. Kind of an interesting choice considering that Aradhana is a bit of a tragic movie and the actual song is far more earth toned and serious feeling. Maybe a sign of how we remember these past movies as almost surreal happiness rather than what they really were? Although, on the other hand, the Dev and Shammi sequences were pretty much just as fun and joyful as the real songs were.
And the arrival of Rishi! The third Kapoor, we’ve already seen his grandfather Raj and uncle Shammi. “Bachne Ae Haseeno” is a great song, but it is one without a heroine, just Rishi performing on stage alone. Interesting how this song moves from a strong equal jodi (Raj and Nargis) through heroes who had changing heroines, to one who had no heroine at all in the original version of the song. Also notice the way Farah has the large chorus of Rishis at the start all dressed the same. All of the songs have similar touches, they aren’t so much songs featuring Shahrukh imitating these actors, as songs that evoke the whole onscreen feel of these actors through everything shown. Oh, and weird thing, Shahrukh here is doing an “homage” to an old time actor, but in reality he and Rishi co-starred as joint heroes in his first movie. A sign of the longevity of both Shahrukh and Rishi’s careers.
Maybe that’s why we end with Rishi? Because after Rishi, it becomes the era of the Khans and Shahrukh would have to play himself.
And let’s also take a moment for those left out. There is no Amitabh, no Anil Kapoor, no Shashi Kapoor, no Dharmendra. These are our romantic heroes only, Dev to Shammi to Rajesh to Rishi. And Raj, there are the beginning, who was romantic before it was a genre, before it was something you had to decide to be.
Ultimately this song isn’t a tribute to “film history”, it is a tribute to romantic heroes, the actors who dedicated themselves to cheering and empowering and encouraging Indian woman for the past 50 years. In Rab Ne, Shahrukh’s masquerade is a harmless attempt to encourage and cheer a grieving miserable woman back into some semblance of life and confidence. That’s all these actors are about, their wild happy songs and romances are there to make woman happy, to bring them the confidence to pursue happiness in their own lives. And that is also why Anushka sees Shahrukh in each of them.