Friday Classics (on Saturday): Chaahat, Shahrukh in His Girliest and then Manliest Role EVER

Oh wow, this is such an entertaining movie!!!!!!! It goes along okay and well made and interesting for most of it, and then the last half hour hits and it goes INSANE in the very best possible way!

This is a movie that is simply entertaining. Don’t look for logic, or deep meaning, or layered characters. It’s here to be fun and make us forget the world for a few hours. And Shahrukh throws himself completely into that kind of performance. When he is sad, he isn’t just “sad”, he is “sing to a puppy” sad. When he is happy, he isn’t just “happy”, he is “cartwheels on the street” happy. And when he is injured, he doesn’t just keep fighting because he is the hero, he TIES UP HIS BROKEN LEG WITH DANCING BELLS!!!! I mean, that doesn’t even make sense! It’s just the most extreme filmi masala-y possible way to indicate that, although he is a performer, he is also hardcore and tough.

Image result for chaahat poster

This is one of Shahrukh’s two films with Mahesh Bhatt and his only film opposite Pooja Bhatt. He seems a bit cursed with the Bhatt sisters, Pooja in this comes off as more motherly than romantic, while Alia felt more like his daughter than a potential romantic prospect in Dear Zindagi. Pooja is lovely here, but her style doesn’t really fit with Shahrukh’s. Fits with me, I would borrow her clothes in a heartbeat! But layered loose very modest clothing is an odd match with Shahrukh’s skinny modern energy. She feels like the wise older woman who should be mothering him, not the young woman he is sweeping off her feet. And the characters don’t help, she plays a confident independent doctor, he is a performer who still lives with his father. Just a total miss-match, the film falters (for me) whenever it focuses on their romance.

But then, that is also a little bit on purpose. The concept of this film (which I LOVE) is to flip the genders on a familiar storyline. The women in the love triangle, Ramya on one side and Pooja on the other, are supposed to be the ones with the power and agency. Shahrukh is the poor pitiful one passively enduring all the slings and arrows of fate. And also the one who’s body is desired and sexualized.

He even gets the sexy dance number!

Best bit is, the film manages to make him victimized by another man. Removing the gender flip in that area. Naseeruddin (through complex backwards film logic) becomes the one who threatens him, blackmails him, and forces him to do what he does not want to do.

If you think of Shahrukh as a feminine star, the “heroine” on occasion, than this film is arguably his most “heroine” role. He is tormented, victimized, sexually attacked, and then shamed for being a victim. Truly, the full female experience.

That’s why the last half hour is so INSANE. After Shahrukh being a “girl” for the whole movie, the last half hour has to ridiculously over-compensate by making him the strongest toughest fightingest man in the world. I should hate this for enforcing gender roles and not trusting different kinds of masculinity or whatever. But by the time Shahrukh is leaping on Anupam’s shoulders to pull men off horses, I don’t even care about the gender message. It’s too fun to not enjoy it! And really, that’s what you could say about this whole film.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Such a great plot! So familiar, but not usually done this way. Shahrukh and Anupam are performers happy in their little Rajasthan village. Shahrukh gently flirts with tourists and picks up some extra money by having dinner with them. Anupam wants him to marry, but Shahrukh wants to stay with Anupam. Anupam gets sick and has to go to Bombay for treatment. Shahrukh takes him and starts singing outside a hotel. Inside the hotel, Ramya Krishnan is having a birthday party thrown by her brother Naseeruddin Shah. She sees and desires Shahrukh and asks her brother for him. Naseerji tracks down Shahrukh and offers him a job singing in their hotel in return for a favor to be named later. Meanwhile, Shahrukh twice randomly bumps into Pooja Bhatt and decides she is his fated wife. Pooja is Anupam’s doctor, Anupam decides Pooja is perfect for his son. And Pooja herself loves this naive different young man. After a slight misunderstanding, Shahrukh learns the woman his father wants him to marry is the woman he is in love with and the engagement is confirmed. Ramya makes him an indecent proposal, Shahrukh turns her down, but then learns he can’t get a job at any other place in town because Naseerji has warned them off. Shahrukh finally agrees to give himself to Ramya, and confesses the deal he has made to Pooja. She honors him for doing all of this for his father, and decides to marry someone else. But Anupam is disgusted when he learns the truth and throws Shahrukh away from him. Shahrukh, in response, goes to Pooja and insists that they will marry after all and he will take her to his village. He fights off the goons who would stop them and they all return to the village. Where Naseerji shows up and kills Anupam and kidnaps Pooja. Shahrukh follows them back to the city and rescues Pooja while Naseerji accidentally shoots Ramya and breaks his heart.

So, we have an innocent young dancer, performing to help his dying father, who is desired and pressured by a powerful rich woman. And eventually must give up his own decent good love with a doctor because he is trapped by someone else’s desire. Very familiar story, only usually it is told about a young female dancer, a decent male doctor, and an indecent evil rich man. Heck, even the twist with Pooja deciding to marry the boy next door is familiar, only usually it is the girl next door, the boring bland girl that is the substitute when you can’t get the exciting one you really want.

This isn’t the first time Shahrukh has had this kind of triangle. Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman was similar, and was based on Shree 420 which also had the same idea. A new boy in town, meets a “good” girl and a “rich” girl, the two women representing two possible futures, the selfish capitalist one or the good socialist one. But this time, it’s not a matter of Shahrukh being torn between idealogies, or two women fighting for his mind and soul. Nope, it is entirely about his body. His juicy young body. Ramya wants it, and so does Pooja (in a more wholesome way).

Really a remarkably body-focused kind of film. For most of it, we have Shahrukh’s body as an object of desire. Moving in dance, smiling, attracting both Pooja and Ramya primarily based on his looks. And then in the last half hour we have the body as a weapon, an abused and beaten weapon that endures tortures to exact vengeance.

The film works best when Shahrukh is merely a body. The title is “desire”, after all. The whole plot is about people desiring him and what that brings about. The film falters when it starts to switch to Shahrukh making a choice between the two women. After he decides to stand up for himself, there are a lot of speeches about how Pooja is a better woman than Ramya and why she is a better woman. It kind of works, Pooja’s love is unselfish, she just wants what is best for Shahrukh. Ramya’s love is selfish, she desires to possess him. But what doesn’t work is the idea that Shahrukh is the one to make this decision. It should be Pooja rescuing him, once again. Even their first meeting was her saving him from being hit by a car. Let Pooja confront and defeat Ramya, just as the “good” lover defeats the “bad” lover in every woman-in-distress film, and the whole movie feels more balanced.

But then we lose the last half hour sequence of fight scenes, and I just can’t bring myself to give those up. So I guess I will have to live with the unbalanced plot and ridiculous gendered heroics, because it is worth it.

12 thoughts on “Friday Classics (on Saturday): Chaahat, Shahrukh in His Girliest and then Manliest Role EVER

  1. Thank you for this. I just watched it a few days ago and am in love with this movie. You’ve said everything.

    I’m super tired so I have all but one shallow remark to make; how is it possible to be this level nine-thousand cute and level nine-thousand sexy at the same time? Only Shah Rukh can pull that off.

    Like

  2. Forgot the singing to the puppy part! And the horses, it’s true, the horses…

    I can’t believe I got my lead actresses mixed up. Of course Pooja is the good doctor, and I agree about the chemistry. I think I saw this for the first time not long after I watched Bahubali, and of course this Ramya with her eyes and evil machinations was delicious to watch with Sivagami in the back of my mind. She and Naseeruddin as villains are easily half of what makes this movie for me, balanced by Shah Rukh and Anumpam in heartfelt farce mode. Until the end, when they kill off Anupam and unleash the other three to see how far they’ll go. Challenge accepted. It’s a wild ride. It feels like it might have been a really fun set.

    Like

    • I just showed the best bits as part of my birthday celebrations, and it went over great. The first timer is a theater person who has done fight choreographer and noticed how ridiculously over the top Shahrukh was in his parts, and I had to explain that he is always like that. Like, if all he has to do is fall down after a fake punch, he will do a jump and a roll and a spin. It’s delightful. And I think he kind of inspired Naseeruddin to do the same level of CRAZY.

      On Sat, Nov 2, 2019 at 10:59 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  3. Why did Anupam have to die? The movie seemed like a father/son buddy film, they were great together, and the action was so over the top, when he actually did die, I was shocked. Really shocked because I was watching the film with one of my sons and I had just told him, not to worry, he’ll be fine… and then he wasn’t.

    I do remember the chemistry being terrible in the film, but just now I was wondering, would it possibly be hard to visually lust after the daughter of the man directing you? Usually when I think there is a lack of chemistry I don’t blame SRK for it, and it has been some time since I saw the film. “And the characters don’t help, she plays a confident independent doctor, he is a performer who still lives with his father.” Isn’t it normal for Indian men to live with their parents?

    Thank you for your gender flip analysis. I always understand the films much more deeply after reading your reviews.

    Like

    • Interesting point about lusting after the director’s daughter! There is something related I was thinking of. Pooja was clearly dressing herself as she felt comfortable, maybe a different director would have told the actress she needed to show more skin, wear more make-up, and so on. But Mahesh just let her be herself which ended up feeling like someone far more mature than Shahrukh (because at that point in time, she was more mature than SRK).

      For the living with the parents, yes it would be normal in Indian society, but it’s not actually that normal in Hindi films now that I think about it. SRK and Anupam had a similar relationship in DDLJ, and Shahrukh spent most of the film off having adventures away from his father, while Kajol stayed always with her parents. The heroine is supposed to be the one who stays close to home and devotes herself to her parents, while the hero serves his parents by going out in the world and doing stuff. Except in this movie, where Pooja fell for him partly because of what a good devoted son he was, while part of her appeal is that she was a strong independent doctor.

      On Sun, Nov 3, 2019 at 12:36 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  4. Not a lot of refinement or logic going on here ( what is it with that ‘you will only sing for me ’ music video suddenly appearing on tv?) but such fun. Perhaps it’s because I can relate to sweet innocent ShahRukh calling his lady-love Zindagi, (it’s what I have taken my username from) and even more to evil chest-heaving Ramya. I can so understand her wanting to have her wicked way with him, and pianos have taken on a new meaning.

    The sustained violence is difficult to watch but I suppose a hero can only be a hero if he rescues his dearest by smashing the baddy/s to a pulp, no matter how out of character it is. Same in Koyla, same in Chennai Express ( well at least he tries to), and many more.

    Like

    • I love the sustained violence in this one! It’s so ridiculously over the top, half the time the sound effects don’t even match what is onscreen and people tend to fly around in an insane and illogical fashion in response to hits, that it doesn’t even feel “violent” to me. It just feels like a dance number or something.

      On Sun, Nov 3, 2019 at 8:49 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  5. I always take something with me from your reviews. This time it is the ‘gender flip’, something – I think (with my little knowledge of Hindi cinema) is kind of a bold thing to do. I found Chahaat being a bold movie where the ‘fun’ stopped not even 30 minutes into the movie to veer into something else…the drama of wanting the ‘wrong’ things.

    Before I watched Chahaat, I googled the translation for the word and I got shown “wanting”. So I watched the movie with this angle in my mind. Everybody substantial in this movie wanted something that wasn’t okay and got taken away.

    Anupam wanted his son not growing up, not leaving him, he wanted to keep the ‘well-operating-together’ they showed in their plays.
    Naseeruddin wanted his sister.The relationship between brother and sister, I saw as a lingering incestuous one. As they could not live their wanting, they chose a substitute-wanting, he the wanting to have undisputed power, she to get every man she wants. They both felt that something wasn’t ‘right between them, she calling him her god (which is like ‘husband’) and he putting her wishes above every human value. I think, both felt they were doomed but deperately wanted – at least – to live together.
    ShahRukh wanted to be with his father forever but – adapted to the fact that he had grew up – also wanted to loosen the cord by doing things on his own. He also wanted to be with a woman (which would be in his set of values marry a woman).
    With Pooja, it wasn’t clear to me at the beginning, but when consenting to let ShahRukh in her life, I just thought, she wanted a family life with a father, a husband and kids. Anupam shared this wish with her (family life) and liking Pooja from the first encounter, he wanted her for his son.

    I considered Chahaat as a coming-of-age story. For me, Pooja was the only one who had maturity (which she only lost once when trying to seduce ShahRukh)…maybe that was a reason why – me neither – sensed a strong bond between ShahRukh and Pooja (I think this will come after the end of the movie). The bond between Anupam and Pooja seemed stronger. Also, ShahRukh’s character-shaping – during most of the movie – wasn’t a match to her character-shaping.

    ShahRukh was like a child…faithful, pure, playful, curious, easy to impress…with always his father to relate on. And then he was forced to act on his own, decide on his own, face difficulties on his own…and in addition, he had to take the burden of not only supporting his father but also saving his life through money. It was the first test of mature thinking and acting…and he failed.
    His father made the verdict rejecting what the son had seen as a kind of sacrifice. But the father had failed, too, because he did not understand that ShahRukh simply had been overchallenged. And Pooja failed, too, because she got jealous and played the ‘sexy card’ (so immature).

    I think, one always has to lose something to gain something, and a loss will be balanced by a gain. ShahRukh lost almost everything: innocence, childlike playfullness, curiosity, impressionability. Yet he kept the faith which was shown in the fight against the goons with his father and with the Shravan-mosaic on the street.
    So why had his father to die in this Italian Western-like scenario and this impossible task of choosing between the love for his father and the love for Pooja. Because his father had become mature enough to know that it was h i s task to make the decision, the last decision he would make for his son…he had been saved from dying of the illness to die instead to force his son into a life of his own.

    Although the final confrontation between Naseeruddin and ShahRukh is extremely violent, I strangely – contrary to other movies – I felt exactly what ShahRukh repeatedly said – it didn’t hurt (perfect the scenes, where he slaps himself or takes N’s hand to slap himself)…it did not feel like a normal fight but like a catharsis, like a purification. I had the feeling that he indeed did not feel the pain even if his body reacted to the damage done…it was a clear thing of mind-over-body.
    I found it very, very, interesting that none of the bystanders really moved, even less intervened. It was like the demolition of an evil power, like exorcizing a very bad spirit…and, well, at the end, Naseeruddin was crushed, finished, all evil gone. I felt for h i m.

    Like

    • Thank you for pointing out that the ending is like getting rid of an evil power. Of course! This is another Ramayan tale! Naseerji is too powerful and too evil, we see that straight through, the problem isn’t what he is doing to Shahrukh, it’s what he does to the whole city. His sister’s desire is like Shurpanakha desiring Lakshman and setting the whole series of events going. Finally the kidnapping of Pooja forces Shahrukh to directly confront that evil.

      On Sun, Nov 3, 2019 at 12:38 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.