I’m back! I just took about 200 more screenshots and it got me slightly less than 5 minutes farther into the film. So even if I do a post a day, I think we still have a month or more before I end this thing. Which is good news or bad news depending on how you feel about it.
The last few scenes have been limited in space and character. Shahrukh trapped with Satish Shah and his wife, then trapped with Anupam and Mandira, and finally Shahrukh and Kajol together. But we are about to open up the world again into space and people moving everywhere.
Along with everything else, DDLJ is a wedding movie. It is trying to evoke, in this second half, the feeling of a family wedding out in the country. There is a big house, with outhouses and connected neighboring houses, and open spaces like the courtyard and closed spaces like the kitchen. People are moving in and out all the time, friends and distant family and strangers. Except they aren’t “strangers”, that’s the magic of this time, during the wedding celebration everyone loves everyone else, there are no boundaries any more, between people or spaces. And across that lack of boundaries, surprising connections come up. Shahrukh and Kajol are the most notable, they are closer and more able to be intimate in the little unwatched bubbles of space of a wedding household than they were traveling together through Europe. But it’s also Shahrukh and Farida Jalal, Shahrukh and Amrish Puri, and later Anupam Kher and Himani Shivpuri. Even Kajol and Pooja Ruperal, sisters who share a bedroom at home, find an extra intimacy as allies and fellow outsiders during the wedding celebration.
We had those little moments of intimacy in the previous scenes, now we are opening into that big free flowing feel of a wedding household again. Starting with Amrish laughing in delight at Anupam, and then the camera pulling back to reveal it is 4 people talking, Amrish the NRI from the household, Satish Shah and his other childhood friend who stayed home, and Anupam Kher who just arrived. 4 men with varied connections to each other, all equally comfortable and happy talking. Not just that, the camera is positioned so that we see their seats are arranged open to the side, they would welcome anyone else who wants to come join in.
And Anupam reaches out and intimately grabs hold of Amrish’s hand, and he lets him! So interesting. For one thing, as I mentioned in the last section about Anupam with Mandira, we are again seeing how Anupam and Shahrukh share a lack of boundaries. Anupam will force himself into a group of old friends, take over the conversation, and physically dominate too, grabbing hands and stuff. This is essentially exactly what Shahrukh did in the first half to integrate himself into Kajol’s traveling friends group.
Amrish letting him, that’s important. This is an open welcoming friendly group in a fluid fun wedding household, but it is also all middle-aged men. Amrish has no respect for women, we have seen over and over again the way he shuts down intimacy and equality with everyone from his daughter to his wife to his mother. He doesn’t respect younger men either, Shahrukh can approach in the most respectful way possible, and Amrish won’t actively insult him but also won’t welcome him. But Amrish and Anupam can bond because Amrish sees himself in Anupam and he can only respect people like himself.
Amrish has to question it though, because Anupam is like-him-but-not-like-him. In Amrish’s rigid view of the world, there are the people like “us”, and then there are the “others”. They are back in India now so Amrish is a little more relaxed, he can find more folks like “us”, but he still carries with him the prejudices of the immigrant, the one who clung to his old standards and beliefs and blamed the world around him for not being what it should be. Anupam is another immigrant, but he has returned home able to fit in seamlessly at the same time his clothes show that the West changed him too.
Anupam’s clothes are kind of dumb in this movie, I have to say. But in a charming way. He doesn’t dress like a British person, he dresses like a desi would think a British person dresses. And that’s right. For his character, the immigrant who joyfully embraces his new culture without losing his old, this kind of slightly too much and fake dress is right. He wears his Britishness like a costume, not like something in born. But it is still part of who he is.
His line here is almost the same as Shahrukh’s line to Kajol, explaining why he would never cross a line with her despite his loose Western behavior. Again, father and son are the same, but also father and daughter are the same. Amrish raised his daughter to believe the same rigid behavorial rules he does. If it walks like a Westerner and talks like a Westerner, it must be a Westerner. You can’t be Western and Indian at once.
Something else the same between father-son and father-daughter, Shahrukh and Anupam both know the wisdom of sitting back and letting the other person take the lead in the conversation and just letting it go where they want it to go. Amrish thinks he is in charge here, sitting back all relaxed, but Anupam is leaning forward ready to leap on the opening he wants.
And there is the opening! Anupam leans forward ready to place the little hint along the way, the gentle probing at Amrish’s armor without saying things directly, again the same strategy Shahrukh uses on Kajol and everyone else. No big pronouncements like Kajol and Amrish are addicted to, just gentle little hints dropped along the way and left to grow.
There’s no straight line here. Anupam can hardly say “and I think your daughter is awesome and you should break her lifelong engagement to the son of the man sitting right there with us and marry her to my son”. But Amrish now has in his head that Anupam is a potential father-in-law for some lucky young woman, and that Shahrukh might be a husband. Let that grow in him, put it together with Shahrukh’s patient working away and convincing him that he is a decent person, and it will all come together in the end.
And we cut to Kajol with the dialogue still in the background! Oh I see what you did there Aditya Chopra! Very clever.
This is kind of an interesting choice, we watch Kajol slowly descend the staircase, in perfect formal bridal style garb, as people talk around and about her.
This is classical “objectification” of a woman. Objectification is often misunderstood to refer solely to sexual gratification. It’s not, it’s turning a woman into an object. Kajol here is the perfect “bride”, an object that Anupam can find like he is shopping in a store. And which her mother and future potential mother-in-law are proud of having helped create and observe.
But what the audience knows is that Kajol isn’t an “object” at all. We just saw her with Shahrukh, enforcing herself as an independent person, just a few minutes ago. And we saw her with Farida ages back honestly talking about the difficulties of being this perfect “bride” for everyone.
But this is the deal women make, they turn themselves into objects for the pleasure of others and pretend that is all they are. Because the reality of society is that they either have to “adjust” to their object status or be miserable. We have seen this over and over again, the fiery interesting heroine who is married off by her father, makes her peace with it, and changes everything about herself. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Jeet, Sangam, the same story over and over again, our heroine nobily surprising her individuality in service of the greater society.
This image even echoes the iconic moment when Vijayantimala comes down the stairs in Sangam and declares her readiness to marry Raj Kapoor. In a different movie, this would be the moment that Kajol becomes a noble womanly-woman.
But instead it is all a joke she is playing on these women, a disguise she is putting on, because at heart she remains determinedly herself, and sure that her real self is loved by Shahrukh and she will be able to spend her life with him as her “real” self.
Even Farida, her own mother, is tricked. Believing that Kajol has learned how to sacrifice her true self just as Farida learned how to do it.
And this perfectly nice woman is fooled as well. And Kajol’s smile says that she feels no guilt over it! She is who she is, she wants what she wants, and she is not going to feel bad for anything she has to do to get it. She does not owe this woman her life.
And now we are back in the big room! The dialogue of the last scene established that this is a big free floating event, but also has a bit of a male-female divide. And here we are in the female area. And we go from Kajol pretending to be a sacrificial bride to these young girls running around. A not-accidental connection. Aditya is trying to accurately show how this society functions, young girls running around and playing, older women working and running things, and the young woman being still and sacrificial. And because this is what the reality of the world is, we also see how these young wild girls are going to be expected to turn into noble and silent brides in just a few years, and how unfair that is.
And here is Farida! Pretty and blossoming, but also rushing about carrying a tray, because that is the lot of the older married woman. Even on Karwa Chauth, even during a woman only party, she still has to work.
And enter Shahrukh! Running around like the young girls, fearlessly breaking into the female section of the home. Something interesting here, it’s not expected but it is possible for a man to crash into the female party (note Farida’s smile here). But it would be impossible for a woman to crash the male territory. Shahrukh is using his male privilege in the only way he can, to bring himself to the female area, because even as a man he wouldn’t be able to bring the women to the men.
A marriage in Indian culture is arranged between a young man and a young woman, and also their parents. Now that Anupam has charmed Amrish, Shahrukh is eager to have him meet and approve of Farida (and vice versa). This is not totally groundbreaking, but it is nice to have Shahrukh equally concerned with both Kajol’s father and mother.
Aditya chose to show it this way as well, to split Farida and Amrish in two places so we understand Sharhukh wants BOTH their approvals. And to have Shahrukh play it as nervous and excited, because Farida’s opinion really matters to him.
And there’s also Shahrukh’s joy at Farida’s compliments of him, he really cares that she thinks well of him and also knows that Anupam will care what she says instead of dismissing it as “just a woman’s opinion”.
Love Anupam’s little pat of Shahrukh’s head and his shy ducking. It comes close to objectifying Shahrukh in the same way Kajol was just objectified, a product sitting there for them to discuss and be proud of.
And then Kajol comes by. Shahrukh stops her without touching her, because he can’t touch her in public, but the way he reaches out to her and the way she stops says that they want to touch.
He stops her to introduce her to Anupam, but Kajol is still looking at Shahrukh, because he is her guide and center in the world.
It is only when Shahrukh turns towards Anupam that Kajol shifts also to look at him. But Anupam has been looking at her the whole time. This is another moment where Anupam does what Shahrukh has been doing. He has been a joker, a goof, a conman. But he also has sincere emotions, that goofing has a core of truth. When he sees Kajol, this young woman in trouble, and this woman who his song loves so much and vice versa, he goes still and focused.
He says the perfect thing, and not in the same way as all those other perfect things he said. Both Anupam and Shahrukh are great at thinking on their feet and changing their story based on what the person they are talking to wants to hear. But both of them put into their performances a difference between the fake perfect thing, and the real serious perfect thing that they are feeling deep inside.
Kajol is being objectified again, but not really. Shahrukh is presenting her to Anupam and Anupam is reacting to her. But Kajol is meeting their eyes, first looking at Anupam head on, and then at Shahrukh. She isn’t an object to be studied, she is returning their gaze.
And then, having looked at each in turn and made her own appraisal, she bows to take Anupam’s blessing and accept his acceptance.
This is another little moment of intimacy in a crowd. There are all those woman right behind them, but Anupam and Kajol and Shahrukh manage to create a little bubble where no one notices what they are doing, where Kajol and Shahrukh can ask for and receive Anupam’s blessing as a couple without anyone noticing what is happening, just another moment of strangers meeting at a wedding and becoming not-strangers.
Anupam has such a sweet smile here, so different from the over the top grinning he has had through out the rest of the film. It’s reassuring, serious Kajol will be appreciated seriously in Shahrukh’s home, just as she would have been appreciated by Kuljit’s parents.
And then she moves on, a little moment in time in the midst of all the chaos, but no less meaningful and dramatic for all that.
Anupam and Shahrukh’s exchange is in English here, so no subtitles. Shahrukh says “Pops?” with a sort of excited question.
And Anupam grabs him and says “Fantastic, perfect, wonderful, done!” while Shahrukh smiles.
So, what do we have here? We have kind of a little pretend version of traditional “meeting the bride”. Anupam and Amrish talking in a man to man way about “finding” a bride. Then Kajol be presenting by her mother to a potential mother-in-law. Then Anupam meeting Farida as the other parent of the potential bride. And finally Anupam meeting Kajol and giving his approval, followed by Shahrukh getting confirmation that his father agrees with his chosen bride.
The thing that is interesting is that it is all mixed up. Shahrukh and Kajol are already together, essentially “married” without any need for parents. Amrish and Anupam talk, and so do Anupam and Farida, and Kajol puts on an act of being the perfect bride, but none of it really matters. That’s what Anupam is saying at the end, he says “done!” as in, “it’s done already, I approve of what you have already done and the girl you have presented to me as a done thing”.
Anupam and Kajol and Shahrukh are checking things off a to-do list but in a very casual way. Anupam mentions a bride to Amrish, Kajol gets a blessing from Anupam, Shahrukh shows Anupam that Farida approves of him. It doesn’t really matter, but it doesn’t hurt to sketch in the outline of the traditions so long as they are all there, at a party together.