The rape episode! On multiple fronts. Really a fascinating story here, and the story of male on male rape is super unique and handled perfectly.
The wedding story in this one is really dark, and kind of basic until the end twist. They are organizing a wedding for an ancestral royal Rajput family. It’s a progressive and good wedding, the bride is a pilot, she will be the first working woman in the family. And the wedding is also a bit of a selling moment for the family, they are about to merge their ancestral family palace with a global hotel chain. In the middle of all this excitement, Shivani stumbles on a mehndi artist who is being molested, and they discover the man molesting her is the king, father of the groom.
The first part, what I just described, that is the basic bit. As soon as I saw this very innocent and fragile looking young mehndi artist, and the overly bluff and friendly king, I could feel it coming. The twist is after that. Our noble wedding planners encourage the young woman to file a police report. But they also arrange for her to meet with the bride beforehand so the bride can apologize and give support. Only instead the bride takes the opportunity to offer a large bribe for her to keep quiet, and she takes it. She may be a pilot, and a fellow woman, but she is joining the royal family and she will protect them. It’s about doing what you have to to get in, and then doing what you have to to stay in. Everyone makes choices, the question is what you can live with.
That’s where Arjun lands in the episode, he goes to talk to Vijay Raaz about the situation. It’s picking up on the last episode when Vijay Raaz revealed to be another cursed “munglik”, seen as bad but actually better than other “lucky” folks. Along with picking up on the actual plot shifts in which Vijay Raaz become a friend and partner to them. Arjun goes to talk to Vijay, not even knowing what he wants from him, and Vijay gives him the choice. All he has to do is say something, and Vijay will arrange for the king to be beaten, to have a broken leg or hand or worse. And once he has that choice, that is when Arjun discovers he doesn’t want it after all, he has choices and that is not the one he wants to make.
And that’s where the theme comes in. Sobhita spends the episode thinking about her choices. She has “won” in every way. Back years ago, we see how she went from secretary to wife. She started as the pretty secretary. She asked for a cigarette and made an impression. In the last episode, we saw her fake being drunk and carefully arrange a giggly late night in his hotel room, even though she knew he was engaged. And in this episode, we see how it all happened, her cheerfully having an affair with him under the nose of his fiancee, and then getting caught on the office camera. That was a terrible thing, to be video taped and her image spread around, for everyone in the office to be staring at her, and her reaction of shock and horror is sincere. That’s what starts to win Jim over, seeing her actually cry in shame over the whole thing. That was real. But then Sobhita chose to double down on it and play this out. When Jim’s father Dilip Tahil comes to pay her off, she turns down the money. She leans in to that sincerity, her feelings for Jim (whatever she has convinced themselves they are) being more valuable than any simple check. And it worked. Dilip was immediately touched in that conversation, Jim sought her out later, and now here she is years later, her husband is with her instead of his mistress, and all his friends have chosen to support her. But is it worth it? What did she sell in order to get this?
We see that in the beginning of the episode. She returns from having torn apart Kalki’s house to find Jim waiting and ready to blame her, to tell her in the cruelest way that she has revealed her low class origins, she can pretend to be one of them but she isn’t really one of them. Was it worth it? Was selling her dignity to gain a place at the table worth it?
And then there is Arjun. He chose not to sue his landlord and went against his lawyer’s suggestions and rejected filing a case for police brutality. And now he is spinning out, no where to direct his anger but at himself. Arjun’s character’s journey is finally coming in to focus in these last few episodes. In the beginning he felt lost and useless, borrowing money, leaning on Sobhita. But then he hit rock bottom and there was nothing left to fear. Arjun does a wonderful job subtly changing his expression, his posture, everything, as he becomes more comfortable with himself. And conversely, I am appreciating more how he was showing his weakness and discomfort with himself in the earlier episodes. In this episode, he is a rock for the mehendi artist. He is warm and supportive and kind and strong and just right in his interactions with her, she naturally turns to him and leans on him more than Sobhita, who seems out of her depth. Until the moment when she decides to take the money and not file the case and he explodes in anger. Even Sobhita doesn’t fully understand what is happening, but it is clear to Arjun. He knows his anger isn’t at her, but at himself. And he knows what he has to do, it’s not the landlord he has to sue, or the abusive prison guard, he has to file a case against section 377 and put himself up as the face of the struggle.
This is a powerful statement about privilege. Arjun is lucky because he owns his own business with a supportive partner, he is very lucky because his family accepts who he is, and he is articulate and upper class and charming, he should use all of these advantages and be the voice and face for those who can’t speak for themselves.
Sobhita is experiencing her own privilege, she has “won” this time, she is the respectable wife instead of the other woman. But she was on the other side once, the woman who drove away the respectable fiance. Can she really enjoy all she has now, knowing what is on the other side of it?