Next most interesting character, Tina! Really it is the women who are original and new and different in this film, Shahrukh’s hero is good, but not quite so spectacular.
The surface image of Rani’s character makes her seem simple. She is the pretty one, the sexy one, the flirty one. Kajol is the awkward tomboy who doesn’t get noticed. Rani “steals” Kajol’s man using her sexiness and prettiness. It’s a standard love triangle that shows up in everything from Jane Eyre to Taylor Swift songs. There’s the girl who is friends with the boy, who really understands him, who “deserves” him and who he SHOULD be with. And then there is the pretty girl who has tricked him away with her prettiness. It’s a great love triangle because it answers the secret self-respect saving argument of every girl who has ever had an unrequited crush, “if only things were fair, if only he saw clearly, he would pick me over her”. This isn’t just a female thing of course, the same fantasy informs the male idea of the “nice guy” versus the “bad boy”. If only she understood that a nice guy really loved her, if only she saw how much better for her he is, then she would pick him instead of the sexy “bad boy” who is tricking her with his sexiness.
(This is a very creepy concept for a fanvid, but on the other hand, it is so well made!)
But that’s not who Rani is, not really. Or rather, this film takes that “she’s not the one you REALLY should be with” argument and looks at it from the side of the pretty girl who is only loved for her prettiness not a real connection. What is it like for her? Does she have any awareness of the situation?
The answer is, yes she does. And this is not a fair or kind thing to happen to her, she is as much a victim as the “he really loves me but doesn’t know it yet” friend. If we look at Rani’s character in this movie, she is a shy lonely girl who moved from London to India in order to be close to her father. She dresses and looks sexy, but that isn’t what she is like on the inside. Inside, she is lonely and clings to confident Kajol, her first friend in India. Shahrukh pursues her and she avoids him, not in a rude way or a flirty way, but because she sincerely isn’t interested in romance right now, she is just finding her way in this new country. But her resistance just makes her stand out more, makes Shahrukh see her as someone different from the other girls. So he chases her harder and sheltered shy lonely Rani can’t help falling in love with this boy who is always there and so different from her.
But Rani has the emotional intelligence you see in shy people, the ones who spend their lives observing rather than participating. And so she sees her new friend Kajol with her suitor Shahrukh and sees something between them that they themselves are blind to. The sequence with Kajol’s make over expresses the situation perfectly, from Rani’s perspective. It starts with her standing quietly and reading a book while Shahrukh hangs on her and playfully teases her. She is not a girl who sought Shahrukh out, she is cautious and reserved, he is the one chasing. But while he is teasing her, she is smiling, clearly enjoying the attention (although she did not seek it out).
Then Kajol arrives. Everyone (including Shahrukh) bursts out laughing. Rani is the first person to have the sensitivity to see Kajol’s reaction and stop them. This is why Shahrukh and Kajol are not yet together, neither of them has the emotional intelligence to see how others feel as clearly as Rani does. But then, neither do any of their friends. In college, these kids are just not smart enough to grasp that two people who say and believe they are “just friends” may be more than they appear, any more than they can understand that confident outgoing Kajol could be hurt by their laughter. Only Rani, the outsider (outsider because she is the new girl and because she stands to the side and watches) can see into the hearts of those around her.
Rani sees Kajol’s distress, but she is not the one to solve it. Shahrukh says the perfect thing, he is the only person who can make Kajol feel better. And when he is comforting her, he is completely focused on her, as though the rest of the world has ceased to exist. Rani sees all of this, all of what they themselves cannot yet see, and starts to walk away. This is after Shahrukh has chased her, after she has started to fall in love with him, after he has all-but-proposed. But Rani is still ready to efface herself, to break this triangle. She is not a fighter, she is someone who wants to make everyone happy even if it means her own heart breaks.
And that is when Shahrukh stops her, reaches out and grabs her hand and traps her in place. This is her tragedy. She knows how wrong the situation is, knows how complex it is, and yet Shahrukh is holding her there and she cannot break away. Her own heart won’t let her leave so long as he wants her.
And so Rani movies into half a life. She agrees to marry Shahrukh because he wants her. But she knows all along that his true soulmate is Kajol, that she doesn’t truly have his heart. All of their happiness is borrowed from the person it truly belongs to, Kajol. Or to put it another way, all of Rani’s happiness is a gift from Kajol. And so Rani gives that gift back, in the end.
To take a brief side road here, I hope this film never goes through the ugliness that, for instance, Anushka’s character’s decision to continue her pregnancy in Sultan inspired. KKHH is clear that having this baby was Rani’s decision and hers alone, it is what she wanted. Part of why she wanted it was because she knew that Shahrukh wanted this baby, but she was the one who weighed her options and made a decision that was only between herself and her doctor, her husband was not invited to be part of the conversation. This is not a story of a woman being pressured by the men around her, this is about a woman making her own decision because that is her right, no matter what that decision is.
So, why did Rani make this decision? To die so her baby could live, and to leave behind letters suggesting that her husband remarry his college friend. Most remarkable of all, to name her daughter after that friend. The only explanation I can find is that Rani’s character had the rare ability to be completely selfless, without being a masochist.
Rani was ready to leave the triangle of Shahrukh and herself and Kajol, and for the same reasons she is ready to leave behind her triangle of Shahrukh and herself and their daughter. She knows Shahrukh wants this baby, and knows this baby “wants” Shahrukh (in that, Shahrukh will be a wonderful patent and the baby will be loved and happy). She is the third wheel, the extra one. And so she makes the decision to risk her life giving birth because it will make everyone else happy and she will be the only one hurt.
When they were young, she made a choice to be with Shahrukh knowing that Kajol loved him, that on some level he loved her. But Rani could be happy with Shahrukh, and he with her. She regretted Kajol’s broken heart but she wasn’t going to destroy her happines and Shahrukh’s happiness for the chance of a future happiness for Shahrukh and Kajol. That would be pure masochism. It was the right decision, so long as she could keep Shahrukh always happy and in love with her.
But now she is pregnant, and won’t be alive to see her daughter grow up. And so she chooses the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people again. Have the baby and name her for the woman who should be her mother. Leave behind notes guiding her husband to his true love. Instead of making up for her selfish choice all those years ago by keeping Shahrukh always happy, she would make up for it by making her mistake go away, making herself go away. Not willing herself to die, but willing Shahrukh’s grief to go away after her death.
And the thing is, we see Shahrukh’s grief. And we see why Rani was so sure she had done something wrong, and so sure how to put it right. After the death of his pretty loving wife, Shahrukh devotes himself entirely to his daughter. And he chooses a mantra of “one God, one life, one love”. Why is he so determined to prove he can never love again? The simplest answer is because he knows he can love again, knows he in fact has been in love with two women all along, and the guilt of that is killing him. But at the same time, his love for “Anjali” comes out in his raising of his daughter, who grows far more in the image of her namesake than of her own mother. Rani was right, both that Shahrukh still somewhere loved Kajol, and that his guilt over that would keep him from ever acting on his feelings. Rani’s clear vision lead her to see deeper than anyone else, again. And to act on that vision. She knew Shahrukh would punish himself for any feelings and never move on. She knew he and Kajol would still be happy together and Kajol would be a good mother. And so she took the only possible path to the happiness for the greatest number of people, forcing them together as best she could against their own will, knowing it would be for the best in the end. And that’s what we see at the end, her smiling ghost at the wedding, happy because everyone around her is happy and that is all she ever wanted.