Woot, second to last! Just zooming along. As is appropriate for such an entertaining fast moving movie.
So, Shotgun! I promised violence, and the very first shot is a shotgun going off! And then it is lowered, and you see it is held by Evil Cousin! In a beret? Really, it’s a whole pseudo-military outfit, jacket with epeletes, beret, whole deal. But why? Is there any actual gun safety related reason to where this? Or does he just like to play dress up for his little gun sales presentations?
Because that’s what this is, they are in a big empty room (possibly the same room where Salman had his fight, congratulations Rakesh on cleverly re-using sets!), with about a dozen guys in folding chairs watching Evil Cousin shoot at paper cut-outs and say variations on “this gun shoots real good!” Apparently, that whole shady business that Amrish Puri and Mr. Saxena (Kajol’s Dad) referenced being in together is gun-running. They get the guns from “foreign” and then sell them in the city. Okay, this actually kind of hangs together! The guns come into the remote village where Amrish lives and the police are lax to non-existent, and then Mr. Saxena is their contact in the city who handles the sales. So it explains why a Amrish Puri would want to stay Evil and Rural, and why Mr. Saxena would have a connection with him, even though he is so urban.
So, presentation over, Evil Cousin notices that one of the folding chairs is empty! How could this be! Who would dare to skip his sales demo! I, having been to multiple Indian hosted “functions”, am kind of surprised that only one chair is empty. Or, alternatively, that there aren’t an extra 10 people who didn’t bother to RSVP standing in the back, chairless. Maybe there are stronger etiquette rules for illegal gun sales than for wedding receptions and academic conferences?
Evil Cousin takes it as an insult, anyway, but Mr. Saxena re-assures him that he is already aware of it, and the matter is being taken care of. Cut to, Awesomeness!!!!
Mr. Saxena and Evil Cousin are sitting in the front seat of a car, the camera is looking in through the passenger side window, and SMASH. A head and shoulders of some poor stuntman is violently thrown through the driver side window opposite! It is then pulled out again, to reveal Salman, looking stoic, and holding onto the poor window-smasher guy. Evil Cousin and Mr. Saxena take care of their business with window-guy, get him to apologize and pay his debts. Then we pull back to see that the car is sitting on a picturesque stretch of beach, and Salman has walked around to the passenger side window. Shot through the window of him on the outside peeing in as the window is rolled down and a wad of cash is silently handed to him. Okay, the street hustler parallels here HAVE to be on purpose now, right? Even down to Salman’s face, which has a definite “I am doing what I have to do but I don’t like it” kind of expression.
But at least he has the money. Next we see him stopping by his local dhaba, paying off the owner for his whole tab. Mamta sees him and immediately goes “Hey! Why are you paying off debts? What are you doing for the money? What is happening?” (she also thinks he is Street Hustling. I mean really, her concern level for unidentified money sources feels way too high). Salman tries to shake her off, and say it isn’t any of her business, at which point she again tells him she is in love with him (possibly in a desperate attempt to steer him away from sex work?). Salman, however, is not interested, pointing out that he can’t even tell she is a girl. Salman! Are you sure a girl is even what you want?
Anyway, Mamta takes this to heart and proceeds to rip off the “Mere Bindiya” song from Lamhe. But sexier. Well, no, that one was Sridevi, so it couldn’t possibly be sexier. Let’s say more explicitly sexual. Where Sridevi is carefully filmed so nothing really shows while she changes, Mamta takes off her shirt, shakes out her hair, and then studies herself in the mirror, topless. We only see this from behind, and then from the shoulders up, but it is still pretty racy. She reaches the same conclusion as Sridevi, though, that the only way to get the man she wants is to go super hardcore Indian, bangles, bindiya, anklets, whole deal. And then she tracks down Salman, who is wondering in a barren sort of open outdoor-y place? Which is apparently just a short walk from the slums? Oh well, I won’t worry about it. Anyway, she peaks his sexual interest by jingling her bangles in his face (not a euphemism).
(Try to ignore the stuffed animal she is cuddling at the beginning. It will only disturb you)
But, at the end of all this sexiness, when it looks like Salman might finally respond to her, Flashback! Remember the super romantic bangle buying scene with Shahrukh way back in their last life? Well, all this bangle shaking finally reminds him of it and he ends the song by grabbing her hands, hard, and freaking out a little. Is he feeling unfaithful to his one true love from the past?
Speaking of true love, Shahrukh is also all bangle-d up right now! This is that one short but not that good SRKajol scene I promised you. First, again, take a bow Rakesh Roshan! A nice subtle match, where both brothers are dealing with bangles on their girlfriends simultaneously. If the viewer is consciously aware of it, it just underlies their unbreakable brother bond (or lover bond), and if you are unconsciously aware of it, it just makes the movie feel less choppy, even though we keep switching stories.
So, right, Kajol and Shahrukh are lying super super awkwardly with their tummies flattened against a rock or something, facing each other, sort of propped up on their elbows. Have you ever tried that in real life? Like, playing a board game on the floor? It is a horrible posture! Your elbows and neck start to hurt right away, and then your back starts twinging, and the only way to move even an inch closer or farther from the board is to stand up and complete re-arrange yourself, because it’s like not physically possible to drag yourself forward balanced that way (at least, for me. Boys with their higher center of gravity may have an easier time of it). Anyway, it is so uncomfortable looking, that I actually blame the posture for why this scene doesn’t work as well.
And it should! On paper, it is way more romantic than the previous one. Shahrukh has just given Kajol glass bangles, which she is playing with. But he feels guilty they are only glass, not gold, and says she is too good for a poor boy like him. Kajol immediately says she loves them, and will never take them off. And then they hug, which does look believably passionate, I think because they are both so relieved to be able to sit up and stretch their arms out.
But, there was a purpose behind this super uncomfortable framing! It was so you can do a big pullback and have SRKajol in the foreground, with Evil Cousin with binoculars on a hill in the background, and still have both fields clearly visible. Oh no! A Witness!
So, Kajol goes home, and gets yelled at. It is very Dil-like. Not that Dil is the first, or best, example of the “girlfriend goes home and gets yelled at by Dad about boyfriend, and then says that if he harms boyfriend, she will die, so he better not!” It’s just the Dil is the most memorable one for me, because it ends with Madhuri shoving a broken bottle into her arm, and the props guy went wild with the prop blood! Like, her sleeve changes color, it gets so soaked. Very vivid. Ooo, maybe I should do a Dil recap? Maybe for Madhuri’s 50th. Or her next film release (whenever that is!).
(oh Dil! How are you so stupid, and yet also so wonderful? It’s like all of the 90s in one 3 hour package.)
So, yeah, cut to Mr. Saxena immediately making good on his threat, and SETTING THE BARN ON FIRE!!! The horses! The HORSES!!!!
By the way, we are coming up on intermission now, and Rakesh is following the rule he laid out in his interview with Ganti. If you want to end the first half on a high note, make the scenes right before the scenes before intermission super boring, and then the contrast with the scenes immediately before intermission will be even higher. So we had that kind of workmen like “I’m poor!” “I still love you!” scene with SRKajol, which kind of drained the energy post Mamta’s striptease, but did the job of setting up an immediate conflict. And then Kajol’s confrontation with her father, which again, was fine, but nothing spectacular (no blood soaked garments, for instance).
But now, the pay off! Fire! Running Horses! Confusion! Fight! Even Johnny Lever gets to fight! And Shahrukh has to fight off goons, escape a burning barn, AND save all the horses! It is just super exciting. And terribly choreographed, I have no idea what is happening where and to whom and when. Who was the stunt guy on this? Bhiku Verma, says imdb. Who also did Koyla, which I think was better than this. But also later on in his career, so maybe he just got better. Oh! He did International Khiladi! Which is a terrible movie, but the ending! THE ENDING!
(skip everything else and just go to 2:25 and keep watching until they are off the plane)
So, at the very end of the fight, Muslim/Parsi stable owner/adopted father is SHOT! Okay, now Shahrukh is really mad!
And, back to Kajol! Her Dad is making her have a big engagement part for Evil Cousin because, as my notes say, Parampara! That is, tradition! When who should burst in, but Shahrukh! Being all wild. Kajol goes running to him but is held back (she actually sells this bit, is able to fully lose herself in the mania instead of vaguely holding herself back like she did in the Dil-like scene). Shahrukh also sells it, because this is early 90s SRK, when he was ALL ABOUT the secretly scary psychos.
So, who is sent to passify and take away this crazed party-goer? Why, new hire gunda Salman Khan! But, THEY’RE BROTHERS! It’s pretty poignant. Not as poignant as when Raajkumar was going to kill Shammi while he slept in Waqt, but still pretty poignant. And the fight scene is pretty good too! It goes a little heavy on the bar shots, a little repetative. And a little similar to Salman’s awesome fight with Mohnish Behl in Meine Pyar Kiya, with the grabbing by the shoulders and throwing into alcohol, then breaking and punching in the middle of the room.
Anyway, it all builds to the climax when Lightening splits the screen as they are about to punch, and then Evil Cousin grabs a gun to shoot Shahrukh and SALMAN SUDDENLY DIVES ONTO EVIL COUSIN AND SCREAMS “BHAAG ARJUN BHAAG!!!!” It is very exciting.
(actually, according to my notes, he screams “Bhaag Arjun Bhag Arjun Bhaag Arjun Bhaag Arjun Bhaag Arjun Bhaag Arjun Bhaag Arjun Bhaag Arjun Bhaag Arjun Bhaag Arjun Bhaag Arjun Bhaag Arjun Bhaag Arjun Bhaag Arjun Bhaag Arjun Bhaag”. They really want to be sure the audience gets the reference).
And, intermission! Which isn’t even on my DVD, but this film is so perfectly constructed that I can feel that it happens here, at the biggest emotional peak. Unlike Rohit Shetty, whose films are a series of equal emotional peaks, or SLB, who is all peak and no emotion.
Post-interval, of course, we have a boring scene that repeats everything just happened, in case you forgot it well you went out to the lobby to buy popcorn. Or are still in the bathroom. Actually, we have two boring scenes. First, Evil Cousin talks to his Dad on the phone, and reiterates that he still wants to marry Kajol, even though she is in love with someone else, because she is Kajol! And in case you thought “Aw, it’s like Ajay in Hum Dil! He’s gonna be a good husband!”, Amrish Puri clarifies that she better be a good wife to him because the bad daughter-in-laws of their household are all “Buried within the walls of this house.” That can’t be the right translation, right? I’m kind of too scared to check, in case it is something even more scary. I don’t want Kajol to live in a house with a bunch of disobedient wives buried in the walls!
Anyway, next boring reminder of what just happened scene, is JOHNNY LEVER, of all people, being the first one to put it together that SRK and Salman were obviously brothers in a previous life. Shahrukh is telling him the whole “And then there was lightening, and I felt all funny, and then he yelled ‘Bhaag Arjun Bhaag'”! And Johnny Lever goes, “Bhaag Arjun Bhaag?” “Yes, Bhaag Arjun Bhaag!” “You are sure it was Bhaag Arjun Bhaag?” “Yes, I am positive it was ‘Bhaag Arjun Bhaag'”. And just when you are ready to yell at the screen “YES! I GET IT!!! I REMEMBER THE SCENE THAT HAPPENED TEN MINUTES AGO!!!”, Johnny finally gets to the point and says “But that is what you say in your nightmares!!!!” Oh my goodness, could there be some connection between Salman and Shahrukh?! Besides their obvious passionate love connection!
To investigate this further, Shahrukh goes to see Salman in jail (Mr. Saxena had him arrested post-party). In the most romantic jailhouse visit since Zanjeer. And a visit that is also remarkably like Zanjeer. They are separated by bars, but that is used more as an additional prop in their conversation-they turn away or towards them, they lean on them, they reach through them-than an obstruction to it. It’s a nice way of using the jailhouse location instead of just working around it. Also, Mamta is there too (I guess post sexy song she is officially his girlfriend and they never need to talk about it?), but she immediately steps back and lets Salman and Shahrukh have their moment together.
Actually, that sort of phuh ending to the romance is another hallmark of Rakesh, and one I do not like! Koyla, Koi Mil Gaya (ripen!), even Krrish, they all had this interesting tension building between the hero and heroine. And then all of a sudden, he yanks the plot away from it and it’s never truly resolved.
(how can the full “ripen” scene not be on youtube! Oh well, take this cute shot of Preity instead, and believe me that the “ripen” scene is the hottest thing ever, and then after it is over, they are sort of done with the romance part of the film)
Speaking of never truly resolving, Kajol has been taken! Before they get even one more love scene! Shahrukh learns that she is being forced to marry Evil Cousin in his ancestral village. Cut to, a hilarious car scene. It is supposed to be all “evil, Evil, EVIL!!!”, but it just comes off like two fighting in the backseat and Mom and Dad trying to ignore them. See, Kajol and Evil Cousin are sitting in the back of a jeep, sort of perched on the seats. It’s so the camera can catch more of their torsos, I do understand that, but it looks super awkward, and really not the way to sit in a car you will be riding all the way from the City to the Village. Anyway, the framing is so we can see that Evil Cousin is grabbing at Kajol’s hands trying to rip the bangles that Shahrukh gave her off them. Kajol is all “no, No, NO!” and he is all “yes, Yes, YES!” (Singin’ in the Rain reference! By me, not the film. They have actual dialogue, I just don’t remember it, so I am using this instead.) Meanwhile, the thugs driving the car are just doing their job and wishing those two would Shut. Up. Can you imagine having to listen to that, mile after mile?
Finally, as they arrive in the village, Evil Cousin succeeds in ripping off the bangles and throwing the broken ones behind the car. And who should witness all this, but Raakhee! As she strolls her “village mad woman” way through the streets. She grabs the bangles (okay, kind of cool that she senses that is her daughter-in-law and the bangles are from her son on some subconscious level) and immediately starts running after the jeep. She catches up to it, just as it passes through the gates of the Hawali, which shut in her face. That whole bit was very nicely done, and probably hard to time correctly.
Shahrukh, meanwhile, is taking the train. Oh man, there’s a train? Why would you ever drive! They could have bought a private car and then all of them could have traded off taking care of Kajol, instead of leaving it to Evil Cousin to fight with her the whole way. Train travel: Best Choice for Parents of Small Children, and Kidnappers!
Of course, as soon as Shahrukh steps off the train at the station (we saw it arrive, going past the sign for the village. Sholay reference!), he starts flashing like crazy. Walking through the streets, remembering how he and Salman used to race each other. Seeing the bangle seller. All that. And then he finally lands up at the temple, where useless Kali priest goes “Hey! It’s you again!” Shahrukh’s like, wha? The priest, continuing his habit of unprofessionalism and lack of sensitivity, doesn’t really explain, and instead just sends him off to shock his past-life mother into a heart attack when he suddenly shows up again.
She does actually survive the shock (No thanks to Priest!), and I think this is also the last touch that gives Shahrukh all his memory back. Unlike in Om Shanti Om, where seeing his mother didn’t do it, but winning a FilmFare award did. Different priorities.
So Shahrukh is all “Mom!” And Raakhee is all “You didn’t bring your brother? What good are you?” And Shahrukh is all “Thanks, Mom. I’ll just go now and maybe come back in another twenty years in another life when you’ve learned to appreciate me!” Except not, because Indian sons are better than any other children on the face of the earth. Instead he says “Oh, right, forgot. I will totally go get him and bring him back and then maybe, if I am lucky, you will GET OFF MY FREAKING BACK!” Except he doesn’t say the last bit.
So, back to jail! Salman is being taken off in a van as Mamta watches. Shahrukh arrives on a motorcycle (woo! motorcycle! He can ride those so much better than horses!) and asks what is happening. Mamta says “oh, it’s fine, he’ll be out in 6 months.” But that will be too late! Oh No! Jailbreak! It’s very exciting, Shahrukh zooms off on his motorcycle after the van, and then the camera pulls back as it follows him and we get just a glimpse of Mamta and THOSE PANTS!!! Bad pants. BAD BAD! As a woman with a lovely figure, she should Never, Ever, Ever, Ever, where tight fitted high-waisted khaki corduroys with the shirt tucked in. Really, no one should.
(Never buy these)
Oh right, jail break. Shahrukh runs down the van, beats up the guards, rescues Salman. I couldn’t really appreciate it, because my eyeballs were still seared with the ugliness that had just been brought upon them (Those Pants!). And at the end of it all, they are back on the train for a romantic interval as they go back to the village. Shahrukh keeps trying to make a connection, but Salman is holding back, culminating in a lovely moment when they both stand in the open door and the wind blows through their hair and Salman looks into the distance trying to make sense of his life, and Shahrukh looks at him all puppy eyes and hair blowing, and it really is a nice shot. The line of their heads is echoed in the line of the train, their is a whistle wandering through the soundtrack, and then the Last of the Mohicans theme swells up again, and I am so irritated I can’t appreciate it anymore. Just keep the last two notes the same! That’s all I want!
So, Raakhee again. And another nicely shot sequence. You see her seeing her boys, you see them walking towards her, and then you pull back, and they are on the top of a ridge in front of a sunset, silhouetted against the orange sky as the two tall male figures slowly walk to the small sari-wearing one. Oh, and there is also a third figure in the background that I think is Mamta, but they must have cut her reaction shot, because it was confusing. Oh, and thank goodness, it’s not Last of the Mohicans playing in the soundtrack again, it’s the “Bandhan” song from the opening.
Okay, should I stop now? It’s a little early, at this rate I won’t get to the end before next Wednesday. There’s another song in a bit, I think I will go until then.
So, fifteen minutes with good guys, it is time to check in with the bad guys. And it’s the same goons! The ones who killed them in the last life! They are still hanging out at the village, only with grew at the temples, and word comes to them that there are two strange young men hanging out with that crazy old lady.
Back to good guys. They have this whole beautiful reunion, but Salman is still all “uh, this is kind of crazy and I’m not really buying it.” Finally, Shahrukh takes him to the quarry where they used to work when they were alive, and were killed when they died. He lays out the whole thing, how they lived, how they loved their mother, how they were killed, and Salman is still not buying it. It’s very dramatic. They leave separately.
Shahrukh is back in the village, hanging out, when the scary grey haired goons show up again to kill him (again)! He fights, but he is not very impressive. I mean, the character is supposed to be struggling, but the actor is a little as well. Remember, Salman was in films a good 4 years longer than Shahrukh, and usually had a fight scene. Shahrukh was just starting out, and more of a romantic lead. He just didn’t have the skills yet to make this sort of hand to hand thing believable. Plus, he’s wearing a stupid leather jacked (because he’s a cowboy!), which makes his movements harder to follow, and probably harder to do as well.
Luckily, Salman shows up! All muscular and trained in stunt fighting and wearing reasonabl (er) clothing! And, having massive flashbacks to his previous death now that he he sees Shahrukh under attack by the same guys. Which, as we have seen, actually makes him a better fighter, instead of a less focused and more confused one (as you would expect of someone having massive flashbacks).
And then there’s a song! I knew it was coming up soon. Happy village dance with Mamta and the two boys and their mother. Okay, I was fine with Shahrukh getting distracted from rescuing his girl when he discovers he is reincarnated and gets to meet his past life mother. And even when he decided he had to track down and convince his past life brother. But that’s all over with now! And you are taking time for a massive celebration dance? Kajol?!?!? What about Kajol?!?! You’re just going to leave her there to be buried in the walls of the Hawali? What happened to that driving urge to save her?
Okay, I mean, I get it, there must have been some serious date issues because Kajol interacts with hardly anyone else from this point on, but it is super distracting! Which someone must have pointed out in post-production, because Rakesh inserts a brief moment when Shahrukh hallucinates her in the middle of the song. Actually, I wonder if that was always in there for narrative purposes, but dates issues ruined the visuals? I bet they were initially planning a “Shava Shava”/”Bole Chudiyan” type thing where he really imagines her being there and both actresses were in this song, but then Kajol couldn’t make it happen, so they just used a “Jaati Hoon Main” flashback instead.
So, song over, but I can’t end yet because in the next scene Amrish Puri is wearing Jodhpurs! Jodhpurs! Later, he wears a purple coat. But at this point in the film, this is still the sartorial high light.