A very very old post! So old, I didn’t even bother fact checking and assumed this was the first SRKajol movie. But also means you get to read young happy carefree Margaret’s writing.
So, Karan-Arjun. On DVD. Which means, in theory, I could get something wrong and someone could notice. Please be kind! I’m writing this at work based on my memory of what I watched last night, I don’t actually have it in front of me.
So, we open with Fate doing a voice over about how this is a story of Destiny. Over terrible quality filmstock. That’s why I love the 90s, much less money, much greater ambition. And then, explosions! At one of those rock and gravel factories that are also very 90s! You know, like where Salman worked in Maine Pyar Kiya. Apparently, India in the 90s was in desperate need of blown up rocks.
Speaking of blowing up rocks, Explosions! Which caused me to make the note “Trishul?” Because one of my all time favorite introductions is Amitabh’s arrival in Trishul, walking in front of an exploding rock-cliff thingy, pausing, lighting his cigarette from the fuse, then strolling calmly on towards the camera ignoring all the explosions behind him. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Yashji ripped himself off and used the same intro for Shahrukh in Jab Tak Hain Jaan.
(minus the using a fuse for a cigarette, thanks anti-smoking censor board!)
Anyway, a bunch of rock factory workers line up in front of a small table with a bucket on it and a smiling guy with a turban behind it. Apparently, he is the local enforcer and they all have to hand over a portion of their pay every week. Which results in the note “Deewar?” And also “Cool eye line match!” Because there is this neat thing where the smiling guy moves his eyes and nods his head to the side to indicate the money bucket, and then cut to hands tossing money into the bucket in the exact same angle as his nod. This also makes me look up who the director was, because that was a nice little bit of skill. Rakesh Roshan! Of course! That’s why the world was gifted with this picture from set.
(yes, that is tall and skinny college student Hrithik, spending the summer hanging out on his Dad’s film set.) (I don’t know who the guy on the right is)
So, Salman and Shahrukh get to the head of the line, looking very good village boy-like. White kurtas and dotis, the works. Why you would wear a kurta and doti to work in a gravel factory, I do not know. I guess so everyone else can tell you are the heroes of the movie. Anyway, they have a friendly conversation with enforcer guy and convince him to let them keep all their pay this week. So it turns out, this is not in fact Deewar, and we are not going to watch a movie about the trauma of the working man and the bloodsuckers who prey on him. Thank goodness!
So, the reason they wanted extra money, was to buy super homo-erotic bangles. Oh my gosh! I may have watched the slashfic version of this scene a few hundred times, but turns out, it was already plenty slash-y! They peek at each other between bangles, they duck their heads and shyly look away, they both still have those big brown 20-something puppy dog eyes, and they are just so young and sweet, and I just want them to confess their love to each other!
(a minute and thirty seconds into this. Believe me, the full scene in the film is even more romantic)
And then it turns out, no, they were just all giddy and excited about buying bangles for their mother! Okay, sure, let’s all pretend that’s all it is! And then they race each other home, jumping through the highways and byways of their remote village (and seeing no other people, does no one else live there? Or are they all just so sick of pretending not to see Shahrukh and Salman’s obvious love for each other, that they hide whenever they hear them coming?), and diving to be the first one to touch “Ma’s” feet and get her blessing. “Ma” is played by Raakhee, who actually was in Trishul, and now my brain is hurting. To many references within one film!
So, they want to give Raakhee the bangles, but she recoils! Oh, oh! I know what this is! She’s a Secret Widow! I have seen this before! She can’t tell anyone for Reasons, but she also can’t wear jewelry or bright colors! Anyway, she then suggests that they set the bangles aside for her eventual daughter-in-laws. Oh Raakhee, they are never going to want to marry women. Just accept it.
And then there is the “Bandhan” song, and I realize I don’t actually know what “Bandhan” means. It’s one of those words I’ve heard so much that I think I know what it means, but I don’t really. Like “irony.” Huh. Google says, “attachment.” For Bandhan, not irony.
So, this song. Mother India all over the place! Ox carts, village boys with earrings, mother and two sons, and so on. Only, a homoerotic Mother India (versus the original Mother India which was just insistently Oedipal). Notice that it works just as well as a mother and two sons, or as a queer positive older lady and the boys she has adopted when their own families threw them out because of their love that dared not speak its name.
(also, notice the visit to the happy and family-friendly Kali temple at the beginning. Kali is definitely going to be making a reappearance later)
Post-song, they boys are curled up in bed together, when a mysterious visitor knocks on their door! He has come to take her to the “Thakur”. She knew this day would come! I have a sudden brief hope that she is actually the Thakur’s mistress and the boys are illegitimate. But no, of course not, it’s Raakhee! She would never! Apparently, the Thakur is her father-in-law? And he’s dying? Anyway, she sends the guy off with a “I’ll think about it” but of course the boys over-hear and are full of questions.
So, lengthy backstory! She was poor, their Dad was rich, they got married, his Dad threw them out on the instigation of an evil nephew, they lived in the village and their Dad was a teacher, then he was killed, but by who! (My vote is for Evil Nephew). Anyway, she never told them any of this, because she didn’t want them to be sad about their dead Dad. Wait, how does that work? Instead of being sad about some guy they have no memory of being dead, they spend their whole lives thinking their father abandoned them and moved to the city? I don’t think Raakhee really thought this through. Oh, and I was right! Secret Widow! Anyway, now Grandpa’s sick and wants to see them and be forgiven and so on and so forth, and because Raakhee is a saint, she is will to take her boys to see the old man.
So, cut to them arriving at the big fancy palace thing and Raakhee saying “This should all have been yours”. And me saying, “where are all the people!?!?” It’s just a really big building for there to be absolutely no one in the courtyard or anywhere. Rakesh! You could have had Hrithik play a servant! You had him play everything in the world as a child, why not use him as an adult?
So, yeah, they walk in the door, and AAH! It’s Kali! A really scary one, with a sticky-out tongue painted red and the skull necklace and the whole deal! Be grateful I am not including a picture. And then, AAAAAAHHH! Even scarier, it’s Amrish Puri with a bad dye-job! Shockingly, he is the Evil Nephew! A movie from the 90s in which Amrish plays the villain! How often does that happen! Only ALL THE TIME!!!
So, yeah, he is not thrilled that Grandpa is reuniting with queer positive village woman and her adopted son couple. Meanwhile, Grandpa is kind of sweet! I was all set to hate him, because what kind of idiot listens to advice from Amrish Puri and throws out Raakhee? But no, he is small and old and “let me embrace you, my boys! My biggest regret is that I was not able to be there and watch you grow up.” And he wants to gift them the Hawali! Well, their Mom, and then them in due course. Raakhee has a definite “uh, what about Evil Amrish Puri?” expression on her face at this declaration. Sure enough, here comes Evil Amrish Puri! And I am pretty sure the two goons he brings with him are the same goons from Koyla. Oh! And the doctor type servant guy who went to Raakhee last night is also in Koyla! Boy, Rakesh really has his little crew he re-uses, doesn’t he? Also, now I am thinking about how good Koyla is. I wish more people could get past the mullets and appreciate it. Actually, now that I think about it, I called Rakesh “theoretically competent” in an earlier post, and I think I may have to increase that to “skilled.” (Except for Krrish, I don’t know what happened there, but it was like he lost the ability to use a camera.)
So, yeah, those same bad guy actors come in behind Amrish Puri, who immediately starts openly threatening Raakhee. No! Not Raakhee! She offers to tear up the new will, to give everything back to Amrish, but apparently Amrish is on a power-trip and that isn’t enough for him. But he is distracted enough for her to get out of there with her sons. But poor Grandpa has to die. But at least his death is filmed in a really cool manner, that has to give him some comfort!
He says something to Amrish Puri about suffering under the shadow of his evil, and Amrish says something about “Now you will die under it!” And then the camera looks down on Grandpa’s terrified face as the shadows of Amrish’s hands come down towards him. So yeah, Grandpa’s dead. The goons are like “welp, that’s done! What next?” Amrish answers “we kill the boys, just like we killed their father!” (He is the one who killed their father!?! Who saw that coming!?! Everyone?). And then he has another cool metaphor, and says “their father was a snake [remember, this isn’t a slur in Indian culture, he’s just saying he was a dangerous person], but they are just babies whose fangs have not yet come in. Let them die before they mature!”
And that’s where I’m going to stop, because I’m tired and need to finish my coffee, and also I came in on “horses!” with my first Bajirao synopsis, and I sort of like the idea that the two movies can be soldered together on the “Horses!” link. Try reading this summary and then that one and see if it makes any sense at all!