HAPPY BIRTHDAY TOWNSANDTULIPS!!!! My Gift to You, DDLJ Part 52

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! I hope you are having a wonderful day and eating cake and spoiling yourself. And as a thank you for being such a nice enthusiastic new commenter, here is my gift: a new section of DDLJ.

It’s been a while! Let’s see if I can remember where we are. It’s Karwa Chauth, and Kajol volunteered to fast with the married women even though she is just engaged. Everyone thinks it is because she is a saintly perfect “baahu”, but actually it is because she is in love with Shahrukh and wants to fast for him. Shahrukh tried to tell her not to do it for fear of exposure, but she didn’t listen to him. She is fasting, and also insisting that she will not eat or drink unless Shahrukh feeds it to her. We’ve seen them all day making eyes at each other, her being grumpy and hungry, him reminding her it’s her own dang fault and trying to get her to eat. We just had a little break from the two of them with a cute flirtation between Anupam and Kajol’s aunt Himani, but now we are back!

Karwa Chauth is a funny holiday, because on the one hand it is about female bonding and shared strength, all the women of the household (including those not fasting) isolated together while the men are exiled. But on the other hand, the whole idea of the holiday is fasting “for” your man. We come back to the women with this in mind, seeing then gathered in a strong female group, but singing about men.

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The camera circles around, so we see that there are many women there, not just our actors with dialogue, but a lot of women. And a variety of women, middle-aged and youthful.

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And then we come back to our central woman, Kajol, and look at her face and think about what this holiday means for her.

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Lovely shot of the women’s reflection in the water, a reminder that in a little bit they are supposed to see their husband’s faces. But for now, they still see their own.

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We come back to Kajol and remember that for her, this is both traditional and rebellious. She is fasting like all the other women. But she is also rebellious because she is secretly thinking of her forbidden love when she is supposed to be thinking about her family chosen public love.

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And then she sees Shahrukh smiling up at her. This is what’s important. She sees him in the moon in the water, as all good wives are supposed to. But she is happy to see him, because he is smiling at her. She isn’t worshipping him (even though she has all the trappings of worship around her), because he isn’t asking for that, he is smiling at her like a human.

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And she smiles back. This isn’t a moment of spiritual worship, it is a moment of happiness in shared joy. Thinking of Shahrukh makes her happy, something which cannot be said for the other women around her, something which is not supposed to be part of this whole ritual.

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And then we are back to another lovely simple shot showing all the women. It’s interesting to compare this sequence with the Karwa Chauth references in K3G. There are three of them, during “Suraj Hua Madham” Kajol imagines a simple Karwa Chauth on a terrace of her house, Shahrukh imagines an elegant one in his parents’ ballroom. And then we see the reality, a joint function of their community group in London in an enormous rented room. Kajol’s first imagining is a private family celebration. Shahrukh’s is a public display, a family party with many guests. And the reality is a shared party where they are equals of everyone else. The reality of that film, if you remove the sparkle and excess, is the same as this. Karwa Chauth as a time that is more about community and coming together than husband and wife, even though it is supposed to be a husband and wife celebration.

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We cut from the group to Amrish Puri’s hands as he gives water to Farida. It gives us a sense of continuity, that this is a celebration the older generation does and has done many times, and now the younger is continuing.

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Farida has the proper expression, not unhappy but serious, this is a ritual and she is performing it properly because she is a wife.

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And then the next shot calls it into question. Is that older couple a nice tradition with continuity, or a sign of an unhappy marriage going through the motions? Because here are Kajol and Kuljit, and her face does not look happy, while his face looks oblivious. Is that what is happening in all these couples? A husband who has no idea of the sacrifices and unhappinesses of his wife, not just today but all days?

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And Shahrukh is smiling in the background. Because he is standing behind Kajol and she makes him smile. Such a smile-y romance in general, but especially noticable in this scene when all the other couples are soooooooooooooooo serious.

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And then Kajol puts her hand to her head and Shahrukh starts to look worried.

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Notice here her hand is down, she is making a face at the camera but Shahrukh is behind her and shouldn’t be able to see that. It’s a sign both of how in tune the characters are, he can read subtle body language from behind and know her distress, and how in tune the actors are that he can react without needing to see her face.

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Same thing here, she starts to fall and he rushes forward. It’s a “trust fall”, that old couple’s therapy technique, if you fall backward are you sure your partner will catch you? But in this case for real, Kajol is faking and planning this fall with total certainty that Shahrukh will catch her. Which he does. It’s not in a therapist’s office, it’s not planned, she doesn’t even look to see that he is behind her instead of anywhere else in the party. She just knows that no matter where she is, Shahrukh will be close by, and if she falls, he will catch her.

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Of course it’s also a trust exercise between the actors. I suppose Adi could have yelled a warning or something, non-sync sound means they could be talking over all the dialogue with stage directions, but it really feels like Kajol just fell when she was ready to fall and Shahrukh caught her.

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The reason this moment feels so romantic is that Shahrukh is so worried and doesn’t even care about anything else. When Kajol first said she wanted him to give her water, he was dismissive and made fun of her and said it wasn’t worth it. But now that she has fainted from dehydration, he doesn’t care if it reveals his feelings or anything, he is ordering folks around, ready to help.

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Also, notice that Anupam is right there. He wasn’t like Shahrukh, standing a few feet away, but we saw him come running over as soon as she fell. It’s a nice background touch, showing how Kajol will be going to a household where everyone cares for her and watches over her, and how Anupam has already adopted her as his new “daughter”

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It’s only after Shahrukh and Anupam are already there that Farida comes over to help. It’s a bit of a sign of how divorced her parents already feel from her. Farida’s focus is on Kajol doing the right thing to please Amrish right now. Amrish’s focus is on her doing the right thing to please society. Shahrukh and Anupam are the ones who actually care and react quickly to Kajol’s true welfare. This is the uncertain time of the engagement, her parents have started to push her out of their lives (as society says they should) while her in-laws have begun to embrace her.

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And then we have one (of many) moments when the camera looks straight at Kajol and we are in her head again. How rare is that? A heroine who gets to take charge of the camera and communicate straight to the audience?

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And to Shahrukh, who she has successfully surprised. It’s another moment of rebellion-through-tradition. Fasting for your husband and having him feed you and give you water is a totally powerless moment. But choosing which husband you will fast for, and forcing him to give you the water when he didn’t want to, that is a power move.

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In the same way, she keeps control by making herself seem extra weak, after that perky eye look, she collapses back down as though she can’t stand. It’s weakness, but it lets her get what she wants, avoid talking to Kuljit and manipulate her family into carrying her off.

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She is falling over, not even standing on her own two feet, but she is also the center of this mixed male and female crowd. It’s a power move, taking control of the situation by seemingly losing control.

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That’s what Karwa Chauth, and so many male-female rituals, can be. The woman by aggressively giving up control forces the man to take it. So in the end, she is the one still in control, because she chose who has the power over her. It’s still not fair, a woman should be able to have power over herself, but in a society where that is not possible, the ability to choose which man takes your power is the most powerful thing you can do. That’s what this whole movie is about, and most Hindi film romances. An Indian woman HAS to get married, that that as a given. If she HAS to get married, then the most powerful thing she can do is just choose who to marry, what man will take control of her life.

That’s all I’ve got. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TOWNSANDTULIPS!!!!! Sorry it wasn’t a peppier more romantic scene for you.

7 thoughts on “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TOWNSANDTULIPS!!!! My Gift to You, DDLJ Part 52

  1. Kajol can make SRK laugh by reminding him of the time she fell off the bike in KKHH and had temporary amnesia. I get the sense that it is supposed to be a cute story, but it somewhat disturbs me, I don’t really find brain injuries funny. And then SRK dropped her in the Oh so definitely in Paris song. My point is that if I were going to trust fall into someone’s arms, I would NOT want that someone to be SRK.

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  2. Good wishes to townsandtulips on their birthday.
    ‘The woman by aggressively giving up control forces the man to take it’=’I know what my decision is/which is not to decide'(catch the reference).
    One of the recurring problems in many 90s films that makes me fast forward them is the overt glorification of Karwa Chauth,a festival that was celebrated by a small percentage of North Indians but suddenly became a rage,a ‘trend’ with it being shown in movies.It would seem weird for movies to shape societies,but trust me,ostentatious Sangeet parties(just a few old women singing folk songs in hoarse voices)weren’t a thing before 2010 thanks to it being shown in films.Similarly Holi songs-dance-parties-just-whatever.I agree that karwa chauth gives women an opportunity to interact and have fun,similar to Teej festival,but the idea of fasting ‘for’ a husband is ???.Would be just as fun to do something like making a huge rangoli on the terrace and putting lamps on
    it when the moon comes out instead of a fast.Movies actually dropped songs that say “may my lifespan add up to yours,I am your servant”.I apologise if I sound cynical and offensive,but my problem is not with the festival itself but the way it is shown in films.
    Someone said that DDLJ is a love story of Amrish Puri and Anupam Kher,and their children are acting as a cohesive force crossing their paths,just agents to a bigger love story.THAT,is a review I would love to read from you,if you ponder on that angle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, I must have overlooked it. Sorry! I’ll renumber and check the index!

      On Wed, Oct 28, 2020 at 9:56 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

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  3. Oh man. I typed in a whole comment, but for some reason, it couldn’t be posted. I’ll begin again.

    This. Is. Such. A. Great. Gift.
    Thank you so much, Margaret!!!!!

    Karva Chauth is an interesting festival and the power dynamics are very much at play. I’ve heard a lot of complaints from the men in the desi community about it, since it’s another Valentine’s Day for them, with the jewelry and the flowers and being home at a correct time for date night, while at the same time complying with the requests because it’s the women who are making the “real” sacrifice technically. They hold emotional power (as women generally do, thank you all those studies I’ve read), and the physical power is useless.

    Kajol knows this all too well. It’s clearly what she’s grown up with and has been exposed to. Her father yells and shouts, but Farida is the one who gets her to comply by holding emotions over her head. Kajol’s done this herself. She played on her father’s emotions by acting Hindustani enough to go on a trip she wanted to go on and she doubles down on playing a character here, except this time it’s the opposite. Rather than playing a true Hindustani girl, she plays up her woman’s frailty and her Britishness, the fact that she’s never done this before. She uses traditional weaknesses to control the situation around her and yes, make the men step up to claim power, without really disturbing the social order (in fact Kuljeet might even feel better about himself, having bagged this delicate, exotic NRI creature).

    But this cannot end without discussing costumes. Kajol’s boldness is thoroughly emphasized in the latter part of the movie, when she begins taking control, and they do this by emphasizing her eyes. Her orange-red suit brings out the green in her eyes, so when she winks, it’s a double shock. Interestingly, almost nobody else (including Shahrukh) gets this level of curation. They’re there to complement her or be vague enough to blend into the background, but in a subtle way (not in the weird way where we keep seeing the protagonists wearing one color and nobody else around them wearing anything similar). She stands out and everyone else follows.

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    • Happy Birthday! I was so worried you wouldn’t see it 🙂

      I like your idea of emotional power versus physical power. I would add, that there’s a third layer where the men do still have the power. Which, again, this film shows. Kajol can easily manipulate everyone to do as she wants on Karwa Chauth by playing the passively saintly role. But she can win every battle and still lose the war, no matter what she says or does, ultimately her life is in the hands of her father and Shahrukh. In the same way Farida can manipulate and control the whole family day by day, but ultimately her husband can send her daughter away against her wishes. That whole combination of powers is so rare for a film to show! To get that women aren’t just passive obedient people but can use their passivity to control a situation, but also that it is such a small amount of control compared to how their whole lives are run by the men around them.

      And yes to the costumes!!!! Especially in this sequence when the men are dressed so plainly. I hadn’t thought about it at all, but Kajol’s outfit here is as bright and distinctive as her green “mehndi laga ke” outfit, and her gold wedding dress. Only this time she isn’t made the center of a big dramatic sequence, it’s just quietly making her stand out.

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