Oh, I am SO EXCITED to talk about this plot! And the clever little ways it pays homage to film classics. And also, how Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor were INSANELY beautiful.
Whole Plot in One Paragraph:
Deepika and Ananya are cousins but have grown apart. Ananya’s father ran the family business and she grew up rich. Deepika’s father Naseeruddin left the family business and started a dairy on his own and she grew up less well off. Deepika is in a long term relationship with their mutual friend Dhairya Karwa, supporting him by teaching yoga while he tries to write a novel. Ananya invites Deepika and Karan to spend the weekend at the family beach house and meet her fiance, Siddhant Chaturvedi. Deepika and Siddhant immediately spark off of each other and soon they have started an affair. Deepika tries to break it off, but Siddhant insists they can make it work, he just has to finish his one big deal that will make them rich, and then he can break it off with Ananya. Deepika breaks up with Dhairya and starts planning a life with Siddhant. Siddhant is serious, asks his business partner Rajat Kapoor how fast they can pay back Ananya’s money. But then they get caught up in a banking scandal and Siddhant needs to borrow even more from Ananya. And Deepika is pregnant. Siddhant is torn between the two women and considers killing Ananya, before finally trying to kill Deepika by throwing her off his yacht. She fights back, and kills him. In the aftermath, Ananya confesses to her that Ananya stole her inheritance. Deepika’s mother and Ananya’s father had an affair, they are half sisters. That is why Deepika’s mother killed herself and her father left the wealth of the family behind. Deepika was supposed to inherent in Ananya’s father’s will, but she talked him out of it. Deepika then goes to talk to her father, who has figured out at least part of what has happened with Siddhant, and he reassures her that she is strong and she will survive this. Two years later, Deepika and her father are very close and she is planning to move him back with her. Dhairya is engaged to someone else and very happy. Deepika and Ananya meet at the engagement part and agree that truth is the best way. Just then, an old woman who had met Siddhant and Deepika together comes up and recognizes her. Movie Ends.
Okay, gotta get this out of the way first, it’s An American Tragedy. Theodore Dreiser’s famous novel, remade as the movie A Place in the Sun. And then again, loosely, as Match Point. And a million other times in a million other places.
The central idea is class and gender. Our hero has a chance to jump classes by marrying the Perfect Rich Girl. But in the meantime, he is killing time with the easy poor girl, the one he doesn’t have to try for. Until the easy girl gets pregnant and becomes the obstacle in his way. Stuck between the two, he takes the poor girl out on a boat and she falls in the water and dies. It’s purposefully unclear if he murdered her or not. He didn’t try to save her, at the very least. And then he is arrested and sentenced to death.
It’s a brilliant story because it is about class and ambition. Our hero is internally conflicted, does he really want to jump classes by marrying the rich girl? Why does he keep being drawn back to the poor girl? Why did he fail to cover up the culpability for her death? Why did he make it so easy for him to be caught? Was it because, inevitably, people can’t jump class because they have internalized their own failures? Because seeking power and success just for the sake of power and success is empty?
There’s another British version of the story, Room at the Top, in which our hero is torn between the older married woman with whom he is having an affair and the pretty rich girl he could marry. He breaks things off with the affair woman eventually and she kills herself. He marries the rich girl, but it is empty, and he is facing a life of going through the motions without really feeling anything. And then there’s Woody Allen’s Match Point, in which our hero actually gets away with killing the poor girl, and it is the rich girl who is pregnant, not the poor one. I haven’t seen that version, but I don’t like it. All the other versions are “tragedies”, in that, our protagonist has one tragic flaw which will forever keep him from happiness. I don’t want to see a version where our hero actually succeeds.
Okay, the reason I am spending so long laying out this heritage is because we are SUPPOSED to have that heritage in our mind. The “Gehraiyan”, the constant images of waves, it is a reference to An American Tragedy/A Place in the Sun and the famous death scene of accident/murder on a boat. This movie takes the same love triangle, the same struggling conflicted ambitious flawed hero, and flips it and says “wait a minute, let’s look at what it does to women when society crafts men like this”. It’s not a straight forward “men suck” storyline, it establishes that there is a reason our hero is like that, society has made him this way, the drive for material signs of wealth, the constant reminders of where he came from, etc. But the women around him are collateral damage of his tragic flaws, and that’s not fair.
This movie looks at who those women are, and gives dignity to their relationships. One thing I thought was well done, we see that the class difference between the two women is largely internal. Making them cousins makes it even clearer. Ananya went overseas for school. Ananya has a lovely beach house. Ananya has clean nice rooms and a rich handsome fiance. But they are both part of the elite world of Bombay, they are both comfortable in the elite world of Bombay. And eventually we find out they aren’t even cousins, but sisters. It’s not some fantasy romantic line between the “average” girl and the “Magic” girl. It’s that Ananya is rich and Deepika is less rich. Siddhant sees Ananya as money and Deepika as sex, no matter how much he tries to romanticize it or convince Deepika it is different.
The film starts out by talking about “choices” and what it eventually shows is that the people you think are making good choices because of how their lives are lived are in fact making bad choices, and vice versa. Deepika thinks her father made a bad choice by walking away from the family and going out on his own. She thinks he caused her mother to kill herself in misery, and is currently living a miserable life, and has caused her own sense of being stuck in one place. But the truth is that her mother was having an affair with her brother-in-law, the guilt over that was what killed her and moving away freed them. Deepika was free to support herself, to feel independent, to make decisions on her own. Ananya seemingly makes “good” choices, but in reality we see she has no independence, no career, is at the mercy of Siddhant because she can’t see anything else for herself, and is further at the mercy of her mother who shamelessly guilts her into doing whatever she wants.
Deepika, ultimately, chooses not to die. That’s what’s most important about this story. The inconvenient mistress, the pregnant woman who is getting in the way, she is supposed to fade into nothing, to remove herself from the hero’s path. That’s what Deepika’s mother did, she allowed her guilt to eat her alive. But Deepika doesn’t do that, she won’t accept death as punishment for infidelity.
One thing I really noticed about the final sequence is how sunny and light it was. Literally sunny and light. It’s not that anything changed, it’s that how we saw things changed. Naseeruddin wasn’t living in squalor and misery a failure in life, he was succeeding in his independent life in a pleasant large sunny house. Deepika didn’t have to walk hunched over and pinched face, she can smile and move freely. And yes, she is still working a lot, but it’s okay. She works, she visits her father on the weekend, life isn’t all that bad.
An American Tragedy is about the incapability of ever being satisfied with what you have, ever stop wanting. But this movie is about the opposite. About Deepika simply letting go and accepting the good things she has instead of yearning for what she only imagines.
There’s sooooooooooooooooooooo much more left to discuss, but I will leave that to y’all to talk about!!!! For now I will just give a simple question, who is more beautiful (because this story only works if it is about beautiful people who believe they are destined for better things)?