Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ay, there's the rab!

In which I react to Rab ne bana di jodi. So SPOILER ALERT.


When I was a child, I was given a book called Thumbelina. The story of a thumb-sized girl and her adventures. There is a mole in the story: big, fat, ugly. Also rich and wanting to marry her. Hemmed in, Thumbelina is forced to contemplate marriage with him, till she escapes and meets a prince whom she falls in love with.

I hated the mole. Not for being ugly or rich or cruel, but for wanting to marry a girl against her will, in spite of her will. Inarticulately, even as a child, I was disgusted with such coercion that is not quite rape but something a little more insidious, equally vile.

Shahrukh Khan’s character Surinder in Rab ne bana di jodi is that mole. A small ‘ordinary’ man, a mofussil babu, oiled, slicked-back hair, ghonchu clothes and a very unbecoming moustache. He marries pretty, vivacious ‘Taaniji’ in emergency circumstances – she must, as her fiancĂ© and father have died in quick succession; he wants to.

Taani tries rather gallantly to come to terms with her new circumstances. Her new husband is nice – leaves her alone for the most part and demands very little from her. He then senses she needs a little more excitement and deceives her by playing another man, ‘Raj’ – a younger, more vibrant man, more audacious, more fashionable, more expressive, more acceptable. But even as he plays this other role, he runs into a contradiction within himself. He wants her to love Surinder not Raj. Mind, he will do nothing to win her love – not throw in sparkling conversation, not dress less dowdily, not be more loving; he will merely sit mutely, chewing his food across the table from her every night, loving her in a smug, self-righteous way, willing her to choose him.

She does eventually – for a reason more stupid and facile than many that Bollywood routinely uses to advance its plots. She does because she wants to see ‘rab’ in someone, sends up a prayer and opens her eyes to see her husband walking towards her in out-of-focus, slow-motion. And presumably because heroines in Bollywood movies do not normally leave husbands who don’t attract them for men that do. Or perhaps because all a woman ever wants (as Taani says, speaking for all of us) is a man to love her ‘beintehaa’. By this illumination, what I am to do with my ever-growing scroll of ‘What-I-Want-In-A-Man,’ I don’t know. Or maybe, just maybe, because Aditya Chopra thought he had a title he liked and thought up a silly story to fit it.

The most perturbing aspect came with the end credits. A series of snapshots of the couple’s honeymoon in Japan – Taaniji (she is still Taaniji) is with Surinder, and there is no sign of Raj. She is smiling hugely, affectionate, clinging to her bashful, mustachioed and badly-dressed husband, and, Suri’s voiceover hints coyly, there is sex involved. In short, she is broken in.

I find myself puzzled at Aditya Chopra. Why de-sex, so de-glamourise your hero? To what end? Why hold the mundane over the exciting? Why root for blah? Was this or was this not the man who tortured Esha Deol and Aishwarya Rai into skeletal forms, so they could enhance movies from his stable? Why speak then for the sort of middle class Indian man who won’t step up to his wife, but expects her to step down to him?

To add insult to injury, Chopra makes a bad masala movie. The songs are horribly treated, all the basics of ‘build-up’ lie by the side, there is no chemistry, no attempt at chemistry. Very weak and so annoying.


K said...

And the worst part is that he is DELIBERATELY being dumb, dowdy and boring. He CAN be fun, funny and free-spirited but won't be! Even in the end, he kept his fake moustache. Why why why???

Read this:

Hemanth said...

I kind of liked the plot - makes for a good interesting movie.. but from what you have described, Aditya has not converted this to a watchable movie..

And.. does this plot rhyme with another english/international movie.. i cant remember..

Sheetal said...

K: Yes, indeed. What did the moustache stand for anyway? it couldn't have been masculinity, there wasn't any.
Yes, I read Raja Sen. Where's your review, K?

Hemanth, I don't know about an english movie, but The Scarlet Pimpernel dealt with just such a scenario.

Australopithecus said...

Scarlet Pimpernel? I get that feeling about SRK: He's here, he's there, He's everywhere.

Sheetal said...

You make me laugh Auzman, every time.

Shweta said...

Was this or was this not the man who tortured Esha Deol and Aishwarya Rai into skeletal forms, so they could enhance movies from his stable?

The first real laugh I've had in four hours. I feel like tying Aditya Chopra's moustache into tiny torturous plaits. The Manju guys did us a favour; no end credits.

Meera said...

So on DVD it will be :)and that too from seventymm one month down the line.. with your reviews they may even release the original in half that..:)

Sheetal said...

Meeramma: isn't it a pity though? I was so excited about this one, and not really looking forward to Ghajini. so perhaps that'll be superb after all.

Sharada said...

Darn,I haven't watched it yet. Spoiler alert went unheeded. :p
And Sai plans to make me watch it with him tomorrow.
Say, have you watched Coen Brothers' Burn After reading yet? Please do! Black comedy, plot doesn't have a beginning or an end as such, irony and twists.

Sheetal said...

Sai's making you watch it? You putty!

It All Comes Around said...

I agree...
so does Manish Vij. I like this review, very acerbic but it crystallizes all that is WRONG with this genre of cutesy safe and deceptive film making.

Anonymous said...

Arrey, no update?


Sheetal said...

Nothing to say, K, nothing to say :)

kuffir said...


sharp..i'd like to see how you would review 'dilwale dulhaniya..', going back.

Sheetal said...

Kuffir: sorry for this late, late response.
I enjoyed Dilwale but frankly, I thought the Raj there was on highly dubious ethical ground as well.
I'm not very prone to threadbaring movies, particularly bollywood movies, for subliminal messages but sometimes the twistedness is too annoying.