I went into this film with very low expectations, which tends to be my secret for actually enjoying a movie rather than listing all the ways in which it didn't measure up to what I wanted it to be. Even though Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (God Has Brought This Couple Together) reunited Aditya Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan, it didn't seem to strike any notes but dischord with the blogosphere. However, I also did a foolish and foolhardy thing and invited one of my Bollyviewing friends over to watch it with me--before I had even screened it first.
"Almost everybody whose blog I read hated this movie," I offered as I stuck the disc into the tray.
"Um... Thanks for inviting me?" she sort of asked.
"If I have to suffer, you do too," my husband muttered from his corner of the couch, where he had already immersed himself in a game on his cell phone.
After the movie ended (and I had finished reading the translation of the end credits voice-over, which, nerd that I am, I had already called up on my cell phone to have at the ready), my friend cooed, "How could anyone not love this movie? It's sooooo sweet!" And that's my verdict as well. As totally improbable as fifty percent of this movie is, I don't care. It's sweet and adorable and I loved it. (Husband input: "That was actually pretty good. Kajol looked awesome." Damn the woman, she did.)
The first 30 minutes are particularly affecting. We see Surinder (SRK) and grim Taani (Anushka Sharma, who was very assured for her first film role), in her full bridal array, disembark from the train in Amritsar. Clearly this is an unexpected wedding, because as Suri opens the door to his house he has to go and run to get the stuff for welcoming a bride into her new house for the first time.
And, flashback! We see a bubbly Taani dancing at her wedding day--not to Suri. In fact, when her father introduces her to Suri she promptly (and playfully) accuses him of having ruined her childhood, since she could never measure up to her father's comparisons of his former student with his daughter. Shy, socially inept Suri falls instantly in love with a girl young enough to be his daughter. (Which, yuck, but it's supposed to be weird.)
Tragedy strikes within minutes (you should've seen it coming--nobody's allowed to stay that happy at the beginning of a movie) and Suri and Taani are married after just a few hours. Taani promptly retreats to her bedroom (Surinder packs up all his things and runs to the cobwebby attic after telling her "I always sleep up here") and sits. And sits. And sits, with the door locked. (Not that I blamed her--if I'd suffered that much in 24 hours I wouldn't have even bothered to get out of bed.) When it counts most to Suri, however, she makes a major effort, and starts their marriage on what may be the best note possible.
Suri and Taani try to make the best of an awkward situation, and largely succeed--except he's still sleeping in the (now-liveable, thanks to Taani) attic, she almost never smiles, and he's falling more in love with her every day. They "aap" and "ji" each other to death and seem stalled in their formal patterns of relating.
Things change, though, when Taani sees an add for a Mumbai-based dance company offering lessons in her new hometown, and asks Suri to let her attend. Suri agrees, but decides to create an alter-ego with the help of Bobby, his best friend (played by wonderful Vinay Pathak). As "Raj," Suri can watch Taani smile again.
Raj, of course, is a play on the Raj character from DDLJ, that other little Aditya Chopra movie starring SRK. Before long, Raj and Taani meet, and she doesn't recognize him because she has been tragically struck blind by the glaring colors of his shirt.
Okay, that last part is a lie.
Before I go on, let me state some of the problems I had with this scenario:
- If Taani is, as she says, "bored with staying home all day," then why doesn't she get a job? Or go to college? I mean, even freakin' Poonam in Vivah was going to go to school after marriage, and if she could Taani surely could too, right? (Or, barring that, decide she wants children--they'll keep ya busy, Taani!)
- Why does Suri think that Bobby can make him look anything other than ridiculous?
- Most importantly of all: Is Taani an idiot? I can see not noticing her husband is madly in love with her--he does a truly excellent job of hiding it--but not recognizing him because he took off his glasses and mustache and stuck his hair in the air? Hmmm.
So, no matter how unrealistic the film gets, it's all God's fault. Remember that and you'll have as much fun as I did.
SRK does a fantastic job in his role as Suri. Even when he's Raj, he's Suri-being-Raj, clueless as to how act unless it's in as overblown a manner as a filmi hero. (Side note: all the films he and Taani go see at the theater are parodies of real films. Except, what was the last one where the girl leaves the guy she's dancing with and hugs the guy in the business suit?) The same pursed lips and closed-off body language evidence themselves behind the swagger and overblown cheer. Suri's soooo unbearably sweet--and I mean that in the best way. All the little ways he serves Taani because he loves her add up to me melting into a puddle of nerdlove.
Suri's bromance with Bobby is one of the most fun parts of the film--SRK and Vinay have great chemistry and do a good job with the yin-and-yang of their relationship.
I never really felt a zing between Taani and Suri, or even between Taani and Raj-Suri. I'm not sure if it's because of the age gap or because Taani was so conflicted the entire time or, perish the thought, because Anushka really couldn't portray the attraction.
I say "perish the thought" because she does a really good job of being an ordinary girl in an extraordinary situation. She reminded me a little of Preity Zinta in Dil Se. Only, you know, without all the "is my fiancee going to kill himself with that girl I can tell he likes better than me" stuff. Her smile lights up the screen and I found her believeable in every situation besides the attraction bits. And she's a good dancer!
The music of the film's just okay in my opinion (I realize I might be alone in this). The one exception is the adorable "Haule Haule," which of course had Sukhwinder Singh in an award-winning performance. The picturizations, on the other hand, were great, especially the six-minute cameo-licious "Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte." Taani dreams of Raj dancing with bunches of stars in classic Hindi film settings--Kajol as Nargis, Bipasha as Nutan, Lara Dutta as Helen, Preity as Sharmila, and Rani as Neetu Singh . At least, I think that's who they were. (Side note: how hot did Rani look? I almost didn't recognize her when she popped up. Apparently SRK thought so too--at the end of the song all of the couples are doing happy waves or frozen smiles to the camera, look-we're-good-friends, and then we flash to SRK and Rani and get this:
One common complaint that I've read is that "It's a throwback to thinking women should worship their husbands!" I dunno, to me it seemed to be saying spouses should revere each other. It's a pretty common Bolly-sentiment, after all: "May God forgive me, for I worship only you." Suri sings "I see God in you" to Taani long before she returns the favor. And speaking of that song, what does this mean?
Overall, I'd have to say I love this movie. With all its shortcomings in terms of plot, its characterizations, acting, and picturizations make it fun from start to finish.