Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, or, God Has Made the Utterly Implausible Loveable


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 f
riend 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.
Ah, but as Suri tells Bobby, "She could have recognized me immediately if it'd been God's will. But she didn't." In other words, God is in charge of this entire scenario. Indeed, that's the entire theme of the movie (along with the title, wow, way to drive that point home, Aditya-ji)--you can almost see God pulling the puppet strings to create the most unlikely twists and turns in order to bring these two together once and for all.

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:

Nice.)

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.

24 comments:

  1. I just couldn't stand Raj!!But after reading you're review, I'm wondering if, like "Kismat Konnection", I would have enjoyed this more had I seen it on DVD....Truthfully, I've been listening to the soundtrack lately and the songs have really grown on me. So much so that I thought to myself, Ok, maybe someday I'll try this one again..

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  2. Loved the film, loved your review! Your screencap with the laptop is absolutely priceless :)

    The sign says 'Hum hain raahi hai pyaar ke. Phir milenge chalte chalte', which as you probably already know means 'We are travelers on the path of love. We’ll meet again as time goes by.'

    Thanks for a great blog!

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  3. I just couldn't stand to overthetop-Raj. He was so so loud. I wish there would be 'original' Raj [ddlj] so that Taani would drooool over him. And the twist moment
    **spoiler**

    when he asks to elope with him.....


    ***spiler end****

    Gosh...I felt like throwing my glass [of coke] on screen [ala DevD :-)] and shout 'Yashraj..I m gonna kill u'. :-D So so typical one.

    On the flip side, i quite liked Taani, whenever she was smiling. And yes, song picturisations were really very good. Which is not a surprise given their recent songs. [compare Falak Tak [Tashan] with Tujh mein Rab !!!]

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  4. Ummm, okay. This review and none of BaH? hehehe, I understand since you like this movie more.

    I've had this dvd laying around and haven't watched it yet. I skipped most of what you posted. Will come back after I watch it and make my conclusion.

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  5. After all my blog reading, I was not prepared for how much I loved this movie. Seriously loved it, got my husband to watch it (and he liked it, which is really saying something). I watched it four times before sending it back to netflix and am now thinking I really need my own copy.

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  6. I ADORE this movie!!!!!! I gave it a glowing review on my blog and thought I would get some serioulsy negative feedback (which may have happened if I actually had traffic!). It could be because I'm head over heals for Shah Rukh that I am blinded to all of its shortcomings, but I honestly feel like Suri is one of the best characterizations I've seen in recent Hindi cinema. I even liked Raj in all of his annoying glory. The ending gets me teary eyed every time. In fact, I put it on just this morning to watch the songs (Haule Haule and Tujh mein Rab Dikhta Hai are both in my top 10 on my ipod). I even dragged my husband (who was very unsupportive of my interest in Bollywood)to the theatre with me, and he said he really liked it - and he doesn't like any movies!

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  7. Also, if you still have the translations for the end credits, would you post them. I'm dying to know what was said.

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  8. Hmm... seems like this one is worth watching, after all. All reviews in blogland have been so negative that I'd crossed this off my to-watch list but it goes on there again! I loved the idea of the guy getting a make-over and trying to woo his wife - has to better than him singing one song and winning her over (thats pretty much all SRK has to do for most of heroines)!

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  9. It was a totally boring movie even while watching a DVD at home. Friends who saw it on the big screen said "yawn" - couldn't wait to get home.

    Anyway good to know that atleast some people liked this movie

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  10. You make me want to see this! I've missed an SRK I could sigh over lately.

    :-) Thanks.

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  11. Thank you all for visiting, and for your comments!

    Nida--I've found that paying $10 or more to watch a movie once has a real heightening effect on my expectations for a film. LOL Maybe the DVD will be more enjoyable for you, I hope so! Either way, be sure to post about it. :-)

    Hi Magdalena--thanks so much for the compliments, and the translation. That was driving me nuts!

    Darshit--that spoiler you mentioned kind of made me mad too. In the West we'd call it a Messiah complex; I don't know what Indians would call it but I call it an overabundance of self-sacrifice! But in the end I was okay with it since it was still Suri willing to go to any lengths to ensure Taani's happiness.

    Nicki--I'm still wondering how to review BAH! LOL But I promise, I will do it. I'm interested to read your take on RNBDJ.

    Hi Shell! Thanks for dropping in. :-) I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one in the Bolly blogosphere who liked RNBDJ; for a while I truly felt isolated. :-D I'm going to edit the post to provide a link to the end credit translations, but meanwhile here's a link: http://www.bollywhat-forum.com/index.php?topic=24701.msg352109#msg352109 If you scroll down a little further you'll see that PalaceRani has also provided the translations for the deleted scenes, awesome scribe that she is. :-)

    bollyviewer: I dunno, opinion seems pretty split but it's DEFINITELY worth a rental to see if it works for you! And yeah, Suri works really, really hard to win Taani's heart. He messes up most of the time but what lovesick swain doesn't (besides Raj)?

    Anonymous: I know from reading its thread at BollyWHAT that a lot of people share your opinion. I feel the exact same way about Vivah, which everybody else in the universe seems to adore, so I've accepted feeling odd woman out. I embrace my oddity and outness! ;-)

    Memsaab: I bet it would work for you. It's not a Shaan or anything, but at least it has SRK doing a Shammi impression. :-D

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  12. Many of the issues you aptly identify others having with this film, that are not applicable to your perspectives on it, are ones that don't bother me much either.

    The role of and belief in Rab, etc., I can digest (no matter that Rab intentionally gives us way more control than we give Him credit for, LOL). But that doesn't take away from it being a poorly made film. I thought it was just made in a sloppy way, and there's no excuse for that, SRK or not. I also thought the screenplay left a lot to be desired. And I didn't like the music much either, so you're definitely not the only one who thinks most of it's about average at best.

    And lastly, if you think Kajol looks great here (which she does), wait until you see Fanaa (or have you seen it already?)!

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  13. Punjab Power Lighting Up Your Life was all very well done but the rest of the movie was plain mediocre, atleast I thought so!

    I like the Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte dance number..good choreography! Kajol looks great as always.

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  14. ah now I get it- it was God's fault! At tleast Yash raj should have included him on the credits :D
    Seriously hated it- esp Husband = God bit- would have slapped her silly that v moment- sorry! for 2 weeks after seeing the movie, I kept touching the husband's feet and reminding him that he was my Lord and Savior- heeh :)

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  15. I loved the "Punjab power lighting up your life-ji" It has become our favorite line in the house/

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  16. tBF: You're quite right; objectively speaking it could have, maybe should have been a LOT tighter. There's no good reason for me liking it so much, but I squeeeee every time I watch it. Can we still be friends? ;-)

    Bhargav: I wonder if there were any guys, at all, who liked it? LOL Maybe it's a chick flick. It's hard for me to tell with Hindi movies since they tend to aim for mass appeal.

    Shweta: And there goes that theory. LOL Well, I wonder if the touching feet thing is a hot-button for modern Indian women? I've never, ever had someone in my life indicate that I should worship my husband so to me it just looked like she was revering what she saw of God in Suri. But apparently I was missing a big part of it.

    @lankr1ta: EVERYTHING in our house is now "ji." Sometimes visitors think we're trying to be rappers and call each other "G" for gangster. Okay, that never actually happened. But if it had it would've been both cool and funny.

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  17. Just finished it and am definitely falling towards the "not so great" camp. I don't hate it, but there are significant aspects of it that I hate, namely the ridonkulous idea that you should try to win someone over by lying about your identity - or, by the logic of the script, that this god we're all supposed to be so excited about and motivated by would put Taani and both sides of Suri/Raj through angst over love and loss and stuff. FAIL.

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  18. Ha! I finally watched it and I LOVE IT TOO!!! Will definitely be on my To-Watch-Over-And-Over shelf. absolutely fab.

    Thanks for the link to the end credits translation, too :-) Hope you had a great trip!

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  19. Beth: I'm sorry you didn't like it. :-( I think what made it okay with me was that Suri didn't set out to change himself to win Taani over--he just wanted to see her happy and things got all tangled after that.

    Yayyyyy for Memsaab loving this movie! I'm so glad you added it to the Watch-Over shelf--It's definitely on mine too. LOL

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  20. "I went into this film with very low expectations" Me too girl, and I LOVED IT! I just saw it last week and put off reading any blogs about it until now, not wanting to taint my anticipation/view. I will do a post sometime soon too. I think that Taani partner couldn't work since she maintained the home...I wanted to know if they were really in Amritsar, where were their servants?
    All the best!
    Sita-ji

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  21. Sita-ji! I can't believe someone else in the blogging world likes it, let alone three someone elses (Pessimisissimo liked it too.) I don't think maintaining the home could take all that much time, or else she wouldn't be complaining about being bored, right? It was just weird to me. But it certainly doesn't keep me from loving the movie.

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  22. Hey again!

    Just want to say that the story of rab ne bana di jodi is my husband and my love story!!!
    but not as like he puting glasses or taking of mustaches.
    When we saw the movie at the end we were like OMG this is our story!!!completly...hehhe, after i said yes of course...hehehe...
    anyway, thats why i kind of liked the movie..because reminds me of me in the same situation as her...

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  23. Just saw it last night. It's a meh movie to me. Will blog about it with lots of screencaps soon.

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  24. Thank you so much for introducing me to this film on the night of the sleepover! I loved it...even tho there were (very) implausable mooments throughout, the real emotionality at the beginning hooked me for the rest of the time. LOVED it!

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