It feels a bit silly reviewing a Yash Raj Films opus starring Shah Rukh Khan. You know that the film is going to find its audience regardless of what you think about it; that you're being a killjoy and a pedant if you point to flaws of logic or to the thousand plot loopholes (you're simply not supposed to notice these things); and that if you didn't at least think of the film as decent paisa-vasool, you're best off not discussing it at all. But a professional reviewer doesn't have that option, and so the thing to do is to find some talking point and stick with it until the requisite word-count has been met.
So let me focus on the deep sympathy I feel for Tani, the heroine of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Not because she loses her husband-to-be and his family in a bus accident within the first five minutes of the film, and is subsequently orphaned when her father suffers a heart attack on hearing the news. No, these tragedies are quickly glossed over. The really tough thing about Tani's life is the decision she is expected to make towards the end of this exhausting movie. Choosing between two men can be difficult in itself, but when both men occupy the same body and you're expected to plump for the one with the bad haircut rather than the one with the six-pack abs...What's a girl to do?
The trouble begins when Tani's boring replacement husband Surinder, who works with the Punjab Power board, decides to electrify her life with an elaborate masquerade. He undergoes a makeover that involves shaving off his moustache, changing his hairstyle, wearing tighter clothes, acquiring a new set of biceps and generally looking a little more like Shah Rukh Khan than he did before; in this new avatar as the "hep" Raj, he becomes Tani's dancing partner in a local competition. (In the fine tradition of short-sighted heroines from Lois Lane downwards, Tani fails to realise that the mousy Surinder, with whom she stiffly has dinner every night, is the same person as style-boy Raj with whom she greedily consumes gol-gappas and goes on bike rides through the narrow lanes of Amritsar.)
Now here’s the rub (rab?): having gone to ridiculous extremes to create an exciting new persona that he knows will appeal to his wife more than his "real self" ever could, Surinder/Raj takes the higher ground and decides that his wooing of Tani can be deemed successful only if she falls in love with the dullard Surinder, not with his alter-ego. The basic flaw in this premise is for anyone to see: imagine Christian first passing off Cyrano's poetry as his own and then insisting that Roxane passes the "test" only if she loves him for his own bilge. (For this analogy to be fully satisfying, Christian and Cyrano would have to be the same person and Roxane would have to be short-sighted, but you get the drift.)
Anyway, given Tani's nascent feelings for Raj, the big question is: how does the film arrive at an ending that will satisfy everyone and uphold all the moral requirements? The solution is stunning in its simplicity. (Obligatory Spoiler Alert, though if you really want a spoiler alert for this film, you’re a loser and need a makeover.) In a short, unfussy scene set at the Golden Temple, Tani experiences an epiphany where she realises that her "Rab" (God) is Surinder. No, really – that's it. This movie has been invoking Rab's divine will at regular intervals long before this moment, but it's usually been done in an offhand sort of way, so we aren't quite prepared for a scene where He literally enters the confused girl's mind, fiddles with her synapses and sees to it that she makes the "right" decision. This is God as the ultimate Deus ex machina.
Which is not to say there’s nothing good about Rab ne.... At least 20 of its 170 minutes are watchable. There are a couple of charming vignettes, such as an early scene involving a rose stem, which hints at an unseen romantic side to the reticent Surinder, long before his makeover happens. Vinay Pathak could easily have phoned in his performance as Surinder's hair-stylist buddy Bobby, but in the context of this film it must be counted as a bright spot. In the Surinder-Bobby relationship and in Surinder’s remark to Tani that "maine kabhi lady se pyaar nahin kiya" ("I have never loved a lady"), we see glimpses of the ambiguous form that male bonding can take in small towns where interaction between the sexes is restricted before marriage. But this isn't particularly explored elsewhere in the film. Incidentally, the scene where Bobby introduces the word "macho" into a Punjabi sentence and then turns it into a refrain may prove to be a landmark moment in the history of profanity in mainstream Bollywood. Especially because Pathak does the bucolic Punju accent with gusto and the script requires him to say sentences where the word immediately following "macho" begins with a "D" sound.
But the best thing about Rab ne... is the voiceover with the "honeymoon in Japan" postcards that accompany the closing credits. If you've already bought tickets for this film, you should consider entering the hall three hours after the starting time.
P.S. I’m looking forward to the next Shah Rukh movie that isn't a meta-film with references to his Raj image and the obligatory song sequence where a bevy of SRK's favourite heroines (Kajol, Rani Mukherjee, Preity Zinta etc) fawn over him. The fantasy song sequence "Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte" looked like an outtake from Om Shanti Om.
"If you've already bought tickets for this film, you should consider entering the hall three hours after the starting time."ReplyDelete
Oh dear god (rab?). SRK may never recover from that blow.
Haaaaaa go for the movie.It's toooooo good.ReplyDelete
Jai, LOVED this. Made me laugh aloud on a dull and cold Saturday afternoon.ReplyDelete
"In the fine tradition of short-sighted heroines from ...." - Ha ha ha ...
Surinder Sahni is definitely based on Ramchand, the protagonist of Rupa Bajwa's novel, The Sari Shop. He wears that kind of clothes, has a moonch that he shaves off when he decides to change, he wanders around Amritsar with that geeky presence.ReplyDelete
But that is where the resemblance ends. The rest of the movie is another story altogether, if you can call it a story.
'Tani fails to realise that the mousy Surinder, with whom she stiffly has dinner every night, is the same person as style-boy Raj...'ReplyDelete
It just doesn't stop. The same disrespect for the audience's intelligence. The same contempt for their right to see something that does not require one to lower one's standards down to a Bollywood level. Where else in the world is the audience pitied, consistently undermined, treated like a child?
YES. YES. Exactly what I wanted to say, only you said it better.ReplyDelete
The only thing I really liked in this movie were the end-credits.If only the people working on this movie had spent as much time working on the script. sigh.ReplyDelete
Btw, how did you miss mentioning the cringe-worthy Sumo scene?
I read it in some other forum about a plausible reason why Taani never recognizes Suri saab as Raj.ReplyDelete
She never really sees him. For her, Suri never existed. Even at the dining table, they are sitting on extreme side and that's the only interaction they have in entire day.
She has preconceived notion about Suri that she cannot even imagine that he can be sadda Raja
I think only the Japanese Honeymoon pic and SRK's voice-over are worth the ticket price. Seriously.ReplyDelete
I knew you would have some notes on this :).ReplyDelete
I felt Surinder Sahni's role was not exploited as much as it could have been. Shahrukh did it fairly well, though there were some "Shah Rukh Khan" moments in some scenes (his monologues in Vinay's salon).
Btw, I'm waiting for his next film with equal eagerness.
A Line of Thought: I mostly liked SRK as Surinder too, but the role really wasn't explored as much as it could have been - and neither was Surinder's relationship with Tani. Somewhere, in a parallel universe, there's a Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi that took a cue from the rose-stem scene and developed into another (and better) movie altogether. Sadly, we live in this universe.ReplyDelete
Anon: actually, I'm not too hung up on the implausibility of Tani not recognising Raj as Surinder. If the film as a whole had been better, I would have been happy to accept that as cinematic licence or a suspension-of-disbelief element that allows the plot to move forward.
Btw, how did you miss mentioning the cringe-worthy Sumo scene?
Quirky Quill: you know, throughout the duration of that scene I was convinced that its only justification was that Surinder's fake moustache would come off during the fight. (Not that this is much of a justification for such an awkward, prolonged sequence.) Was completely astonished when that didn't happen.
The same disrespect for the audience's intelligence. The same contempt for their right to see something that does not require one to lower one's standards down to a Bollywood level. Where else in the world is the audience pitied, consistently undermined, treated like a child?ReplyDelete
A fan apart: I feel your pain, but personally speaking I would find it very difficult to write about or engage with a movie like this if I demanded plausibility or logic from every scene. And I think it should be possible for this kind of cinema to coexist with the other, more understated sort that we're gradually seeing more of these days.
Also, it's my feeling that the level of pandering/talking down to the audience isn't all that high. Most viewers, even those who enjoyed this film, would understand that Tani's failure to recognise Raj isn't meant to be "believable" or "realistic" - but if these implausibilities are outweighed by those aspects of the film that did work for them, it wouldn't matter. (In my case, the film as a whole didn't work for me.)
While I didn't quite hate this movie, you pretty much expressed my thoughts about it (including the ambivalence about writing about it - I'm supposed to do a review on it and not looking forward to it.) If only it had lived up to the promise of its first half hour, what a lovely movie it would have been!ReplyDelete
I have a strong suspicion that all this talking down to audiences is not intentional on the director's part. I think its become so ingrained here that you do not need to tie up loose ends here (or even be convincing)- because you can get away with it, and probably get a hit out of it too. That thin line between what a lot of filmmakers here would label as 'fantasy', and what gets called 'sloppiness' anywhere else is trodden on so often it get blurred and like Borges' map, people start wondering whether it existed at all.ReplyDelete
Be understated. Or go over the top. There are hundreds of ways to make a good movie. And even the good ones will have errors. But the least one can ask for is that the filmmaker see things through.
Here is my take on the movie - Taani mentions repeatedly how love must hurt for it to be real. Ergo, for us as viewers to love the movie, we must feel bone-crushing pain for about 150 mins!ReplyDelete
Haven't seen the movie. I guess it can be loosely classified as a 'romantic comedy' of sorts.ReplyDelete
I think even the best movies in this genre are manipulative and implausible. The key elements to their success are
1. the quality of writing.
2. An irreverent non-serious tone throughout the movie.
Bollywood movies in this genre suck mainly because of the cliched, witless scripts and their tendency to take themselves too seriously in the latter half.
Was watching Preston Sturges' The Palm Beach Story recently. The movie is a great classic notwithstanding the improbability of the plot and a thousand loopholes in the screenplay largely because of the excellent writing and the absence of sobreity.
i just loved the movie....ReplyDelete
it just showes us that even if you are ordinary man u can brighten up your life...everyone shd take a leaf out of it:)...
Jai, you seen Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!? Are we getting a review?ReplyDelete
Shrabonti: no, haven't seen it. Hope to see it soon but no time these days to write stuff just for the blog, so I probably won't be posting about it anyway.ReplyDelete
...their tendency to take themselves too seriously in the latter half.
shrikanth: this habit of abruptly changing tone (often to the point of schizophrenia) is something I've found very tiresome in many recent films. Worst offender: U, Me aur Hum. It's like there's an obligation to turn a movie into a khichdi of everything.
brocasarea: yes, because as we all know, "ordinary men" live their lives in perpetual gloom.
Pranav: excellent observation. Thanks for helping me realise that I love Rab ne Bana Di Jodi. (It's like that Shah Rukh-Saif ad: "I miss you so much it hurts!")
Jabberwock, do you agree with the guy who says Surinder was like Ramchand from Rupa Bajwa's the sari shop? Didn't occur to me but now that I think of it, it is spooky but yes, thy seem similar.ReplyDelete
the film was hilarious! It is exactly that 'abruptly changing tone ' that I find entertaining. It is crazy man!
BD: I don't remember The Sari Shop all that well now (read and reviewed it when it came out), but yes, there are similarities from what I remember. Someone else on another website also made the Surinder/Ramchand comparison. Though I hope we aren't going out of the way to lump them together just because they're both "geeky" middle-class men from Amritsar.ReplyDelete
Jai, I feel for the good bit twenty minutes. Ages back yes, but SRK used to be an actor.ReplyDelete
Wonderful review...can't help laughing! I wonder, why Sharukh never wants to act, perhaps, he is too happy to remind us, " I'm here to entertain you all... till you die!!" so that we remain dumb and forget to question things forever, and ever...Amen!ReplyDelete
No, not just the 'geeky' bit. I found their characters very similar. You know, serious, quiet, a bit shy, yet with a certain kind of quiet confidence. I loved Ramchand btw.ReplyDelete
Was it only me who found Tani's dumb self absorption totally exasperating?ReplyDelete
I sat through it with my wife. Without even the justification of a review.ReplyDelete
So tell me, did I beat Surinder Sahni in the love-you-so-much-it-hurts stakes?
Amazing Review! "If you've already bought tickets for this film, you should consider entering the hall three hours after the starting time." does sum up the movie for me.ReplyDelete
Your movie reviews truly express my opinion after watching this movie (so was the case with your review of Race), only put in words with eloquence and wit. Kudos!
shrikanth: this habit of abruptly changing tone (often to the point of schizophrenia) is...
You may like to examine and expunge this statement. No problem with the abruptly changing tone ... but I guess you are way off the mark with the schizophrenia bit. Do you know the malaise?
Obligatory Spoiler Alert, though if you really want a spoiler alert for this film, you’re a loser and need a makeover.ReplyDelete
Dammit Jai you got me to delurk yet again. No more this year!
Do you know the malaise?ReplyDelete
Anon: fairly well, actually. And that's all I'll say!
Why is it that nobody has written about the songs? I think the songs were pretty good. 'Haule haule' is sort of refreshing. But I think 'tujh mein rab diktha hain' was the best.ReplyDelete
Nice movie SRK can act on any roll...ReplyDelete