October 2, 2011: Always a Bridesmaid, Never the “Bride”

Love stories come and go;  some become classics and sometimes they just get an E for Effort… Who knows what makes one stick in your mind and heart? As an example, let’s compare the new romance, Mausam with the classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and see how it stacks up.

Jenny K:  I went out last weekend to see the latest Shahid Kapoor film, Mausam (Seasons) with my friend Sultana.   Well…though it is by no means awful, I’m not sure it merits the bother of a full review. Pankaj Kapur, the freshman director and Shahid’s father, attempts a large, lush, multi-year love saga in the recent past that seems to be aiming for an old time “missed connections” romance with many things reminiscent of Gone With the Wind. It boasts military attacks, burning cities, a rioting populace, the birthing of babies, toddlers in peril, scores of the dead and injured, helpless females who wait endlessly for their men and/or get threatened with rape…Why Mr. Butler…eh, I mean Mr. Kapur…all I can say is Fiddle-dee-dee! You can’t do Gone With the Wind without a Scarlett and Rhett to keep you interested!

As cute as they are…and Shahid has proven more than once that he can do that, especially in his dance numbers…Shahid and Sonam are just not seasoned enough, or gifted enough or their characters aren’t well written enough to sustain the audience’s attention throughout an almost three hour film. Aayat (Sonam), who has lost way too much weight since Saawariya, IMO, ambles about the place like a pretty, young giraffe giggling and retreating throughout the film. She does it so often that she could easily assay the part of a cuckoo in any cinematic clock big enough to hold her. Lovely, but gawky and too tentative, I was left wondering why Hari (Shahid) was so struck by Aayat’s charms. Especially when her rival is the live-wire, Aditi Sharma, the sweet, friendly daughter of the local baker, who steals focus in every scene she’s in. 

And the same goes for Shahid’s Hari. While he’s portrayed as a callow youth, he’s charming and funny, especially when covered with flour, mud, leaves or whatever gets dumped on him in his pursuit of Aayat.

But when he misses his first chance to secure her love (her father spirits her away to Mumbai) he just metaphorically shrugs his shoulders and consoles himself with his love of jet airplanes, and joins the air force. Now, would Rhett do that? For that matter would SRK’s Raj let things stand like that in DDLJ? nahi…Nahi!!…NAHI!!!  I think NOT! Hari is too ready to let things go with the status quo for my taste, not even using his more modern resources effectively to find her during the next SEVEN YEARS! Phones, phone books, relatives, and to some extent, computers (it is only the early 1990s, I realize) could have cleared up this star-crossed mess, with at least one or two reels to spare.

And I will just touch briefly on his Top Gun wardrobe of flight suits and ubiquitous aviator sunglasses! Yes, he looks fetching in this ensemble, but, really, if they’re laying the fly-boy stuff on us, couldn’t they afford to have him do more than one flight sequence instead of just endlessly striding to or from the jets on the tarmac with flight helmet tucked neatly under his arm to allow his locks to waft photogenically in the breeze! And I coulda done without the pencil-thin moustache in this middle section, but I kinda liked the stubble into beard that he sported toward the end. It aged his baby-facedness a bit.

And again, Shahid had an almost inconvenient bit of standby eye-candy to distract me, I mean Aayat, in the form of one Vaibhav Talwar…Note to self: I must go back and watch Teen Patti again. Yowza!   Sorry for the lapse, but with “costars” like these, any reviewer would be tempted to bury the leads!

Summing up, I thought Mausam was a noble effort that fell sort of flat, and definately LONG. Worth seeing only for the great shots of Edinburgh, Scotland (I want to go back!!! Calton Hill!!! Sigh) and Shahid’s wonderful dancing.   2.5 out of 5 stars.   Here’s my favorite example from Mausam, “Saj Dhaj Ke”

And somebody please tell me what happened to Anupam Kher’s character…he just disappeared! 

 

Julie M:  Oh, well.  Sorry for your waste of time.  I had already made up my mind not to see it, and to catch Shahid’s dance numbers via clips. Too bad this was disappointing—I actually liked him in Jab We Met although I know you are not overly a fan of his. 

But to cheer you up, I have good news for you.  I had a half-day today and it was cold and windy out, so I decided to spend the afternoon warm and cozy on the couch watching a DVD, and it had to be something feel-good and not too thinky. In short–the perfect day for DDLJ. Yes, I took the plunge, and totally fell in love with it. 

For the twelve people on the planet who have not seen it, since it’s been constantly running [in Mumbai] since its release 15+ years ago, the full title is Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Brave Heart Will Take The Bride, 1995).  Here’s the trailer (English subs): 

And here’s a quick plot summary.  Simran (Kajol) is the London-born daughter of a Punjabi convenience-store owner (Amrish Puri), and is reluctantly engaged since infancy to Kuljit, the son of her father’s friend, back in India.  As a last fling before marriage she begs her father to let her travel with her girlfriends for a month in Europe.  As it happens, wealthy, fun-loving and insouciant London-born Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) is also on the same European rail tour with his buddies. They meet incredibly cute, she hates him, they end up missing their tour train in Switzerland and then travel together for a while with adorable consequences. 

After they part they realize they are each in love with the other (not knowing that the other feels the same way).  Here’s that scene, shown with him flashing back to their Switzerland time and scenes where she imagines seeing him everywhere: 

Simi’s dad learns that she met a boy in Europe and instantly whisks her off to India for the wedding.  Raj tries to reconnect with Simi, learns that she has left, and trots off to try and intercept her.  The rest of the film is the unfolding of Raj’s very original plan, and its unintended consequences, to stop the wedding and convince Simi’s dad (who already hates him due to an incident in the first half) that only he can make Simi as happy as she deserves to be.

This all sounds very rom-com formulaic, but really, it comes across as very fresh and engaging.  Maybe I’m just used to how it all works now (the goofy first half and melodramatic second half), but I suspect it’s because the SRK/Kajol pairing is absolutely impossible to beat. Sure, there are massive plot holes (if all her luggage was taken away on the train, how could she make all those costume changes when she and SRK were on the road? How the heck did he find her knowing just that she was “Somewhere in the Punjab”?), but who doesn’t love love when it’s presented so charmingly?

This is my new favorite love song, when he just shows up in her field inIndia: 

And who could fail to adore this classic Amrish Puri look?

So, I get it now, I really do. I promise not to rag on SRK too much from now on. And I know I will watch DDLJ every time I need to be assured that even though life really s*cks sometimes, it all works out in the end (and if it’s not working out, it’s not the end).  And I know you like “girls vs boys” dance numbers, so here’s  the one in this film: 

 

Jenny K:  It took me a while to “get” SRK, too, unlike my buddies Pat and Kathy who fell into Kamp Khan almost from the start. And weirdly enough, the reason I didn’t like him at first (beside the goofy slapstick) was that I kept seeing stills from Devdas and thought he was just “too pretty” for my taste with the big doe-like eyes and long eyelashes, etc. I told that to one of the store managers (the pretty part, not the eyelash details) and he looked at me like I was crazy. Well, after a few of Shah Rukh’s offerings, over the course of time, he began to sneak in to my psyche and, as you know, I quite like him, on most occasions, and always find him charming. I like to think I have a more evenly dispersed love of Bollywood Male Amazing-ness, but it may be that I can’t choose just one!

As to the charming…this is one of my favorite interviews with SRK on CNN. In three parts, here’s a link to the first one.  

 

Julie M:  Great interview!  Mostly I like him, too, but there are a few facial expressions that really turn me off (that “lip trembling about to cry” one, for example).   But I never really got the absolute adoration of an entire country and the diaspora for him, until DDLJ.  Raj’s speech at the end about loving her so much that he was willing to give her up to another man if it’s truly what her father thinks is best for her…yeah, that was kind of a ruse on his part but he said it so convincingly, and it rang all the cultural chimes so loudly, that no wonder the actor and character became conflated in the public imagination.

DDLJ is available for rent through YouTube.   As usual with YRF rentals the aspect ratio is likely going to be goofy, and I don’t know if the rental comes with English subtitles. [the page says you can turn them on]

 

Jenny K: I guess it’s safe to say that though you can put the boy in the village and the girl in the field of yellow flowers, it may not be enough to call up the same responses that Aditya Chopra gave us with his Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.  Lightning doesn’t often strike twice…but please, directors, don’t stop trying to find it, because when the jodi has jadoo, it’s unforgettable!

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3 Comments

  1. Oh, I want to re-watch DDLJ right now! Mausam sounds quite bland, I’ve been warned not to see it, so I don’t think I will.

    • I don’t think Mausam deserves a warning, exactly…there are some nice bits in it and the rest of it is just slow, and a bit “yeah, right” if you know what I mean. I got impatient with it’s pace from time to time. I wish Pankaj Kapur would just re-edit it and take maybe 45 minutes off the time. It would play a lot better then, not so yawn inducing during those extensive scenes of TomCruise-ishness, especially. It shouldn’t be presented like an epic if it has no real chance of being one.

  2. Shahid really does resemble a young Tom Cruise, right?


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