Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi
29/12/08 20:13 Filed in: Filmi
At its core, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008, dir. Aditya Chopra) is a story of good people trying to make the people they care about happy. How they do it is full of fumbles, bumbling, well-intentioned goofs, mistakes and the conundrums of logic that go with plans that seemed logical at the moment but fall apart once you put people, including yourself, into the mix. This kind of story generally makes me happy too.
Taani’s busy trying to kill the bubbly effusive free spirit she was because she believes the love in her died with her first love. Suri’s life is bounded by lonely, quiet routines of dry toast breakfasts and work in a cubicle, hunched over his laptop. The only hint of passion in him is that Balwinder, er Bobby, a brassy salon owner, is his best friend. Suri must have a personality in there somewhere to get along with someone like Bobby.
Suri’s already bottled up and Taani’s desperately trying to get there herself. They aren’t dead, but not really alive either.
The tensions of the film revolve around Suri’s plans to keep Taani happy, which dovetail with his wish that in so doing she’ll remain the person he fell in love with at first sight, laughing and dancing on her wedding day. He knows she’s trying to change, and doesn’t want it. She’s told him she has no love in her and in seeing her unconscious laughter at the Dhoom ripoffs they watch together in theatres, he hatches a plan to make himself a “hero” for her so she’ll be happy. He tries to take on the persona one morning in his generic work shirt, khakis & cheap track shoes, rolling up his sleeves and flexing a little, but her self-absorbed self doesn’t notice the difference at all.
So Suri takes it up a notch, asking Bobby to turn him into a film hero type so she’ll love him. That’s the first idea. He doesn’t want her to change AND wants her to love him for who he is. Somehow the plan makes sense in his mind – he’ll go out with the new look, watch her unnoticed at her dance class, then meet her at home with the surprise of his new look, and of course she’ll love him. Problem solved! But this happens at 40 minutes into a 2.5 hour film – you know there’s got to be more…
Suri becomes not-Suri, and after luck, er, Rab sees him partnered with her for a dance contest, on impulse he decides to change the plan. He’d rather continue to dance with Taani as this different person than to follow his Plan A. Making it up as he goes along, he steps (no pun intended) into the role of Raj ("नाम तो सुना होगा/naam to suna hoga"), namechecking both Dil To Pagal Hai and Om Shanti Om). Rationalizing that Suri is the cause of her dard (pain) by reminding her of the tragedy that brought them into marriage, he thinks as Suri his plan is bound to fail. As Raj that baggage is gone and he has the chance to make her happy. This is his reasoning – as Raj he can say what he can’t as Suri. Following so far? Good.
And clearly Suri’s looking out for himself here too- he’s now dancing with Taani and admitting that as Suri he’s not so good at expressing himself. So hey, why not be somebody else?
And Suri builds this shaky foundation. He’s hoping his wife will accept Raj’s love as a proxy for Suri’s, without knowing they are the same. It sounds like a plan for more pain – he’s virtually encouraging the woman he loves to fall in love with someone else.
As a viewer, it’s tempting to judge and think gee, if you can be so charismatic and vulnerable as Raj, why not just change Suri to act as Raj rather than hide Suri when you are Raj? Wouldn’t she love Suri looking as he does and acting as when he’s Raj? In his success as Raj, clearly Suri has those qualities already inside. It’s not like he goes to acting school to figure out how to be Raj.
The transition is almost instantaneous, helped by the external stylings of shoes, torn jeans, tight rivet tees, and gold highlights supplied by Bobby. So why does he prefer to keep the daily charade of mild Suri and dancing Raj at night? Isn’t that more work? Touchingly, Suri is still convinced of the value of mild Suri, and his desire to be loved in that form, without the flash of Raj. But what he believes and what he does don’t seem to be talking to each other.
Suri’s interpretation of his plan shifts with time, as he becomes increasingly invested in his split self. One night at the salon, about to change back into Suri, a drunken Raj taunts his empty work shirt that Taani is pulling in closer to Raj: “To ji, ab main Taani partner ka haat pakar ke karoonga dance de romance 5,6,7,8. Aur aap tiffin paka re khush lena” (So, you – after taking Tanni’s hand I’ll be dancing and romancing – 5,6,7,8. And you’ll be happy with your tiffin). Then he sobers up to ask what if in falling in love with Raj, Taani forgets Suri? She will have run away with the wrong film hero and Suri won’t have Taani there.
It seems like an obvious question given his plan to show her Suri through Raj. And one that could have a very painful answer since Taani has indeed begun to dream a chirpy Raj at the theatre instead of the potboiler melodrama on screen (a catchy flashy number with the requisite cameos that leaves me a little flat as it seems calculated to crank up the emotion off the viewers’ nostalgia for classic films and stars).
Suri is discovering that the pain of being in love is augmented by the pain of disguising himself to be able to be open to expressing his feelings. Even in accepting Raj’s displays of affection, Suri remains invisible to Taani – how could it be otherwise?, as Bobby points out, predicting that if Suri shows Taani Raj’s love, she will forget Raj. Bobby’s trying to honor Suri’s increasingly complex plans, loaning him his motorcycle and styling him each night even as he tries to impress on him how the deception pulls Suri farther from his goal of being loved as Suri, not Raj. Suri’s logic dictates Raj is supposed to love Taani, Taani is supposed to love Suri. Still following?
And Suri ties the noose around his neck just that much more in his paradoxical stubbornness. He wants her to love him in his mild Suri avatar for his haule haule love. He insists that she recognize him in this way. Somehow in the bright light of Raj’s glow, he wants her to eventually notice the small star that he is. Taani, caught up in grief and perhaps self-pity, trying to repay the huge debt she feels she owes Suri, and losing herself in dancing, doesn’t have this kind of discernment. His love remains off her radar.
This is the gendered catch-22 of the film. Suri, who fell in love with Taani at the first sight of her, wants her to look deeper and love him based on who he is inside. As Suri he refuses to look or act as Raj.
Suri’s going over the question that’s now impossible to avoid – does she love Suri or Raj? They are the same but she doesn’t know they are the same. He used to see them as two parts of one person, and to an extent they were, but he’s enforcing the split and this is the bind he’s made for himself in manipulating the situation on his own. He’s set up two situations that can’t coexist forever – Taani with Raj or Taani with Suri.
And Suri’s fading into the background, or maybe that’s where he always was. Raj and Taani plot to leave together, and Suri plans his own end so that can happen.
If you’ve sent the film, you know the resolution, and if you haven’t seen the film, you may well be able to guess the resolution (I didn’t). I’m of a mind that it makes a certain kind of illogical sense – where everyone’s trying to make good out of a funky situation, with no coordination, no ill intentions & hope, the emotional truth will out (especially in a film).
As Taani finally sees Suri at long last she exclaims: “झूठ. सब झूठ. झूठ कहा ता आप ने मुझसे क्या आप ने जानते प्यार के होते।/ Jhut. Sub jhut. … Jhut kaha taa aap ne mujhse kyaa aap ne jaante pyar ke hote.” (Lies. All lies. You said that you know nothing about love.) He was always close to genuine, just took the long and windy path to the right destination.
I kept myself away from analysis and commentary on this film so I could write this without other ideas coming in – finally I can see what others said. Email me your comments, please.
Here's a posting focusing on Taani as a character: http://buzz18.in.com/showblog/abhishek-mande/why-rab-ne-bana-di-jodi-rocks/105681
Transcriptions and translations mine. I take responsibility for any errors.