Rab ne Bana di Jodi, 2008

Directed by Aditya Chopra

I know that I’m taking my own life into my hands when I say this but Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is an absolutely crap film.

Beautifully shot, gorgeously set, amazingly costumed, yes; a quality edition into the annals of film, no.

Don’t get me wrong, for the last three years I’ve loved this film and have cried my way through it again and again, begging Taani (Anuskha Sharma) to do the right thing and pick sweet Surrinder (Shah Rukh Khan) over DBag Raj (also Shah Rukh Khan). Interestingly, every time I’ve watched the film since my first viewing it has been in parts, remote firmly in hand to zoom past the “eh” to get to my favorite parts. I should have known there was a reason I wasn’t watching the whole movie with each viewing. This weekend when I popped in the DVD I was distraught to learn that I had left the DVD Player remote in the kitchen (don’t ask) and would have to watch the film in its entirety.

There is something profound about that level of laziness.

Something amazing happened. I hated every second of this movie. I don’t know what switched! It’s not a bad movie, it isn’t hard to watch, there isn’t anything awful about the songs or the production or the overall idea of the film; and aside from that awful 30 minutes of sumo wrestling there are no other moments where you just want to stab Aditya Chopra in the face. BUT, oh but, but, but, the characters talk. This really pretty picture of a story is just ruined by all the words.

Let’s get my first gripe off the table, shall we? I can understand that Taani’s father would have a heart attack after learning that the groom and his family has died en route to the wedding. Maybe. Sure, the guy just spent his entire savings on a wedding that now isn’t going to happen. He’s feeding all of Amritsar judging by the number of guests milling about. Any man would react similarly when his ROI just…explodes in his face like that. Fine, heart attack, dead groom, everyone at the hospital.

This is what pisses me off: why the hell is Surrinder the first guy to talk to Dad while he is lying in his sick bed? Not only that, but why would Surri agree to marry Taani at all? Any self-respecting man who also respects women would have said “No. This isn’t my decision to make.” Dad hadn’t even talked to Taani about this arrangement and when he does he guilts her into the marriage by assuring her that his afterlife would be akin to Dante’s seventh level of hell if she says “no”.

The logic Taani’s father employs is that he can’t die peacefully if she’s left alone. Naturally, in her own home and town there is no family or friends for Taani. The scenes at the wedding that was just teaming with people were a lie. She doesn’t have a mother? Aunties? Friends? I’m sure any of those people would be more useful to Taani at this time in her life, and would help her through the grieving process a lot better, than a marriage to a stranger and moving away to a place she’s unfamiliar with and without an emotional support system.  It’s just absolute bunk.

I don’t care if Surri fell in love with Taani at first glance. I don’t. 10 times out of 10 that isn’t going to give you a successful marriage. He had no right to accept an engagement offer over a death bead on the day of his wife-to-be’s wedding to another man.  She should have been asked first and she shouldn’t have been shamed into saying yes.

Also, it’s a bit thick to kill off a gal’s groom and her father in less than 20 seconds.

My second complaint concerns the guises both Suri and Taani have to don in order to 1) become happy and 2) fall in love. While Taani’s back-and-forth is not as noticeable as Surri’s she does do a bit of persona switching throughout the film. She proclaims to Surri that she has to “kill the Taani she was before, and become someone new”.

I’m just going to go ahead and blame that nonsense on a subtitle error. It’s the only way I can really handle it without my brain exploding in rage.  What Taani needs is a few nights with a tub of ice cream, a hug, a girlfriend, and a few hours spent sobbing through Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.

Oh, and not to be married.

She just lost her future husband (who we are to understand she was very much in love with) and her father! Of course she is going to be morose, and lethargic and sad. If she wasn’t I’d be seriously concerned. To be honest, I don’t even know who the real Taani is. Is the the salwaar kameez wearing shy girl or the spandex-clad dancer? In the same way that the audience gets to see Surri under Raj’s character we should be able to see old Taani underneath new Taani. A few glimpses here and there while she’s practicing dance steps at the dinner table aren’t enough to really solidify who her character is. In contrast to the development and inside look at Raj and Surri the audience doesn’t really get to know who Taani is and what her emotions and motivations are.

Sometimes I can’t believe I’m still looking for fleshed-out, fully developed female characters.

Since SRK is the vehicle through which this movie progresses we see more of his development from minute one through the end. I cannot malign him for his performance because I honestly do think he does spectacularly both as Surri and as Raj and often as both simultaneously. However, I can find fault with the fact that Surri couldn’t man up enough to be there for this wife that he has willingly taken upon himself. I don’t know what a shave, a too-small-Ed Hardy-knock off t-shirt and really bad jeans do to boost up his confidence enough to talk to Taani but it’s a ridiculous premise. Clothes that bad don’t suddenly give you balls enough to become a hulked-up grease ball. I’m sorry, but really?

It is the same general grievance I have with Sharmeelee*. Wouldn’t these characters, in all honestly, rather fall in love with each other than who they think the other is? If love is about honesty and open communication then why would you base an entire relationship on a lie? Sure, it’s really sweet to think that someone would want to make you happy that badly BUT I beg to argue that Taani would have been more impressed if Surri had gone to dance class with her. Taani’s emotional detachment from and oftentimes flat-out resentment of Surri is understandable and to be expected.

Taani wasn’t looking for love, and rightly so, considering what had so recently happened to her. Taani needed a friend. The focus should have been more on how Taani and Surri got to know each other but it was focused too much on how much Surri wanted to impose his love on her so that she could be happy. His focus shouldn’t have been on love  it should have been trying to get to know this woman and not being a bumbling, incompetent human being. (I.E.: bringing a lunch box to your office does not, absolutely does not mean that someone loves you.)

It’s called a grieving period for goodness’ sake.

Can we also call out the deus ex machina that is the ending? Surri has barely uttered 10 words to his wife and there she is seeing him as a manifestation from God? I’m not going to argue with the religion thing because I cannot but it just feels so contrived when the night before she was sobbing into Raj’s arms begging him to run away with her. Yes, in the audience’s heart-of-hearts they want her to pick Surri but it’s not like Raj is an awful choice either. He’s corny as hell, sure, but he is Surri. That’s why this lying thing gets so messy so quickly and drives me nuts.

Men: be honest. Women: be honest. Changing yourself for love never works because in the end the other person always finds out who you really are anyway and you just spend a lot of money on ugly clothes in the meantime.

I’m exhausted.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi has such good potential for being an excellent film; it’s just too, too much. Understanding that Escapism is at the root of it all is fine, but it also isn’t enough to carry the film through from point A to B. The film as a whole is a touch too regressive, and had it been done with more of a progressive or lightened touch it could have been a real winner.

*One day, when I’m feeling really, really smart I’m going to pit these two films against each other. Spoiler: Sharmeelee wins.

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