There are some films which have an immense tranquil effect on the viewer. Whenever the mood is off, these films bring an inscrutable peace to our mental turbulation. Dil Chahta Hai is on the top of my list and there are many others but I want to particularly talk about one of my favorites - Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. I have already written about the movie here. Over the last few days, I have watched this film again, slowly trying to peel its numerous layers, which are adroitly disguised by the film's sheer subtlety.
Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu is essentially the story of Rahul, a 25-year old architect living in Las Vegas. He has been fired from his job. His parents never considered him to be an achiever in life. Due to some confusion, he meets Rianna, a 27-year old hair stylist. One day, they both get drunk and get married in Las Vegas. What follows is a story in which Rahul develops his confidence and in the process, falls in love with Rianna. However, Rianna does not love him back and considers Rahul as that friend with whom she says, "tum mere vo friend ho jiske saath main apne screwed up relationships discuss karna chahti hun." The very unconventional climax in which Rahul and Rianna do not get together and remain friends is simply wonderful.
What is fascinating to me is that this two hour film is such an easy watch that a viewer will hardly notice the extremely understated discernment that it cloaks. There are numerous layers and there are some fantastic moments in it that show its depth and the ingenuity of the director - Shakun Batra.
Early in the film, when Rahul comes second in a competition, his parents instead of appreciating him, tell him that he should not be happy for the second prize because he lost the first. The constant nitpicking of Rahul and the almost ridiculous advice like ordering him to chew his food thirty two times that his parents constantly gave him made him feel like a perennial loser. In one scene, Rahul comes to his father who is criticizing his architectural drawings, there is a documentary of a lion devouring a zebra playing on the television. The carnivorous relationship of a lion and a hapless zebra was symbolic of the relationship between a powerless zebra-like Rahul and his lion-like dad. That is why in that scene Rahul says, "pachees saal me dad ke samne muh to khulta tha, lekin zubaan nahi hilti thi."
Later in the film, Rahul, since he cannot take his own decisions, again goes to his dad's room to ask his opinion on the color of the tie he should wear. His dad selects the tie for him and puts it in Rahul's neck and slides the knot of tie up till his neck, giving yet another indication of his almost predatory and powerful control over Rahul's life. And in the climax, when Rahul finally learns to stand up for himself, he takes off his tie and throws it away as if he is breaking the invisible manacles that fettered him to his dad. The tie 'tied' him to his parents, as if he is their pet, and he is finally able to throw that tie away. The tie was a metaphor of his freedom and that he has grown up from being a pet to a son.
Free from the ties - pun intended
What the film also shows is a contrast between the two families of that of Rahul and Rianna. The physical distance in the pictures of Rahul's family show the emotional distance between them. His parents, possibly, hate each other. Even when they are close, they have nothing to share because Rahul says that remaining quiet while travelling in the car was his family tradition. In contrast, Rianna's family is very open that her dad casually asks her if she has slept with Rahul. For a minute, I was puzzled as to why does nobody not sit in the front seat when Rahul's family is travelling? It is later the film tries to answer it when it is shown that Rianna travels with Rahul and his mother as if trying to say that Rianna has now come in between Rahul and his parents. Else Rahul should sit in between his mom and Rianna, right?
Distances - Physical and Emotional
Now, let me come to the film's most beautiful part. The wonderful relationship between that of Rahul and Rianna. At one point in the film, Rahul's mother had asked him to get a hair cut as his is too old fashioned. It is no coincidence then Rianna, who is a hair stylist, will not only cut and change his hair, but also bring a change in him. In another hair-related scene in the film, when Rahul goes back to India, his mom says, "kis tarah ka hair cut hai, aisa lagta hai kise ne electric shock de diya ho?" Little will she realize that the shock is going to be all hers. It is these finely etched minimalist layers through which the film shows its discernment, though on a superficial level, it might seem to be an absolutely mundane conversation.
Styling Hair and Life
At one point in the film, Rianna says to Rahul, "Loosen up, you are such a tight ass." Later on, we see that they go to a bar. Then they go for a massage, after that they go for a swim, and later they have a conversation in bed with both of them in their loose pajamas. It is again no coincidence that that all these places have a feeling of loosening up. Rianna is helping him loosen up and become more spontaneous. At one point, she says, "mujhe tumhara problem samajh aa raha hai, tumhari na self-esteem bahut low hai aur ladki patane se zyada ego boost aur kisi kaam me nahi hai", convincing him to go on a date. Some of the best scenes in the film are in these loosened up places. She will even force him to lose control and dance in the song Auntyji :) Not only loosening the muscles, but loosening up in life too.
At another point in the beginning, Rahul says, "udne ki chah to bahut thi lekin koshish karne ke pankh bahut kam." Rahul never had the guts to fly but Rianna will make him fly. After Rianna rejects Rahul's advances, we see that he puts aside his casual shoes and starts wearing his formal shoes again. For a moment when the song Aahatein begins, he taps his feet. His wearing of those formal shoes and the way he taps was his way of testing if he can fly in them and feel light like he felt in casual shoes. Later in the movie, when he goes to sort everything with Rianna, again for a few fleeting moments, we see that both of their feet are in the air. It was such a fantastic scene which I absolutely loved. Rianna has made him fly. Again, it is no coincidence that Rianna owned a scooter which gave her a feeling of flying. She had said to Rahul, "hop on", but Rahul had replied, "main paidal chalta hun." In an earlier scene, Rianna had told Rahul that when she was young she had always wanted to be a ballet dancer but she had met with an accident and there is a steel ball in her ankle because of which she cannot dance anymore. When they showed her ankle in air in that scene, it was also referring that despite her failure, Rianna lived life fully and she could still fly. Same way, Rahul embraced his failure or rather accepted his 'average'-ness and that he has, finally, learnt to fly. Beautiful, beautiful scene.
Flying in the Air
During one scene in the background in Las Vegas, there are a bunch of school kids crossing the road and their teacher helping them to. Later, Rianna takes Rahul to her school. It is at the school where Rianna will impart the most important lesson to Rahul of learning to accept that being average is not such a bad thing after all. When Rahul says, "You are so talented..mujhe dekho..I am. so..so average", she replies, "tum pagal ho? ye hi tumhari sabse achhi baat hai, tum kuch bhi kam ya zyada nahi karte, aur yeh quality bahut kam logon me hoti hai. You are perfectly average." Rahul needs to grow up and what better place than a school to impart this lesson to him.
'Average' Lessons in School
Rahul's feeling of being a loser or being average was not at all his fault. It was completely his parents' and their upbringing. Just immediately after the scene with Rianna at the school, Rahul goes back to his home and wants to share something with his mother. His mother, instead, starts talking to him about her nail paint color. She says that the red color is so average, she likes to be unique. Should we then blame Rahul for feeling bad for being an average when his parents always wanted him to be unique? No, absolutely not. His mother forces him to eat using chopsticks, something so artificial and fake, which he does not want to be. His parents never understood him. On the other hand, Rianna completely understands him as a person. She gives him a camera because he always wanted to be a photographer. She praises him. She motivates him (serious shakal banana se job mil jayegi). In the scene, where they are talking in the bed, she keeps on turning the light and he keeps on switching it off. She enlightens him. Also, it is worth noting that only her side of the lamp is switched on.
Then, I honestly do not blame Rahul for falling in love with her. He looks at her longingly. He found someone very special and that is why he dances to the song 'Koi Mil Gaya'. Ri is his 'new best friend'. He finally found someone who could accept him the way he was. He finds life through love. And that is why Ri is very special to him.
Rahul says, "maine apne dost se pyar kar liya aur tumne pyar se dosti" and "itna paas baithti ho aur bolti ho ki mujhe galat idea ho raha hai." However, Rianna does not love him back. She only considers him as a very good friend. I loved the fact that even in the end they remained friends. Even though he loves her, she did not let that come in between their friendship. In the song Aahatein, at one point, Rianna is shown to be touching the fences. Perhaps it was referring to the fact that Rianna did not set her boundaries in front of Rahul. Her touching these fences was probably referring to the fact that she is also to blame for making Rahul fall in love with her.
Good fences make good friends?
In the final moments, when Rahul finally feels free he raises his hands. In an earlier scene during Rianna's birthday, he opened his arms the same way. It was his way of thanking his Ri in whose presence he used to feel free. Now, he can do that all by himself and it makes perfect sense that the film ends with note of 'The Beginning' instead of the usual 'The End'. It is a new beginning for Rahul.
And of course this scene :)
Do you want a hug?
In one scene, Anusha messages to her friend about how boring Rahul is. The friend's name is shown as Avantika Malik, who is the real life wife of Imraan Khan. She also makes a special appearance in the song Auntyji.
There are so many references to psychology as well. In a scene in the beginning of the movie, a young Rahul is shown reading Freud for Beginners. And later, Rahul and Rianna meet at a psychologist's place. It was Freud who postulated the theory of psychoanalysis, a process where a person talks about his or her feelings to another person. And later in that scene, the psychologist suggests his own book to read. It was like making fun of this whole Freudian concept of fraud. Also, the secretary at the psychologist's office is shown to be playing Minesweeper - a game that applies psychology and probability. When was the last time we saw Minesweeper in a film? I have seen Solitaire but do not remember Minesweeper :)
The film is even more special to me because it is the closest portrayal of myself that I have seen on the big screen. The character of Rahul is me. There are so many similarities which makes me feel as if I am watching myself. Of course, I am not as handsome and dapper as Imran Khan. He says main 25 ka hun and roz subha uthta hun aur mujhe pata nahi mujhe kya karna hai. He says that he wanted to be a photographer and he used to take pictures kabhi kisi keede ki, kabhi kisi khambe ki. He says that he has a list of top 10 hated people (me too). Or when he says mujhe kutton se bahut dar lagta hai. He says he is so average. Me too. And falling in love with your best friend, fighting with that friend, and that hug scene. Again, so me :( I love this movie. Some day, I will make a film on myself too.
Teri aahatein nahi hai...
Dialogue of the day:
"Rianna roz mujhe kisi se milane ki koshish karti hai, but I still love her. And kabhi na kabhi main use convince kar hi lunga. Life is not perfect but I am happy."
- Rahul. Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu