Sunday, January 17, 2016

Of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, and Tamasha

Hindi films in the past have often explored the theme of two different persons with the same face. In Yash Chopra's Lamhe, Viren Pratap Singh (Anil Kapoor) falls in love with Pallavi (Sridevi); after her death, Pallavi's daughter Pooja (Sridevi) falls in love with Viren. A conflicted Viren is struggling to understand if he is in love with Pooja or Pooja's face that is a carbon copy of her mother Pallavi. In Anand L. Rai's Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Manu (Madahavan) splits up with his wife Tanu (Kangana Ranaut), and meets Datto (Kangana Ranaut) who has a striking resemblance to his wife. He thinks that he is in love with Datto, but it is somewhat clear that he is in love with Datto's face that reminds him of his wife. In Rakesh Roshan's Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, Sonia (Ameesha Patel) summed it up perfectly when she said that she feels tortured when she sees Raj (Hrithik Roshan) as his face reminds her of her dead lover Rohit (Hrithik Roshan). 

Interestingly, there have also been films with the concept of two different personalities of the same person. In Hrishikesh Mukherjee's comedy of errors Gol Maal, Amol Palekar takes us on a joy ride by creating two versions of himself to dupe his boss. In Vijay Lalwani's Karthik Calling Karthik, Karthik (Farhan Akhtar) suffered from a split personality disorder where he called himself in the middle of the night. These films are often comedies, or psychological thrillers. A few days ago, Aditya Chopra's Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi completed seven years of its release. I had recently watched Imtiaz Ali's Tamasha, and was still in the thinking temporal zone that an Imtiaz Ali film leaves us with. Curiously, it struck me that not only that both these films have the same theme of two different personalities of the same person, but also have many other similarities. 

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is the story of Surinder Sahni (Shah Rukh Khan) and Tani (Anushkha Sharma). Due to death of Tani's fiancĂ© on her wedding day, Surinder is asked to marry Tani. After they get married, she tells him that she will be a good wife, but she can never love anyone again. To get back her old happy Tani, Surinder plays the role of Raj as Tani's dance partner. Somehow, by the grace of rab, she cannot identify that Raj is Surinder only. Tani decides that she wants to love again, but is not sure whom she is in love with—Raj or Surinder—even though they are the same person. 

Tamasha is essentially the story of Ved Vardhan Sahni (Ranbir Kapoor). The story begins in Corsica. He meets Tara Maheshwari (Deepika Padukone). They decide to spend some time together, without revealing their true identities as to who they are in real life. He says he is Don, while she says she is Mona Darling. They decide that they will not meet again in their life. Whatever that will happen between them in Corsica will stay in Corsica. But as it happens, Tara falls in love with Ved. Four years later, she looks for him in a cafe hoping that she will bump into him. She does. He introduces himself as Ved as a product manager in a firm. They agree to go out, but soon Tara realizes this is not the Ved she fell in love with. The point of conflict between Tara and Ved is this dual personality of Ved, where Tara is in love with the Ved whom she met in Corsica, while he thinks he was only playing a role then. She breaks off with him. She tells him that he is suffering from a complex. Then begins his journey of self-realization. About finding who he is really is.

In Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Surinder is mousy, and timid. He works in Punjab Power, but there is nothing powerful about him. He has always been a good boy, and someone who actually fits the description of an ideal child on those kitschy aadarsh balak charts. He goes on his mundane job daily, but as soon as he sees Tani, he falls in love with her. In order to make her feel happy, he takes up the role of someone who is his exact opposite—loud, brash, and fun—Raj. I wonder the ease at which he is able to take up the role of Raj, perhaps, he always has this side to him, but her never showed it to anyone. Likewise, in Tamasha, Ved's daily job is like Surinder's. He is a lakeer ka fakir. He wakes up, brushes his teeth, eats the same breakfast everyday. He gets nervous during presentations. His routine is so mundane that he holds the elevator door for the same lady every single day. In contrast, Ved's alter ego Don is an exact opposite of Ved. Don is free, no one can capture him, he talks to the mountains, he drinks water from the ponds like an animal. When Surinder watches films in theaters, he identifies the characters on the screen that are like him. Ved, on the other hand, is fascinated with stories, and imagines himself to be in those stories. In the end, Surinder and Ved's alter ego triumphs. I don't think either film is advocating that any side is necessarily better, but the essential message of both the films is to learn to be comfortable in your skin, and not lose your identity in the process. At one point in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Surinder says that he can change himself completely to make Tani happy but he will not change himself to get Tani's love. He will not be someone who he is not. Ved learns that he does not need to be a lakeer ka fakeer if he feels suffocated, and he can follow his passion of telling stories. At another point in Tamasha, Ved runs out on the streets of Simla, and meets a procession, and starts dancing like a dervish, immersed in his new found freedom. A feeling of letting go, where he seemed to have finally found his dil ki aawaaz.

I am in no way saying that both Suri and Ved have the same motivations. Suri is unable to express his love for Tani. At one point, he puts a rose with a note he wrote for Tani, then hesitates, and keeps it back. His alter ego Raj helps him express that love and he openly flirts with her, that she has to tell him to not flirt with her. While in the case of Ved, he has this side to him, and Tara helps him embrace that side. She acts as a catalyst to help him reach his full potential, else he would have been stuck in the same mundane existence of his for all his life.  

It is strange that not only the theme of duality of its lead roles is common to both the films, but there are a number of similar elements in their screenplay. Surinder's alter ego is named Raj Kapoor, while Ved's alter ego is named Don after the Amitabh Bachchan's eponymous character in Don, but he takes the most inspiration from Dev Anand. Both Surinder and Ved find refuge in Hindi film heroes for their alter egos. Surinder and Ved have the same last name—'Sahni'. In Rab De Bana Di Jodi, there is a tribute to the heroes of Hindi cinema, including Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna, and Rishi Kapoor, in the song Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte. In Tamasha, there is a tribute to Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand in Matargashti. The lyrics of the song refer to Dev Anand's films Tere Ghar Ke Saamne and Prem Pujari, and Ved copies Dev Anand's signature moments. The song also refers to Raj Kapoor's Chhaliya and at many points, in the film, the scenes of Tara and Ved are quite reminiscent of Nargis and Raj Kapoor. Both Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte and Matargashti refer to the same Dev Anand song Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare. Thus, both the films have a sort of commonality of Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand. 

As if above coincidences were not enough, there is more, and this is my favorite one. Both Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Tamasha have a Japan connection, and both films end in Japan. I have struggled for days to come up with a satisfactory explanation for Japan link, particularly in the context of Tamasha. No film director would take an entire crew to Japan for one scene if there is something that he is not trying to tell us. In Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Surinder fights with a Sumo wrestler, and wins tickets to visit Japan. In the end, they visit Japan, and we witness one of the best ending credits in a film, when Surinder describes his pictures from Japan. In Tamasha, Ved and Tara went on their first date to a Japanese restaurant. The waitress had offered them different varieties of water. "What a brand, Japan. Companies are the latest countries, and countries hare the latest companies," said Ved. In the end, Ved and Tara meet in Japan at a tea conference where the building's board says Oracle. Japan—a place known for its robotic mechanization, and efficiency. Perhaps, that has something to do with it. While Surinder fights a Japanese wrestler to prove his love, Ved fights his inner demons. In both cases, they are at peace in Japan and have found love in Tokyo. 

An interesting thought comes to mind. If Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was made by Imtiaz Ali, would Rahul realize that the Anjali who he he was friends with eight years ago, is not the same Anjali that he is getting married to now? That's discussion for some other day.

Dialogue of the Day:
"Pyaar to rab ki meherbani hai, toh pyaar me kaisa dard."
 —Raj, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

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