Thursday, December 2, 2021

Queen—Khud Hi To Hain Hum Kinare

There are a few films that uplift us even on the darkest of days. Vikas Bahl's Queen is a wonderful film that always makes me smile. It philosophizes that life puts us in many a tricky spot, but sometimes, those spots can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. This is also seen in the music of the film. Its songs are weaved into the story of Rani (Kangana Ranaut) beautifully by Anvita Dutt Guptan and Amit Trivedi. While the overarching theme of the songs is clear, I find it slightly challenging to grasp the meaning of some lines in the lyrics. Nevertheless, all its songs progressively depict the changing emotional state of Rani.
Early in the film, Rani's fiancé Vijay (Rajkummar Rao) breaks off their wedding at the Cafe Coffee Day. After giving Rani the shock of her life, Vijay cleans off the particles of mehendi that fell from her hand. Rani goes back to her house in the autorickshaw with her brother. Her hair is all frizzled and disheveled. She is confused and emotional. Then, the soulful ballad Ranjha plays. The song is from the perspective of Heer, who sings about her Ranjha. She sings, "Main Heer haan teri, main peedh haan teri, je tu baddal kaala, main neer haan teri." She is his Heer, his pain. She is the water to his dark cloud. She further adds, "Keekaran sukkhan lagiyaan, umraan mukkan lagiyaan. Ho mainu mil gaya Ranjha, nabzaan rukkan laggiyan." Once she has found her Ranjha, her pulse stops. She does not need anything else in life. Ranjha defines her identity in life. There is no Heer without Ranjha and vice-versa. Rani is also in a similar state where she cannot think of her life without Vijay. She is desperate and calls him repeatedly.
What is also interesting about the song Ranjha is that it has male vocals while it is sung from a female's perspective. The song is written by Raghu Nath. It is composed and sung by Rupesh Kumar Ram. In an interview, Rupesh said, "I hoped for someone like Shreya Ghoshal to sing it. Anurag listened to the album and suggested that Queen director Vikas Bahl listen to it. Vikas liked the song and selected it for his film. However, he liked the rawness in my voice and insisted that we retain the track in my voice itself." Ranjha is also the only song in the album that is not written and composed by Anvita Dutt and Amit Trivedi.
After that, Rani decides to go on her honeymoon alone. Her parents are reluctant but acquiesce to her wish solely for the sake of her happiness. The song Harjaiyaan depicts Rani's journey to Paris. Harjaiyaan is an Urdu word that refers to an unfaithful person. The song is about a lover who wonders why she met this betrayer—harjaiyaan—if he had to eventually leave her, mirroring the events in Rani's life. The song begins by describing the state of her mind. Saaye saaye phirte hain jidhar mudoon, baithi hain rusvaaiyan bhi rus ke door. Ho behla fusla ke khud ko naseehaten karun. She is chased by the shadows wherever she goes. Even sadness has turned away from her. All this while, she is trying to give false hopes to herself. She talks about the betrayer (Vijay) who left her with freight of shadows. Her lack of confidence in the plane shows that she has not traveled by herself earlier. Her brother had always accompanied her even on her romantic dates but this time, but she is traveling all alone to a strange foreign country this time. There is a lovely shot of Rani sitting on the window seat and surrounded by the darkness of the night. Parchhaiyaan, de ke hi mujhe wo gaya kyon.
She reaches Paris after some time. She calls for a taxi; a passerby tells her that she needs to go ahead to a different queue. She sits in a cab but struggles to pronounce the place of her destination correctly. The taxi driver takes the slip of paper from her and corrects her. The film's script adds more tiny details about the taxi ride that were not added in the theatrical version. "The cab comes and stops outside the hotel. Rani gets off the cab, it's in a lonely street with big intimidating buildings all around it, she is trying to figure out the currency, the cabby is waiting, the cabby takes the money from her and takes out his rent and hands her the rest of it back. Rani keeps looking not sure if he took the correct amount."
She reaches the hotel and finds that the room is booked not under her name but by Mr. and Mrs. Dhingra. She struggles to carry luggage to her room. It is also a sign of the emotional baggage that she is carrying with her. The lyrics also add, "Kaandhe ye bhaari se, din ko dho nahi paate." Her shoulders are not able to carry the burden of the heavy day. She blames her fate. Whatever she chooses does not work out for her. She pleads to her ego—aham—to keep going in life. Ho udhde udhde aham se, main minnaten karoon. No one cares about what happened to her. Ho kisko ab ye padi hai, main ukhdi ukhdi hun. All of this is happening because her lover betrayed her. She does not open the curtains fully in her room but peeks outside, surrounded by the shadows that her lover, her Ranjha, left her with. There is this tiny bit in the song where the background singers sing 'Olai Olai' that does not mean anything but adds to the beauty of the song. 
The next song in the film is Badra Bahaar. Her grandmother, who is reading the matrimonial section of the newspaper, exhorts her to step out of her hotel room and visit the most beautiful city in the world. Dressed in jeans and kurta, Rani roams on the streets of Paris. The lyrics are from the perspective of a girl where she asks the rain cloud to take a message to her lover about her depressing life. Siske re jiyara, behta re kajra.  Beeta re jug tanha re. The heart sobs, and the kohl of the eyes flows. An era has passed alone. More than its lyrics, its picturization is memorable. The portrayal adds to Rani's turbulent emotional state. She is not able to cross the roads. The fast-approaching vehicles come running into her from the other side. Rani has always needed help in her life. She instinctively pulls out her hand when she sees a man gesturing the same as she assumed he was trying to help her. The film throwbacks to a moment where Vijay had helped her cross the road in Delhi. Now, she is struggling to do the same as she is alone for the first time in life. She is further reminded of her loneliness when she looks at other couples hanging out together. She tries to find people who can take her photographs, but no one helps her.
And, then, she sees it—the mighty Eiffel Tower—in all its glory. She immediately remembers a conversation with Vijay at the India Gate where he spoke about taking her to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Rani, however, is not enthused by the sight of the huge tower. She runs away from it as it reminds her of the past. Films shot in Paris, such as An Evening in Paris to Befikre, often romanticize the Eiffel Tower. Queen does something different in this context. The Eiffel Tower is more like a monster chasing Rani at every nook and corner, and she tries to escape from it. The picturization of the song is more suited to the lyrics of the Harjaiyaan. Saaye saaye phirte hain jidhar mudoon. She sees the shadows and the images of the Eiffel Tower on the road signs. She runs away from a man who sells tiny souvenirs of the Eiffel Tower. She again collides with a man who is carrying them. Scroll writes about the song, "Its monumentality reminds Rani of her own challenges, while Bahl’s use of the landmark indicates that the City of Love needn’t always be picture postcard." Later in the film, Rani does make it to the Eiffel with another Vijay, her friend Vijaylakshmi (Lisa Haydon), when she has been able to confront her fears head-on. She is not afraid of it anymore, and rather than seeing it through the prism of her past, she takes it as an opportunity to get enthralled by the tower's spectacular beauty.
Rani then makes a bunch of friends in Europe. She experiences new things in life. She travels independently. The next two songs in the film depict her newfound confidence. She is coming out of her sadness. In Taake Jhaake, Rani explores Paris with Vijaylakshmi. Here the poet says about her, "Sawaali aasmaan tha, jawaabon se bhara hai, zara dhoop ko badalon se ladne do, iss dil ko toh gunguna karne do." The sky was full of questions; now, it is full of answers. Let the sunlight fight a little with the clouds; let this heart sing a little. It further adds, "Zara gham se to faasle badhne do." She is leaving behind her sorrows. Then, there is Jugni which is played when Rani is making gol gappes for the Italian guy in Amsterdam. The song compares her to a firefly who has opened her wings and found the confidence to fly. Kaali si dibbi mein hui woh qaid this, chanda ki maari humne gulel thi, taaron ki chaabi se khuli safaid si. She was trapped in a black box; we threw the light of the moon on the box, and with the key of the stars, the box was opened, and it became morning. Naye naye par liye, O pinjra khol. She escaped from the cages and is flying with her new wings. And, it adds that she has khud ka noor where she is swathed in the light of her own self, reinforcing that she does not need anyone to give her light.
The film's last song is Kinare, which is again beautifully composed. It is a song that celebrates the idea of self. It appears when Rani goes to the concert with her friends in Amsterdam. Its lyrics propagate the idea that one can be complete just by themselves. Beh rahe jo saath mein, jo humaare khaas they, kar gaye apni baat kinare. Agar maajhi saare saath mein, gair ho bhi jaayein, toh khud hi to patwaar ban, paar honge hum. People who are special to us will leave us at some point in life. All the other people will also turn against us. But then we will become the oar and row our ship of life to the shore. Khud hi to hain hum kinare. Auron se kya khud hi se, poochh lenge raahein. We are the shores, and we will find our way, come what may. This contrasts with the earlier time during Harjaaiyan where Rani blamed people for leaving her in life. She was angry that no one cared about her. But now, she has changed and understood that life goes on and something or the other works out. She even goes and thanks Vijay for not getting married to her. She is confident about her future. In many films, we see that the protagonist finds life with the help of a special someone. Queen advocates that that special person is no one but our own self.
Trivia:
1) In Aave Re Hichki from Mirzya, Gulzar also used the phrase about keekar trees drying. "Talaiya sookhi, keekar, sukha, bheetar sukha re.The pond is dry, the keekar tree is dry, and inside, I am dry too
2) The song Kinara uses the word 'maajhi' who is a boatman. We do not hear this word anymore in films. In the older films, there were quite a few songs about maajhis. In Khushboo, Gulzar beautifully writes O Maajhi Re which again talks about kinaras being life itself.
3) I love this bit about mehendi in the script (which was not there in the film).
Other Reading:
1) The earlier post on the film QueenLink

Dialogue of the Day:
"Agar maajhi saare saath mein, gair ho bhi jaayein, toh khud hi to patwaar ban, paar honge hum."
Queen

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Sardar Udham—The Revolutionary

Shoojit Sircar is known for his slice-of-life films, but his filmography is also lined with a few political films. He began his film career in 2005 with ...Yahaan where he depicted a love story set in the politically-troubled land of Kashmir. In 2013, he made the political thriller Madras Cafe which was inspired by the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. In 2021, Sircar travels back a hundred years in Sardar Udham to bring to life the story of Udham Singh, a man whose political consciousness was awakened after the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar in 1919. Thousands of people were killed and wounded by Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer on the orders of Governor Michael O'Dwyer. It was a crime against humanity for which Great Britain has not officially apologized to date.
Sardar Udham is almost like the origin story of a revolutionaryThere are different contexts and meanings of the word, but broadly, a revolutionary supports abrupt, rapid, and drastic change. At one stage in the film, the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, Michael O'Dwyer (Shaun Scott), orders his soldiers to crush the protestors because he believes the revolution is dangerous. After the Jallianwala Bagh incident, Udham (Vicky Kaushal) becomes a revolutionary, dedicating his life to obtaining freedom for his people and taking revenge from Michael O'Dwyer. The trauma he experienced after the massacre does not let him think of anything else. He is so consumed by it that he cannot sleep at night. Udham's cousin asks him to settle down in life, but she knows that he won't. She says, "Sabne phande hi chunane hai." You all want to kiss the noose. Udham, then, travels all over the world to make friends and alliances to serve the cause of revolution. He also takes help from Nazi Germany and Russia. He never touched a bullet in his life but managed to shoot the man responsible for killing his countrymen. Post shooting O'Dwyer, Udham is carried away by the police. There is a smile on his face. After twenty years, his struggle to get revenge was finally complete. "It is all over," he said. In his last moments, Udham again asks Detective Inspector Swain (Stephen Hogan) to tell the world that he wants to be known as a revolutionaryIn this aspect, Udham's revolutionary actions are more in common with Subhas Chandra Bose's violent revolutionary tactics than Mahatma Gandhi's path of non-violence. The film rationalizes his actions by differentiating them from a terrorist's. Bhagat Singh (Amol Parasher) elaborates that the actions of a revolutionary are aimed to register awareness of their cause, while the actions of a terrorist are aimed towards creating fear.
Sardar Udham depicts revolutionaries from other countries, such as those belonging to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), fighting for their independence from the Britishers. Udham makes a deal to obtain guns from the IRA rebels by acknowledging a common enemy. The Indians and the Irish are the lambs being slaughtered by the butcher Britishers, Udham tells a rebel. Their revolutions are the same, he adds. The film establishes more parallels between the two by depicting similar scenes at the raid on the IRA and the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) premises. Another part is where a young Irish boy is shot dead in front of Udham, reminding him of the night of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Young kids were shot ruthlessly by the British Army; Udham carried half-dead kids on his back, trying to save as many as possible. Udham mentions to the detective that the Jallianwala Bagh incident is a minor footnote in their history books for the English people. The same goes for other rebellions. In The Crown series on Netflix, there is an episode in one of the seasons where Lord Mountbatten is killed by the IRA members. We never get to see their story and their motivations, just the impact on the British Crown. History, as they say, is written by the victors. Sardar Udham is an attempt to bring those footnotes from history to the title page.
The film's most poignant scenes come towards the end, where it recreates the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and depicts its brutality and inhumanness. The entire forty-five-minute sequence is a harrowing watch. Considering that it happened in reality makes it even more discomfiting. The sequence is intentionally prolonged to make the viewers uncomfortable and shake their conscience. There are repeated scenes where a young Udham carries the survivors to the hospital. He screams, "Koi zinda hai?" every time he returns, trying to find signs of life among the pile of bodies. He had initially gone looking for his girlfriend Reshma (Banita Sandhu). I kept thinking that there would be a moment he would find her, just as Deepak (Vicky Kaushal) found the body of Shalu (Shweta Tripathi) in Neeraj Ghaywan's Masaan, but the film does not show it. It is a deliberate omission because the sight and the smell of death can overpower other emotions. He is tortured in the most disgusting ways, but he says he feels no pain. Because he has seen death and there is no pain is not unbearable for him anymore. 
There have been other films before Sardar Udham that have depicted the Jallianwala Bagh incident before. Most recently, Anshai Lal's Phillauri depicted a different side of the incident where the ghost Shashi (Anushka Sharma) gets reunited with the spirit of her lover who was killed at Jallianwala Bagh. However, when I watched the film, I thought of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmaavat. In the film's final moments, Padmavati (Deepika Padukone) commits jauhar, where she, along with hundreds of women, walks into the fire. The colors and the symmetry of the scene make the death of a collective group of people look like a spectacle. It depicted beauty in death. And, there is Sardar Udham that does the exact opposite. It depicts death in its ugliest way. When the people are being shot, their eyes pop out. Their limbs are cut. They fall on their backs over each other. The kids are shot. There is no symmetry as people are running helter-skelter all over, like animals being butchered in a slaughterhouse. It was death with no dignity at all.
It was this human dignity that motivated Udham Singh throughout his life. At one stage in the film, he threatened a factory supervisor because he treated his fellow workers like slaves. Udham is not afraid of anyone above his rank. He protests for the freedom and equality of every human. He follows a communist and socialist ideology. It contrasts with the 'white man's burden' that Michael O'Dwyer advocated about where he spoke about the burden on the English to civilize the unwashed Indian masses. Udham tattoos Ram Mohammad Singh Azad on his arm, which points to his belief in the equality of all religions. Humanity was his religion. When Udham reads Heer-Raanjha, his friend Bhagat Singh comments that it is a tale about the love for humanity. During the court trial, Udham chooses to swear on Heer-Raanjha instead of any other religious book.
Sardar Udham boasts of technical excellence in all its departments. The scenes in Russia are reminiscent of The Revenant, while the London sequences give a Peaky Blinders feel; the point being that the production design is superb. The sound design in some scenes, such as the sound of bullets being put in the guns by Britishers the night before the Jallianwala shooting, is chilling. The film's background music many times reminded me of the score in October. However, it is the cinematography that raises the bar of the film. Avik Mukhopadhyay, who has shot many other Shoojit Sircar films, has done exquisite work again. There are some beautifully-captured top shots. There is a stunning pattern of light in various scenes of the film. Udham and other characters are often shot with light falling on their faces. Another peculiar thing was that Udham was often shot near lamps. Perhaps, it is a sign of his enlightenment. However, I could not figure out if there was a pattern of using warm white and cool white light at different places, as it was in Vikramaditya Motwane's Lootera where the flashback was shot in warm white light while the present time was shot in cold white light.
Udham near light. 
Some time ago, I wrote about how location is a character in the oeuvre of Shoojit Sircar. All his films are shot on location without creating any artificial sets. The characters live and breathe the milieu creating a world that feels real. His movies also have scenes shot explicitly in the outdoor settings that capture the location's vibe. The same is visible in Sardar Udham, too. Be it Punjab, London, or even Russia, Sardar Udham captures not just the location but also the time with authenticity. It does not look fake. It also casts English actors and gives them dialogue in the way they would speak rather than making them speak Hindi, unlike the way other Hindi films tend to do. The English characters call Punjab 'The Punjab,' adding more authentic details. What also stands out in Sardar Udham is that it does not paint all the Britishers as evil. At one stage, Udham says to the detective that he understands that he is doing the job for his government. This film also contrasts with the recent trend of hyper-nationalistic films, which thrive on painting the other side as vile to the core. There are also no depictions of jingoistic sloganeering and moralizing patriotism. Choosing to resist the pressure of the tide to make a film, such as Sardar Udham, is an achievement of its own.

There are some caveats to the above as well. Sardar Udham opens up with a lengthy disclaimer where the streaming platform claims no endorsement of the content in the film, but a few moments later, there is an interesting placard that says, "Based on true events." I went back to check Sircar's Madras Cafe (released in 2013) that said the film is a work of fiction and the resemblance to characters is entirely coincidental. It was clear for anyone who has watched Madras Cafe that it was the story of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). At the time of its release, there were protests against the film for 'hurting sentiments,' and the filmmakers clarified, "This is not a biopic on him, this is not a story based on him. Yes, you can say that there is a similarity to that incident. There is a similarity in the facial structure (of the actor who plays the said role). Sardar Udham was released directly on the streaming platforms. Last year, Shoojit Sircar's Gulabo Sitabo was the first mainstream film that went direct to streaming due to the pandemic. Having that as an option while avoiding the theatrical route gives a lot of filmmakers freedom to make the kind of film they want to make.
Sardar Udham
Madras Cafe
Sardar Udham adopts a non-linear style wherein the opening hour takes us through three different timelines and locations. It also shows the main assassination within the first hour or so. This works to its advantage, where it can focus on the origin of Udham's revolutionary leanings. The film also leaves it to the audience to figure things out. For instance, Udham walks in the snow lands of the USSR, but later we learn that as Udham's landlady was a Russian, therefore, he found a way there through her. 
Lighting patterns.
Some scenes don't work well, such as where Udham gets drunk in the park. There are some pacing issues in the second half where I felt they could have shortened the Jallianwala Bagh sequence. It would still have created the same impact. I am a little unsure what to think of the character of the translator, who was aimed more at the audience than the plot, as the film is primarily based in London.
Vicky Kaushal gives a terrific performance, especially in the Jallianwala Bagh scenes. He also adopts a lean appearance as a young Udham. The role was initially written for Irrfan Khan, but Vicky Kaushal has done a superb job. All the other English actors are great as well. Like her character from Sircar's previous film October, Banita Sandhu plays the role of Reshma, young Udham Singh's girlfriend, where she does not have a voice. Her muteness can also be seen as symbolic of people's lost voice under the British government.
Sardar Udham and October
At one point in Sircar's October, a friend comments to Dan (Varun Dhawan) that he is getting too affected by the condition of Shiuli (Banita Sandhu). Dan replies to his friend that how she can be so unaffected by what happened to their friend. Dan has no relationship with Shiuli. He was neither her relative nor her boyfriend. Yet, he is so much into Shiuli's care that he starts losing things in his own life. He loses his relationships. He loses his parents. He loses his job. The last words that Shiuli spoke before she fell were, "Where is Dan?" These words profoundly impact Dan, and he is immensely affected by them. These words gave him a purpose, and he started caring for Shiuli. He remained irritated earlier, but later, he became empathetic and mellow. Dan undergoes a transformation and grew up by the end of the film. A similar transformation is seen in Udham Singh in Sardar Udham. He had no interest in attending political rallies earlier. But he is so affected by the events of Jallianwala Bagh that he cannot sleep at night. His teacher once told him that youth is a gift and it is up to him to use it. After that one night where he saw death, Udham spent all his life hoping to give it meaning. Udham was an orphan, but he found his family of humanity among the dead on that night. "Ek wahi bass apni thi, phir sab apne ho gaye." He takes a bath in the waters of the Golden Temple. Revolutionaries do not just bring about a change in political beliefs; they also change the human soul.
Trivia:
1) Books In Movies:
  • Bhagat Singh reads Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
  • Udham Singh reads Heer-Ranjha by Waris Shah.
  • There is a copy of The State and Revolution by Lenin.
  • The book in which Udham Singh hid the gun when he went to shoot Michael O'Dwyer is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
  • The book India As I Knew It by Michael O'Dwyer.
2) "Patta patta buta buta, haal hamara jaane hai, gul hi na jaane, baaġh to saare jaane hai," was written by Mir Muhammad Taqi. It is also shown in the song in B.R. Ishara's Ek Nazar (1972). 

3) Udham Singh played a movie extra in two films including Elephant Boy (1937) and The Four Feathers (1939).

4) Udham Singh’s defense lawyer was also V.K. Krishna Menon, who later became the defence minister of independent India.
 
Other Reading:
1) The post on location As A Character In Shoojit Sircar's Films—Link
2) The post on Gulabo SitaboLink
3) The post on OctoberLink
4) The post on PikuLink
5) How the militant aspect of India’s freedom struggle was sidelined—Link

Dialogue of the Day:
"Saans jab jaane vaali ho toh rooh kaise sambhalte?"
—Udham Singh, Sardar Udham

Monday, November 1, 2021

Shah Rukh Khan and the World of the Stars and the Moon

In an essay in The Atlantic, Megan Garber elaborates on the history of the word stars used to describe film actors. She writes that the first reference to a star of the stage came in 1751, when a theater announced, "You may Shine the brightest Theatric Star, that ever enliven’d of charm’d an Audience." Around the same time, in 1761, the book Historical Theatres of London & Dublin noted of an actor named Garrick as "That Luminary soon after became a Star of the first Magnitude." By the 1800s, it was common to refer to actors as stars primarily for marketing. British actors were often promoted as stars for their tours in the US to ensure that large audiences would come to watch their performances. In Indian cinema, too, it is now quite common to address film actors as film stars. However, there is the term superstar, which is reserved for a limited set of people. Every generation has had its superstars who have charmed the audience. These superstars might not necessarily be the best performers or good humans, but they have the charisma that helps them connect with the audience. One of the superstars for the nineties generation is Shah Rukh Khan. I was re-watching various parts of his filmography, and it struck me that many of his films talk about the stars and the moon in different contexts and meanings. It is quite fitting that a superstar's body of work comprises these shining celestial objects. So, on his birthday, I document some of those instances. 

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai gave one of the most popular and memorable scenes of Shah Rukh with the shooting stars. Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) explains to his college best friend Anjali (Kajol) that if one makes a wish while watching a shooting star, that wish is fulfilled. Later, Rahul falls in love with Tina (Rani Mukerji) and marries her, while Anjali, who is secretly in love with Rahul, moves away from his life. Years later, Rahul and Anjali meet again in a summer camp, and a shooting star passes, reminding them of their days in college. The falling star makes an appearance again in the film's final moments when Anjali is getting married to Aman (Salman Khan). She looks hopefully at the sky. As it so happens, a shooting star passes by in the sky in the next moment. And, Rahul enters her room at that very moment, looking for his daughter Anjali. Eventually, the shooting star fulfilled Anjali's wish to get married to the love of her life Rahul, even if she had to wait almost a decade.
The aforementioned scene with a similar theme was also shown in one of the earliest films of Shah Rukh Khan. In Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, the hopeless romantic Sunil (Shah Rukh Khan) is in love with Anna (Suchitra Krishanmoorthi), who is the only subject he is interested in life. Early on, Sunil rides his bike to the station to pick up Ann as she arrives by train. He sings Deewana Dil Deewana, where he talks about his long wait to see her. In one of the most beautiful lines of the song, he mentions shooting stars. He says when he saw a falling star, he only wished for her from God. If all the stars in the world fall off, even then, he will pray for the same wish from God. In his words, "Toota sitara toh, maaga tha raab se tujh ko hi jaane wafa, jo toot jaye taare taman mangu wohi ek dua." Fate, however, had other plans. Anna chooses to marry Chris (Deepak Tijori), leaving Sunil heartbroken. In the film's final moments, Sunil runs into a girl (Juhi Chawla), where they again see a falling star. He tells her that shooting stars are pretty standard in their area. The film ends when he tells her the legend of wishes associated with falling stars, and they walk into oblivion.
Shah Rukh Khan gives us a message of national integration using stars and constellations in Swades. Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan) propagates to the villagers that all countrymen are like the stars. If they can come together, despite their differences, they can become a shining constellation in the sky. In the fantastic Yeh Tara Woh Tara, he talks about the stars and further adds that there would be no rainbow if there were no different colors. He also shows them the constellation of the Big Dipper, which looks like a farmer's hal, which means not only a farmer's plow but also a solution.
Tumne dekhi hai dhanak to,
bolo rang kitne hain,
saat rang kahne ko,
phir bhi sang kitne hain
samjho sabse pahle to,
rang hote akele to
indradhanush banta hi nahin.

If you have seen the rainbow,
tell me how many colors are there in it?
as such they are seven,
but how closely attached they are.
had they been alone,
there would be no rainbow.
The most fascinating use of the stars in a Shah Rukh Khan film is the one in Zero. Shah Rukh plays Bauua Singh, an egoistic dwarf who can move the stars with his hands. He elopes on his wedding day, leaving behind his scientist bride Aafia (Anushka Sharma), at the altar. He moves to Bombay, working for an actress Babita Kumari (Katrina Kaif). At a party, Bauua tries to show the magic of making the stars move with his hands. However, he could not move them even one bit. Maybe it was the horrible way he treated Aafia that led to him losing his magic. It is only towards the end when he meets Aafia again and tries to apologize for the horrible behavior that he regains the ability to move the stars. The said scene at the party also provides a meta-commentary on the career of Shah Rukh Khan. Many of the actresses who have worked with him in his films make an appearance with him in this scene. There is Karisma Kapoor, Juhi Chawla, Kajol, Rani Mukerji, Sridevi, Alia Bhatt, and Deepika Padukone. He talks about shooting stars and showing his magic to the 'ladies'.
The moon, too, has also appeared a lot in Shah Rukh Khan's filmography. One such film is Dilwale Dulahniya Le Jayenge where Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) meets Simran (Kajol) on a trip to Europe. After he returns from the trip, he realizes that he has fallen in love with her. At one stage, he is sitting by himself and trying to see Simran's face in the moon. His father (Anupam Kher) observes him and asks about the face that he is searching for. After learning about Simran, he exhorts Raj to fight for his love. "Hum unme se hai jo chand ko dekhte nahi, chand ko utha kar ghar par le aate hain," he tells his son. Later in the film, there is the festival of Karva Chauth, where Simran keeps a fast for Raj. She could only eat food when the moon came out. At one point, Raj tells her that the moon has appeared and points to the mirror that has Simran's image. It is a charming moment that leaves Simran blushing. Raj was trying to see her face in the moon earlier; now, she is the moon.
The Karva Chauth and the moon was seen in another Shah Rukh film, Yes Boss. Shah Rukh played the struggler and hustler Rahul, who, at one point, philosophically talks about the beauty of the moon. He remarks to his pretend-wife Seema (Juhi Chawla), "Kitni ajeeb baat hai. Humse meelon door rehne wale chand ki pooja toh hum kar lete hain. Lekin jo paas hai, kareeb hai, usko pehchante tak nahi." We worship the moon, which is miles away from us. But the one that's so close, so near, isn't even recognized. The moon keeps appearing at a few other points in Yes Boss. Early in the film, Rahul sang about his larger-than-life dreams where he says that he wants to break off the stars and the moon. Chand taare tod layun. During the song's picturization, Rahul drives past a house that would later become Shah Rukh's real-life home Mannat. Later in the film, he meets another struggler Seema where they both talk about dreams. He jokes that if one makes a wish on a full-moon night, it always comes true. At another stage in the film, a philosophical Seema questions him about the moon. "Yeh chand hamara kya lagta hai, hamare liye saari raat kyun jaagta hai?" With these questions, she segues to ask Rahul why he cares for her when they don't have any formal relationship.
The moon as a symbol of aspiration was also mentioned in Om Shanti Om, another story of the strugglers in the film world. Om Prakash Makhija (Shah Rukh Khan) goes to the premiere show of Dreamy Girl, starring his dream girl Shanti Priya (Deepika Padukone). He not only meets her but also touches her. After a drunken night with his friend, he comes home to his mother and shows her the moon. He tells her, "Tu hamesha kehti hai yeh jo chand hai, chand nahi khwaab hai, jo tune mere liye dekha hai. Aaj main uss khwaab ko choo kar aa raha hun." Like you always say that the moon in the sky, it's a dream you have seen for me. Tonight I've touched that dream with these very handsIt was like his dream came true.
In Dil To Pagal Hai, the moon is bizarrely associated with Valentine's Day. A dancer Pooja (Madhuri Dixit), reveals to her friend that the day that celebrates love is occurring on the full-moon night after many years. She thinks that those who believe in soulmates will find their special person on that particular day. Her potential suitor is a playwright Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan), who is agnostic about the concept of soulmates. At a Valentine's Day party, he is asked to sing. He pauses briefly. Moments later, the moonlight shines brightly on him as if the moon is trying to communicate something to him. Pooja, who is in her room, also sees the moonlight and gets the moon's message. "Chand ne kuch kaha," they both sing together. The moon asks them to fall in love. And, they did. The moon even conspired to make them speak with each other before it departed.
In Devdas, Shah Rukh compares the beauty of his lover to the moon. When Dev (Shah Rukh Khan) meets Paro (Aishwarya Rai) after years, she does not show her face and tells him she is like the moon. Dev tells her that even the moon is not as vain about its beauty as she is. She replies to him that it is because the moon has scars, and she is flawless. In a spectacular scene later, Dev is stunned to see Paro's face juxtaposed with the full moon, leaving no doubt that Paro is as celestial as the moon. He takes some soot from the burning diya next to her and puts it on her lips, giving her a nazar ka teeka. The song Woh Chand Jaisi Ladki is based on these scenes, where the lover is comparing his beloved to the moon and is waiting for one glimpse of hers to give succor to his torturous soul Dev's other worshipper, Chandramukhi (Madhuri Dixit), is also related to the moon as she is named after the moon itself. In Main Hoon Na as well, Shah Rukh's lover is named after the moon. Major Ram (Shah Rukh Khan) hears violins and saxophones whenever he sees Chandni (Sushmita Sen). The first time he sees her, he cannot stop himself and starts singing Chand Mera Dil from Hum Kisise Kum Naheen.
There is the intriguing Fan where Shah Rukh Khan played the role of an actor named Aryan and a fan of the actor named Gaurav at the same time. In the film's poster, there is the face of a young Gaurav (Shah Rukh Khan), shining in a light similar to that of the sun (or fire, or something warm). Next to him lies the face of Aryan, shining in the light similar to that of the moon (or water or something cold). Gaurav Chandna has the name 'Chand,' which means the moon. Aryan Khanna has 'Aryan,' which means someone related to the sun. Aryan is the superstar, and the sun is also called the largest star (superstar). The moon has no light of its own, but its light is a reflection of the light of the sun. The moon is dependent on the sun for its light. Likewise, we see this dependent relation in the film's poster where Gaurav is like the sun, while Aryan is like the moon, quite the opposite of the words in their names. In another poster, the light color on the two of them is reversed, matching their names (Aryan in the sun and Gaurav in the moon), signifying the interdependent relationship. A fan needs a superstar, but a superstar also needs a fan. Main hun to tu hai. The film later shows us that the individual entities cannot survive without the two. This is also seen at many other points in the film. When Gaurav is in prison, a constant shift between the moonlight and the sunlight falls on his face. In another brilliant touch, when Gaurav falls to his death, there is a set of lights that fall with him, and the color of those lights is again yellow and blue, like the sun and the moon. There are no other lights that fall with Gaurav. Midway through his fall, the lights went off, perhaps, as a reminder of the life lost. A superstar lost a fan, and a fan lost a superstar. Both Aryan and Gaurav lost.
There have been many other films of Shah Rukh Khan where the moon and stars are mentioned but primarily in the lyrics. It is not surprising as these celestial objects are familiar tropes lyricists use in their poetry. In Kyon Hawa from Veer Zaara, Veer (Shah Rukh Khan) wonders as to why the moonlight appears during that day as he sings, "Chandni din me kyun chaa rahi hai." In Tumhi Dekho Na from Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Dev (Shah Rukh Khan) and Maya (Rani Mukerji) bring up something similar again when they sing, "Ke din me hui kaise chandni." Love makes them see the moonlight in the day. In the dream song Suraj Hua Maddham from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) and Anjali (Kajol) sing about the feeling of first love where the moon rises in the sky and the sun sets, "Suraj hua maddham, chand jalne laga, aasmaan yeh haaye, kyun pighalne laga." When the song ends, Anjali comes out of her reverie and she realizes the differences in the social standing between her and Rahul. She reverses the lyrics of the songs and says to herself, "Jalta rahe suraj, chand rahe madham, yeh khwaab hai mushkil, na mil sakenge hum." Let the sun continue to burn, let the moon stay dimmed, this dream is difficult, so we won't be united. It is very beautifully done.
Shah Rukh has been going through a lean phase in his career as many of his recent films have not had huge success. He is trying different things with different directors, but somehow, he has not found his zone. Just as Amitabh Bachchan took some time to find his niche, I hope Shah Rukh Khan finds his as well soon and starts shining again. Because as Megan Garber also wrote splendidly in her essay, "At their heights, those people inspire the rest of us. They shine, larger than life, above us, and around us. They suggest, in their insistent omnipresence, a certain order to the world. To see the stars—or, more specifically, to believe in them, taxonomically—is to endorse a notion that the people before us on our screens, far from us and yet so close, exist, as the author Jeanine Basinger puts it, “on some plane between ours and that of the gods."

Other Reading:
1) The Moon in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Films—Link
2) The post on FANLink

Dialogue of the Day:
"Kitni ajeeb baat hai. Humse meelon door rehne wale chand ki pooja toh hum kar lete hain. Lekin jo paas hai, kareeb hai, usko pehchante tak nahi."
Rahul, Yes Boss