Friday, December 31, 2021

Atrangi Re—Love Me Little Little

Aanand L. Rai's Atrangi Re opens with Toofan Si Kudi where Rinku Sooryavanshi (Sara Ali Khan) runs towards the Siwan railway station. "Thaath se thitholi hai, risk mein rangoli, toofan si kudi udi," the lyrics describe her. She dazzles everybody with her colorful gait, like a swirling storm. All this happens during a literal rainstorm. Rinku makes another futile attempt to run away from her home after failing twenty-one times earlier. She is 'aashiqui me jalta hua koyla,' burning with a deep love for her secret boyfriend whose identity she refuses to reveal to anyone. Tired of her shenanigans, her family members kidnapped a Tamil doctor S. Venkatesh Vishwanath Iyer, also known as Vishu (Dhanush), and forcefully married him to Rinku. 
Neither Rinku nor Vishu wants to be in this forced marriage; thus, the two decide to go separate ways once they reach Delhi. But something starts happening to Vishu. He asks Rinku to come along to Madurai to attend his 'real' engagement. Things don't turn out as planned, and his engagement is called off. An upset Vishu returns to Delhi. He is not upset that his engagement did not happen. He is upset that he is not feeling bad about it. Because he has fallen in love with the ladki hai yeh Rambha, karti hai Zumba Rinku. She, however, is waiting for her lover, the magician Sajjad Ali Khan (Akshay Kumar) to return from Africa. It is a bit like Saawariya, where Raj (Ranbir Kapoor) falls in love with Sakina (Sonam Kapoor), who is waiting for her lover Imaan (Salman Khan). Saawariya ends when Imaan returns, and Sakina starts a life with him, leaving Raj heartbroken. Atrangi Re starts like Saawariya but then takes a different turn when Sajjad arrives at the interval.
It is revealed that Sajjad does not exist in reality. He is present only in Rinku's imagination. There is some kind of Electra Complex at play here where Sajjad is the manifestation of her father in her mind. Rinku sees him as her boyfriend. Sajjad came to life to help her deal with the trauma where her parents were killed in front of her. She holds on to her childhood memories as she never received the love in life from her toxic family. And then, it all starts to make sense. The title Atrangi Re that had implied a hint of weirdness and madness. The casting of Akshay Kumar as Sajjad, who is nearly thirty years older than Sara Ali Khan. The first meeting between Rinku and Sajjad where she goes and jumps in his arms, like a daughter running to her father.
It was from here that Atrangi Re went further into unchartered territory. Vishu and his friend Madhu (Ashish Verma) start treating Rinku using their own methods. They give her some tablets that cause some involuntary actions in Sajjad. He cuts himself. He falls from the tree and so on. They believe Sajjad to be like an invading virus that tablets can help cure. But none of these tricks really work. In fact, Rinku started to take more care of Sajjad. And, then, Atrangi Re uses the power of love to cure Rinku.
There are two ideas of love presented in the film. Rinku believes in the love that is larger than life. The one where people have to fight for it. Jis love me chaar-paanch ka sar na phoote, gharwaale kutte na ban jaye, seher me badnaami na ho, mohalle me chappal na chal jaye. She finds that larger-than-life love in Sajjad by virtue of seeing it in her parents, who had to fight their entire family to be together. They ran away from home. Rinku's story is the same. A Thakur girl in love with a Muslim boy. Sajjad is a magician. He can do anything. He walks on fire. He arrives with the sound of trumpets and plays the dholGarda uda diya is his anthem; garda represents something huge. He dresses in attractive colors. The other side is the quiet, shy, and unassuming love that manifests in Vishu. He is not the Love Ka Thalaiva. He finds love in the little things. Like when Rinku agrees to come with him to Madurai. Like when Rinku wears his sweatshirt. He literally sings Little Little. Love me little, little, little. He is a doctor whose love will help heal Rinku. He stands up for her when needed because she is his wife. I did not think the film advocates that either of them is better. Rinku, as she says, wants both of them. Each has his own role. The former helped her survive; the latter helped her heal.
Then comes my favorite part. They all travel to Agra, where Sajjad would perform a magic trick to make the Taj Mahal disappear. Vishu and his friends go along with the charade to keep Rinku happy. However, the trick fails. The Taj Mahal does not disappear. Rinku is disappointed and dejected. Her hero has failed. She starts crying as it reminds her of her father, who failed while performing a similar magic trick. The entire sequence happens in front of one of the greatest symbols of love—the type of love that Rinku believed in. I was reminded of Rai's last film Zero where Bauua Singh (Shah Rukh Khan) could move the stars on his fingertips. He elopes on his wedding day, leaving his bride Aafia (Anushka Sharma) at the altar, and runs to Bombay. At a party there, he tries to perform his trick of moving the stars in front of the ladies. He could not move them even one bit. The star Babita Kumari (Katrina Kaif) tells him that when you break someone's heart, even the stars won't listen to you. Bauua lost his essence because of the way he behaved with Aafia. The hero had failed there, too.
Like Bauua could move the stars, Sajjad could change the weather simply by snapping his fingers. After the failure of his trick, Sajjad calls Rinku and tells her that he is still the same. It was she who had changed. She does not wish to see him anymore as she has found Vishu. It is the hero in her mind who has changed. And, thus, we see that Sajjad is dressed the way Vishu does. He used to wear the clothes of a magician. Now, he has dressed in checkered shirts and sweaters, the same clothes that Vishu is wearing. He is gradually getting replaced with Vishu. At this point, Sajjad knew it was time to leave. There is a fabulous climax at the railway station. Sajjad does the magic trick one last time and goes forever. Rinku does not need to run anymore and comes back to Vishu.
Atrangi Re is so weird and wonderful that I could not stop wondering where it would go next. I have liked this one the most from all the earlier films of Aanand L. Rai and Himanshu Sharma. Their characters are often unlikeable because of their arrogance. These characters are not also able to move on in life. The guilt of the horrible things they did to their partners or the inability to accept the death of the relationship makes them come back. In Raanjhanaa, Kundan (Dhanush) reveals the identity of Zoya's (Sonam Kapoor) lover to her family, leading to his death. He feels guilty and takes refuge in spirituality, as portrayed in the song Tohe Piya Milenge. He visits a gurudwara, a mandir, and a dargah to seek inner peace. A wise man tells him at the bank of Ganga that he will not find solace by sitting there. He goes back to Zoya's life to ask for forgiveness even if she does not want him anymore. In Zero, Bauua does the same thing. He leaves Aafia at the altar, but he comes back begging for forgiveness. His dilemma is shown in the song Tanha Hua where he gives his money and clothes to performers on the streets to assuage his guilt. In Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) and Manu (Madhavan) get separated. Manu finds Datto (Kangana Ranaut), who looks like a carbon copy of his first wife. Manu is not marrying Datto; he is marrying a nicer version of Tanu again. In Atrangi Re, Rinku holds onto the love that she received when she was young. She never let go of her father and invented his spirit Sajjad as her boyfriend. Manu found a lookalike wife; Rinku imagined a lookalike father. 
Rinku also comes across as unlikeable, as she is cut from the same cloth as the feisty Tanu. She calls herself acid, who can burn everyone. She threatens to kill her family members. She is no damsel in distress. She says she is "channt" because her family members would have killed her if she were not. We see this contrast with the love Mandy (Dimple Hayathi) got from her father. When Vishu calls Mandy from Bihar, her father feeds her food from his own hands. After Rinku is married, she does not cry even once. On the train, she is the one who gets food for Vishu. We have seen that the hero usually does this bit in films. She flirts with Vishu while he gets shy and conscious, saying that someone will see them together. "Ab humari line bhi tum hi bologe," she tells him. Initially, it is hard to read why she is doing all this if she is in love with Sajjad. But, gradually, the film reveals all.
Many other scenes keep reminding us of the writer-director duo's previous work. The expansive balconies and the verandahs are reminiscent of their earlier films. Children make an appearance in the final moments Raanjhana and Atrangi Re. The poster of Raanjhana where Zoya hugs Kundan is also seen as a scene in Atrangi Re. In Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Tanu dances at her husband Manu's wedding on Ghani Bawri. Manu is remarrying someone who looks a lot like his first wife. In Atrangi Re, Rinku dances in her husband's engagement. The hero's friend is also a staple in the films of Aanand L. Rai, whose job is often to provide advice to his friend and comic relief to the audience. In Raanjhana, Kundan's friend Murari (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), who was as much a ranjhanaa in his friendship, goes to all lengths for his friend. He was more a Sudama than a Murari (Krishna). He literally goes mad when Kundan dies. In Tanu Weds Manu, Manu's friend Pappi Ji (Deepak Dobriyal) was always with him at all stages of his life. In Zero, Bauua's friend Guddu (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) was with him through thick and thin. In Atrangi Re, Vishu's friend Madhu plays a significant role in his life and often gives the most absurd advice to him.
Atrangi Re would not have been the film if not for the music and lyrics of A.R. Rahman and Irshad Kamil. The songs are woven splendidly in the film. After ages, I have enjoyed a song, such as Chaka Chak, which is sung and choreographed beautifully. There are no disco lights in the studio. There are no glaring camera lights. It is shot in natural light in a courtyard. The lyrics talk about a girl saying to her lover that she is the best for him. She has her flaws, but she is ok with that. Achhi bhi hun, buri bhi hun. She is also openly talking about her sex life in front of everyone.

Palang tootata pehli raat,
Sara mohalla karta awaaj,
Hui chaubaare mein barsaat,
Kaun wahan tha kiske saath.

My scandalous ways
are the talk of the town.
My personal life
is what creates a buzz.
Tere Rang is another beautiful composition. The song was already depicted in the film, but it takes an altogether new meaning when it plays in the climax. Its initial beats are similar to Manmohini Teri Adaa from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Its lyrics are based on Radha-Krishna's story and talk about being merged with the color of the lover. It is the time of Holi. Everyone is playing with colors. The woman wants to meet her lover, but she avoids getting colored by anyone else. She stops the kids. She stops her family members. She stops the people on the streets. The only person she allows to put color on her is her lover. Tere rang ranga, mann mehkega. The hand movements of the two lovers in the song are reminiscent of Zoya and Kundan's in Tum Tak from Raanjhanaa. Further in the song, there is the depiction of Muharram. Sajjad is flagellating himself with chains as part of the procession. His lover wants to meet him, but her family does not allow her. She starts flagellating herself, again, becoming like him. Tere rang ranga, mann mehkega, tann dehkega. There are two more nice songs in the film, both by Arijit Singh—Rait Zara Si (also part of the background score) and Tumhein Mohabbat Hai.
Sara Ali Khan as Rinku is spunky, especially in the first half, but has a lot to improve in the scenes that involve crying. Her attempts to cry do not seem natural; they seem effortful. Akshay Kumar has a small part which he does well. There is no moralistic grandstanding that appears to be the hallmark of his recent performances. His casting is age-appropriate in hindsight. However, it is Dhanush who is simply marvelous as Vishu. He does not even need to speak his lines because he communicates through his emoting. He says in Tamil, but we can understand his feelings. "Ab main hi pehle jaisa nahi raha, toh kuch bhi pehle jaisa kaise hoga." His performance makes his character better than the way it is written.
In another charming scene, Vishu asks Rinku to come to Madurai if she feels like joining him. She plays with words to ultimately make him speak his heart out. He wants her to come along with him, and she agrees. He expresses his joy by doing a little dance when he is alone but is caught by Rinku. Later, when he finds out that Sajjad resides only in Rinku's imagination, he again expresses his happiness and relief when he dances alone in the toilet of the railway station. His dancing reaches a pinnacle in Little Little. There is tremendous grace and delicacy in his dancing. In Raanjhanaa, too, Kundan danced on the streets when Zoya agreed to meet him.
One issue with the screenplay was that Vishu's love for Rinku happens far too suddenly. There is not enough time in the script to develop his feelings for her organically. Within two to three days of knowing Rinku, Vishu starts experiencing life-changing love. I wish there were more of the flirtatious banter between them. Like the one where her mangalsutra gets tied in his thread. She tries to make him conscious. "Hai Vishu Babu, itna drama." It is reminiscent of the scene from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam where Nandini's (Aishwarya Rai) mangalsutra gets stuck in Vanraj's (Ajay Devgn) blazer.
The film is not interested in going deeper into issues of mental health. One particular scene clubs different mental issues, such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, under one category, which I felt was gratuitous. It belies any basic understanding of these issues. For instance, at a later stage, Vishu pays money to spectators for clapping, which makes more sense. But, other than that, I was fascinated by its daring. At one point, Vishu picks up Sajjad, and all his friends even pretend to perform surgery on him. When Vishu comes dancing with a horse, Rinku makes fun of non-existent people, unaware of her own vision to see non-existent people. It is so bizarre and yet so captivating.
Atrangi Re is a film framed in colors. Pankaj Kumar's cinematography has beautifully used lights and colors throughout the film. The film has many other tiny details. Early on in the film, Rinku breaks bottles at the railway station. Later, Vishu also breaks bottles when he tries to compete with Sajjad. A character initially wonders about the existence of Sajjad. He says that he is probably a ghost which makes sense later on. In another blink-and-miss ghost-related moment, when Sajjad returns, he watches Bhoothnath Returns. Atrangi Re also tries to keep us away from the climactic surprise by showing little girls at different points. Initially, a young girl watches Rinku throwing bottles at the railway station. When she comes home, a little girl looks at her. It is a clever trick by the filmmakers as the little girl in Tere Rang turns out to be Rinku. Another interesting thing is that Sajjad's full name Sajjad Ali Khan is similar to Sara's real-life father, Saif Ali Khan.
Lights
Cinematography
Little Girls
Bottles
Ghosts
In the film Paheli, a ghost falls in love with a woman. He said, "Aurat ke dil me jo preet hove, woh hu main." He is the yearning that resides in a woman's heart. The ghost masquerades as the woman's husband, and then, he actually, becomes the husband by merging with him. In the final moments of Atrangi Re, Rinku describes Sajjad as someone who always gives in love and does exactly what the girl asks him to do. I kept thinking that Atrangi Re will also end somewhat like Paheli. However, it ends more movingly, making it magical. There are two similar shots that we see. Rinku is being held in the arms of Vishu, the same way Sajjad held her as a kid. She found love in her father but now finds love in her husband. "Meri wife waapas aa gayi," celebrates Vishu. She has healed. Films show different forms of love. Atrangi Re shows the form of love that can heal.
Trivia:
1) Sajjad reads Superstar by Ved Prakash Sharma.
2) The film has some interesting ending credits. 
3) Sajjad's fire sequence was reminiscent of Akshay Kumar's Khatron Ke Khiladi fire stunt.
4) Antardwand also dealt with the issue of groom kidnapping.
5) The song Rait Zara Si talks about sand slipping through the fingers which we also saw in the wonderful scene between Sid and Deepa in Dil Chahta Hai. Plugging my book on the film available to read here

Other Reading:
1) The Oedipus Complex in Films—Link
2) The post on RaanjhaanaLink
3) The post on Tanu Weds Manu ReturnsLink

Dialogue of the Day:
"Ab main hi pehle jaisa nahi raha, toh kuch bhi pehle jaisa kaise hoga."
—Vishu, Atrangi Re

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Ahista Ahista—Fall In Love Gradually

Early in his career, Imtiaz Ali had written one of the episodes of Star Bestsellers called Witness that had shades of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's White NightsIn 2006, Shivam Nair adapted Witness on the big screen in Ahista Ahista with the story and the screenplay credited to Imtiaz Ali. The story was based around Ankush (Abhay Deol), who made a living by acting as a paid witness at Delhi's marriage registrar bureau. One day, Megha (Soha Ali Khan), who has run away from her home in Nainital, comes to the bureau to marry Dheeraj (Shayan Munshi). Due to unknown reasons, Dheeraj does not show up at the registrar's office. Megha is left dejected, and Ankush helps her eke out a living.
A relationship gradually brews between Ankush and Megha. He starts falling in love with Megha ahista ahista. He takes a loan of ten thousand rupees for her and then decides to find a job at a bank to earn enough money to repay his loan. In his interview, he is told that speaking English is a requirement for the job, and he promises to learn it. This time, Megha helps by teaching him English. He starts to dream of a future with her. Ankush might be one of the few Imtiaz Ali heroes who want to work at a day job. From Aditya in Jab We Met to Ved in Tamasha, Ali's heroes are stuck in their vocations that bind them. They are forced to wear a tie. On the other hand, Ankush wants to work at a bank so that he can come out of vagabond life. He wants to wear a tie, and in one particular scene, he even kisses it.
Ankush hopes to move up in life as he is aware of the class differences between Megha and him. When he initially takes her to a friend's place, he frankly tells her that he helped her only because she was a girl. He feels proud to help someone of her stature. He further remarks, "Tumhare jaise ladki ke saath mera to koi chance nahi. Tum toh class wali ladki ho naa." He had no chance with someone like her. During his interview at the bank, he reiterates that the job is crucial for climbing the social mobility ladder. He wants to emulate his interviewers and become a dignity-wala aadmi. Ankush believes Megha will help take him out of the "gutter." He is a "mamooli" boy, while she belongs to the upper class.
Dheeraj, however, returns all of a sudden. Neither does Ankush inform Megha about him nor tell Dheeraj that he knows Megha. He lies to Dheeraj that Megha has passed away. One of his friends advises him that he should not be worried if he trusts Megha that she loves him. Therefore, he should speak the truth to Megha. If she decides to leave him, she had never loved him in the first place. Ankush replies that he is not a Hindi film hero who will let go of the girl and cry on a song. He will fight for her. He tries his best but ultimately realizes that his friend is probably right. Ankush is honest about his feelings. Perhaps, that is why Megha also did not react harshly when she found about it. She understands his reasons for lying.
In the end, Megha decides to be with Dheeraj. There is again a lot of grace with which Ankush accepts it. He realized that Megha never really loved him. She had agreed to marry as an ehsaan to return the help he gave her. He was confusing friendship for love. He does not become angry or bitter like Devdas. He simply walks away from her life. In the film's last shot, he walks into the crowd and becomes a part of it once again. Their story started and ended at the same place. It is a sad end to Ankush's love story where he does not get to wear the tie, but there is also a relief that he will be fine. He assures her that he will not break in life. He acknowledges that she has helped him a lot in life and positively changed him. They helped each other when they were together. He had wanted to be a dignity-wala aadmi. He might not become a dignity-wala aadmi belonging to the rich upper-class man, but he did become a dignity-wala aadmi in a different way, walking away with self-respect when it was time to let go. There are many ways to fall in love, but there are also many ways to be out of love. He chose the path of dignity.
On the first night of their meeting, Ankush takes Megha to Nizamuddin Dargah. This sequence is also reminiscent of Rockstar that Ali directed in 2011 where Jordan (Ranbir Kapoor) finds refuge for a few days in the same place when he has nowhere left to go. Interestingly, in 2007, Ali directed Jab We Met that also had shades of Ahista Ahista, where Geet (Kareena Kapoor) runs away from her home to marry Anshuman (Tarun Arora), who refuses to marry her. Aditya (Shahid Kapoor) is grateful to Geet for helping him understand the meaning of life when he was going through a difficult break-up. He helps Geet to get her life back after Anshuman rejects her. He falls in love with Geet. However, Anshuman comes back, and Geet is willing to forgive him. But, unlike Ahista Ahista, Geet chooses Aditya and not Anshuman. At one point in Jab We Met, Geet and Aditya go to a hotel. She reminds him that she is a girl and he should not take advantage of her. A related conversation happens between Megha and Ankush in Ahista Ahista when he takes her to his friend's place. He tells her that she should not worry as he is not looking for any physical relationship in return for his help. In Jab We Meet, Geet advises Aditya to flush down the pictures of his ex-girlfriend in the toilet. This scene was also present earlier in Ahista Ahista where Megha flushes down all the pictures of Dheeraj when he does not return.
Ahista Ahista and Rockstar
Ahista Ahista and Jab We Met
Ahista Ahista is yet another Imtiaz Ali-written film where the women are often left in vulnerable positions. Megha is left stranded all alone in the city. She has no money and no place to go. The station-master had mentioned in Jab We Met 'akeli ladki khuli tijori ki tarah hoti hai' when Geet missed her train. In Highway, Veera (Alia Bhatt) is not scared after she is kidnapped and, in fact, she becomes friends with her kidnappers. In Tamasha, Tara (Deepika Padukone) loses her passport and money and is left all alone on an island in faraway Corsica where no one even understands English. In Jab Harry Met Sejal, Sejal (Anushka Sharma) goes on a Europe trip with a man she does not know. In Love Aaj Kal (2020), a drunk Zoe (Sara Ali Khan) is left stranded in the middle of the night in Delhi after an altercation with a guy who had been trying to hook up with her. For another woman, these would have been dangerous situations, but these women manage to make these circumstances a memorable (or an unforgettable) one for themselves.
Ahista Ahista also incorporates flowers at different stages in the film. It opens with a child giving flowers to a newly married couple. Later, in a lovely scene, Megha is sitting surrounded by flowers. Towards the end of the film, Ankush brings a bouquet of roses for Megha but does not give it as Dheeraj is with her. There is also a lot of Delhi in the film. Places, such as Qutub Minar, Nizamuddin, Red Fort, and Connaught Place, frequently appear in the film. In one beautiful scene, Ankush talks to Khala (Kamini Khanna) and the camera pans to depict the stunning Jama Masjid in the background.
Some bits that did not entirely work for me, and appear a bit dated now. The sequences between Ankush and Khala are irritating. The character of the phone booth owner, played by Brijendra Kala, who is only interested in sex, felt out of place. Abhay Deol looks far more sophisticated than his character Ankush, which was not the case in the characters of Witness. He does not appear to be the mamooli guy. I guess that may be more because I watched the film fifteen years later, subconsciously, affected by his image in the repertoire of his work where he has played off-beat sophisticated characters. 
There are some nicely done scenes in the film. There is one scene in the old-age home when Ankush comes to meet Megha. They have to pretend that they do not know each other. Thus, they talk via an older person sitting between them, which is endearing. Then, they have the first kiss, which is slightly awkward but feels realistic. It just happens, and it is not a big deal. I also liked the way Ankush confessed his feelings in front of the Father (Sohrab Ardeshir). But the most memorable moment for me was when Megha sits in the Nizamuddin Dargah, he asks a dua for her. He does not know her, yet he prays for her. It is a beautiful moment where he is praying for a stranger. Irshad Kamil's qawwali Aawan Ankhiya plays that says, "Aawan ankhiyan, jaawan aankhiyan, hijra mein tere saawan ankhiyan." The poet's eyes yearn to see the lover. His eyes became drenched with tears, like the monsoon, due to the separation from the lover. In Jab We Met, Kamil writes, "Aaoge jab tum, O Saajana. Angana phool khilenge, barsega saawan jhoom jhoom ke." When the beloved will return, the flowers will blossom and the rain will pour down. Words often remain similar but the emotions they can bring out can be so wonderfully different. And, that is how they make us fall in love with them gradually. Ahista Ahista.
Trivia:
1. Imitiaz Ali had directed an episode in the series Rishtey called Highway that told the story of an affluent girl abducted right before her wedding and then became attached to her kidnapper. In 2014, Ali made Highway with the same theme as his episode in Rishtey. Ali had wanted Highway to be his debut film, but somehow, things did not work out for him. It was only quite later that he made the film even though he had the story ready from the early 2000s.
2. A poster of Shakti Samanta's Jaane-Anjaane can be seen in Ahista Ahista.
3. D. Santosh plays Ankush's friend Pipni in Ahista Ahista. He was also Girish in Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year.
4. The song Aahista in Sajid Ali's Laila Majnu had a line, "Mere hona aahista aahista." The lyrics of Ahista Ahista and Laila Majnu are by Irshad Kamil. 

Other Reading:
1) Television in Films—Link
2) Fyodor Dostovesky in Hindi Films—Link

Dialogue of the Day:
"Aawan ankhiyan, jaawan aankhiyan, hijra mein tere saawan ankhiyan."
Ahista Ahista

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 fiancĂ© 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