Saturday, June 28, 2014

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2009)

Rab Ne Bana Di JodiTo most, a Yash Chopra production is synonymous with big doings of storytelling done on a lavish scale, of an extravagant love story, and the brightest talents in Bollywood. RAB NE BANA DI JODI happens to falter on several of these elements. But while it may not be on the same tier as past Yash Chopra classics (Dilwale dulhania le jayenge, Veer-Zaara, Fanaa, etc.), it's still very much worth watching. Bollywood megastar Shahrukh Khan, as expected, carries this romantic comedy.

The opening sequence features two arranged marriages, and both involving the same girl. On her wedding day Taani (Anushka Sharma), young and vivacious, receives the shocking news that the bus carrying her fiance enroute to the wedding had crashed, with her fiance numbered amongst the casualties. Taani's professor father, upon learning the news, suffers a massive and eventually fatal heart attack. On his death bed, her father, not wanting Taani to be alone, talks her into entering a marriage with his favorite student Surinder Sahni (Shahrukh Khan).

Surinder is a nondescript-looking guy, one of those unnoticed types who toil in his cubicle, working as he does for the Punjab Power company, responding to all phone calls with what I think is a pretty neat company motto, "Punjab Power, lighting up your life." Surinder (or Suri) is bespectacled and quiet and kind, and becomes instantly smitten with Taani. But he understands that his marriage to her is only one of conveniece, Taani frankly declaring that she could never fall in love with him, even though she vows to fulfill her wifely obligations. Suri, never expecting someone like Taani to enter his life, professes himself content.

Things go on like this for a time, with Taani continuing to mope and with her and Suri sleeping in separate bedrooms. One day Taani sees a flyer for Dancing Jodi, a dance school competition, and she decides to participate. Suri, longing to see her happy and dancing again, pays for the dance classes and then dons a disguise so that he could be near her, not in a pervo way but so that he could enjoy the sight of her having fun. For the introverted Suri, things are about to get ridiculously out of hand.

It doesn't really make sense, but somehow Suri's best friend is this outgoing, macho salon owner (yes, I said "macho salon owner!") named Bobby Khosla. Bobby does a makeover on Suri and transforms him into this hip, happening cat named Raj Kapoor. Raj wears tight clothes, has poofy hair, and tends to be loud and obnoxious. Thru the luck of the draw, he ends up being Taani's dance partner. Taani dislikes him within moments, but, then again, you know how these movies go. Soon enough, thanks to Raj's antics, Taani is laughing and feeling alive again. And Suri, trapped in a web of his own making, soon finds himself in a fight for his marriage, with his alter ego as his rival. It's all very twisted, but fun.

Fun, because the tone doesn't ever get to that dark place. Shahrukh Khan plays the strutting Raj Kapoor as a caricature, exagerrated and over-the-top. Raj isn't very likeable, but then I don't ever think he was meant to be. It's weird, even keeping in mind that Raj and Suri were the same person, I still could not warm up to Raj. As Shahrukh says in an interview: "The essence of the whole thing is, that you're going to love only one guy and that is Suri." That's one dichotomy in Shahrukh's dual roles. I don't think much of his portrayal of Raj, even if Raj's resulting traits were deliberate on Shahrukh's part (I'm guessing he intended him to be this aggravating). Obversely, Shahrukh's self-sacrificial Suri is sweet and heart-breaking and thoroughly endearing. As Shahrukh also says, "Ninety-nine percent of the people are Suris," and so many of us Average Joes see ourselves in Suri. With due respect to the showstopper number "Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte" in which Shahrukh gets to dance with some of the most famous actresses with whom he's co-starred in the past it's the terrific "Haule Haule" which really captures my attention. "Haule Haule" embodies Suri's gentle spirit and the depth of his feelings for Taani. In the song, when he beams with happiness and does that little dance, one simply cannot help but be won over.

The subplot to all this, of course, is the Dancing Jodi competition. You can probably guess how it ends. RAB NE BANA DI JODI (which I think means "A Couple Made By God") has its flaws but the effervescent tone, the romance, the nifty songs, and the touches of humor should have you overlooking those failings. It certainly made a killing at the Indian box office. This is Anushka Sharma's cinematic debut, but you wouldn't know it by her self-assured performance and her chemistry with Shahrukh, especially when Shahrukh is playing Suri; it's these two characters whose moments together construct the crux and the romance of the story. And Shahrukh Khan is Shahrukh Khan, in Bollywood the star of stars and his Suri having become one of my all-time favorite roles which this actor has ever brought to life.

What I didn't like? Okay, I initially had some trouble buying into Taani's Lois Lane complex, with her just being unable to pierce thru Suri's fairly simple disguise, but I eventually shrugged it off. Because, I guess, since she doesn't spend a lot of time with her husband (only at breakfast and dinner and the occasional movie date) and since the man is habitually so reserved, I can see where it may be difficult for her to put two and two together. In her place, would it occur to you that someone so internal could put on such an audacious act? Another nitpick is that I just found "Raj Kapoor" to be so annoying and not once did I feel that he was a character in his own right. And then there's Taani's late epiphany which, to me, simply smacks of the quick fix resolution.

What I have is the nice two-disc set with the glossy 3D hologram cover, although it's not cool that Disc 1 sits right on top of Disc 2. Disc 1 offers the feature film (which is 2 hours 44 minutes long) with English sub-titles and the typical song selection option. Disc 2, with the sizable special features: the Making Of RAB NE BANA DI JODI featurette (45 minutes long); the Making Of the musical number "Haule Haule"; the Making Of the musical number "Dance Pe Chance"; the Making Of the musical number "Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte," which in addition to featuring five of Shahrukh's past female co-stars is also an homage to different eras of Bollywood (although I think the musical number ""Woh Ladki Hai Kahan" from Dil Chahta Hai did this better); 6 minutes of deleted scenes (no sub-titles); Shahrukh Khan Unplugged 62 minutes of SRK and his ego but with that wit and that twinkle in his eye as a saving grace as he reflects (mostly in English) on sundry topics like this film's director Aditya Chopra, SRK's film preparation, his dual parts Suri and Raj, the importance of getting newcomer Anushka Sharma as his romantic leading lady, his tight relationship with the Chopra family, etc.; Shahrukh and Anushka In Conversation (43 minutes, chunks of it in Hindi), but definitely get around to just before the 32 minute mark to hear an utterly fascinating bit as Shahrukh answers Anushka's question: "Who is Shahrukh?"; and the theatrical trailer and promos.

Despite Raj Kapoor, I ended up really liking RAB NE BANA DI JODI. The ending is very good, even though you do see it coming. The movie has its good share of funny moments, although, as usual with Bollywood, sometimes the humor is forced. But do keep an eye out for the hilarious Dhoom sequence, in which Taani finds umbrage with two fellow dancers on a motorbike and goes tearing off in pursuit thru the tiny streets on Raj's own motorcycle (with Raj on the back). Then there's the funny epilogue to that scene, as Raj fills in his disbelieving but still macho best friend Bobby on that story (and remember that Bobby knows that Suri is Raj):

Bobby: "So your wife was riding the bike?"

Suri: "Yes."

Bobby: "At the speed of 120?"

Suri: "Yes."

Bobby: "And what were you doing?"

Suri: "I was sitting behind."

Bobby: "What were you doing at the back?"

Suri: "I had to hold the handbag, right?"

It's funnier in the movie.

I wish I could give this film more than 5 stars. I'm a big Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) fan after seeing several of his movies, and this one is my favorite by far, due to the HIGH QUALITY ACTING. Shah Rukh plays a dual role in this film and the movie is unforgettable.

Regarding the features: This 2 disk set is excellent quality. The movie is on the first disk, with a great feature of being able to play all of the songs in a row. Most of the time you can play one song, but then the movie continues after the song is over. Not so with this special feature, where it will take you to the next song rather than continue with the movie. There is also an easy to work scene selection for the movie itself so you can jump around as much as you want, from scene to scene.

The second disk contains some very revealing interviews with SRK and Anushka Sharma. I loved that the SRK Unplugged interview is mostly in English and it's lengthy, so it gives the viewer the chance to see Shah Rukh as himself. In the second interview on the disk, when Shah Rukh interviews Anushka, it is mainly in Hindi with no subtitles and only a little bit of English, which is disappointing. HOWEVER, you MUST stick with it until towards the end of the interview, Anushka asks SRK, "Who is Shah Rukh Khan?" That's when you will get a real treasure, in English, of how he truly feels about himself as a person and his acting abilities. It is quite revealing and touching to hear.

Regarding the movie: This is a beautiful love story, and it is beautifully acted by SRK and newcomer Anushka Sharma. I found it a real credit to Anushka's acting abilities that she was able to hold her own so well when acting with such an incredible actor as SRK. Anushka was very believable and portrayed her grief over her losses very well throughout the entire movie. I especially enjoyed her acting in the scene when she suddenly "gets it" -when she finally understands her connection to her husband, Suri, and all that he's done for her. When she sees God in him.

Of course it was very easy to love Suri and root for him right from the start of the movie, because he was the common man, the underdog. Suri constantly revealed his love for Taani in the way he did things for her. He was so loving as he cared for her and did everything he could to make her feel comfortable and happy. Taani, however, was too caught up in her grief and anger towards God for taking her loved ones, that she couldn't see what was in front of her face. When she finally expressed an interest in something, it was natural that Suri would want to share in her happiness, which is what led him to transform into Raj. I found it incredibly brave of mild and meek Suri to be willing to change into a completely different person just so he could spend time with his wife, Taani.

Some reviewers of this movie didn't like Raj, but I did. I could see Suri underneath the surface most of the time, which demonstrates SRK's wonderful skill as an actor. He is absolutely hilarious as Raj, but he also shows his humanity, like in the heart-wrenching scene where Raj is drunk and talking to himself (a dummy with Suri's clothes on it) about his fears. As Raj, Suri gradually revealed his love for Taani to her, which made Taani have to finally face what was really going on in her life. The incredibly tender scene with Taani asking Raj "What do I do?" was just exquisite acting by both.

There are some wonderful musical numbers in this film, including some real show-stoppers. My two favorites were Haule Haule, which is Suri singing about his love for Taani, and Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai, which is Raj/Suri singing to Taani about his love for her. SRK's acting and dancing in the number Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai (loosely translated "I see God in you") is just superb. This is the one song that I play over and over again because it's just so beautiful.

This film is thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end. This is the one movie I will make my adult daughter sit down and watch with me to see if she likes Bollywood. Because if you don't like this movie, you just don't get it.

Buy Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2009) Now

So far, the names of Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra have been behind some of India's most beautiful, romantic movies in the past decade, and this latest production lived up to my expectations, even though it is significantly different from earlier box-office hits like "Mohabbetein", "Veer-Zaara" and "Dil to Pagal Hai", to name a few. The two main aspects which struck me as being most different about this lovely new film, "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi", are the realistic and traditional Indian settings and the unusual story about an unlikely couple. In most popular romantic movies, the stars are young and attractive, and although Shahrukh Khan, the star of many such popular romantic movies, also plays the lead role in this film, his character is quite different from previous roles. In fact, he plays dual roles in this movie, which he has done to perfection several times already, and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is yet another opportunity for Shahrukh to shine and show us even more facets of his limitless talent and abilities. Wearing glasses and a moustache, he is almost unrecognizable as a stiff and boring middle-class working man, but as soon as he speaks, the viewer can look beyond the outer appearance and see the kind, gentle and loving soul within. This is actually the underlying message of this story, and Shahrukh brings it out very skilfully so that the audience follows the plight of this awkward and clumsy geek who is desperate to make an attractive young woman love him for the person he really is. With so many handsome and macho film stars to dazzle the girls, he finds this a daunting task, but is driven by love and faith in God to persist in his quest.

The situation is immediately more intriguing and complex, especially for the Western viewer, because the young woman in question is his bride whom he met only a day before the wedding, according to Indian tradition. The first few scenes are already loaded with deep emotion and drama as we learn that the young woman's happiness over her `marriage of love' a luxury not everyone experiences is shattered on her wedding day when her groom is killed in an accident. This causes her father to suffer a heart attack, and on his deathbed quickly arranges his bereaved daughter to marry an old and trusted friend, Surinder, to take care of her. Already in love with her at first sight, Surinder feels the pain of love for the first time in his life when she tells him she has no love left in her heart for anyone after the tragedy, but will do her best to be a good wife nevertheless. And so begins a charming and delightful story, like a fairytale, yet real enough to tug firmly at your heartstrings, as Shahrukh, playing Surinder the geek, disguises himself as a handsome, carefree and manly dance partner in his wife's evening dance class. Even though Shahrukh looks like his usual self as this attractive young man, his acting moves into new heights and dimensions as he plays Surinder the awkward geek pretending to be Raj, the sophisticated ladies' man. Despite still being awkward and clumsy, she appears to gradually fall for him after all, with never a suspicion that he is in fact her dull husband, which becomes a dilemma for Surinder: does this mean his wife would leave him for Raj because of his outer appearance, or would she eventually see beyond the geek exterior and come to love Surinder's fine qualities?

Newcomer Anushka Sharma plays the role of Taani, the sad and lost young woman, with apparent ease and with a manner pleasantly different from the usual popular female lead. In fact, both lead roles are deliberately different in order to create a story with a special deeper meaning to inspire audiences, even with spiritual concepts such as whether this match was made in Heaven. For the romantically-inclined, this movie will surely be very satisfying, if not inspiring, and for Western viewers it will be an emotion-packed adventure through India and the traditions and mentality of India's people.

Read Best Reviews of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2009) Here

This was the second Bollywood movie I ever saw. The first was Bride and Prejudice, which I call my gateway movie; it suckered me in by my Austen addiction and then delighted me unexpectedly India has had far, far longer to learn to incorporate (rely on!) music and dance to tell a story (rather than interrupt or stretch it) than Hollywood or Broadway. It even proved to my musical-despising husband that not all musicals are poorly-paced, irritatingly interrupted by pointless songs, and boring.

If Bride and Prejudice was the bait, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is the hook, and it was weeks before I realized how deeply it sank. I kept watching it as a Netflix Instant Play, but by fifth time, I realized I should probably just buy it outright.

The most basic plot premise: man falls ever more deeply in love with his own wife, tries to win her love in return. Awww!

The details: Attending the wedding of his favorite teacher's daughter, the reserved, almost expressionless Surinder Sahni falls in love at first sight with the ingenuous and carefree laughter of the much younger bride, Taani. The plot takes a couple of sudden turns and she ends up marrying Surinder instead, but is so traumatized that she tells him, "I will never be able to love you. I will be a good wife to you, but my heart is dead and I cannot love again." Surinder tells her he has never known love and feels no need for it in his life. Of course, he has lied; he does know love. He fell in love with Taani the first time he saw her, of course. But, as the song "Haule, Haule" ("Slowly, Slowly") explains, he believes that love should develop "soft, sweet, slow", and is prepared to give Taani all the time and space she needs to heal and recover herself. Surinder's love begins selfless and becomes self-sacrificing, wanting only to see Taani happy and laughing again, asking nothing in return but the possible rebirth of her smile. Meanwhile, her tiniest dutiful actions (packing his lunch, making his breakfast) bring a complicated, sweet, touching smile spreading across Surinder's frequently immobile face -in private, when nobody is around to see. Outwardly, he treats her with expressionless deference and distance, asking very little of her and sacrificing much for her comfort and happiness; he moves himself into the attic (claiming he always sleeps there) to give her the bedroom to herself.

Taani emerges from her state of shock and begins to respond to his gentle, considerate care with "dutiful" actions that make Surinder feel pampered and cared-for in return; even if she does not love him as she had her fiance, he tells her that her small actions are enough love for him, and we witness his understated, reserved glows of happiness in response. He comes home from work and the dusty, cluttered, cobwebbed attic is clean and spacious, decorated, with fresh flowers on his nightstand. This example, and several other developments, happen in a few seconds each during "Haule, Haule" -you have to watch the action during the songs, because plot and character development happen there too, in a manner so condensed and dense with implication I can only compare it to poetry. If you get up for a snack during the song-and-dance bits because you can still *hear* from the kitchen, you will miss much of the depth of the movie. Surinder's love does develop, softly, sweetly, slowly, from crush-at-first-sight to the adoration expressed in "Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai" ("I See My God In You"). Taani's feelings remain locked away, frozen and unchanging. Everything she does, she does dutifully, mechanically, because it is what she owes her husband. (That sense of debt becomes pronounced late in the film, almost wrenching in another brief scene far too easy to miss the significance of.)

Yes, there is the surface plot Taani joins a dance class/competition, and Surinder undergoes a radical makeover and dozens of dubious quick-changes to pose as the brash, loud, and frankly irritating Raj during the evenings, in order to attend the classes with her. "Raj" is able to flatter, flirt, and romance brazenly in a way Surinder never could without the anonymity of disguise. There are faint resonances with Cyrano de Bergerac as Raj tells Taani all the things that meek, awkward, almost shrinking Surinder could never bring himself to say. They are partnered together in their dance lessons, and gradually a ride home on "Raj's" motorcycle becomes after-lesson dinner and a birthday date. Despite spending hours every day dancing, dining, and laughing with Raj, Taani never suspects that her colorful, swaggering dance partner is actually her mousy, quiet husband. Surinder suspects that Taani is falling for Raj, becomes jealous (of himself!), and despite a friend's advice that "Either way, it's you she's loving!" decides to force the issue and find out who Taani *really* loves -the man she laughs for, or the man she cooks and cleans for.

Yes, it's full of holes in the description; it seems questionable that Raj spends so much time with Taani while Surinder puts in a full workday, even if the dance classes are stated to be "in the evening". It strains belief that a woman wouldn't recognize her own husband just because he shaved off his mustache and dresses differently. There's a lot to question here, if you expect the movie to force-feed you each and every explanation, Hollywood-blockbuster style, and it's then only a 2or 3-star movie depending on how badly inconsistency and spasmodic character development grate on your nerves.

But if you're willing to watch closely, follow subtleties of expression, ask yourself how things are changing and why, and put yourself in the characters' shoes, you will see that the "Match Made By God" is in the details, and the movie flows gorgeously. The smallest things, the nuances of Shah Rukh Khan's performance as Surinder (and unguarded moments as Raj), the song sequences, show a rich, mature exploration of different kinds of love, different styles of self-expression, different ways to say "I love you", and ultimately the wealth of emotion and interdependent partnership that can grow between two very different people. Taani believes she loved her fiance so deeply, so passionately she will never feel again; Surinder's love runs so deep it hardly shows at all.

This was also the first Shah Rukh Khan performance I had ever seen; I'm now a thorough addict. His talent shines through brilliantly, even in the (intentionally) shallow characterization of the ridiculous and abrasively over-the-top Raj, and especially comparing that to the restrained, complex, nuanced expressions of Surinder. I was amazed I had never seen or heard of this actor before. I understand entirely now why Wikipedia says "Khan is today considered to be the world's most successful movie star, with a fan following numbering in the billions..." He deserves it, and I am picky about actors. He holds his facial muscles differently for each character, so that their faces have different shapes, and that makes the implausible deception easy to play along with. His dancing is excellent, but borders on divine if you notice how he manages to bring the body language of the two different characters into the dances as well -Surinder's dancing is graceful and precise in contrast to his awkwardness, while Raj is still all broad sweeps and jerking motion -and how it's in dance that Raj and Surinder reconcile and merge as their distinctive movements blend. Just. Seriously. Brilliant.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into it by now, having seen it so many times... no, you know what? There's no such thing. It's there to find. The first time I watched this movie, I found it sweet and touching; as I catch more details, I find it heart-wrenching and buoyant. I can no more resist tearing up at the first few notes of "Haule, Haule" or "Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai" than I can on hearing Leonard Nimoy say "...and will always be... my friend." It's far from all-tragic; I have to laugh in pure joy whenever I hear "Taani-partner!" as much as on hearing Christopher Eccleston say, "Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, EVERYBODY lives!" (No, Bollywood is not my usual fare, why would you ask?) The more I watch, the more I see, understand, and love in this movie, and that there *is* always more to find, between the sterling direction and outstanding performance, is what turns the plot into an all-time favorite must-own comfort movie instead of a paper-thin slice of Swiss cheese. And if you wish they'd followed the story a little further, make sure to watch the closing credits.

My ONLY complaint, not worth even a quarter of a star, is about the DVD rather than the movie itself: I cannot find any way to get subtitles on the end credits (though the rough meaning comes through regardless) or the special features on the second disc. (Roughly half the interview content is English, mixed into the Hindi, and the deleted scenes are completely Hindi with maybe a loan word or two, and my Hindi is so far limited to "(Ji) haan", "(Ji) nahin", "Kyaa?" and "Namaste".) Oh, well. Maybe I'll find that detail in here too, someday.

If you have any doubts, rent the movie. If a week later, the thought of a man laying a single rose next to his wife's breakfast plate, then reconsidering, deflating, and putting it back in the vase, isn't etched into your mind's eye with a poignant mingling of hope and regret... well, watch it again. Soft, sweet, slow, the implications will unfold.

Want Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2009) Discount?

I had never seen a Bollywood movie before, but I was listening to some Bollywood music on You Tube and found Haule Haule. What a great was so good I put it in my Zumba routine! Then I heard Dance de pe Chance and really liked that. Later I found they were from the same movie! Then I heard Tujh mien rab dikhta ha (i don't know if I spelled that right?) what a great song! I was singing it everyday for a week. So I finally saw the movie on Net Flix...and totally fell in love with it. I honestly cannot put my finger on why I love this movie so much. I think that it has something that a lot of Western love stories is missing. I know I do love the characters, especially Suri, I feel I can really relate to his character. The director really shows with visual shots the emotion of the movie from Suri's unrequited love to Taani's feeling of loneliness and uncertainty. One of the best western romance comedies is Love Actually I would have to put this film up there as well, it just touches emotionally the same way. Great of the all time best romantic comedies!

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