Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi
Directed by: Aditya Chopra
Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Vinay Pathak and introducing Anushka Sharma
****WARNING: Contains spoilers -if you have not seen the film yet and don’t want the surprises ruined for you, please watch the film and read my review after! 🙂 *********************
Normally, after seeing a film, whether it is Hollywood or Bollywood, I know by the end of the film whether I have liked it or not. There are only a few films that leave me a little confused and need thinking over – Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi was one of them. Even though I saw the film yesterday, it was only after sleeping on it that I was able to compose this review in my head and transfer it onto screen. Needless to say, this was one of the most awaited films of the year and I have to say, not since Sex And The City, have I felt so excited and worried for a film at the same time before its release.
The omens on the day were good – it was raining cats and dogs outside (and bloody cold with it), the cinema was 25% full (which I prefer),although in the audience there was a young child running up the aisles who had to be given a frosty glare and be growled at to sit down (that the parents didn’t notice I did that says it all really) and a loud bunch of irritating teenage girls (who also got glared at in the interval – I wasn’t going to let them distract me!), once the trailer for Yashraj’s next film New York rolled (see more on that in First Look), there was no turning back, it was time to see what Adi Chopra had come up with after his sabbatical from directing.
RNBDJ is the story of Surinder Sahni (Khan) who is married to Tanni (Sharma). We learn their marriage occurred under tragic circumstances – Surinder originally goes to attend the wedding as a guest but the groom and his family die on the way to the wedding, Tanni’s father has a heart attack and on his deathbed asks Surinder to marry Tanni. Back at Surinder’s home, Tanni is beside herself with grief and Surinder allows her to grieve, whilst falling in love with her. But then Tanni tells Surinder she would never be able to love him and is trying to kill her old self and create a new Tanni, which leaves Surinder distraught. When a dance school arrives in Amritsar, Tanni asks Surinder if she can sign up and seeing her enthusiasm, Surinder lets her and decides to secretly join up too – as an alter ego called Raj, who is the polar opposite to Surinder. At first, Tanni and Raj do not get on but eventually, friendship blossoms and all too soon, the simple plan brings about its own complications which will change Surinder and Tanni’s lives forever…
In its favour, RNBDJ has a very old school charm about it. It is, at its heart, a very simple and restrained film. There is no needless buildup, no comedy track (Vinay Pathak has more of a cameo – more on that later) – the first five minutes of the film unroll in near silence, punctuated by short dialogue, the sets in the main parts of the film are simple and even realistic – a far cry from the usual Yashraj super styled interiors. In fact, this film feels very much like it was made in Hindi cinema’s golden period (the 50’s and 60’s), updated for a modern audience without losing its charm. The story is also very Indian, with all the action taking place in Amritsar, with the Golden Temple acting as visual punctuation at various points in the film (a nice touch I thought).
However, RNBDJ does have a few problems – firstly, its premise of Surinder assuming an alter ego a la Clark Kent/Superman throws up a few questions – how does Tanni not recognise Surinder in his guise as Raj? Secondly, the film does feel like old wine in a new bottle – not only are there numerous references in the dialogue to Yashraj’s back catalogue but to many hit films and this does grow tedious for the viewer at times. Furthermore, some scenes have a serious Lamhe/Dil To Pagal Hai hangover (which were directed by Adi’s father, Yash Chopra) as well as elements of Mohabbatein (the dance school remind anyone of Gurukul?). There are also Hollywood influences, such as an intentional/unintentional reference to Napolean Dynamite at the end which threw me for six. The screenplay also falters at times, giving the film a real stop and start approach which spoils the momentum. Though minor points, they all do take away from the film’s impact.
Having said that, there are some marvellous scenes in the film where Adi’s directorial genius shines through. The scene where SRK is dressed up as Raj and talks to the mannequin dressed as Surinder is a very good scene as is the build up to it. Also, the emotional scenes between Surinder/Raj and Tanni are also handled with such subtlety and patience,which proves a nice touch. Technically, the film is good, with some interesting camera angles including lots of long takes, close ups, circular and aerial shots – with the exception of the last two, all creating an old school feel to the film. The editing and cinematography also appear effortless though I am sure repeat viewings will reveal the crucial part this element has to play. Surprisingly, the wardrobe for the film is very simple and realistic – though Raj may wear all the labels in the film, the understated clothing brings the characters to life and refreshingly, the wardrobe does not distract from the proceedings (which has happened in the past to many a Hindi film!)
The film really comes into own with its music and picturisation of its songs. Firstly, there is Haule Haule which is filmed with lots of long takes and minimal choreography. Then there is the delightful tribute in the medley Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte which features cameos from Kajol, Bipasha, Lara, Preity and Rani. The sequences are clearly lovingly picturised and not only make Tanni forget her woes in the film but also the audience too. I thought in the cameos, Kajol looked amazing, with Bipasha a close second; however, I found Rani disappointing, not the best representative for the era she was chosen for. The high regard for these golden oldie songs and the attention to detail was impressive, doing it the way only Yashraj can. Dance Pe Chance is also done well (though it owes a lot to Dil To Pagal Hai) and Tujh Meh Rab Dikhta Hai was beautifully done, showing love as a religion in a very poetic way. Salim Sulemain and Jaideep Sen really deserve awards for the music and lyrics because they give the film much of its soul and also allow Adi to shine as a director.
In terms of performances, there was never any doubt this would be Shah Rukh’s film. Right from the first frame to the last, Shah Rukh keeps us glued to the screen. RNBDJ has two Shah Rukhs – Shah Rukh the actor and Shah Rukh the entertainer. As Surinder, Shah Rukh is brilliant. Invoking that restrained, nuanced performance that we saw in Chak De!India, Adi clearly understands Shah Rukh’s strengths as an actor and their chemistry is brilliant realised. Again, the scene leading up to the interval is a good example of this, as is the first 20 mins of the film, where we learn more about Surinder’s quiet simple existence. As Raj, I wasn’t too keen on the character but even I have to admit SRK does a good job, not going to overboard, and at times brilliantly showing the conflict between Raj and Surinder – watch the scene when he enters the dance school and has to assume the alter ego – the struggle between what he wants to do and what he has to do is brilliantly performed. SRK fans will not be disappointed and what’s more, non-SRK fans will also enjoy his performance. In the end, as Surinder wins the day, let’s hope the Raj character/persona is put to rest for good, as the character has been explored by many a film and none has come close to the Raj of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, so let’s hope RNBDJ is the swansong for one of the most influential characters in Hindi cinema and we can see more of SRK the actor.
As for Anushka Sharma, I have to say, she does quite a good job. It cannot be easy trying to match SRK in your first film and to manage to do that is a task Anushka achieves. Her first scene is well performed and she never goes OTT which is easy enough to do in the role of Tanni. Anushka looks amazing, whether it is the shaadi ka joda in the first scenes, the plain suits and phulkari chunnis or in the lycra dance suits. She manages to create some chemistry with SRK, and reminded me (in terms of resemblance) a young Divya Bharti, who SRK started his career with in Deewana and Dil Aashna Hai. Although at times she is a bit wooden and recites her dialogue parrot fashion, when Anushka relaxes, she brings Tanni to life and the audience can see why Surinder falls in love with her. She is certainly miles ahead on last years debutante Deepika Padukone and on the Mohabbatein girls who Adi launched in his last film. With the right roles and some careful management, there is no reason why Anushka won’t do well in the future.
I thought that Vinay Pathak was wasted in the film as Bobby, Surinder’s best friend. That Pathak is a talented actor is known and it must be said, the way he has slimmed down and the way he makes the best of a muddled role is to be commended but firstly, the screenplay does not explain how someone as outlandish as Bobby is friends with someone like Surinder and though Vinay’s role seems to be moulded along the lines of the role Anupam Kher played in Lamhe, the part is more a plot device rather than a full fleshed out character. Vinay’s character also encapsulates how RNBDJ lets itself down at times – it has the goods but doesn’t necessarily utilise them in the best way.
Despite its flaws, after sleeping on it, I liked RNBDJ. The true measure of a film is when it stays with you after you have watched it. The film does have the repeat factor and is a great deal better made and thought out than some of the other blockbusters of this year. Furthermore, it is a clean film, with not so much as a slap in the film and though young children may find it boring, I think adults and certainly maturer audiences will appreciate the subtle touches in the film. I also hope that Adi won’t leave it so long for his next film as he clearly has a love for film that is infectious and more films like this would not be a bad thing at all.
The buzz in the industry is that this film will usher in a new style of film and a new type of hero – the working class man. No longer will we see rich young brats swanning around in desirable foreign locations before realising India is where love and all other fulfilment is to be found! But on a serious note, if we do see a return to more simple subtle filmmaking that concentrates on its story and substance with a dash of style, not only would it be a step in the right direction for Bollywood but certainly for Yashraj, it would be a return to form where they would innovate rather than imitate.