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Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

17 Dec

rab4

Aditya Chopra’s Shahrukh Khan-starrer Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is a towering achievement… in lazy writing.

For his third outing in the director’s chair, Chopra helms a movie positively teeming with interesting possibilities: a marriage of convenience; a bromance between two aging men; an older man’s love for his younger bride, who’s not just his polar opposite but clearly way out of his league; coping with the many shades of love, loneliness and crippling grief; the self-loathing of a man so colorless, his own wife can’t recognize him once he shaves off moustache and puts on a different outfit; the burden of obligation and the importance of kindness; and the little misunderstandings of life that could well turn a dolt into a douchebag.

The movie opens promisingly enough with a couple alighting in front of an old house in Amritsar. The man who owns it is called Surinder Sahni, a small man with a nine-to-five job and little to say to anyone. The lane that runs outside his house and the office in which he works is full of busy, noisy strangers – inside, where he lives, is an echoing emptiness and a quiet loneliness.

Moving in with him is his brand-new wife Taani, a virtual stranger to Surinder and his city, still struggling to find her balance after a recent tragedy left her orphaned and all alone in the world. As Taani sets out the framework for their marriage of convenience, telling him upfront that she doesn’t see herself falling in love with him, Surinder realizes he’s fallen for this young woman – the very first “ladies” he’s ever actually known, he tells her shyly.

The only person Surinder-the-emotional-virgin can share this newfound secret with is his best friend Bobby, a salon-owner who’s much more ‘with it’ (in their minds anyway) than Surinder can ever hope to be. Bobby wears clothes that are a couple of sizes too tight for his tubby frame, he uses an abundance of product on his colored hair, his jeans are skinny, and he walks with his chest puffed out as befits a proper Punjabi ‘macho’ man.

Between the two of them, they hatch a plot to win Taani over by transforming unoffending little Surinder into an ultra-douchebag version of Bobby. Not that that’s what they set out to achieve, mind you. But when Surinder is called upon to justify his pointy-toed snakeskin boots and his neon-blue lycra t-shirt, he apparently decides to emulate those boys he probably saw cutting class when he himself was studiously attending lectures in college – you know, the ones girls would rather cross the road than have to deal with?

Taani is, not unnaturally, less than impressed by Surinder 2.0, hereby dubbed Raj. Raj Kapoor, to be exact. Somehow she manages to keep her hands by her side rather than swiping it across his louche face… and then is taken aback when she catches a glimpse of Surinder’s irrepressible niceness peeping out of Raj’s smug face. She is even more bewildered to find herself responding to this man who just screams “cheap” with his every move – and she ain’t talking money.

You’d think I was giving away the entire plot of the movie, but you’re wrong. You see, halfway through, out of nowhere, we’re told that this is a movie about something entirely different – we’re now watching a love story scripted by God (proof = one coincidence + heroine is a nice person). What follows is either enough to turn you atheist or standard Bollywood fare, depending on how you see it.

Surinder suddenly exhibits a stubborn streak, starts speechifying about how his wife should “love me for who I am on the inside” (even though, Bobby points out sensibly, the only time he ever shows her who he is on the inside is when he’s pretending to be a completely different person. WTF?!) in a manner that reminded me forcefully of the boys from my hometown who used to sneak copies of women’s magazines so they’d have something to talk about with the girls they wanted to impress, while Taani and Raj have zany little conversations about how it’s ok to emotionally cheat on your significant others (Dear Surinder, please read my interviews, XOXO, Jennifer Aniston).

The problem with Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is not that it’s regressive or that it’s badly made.  It’s a tolerably well-made middle-of-the-road movie that isn’t terribly exciting or particularly coherent towards the end, but is leagues better than 90% of the trash YRF has been putting out for the past couple of years and is a definite improvement on the execrable saccharine-fest that was Mohabbatein. The problem with Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is that it shows us a glimpse of the movie it could have been and then stomps all over our fondest hopes.

For Aditya Chopra to have these complex characters at his fingertips, their stories ready to be told in the most commercial manner possible (complete with a bonafide king of the boxoffice, India’s foremost production house, a debutant heroine who can actually speak Hindi without the cringe-inducing self-conscious accent that afflicts most of the younger crop and a supporting actor who’s made his name playing eccentric small-timers) and then choose the least-interesting and most-underwritten story of the lot as his main focus halfway through the movie – well, that’s some kind of genius right there.

We get one little bit of exposition in which we can appreciate Taani’s decision – she took a moment to think it over and came to the conclusion that she couldn’t disrespect the one person who’d shown her nothing but kindness at the lowest point in her life and she’d arrived at a point in her life where being kind to the person who’d shown her kindness was more important than the realization of her callow dreams.

Chopra then takes this adult but unromantic decision, which doesn’t seem to afford her any particular joy, and cleverly cloaks it in some of the mawkish sentiment that rendered Mohabbatein next-to-unwatchable (complete with whispered, throat-clogged declarations of love but thankfully minus a ghost).

But really, all I wanted out of the movies right now was what I got – an old-fashioned Bollywood romance that chugged along till the second half when all the threads were somehow thrown together so things end more or less happily ever after. And you know you’ve got that when Shahrukh Khan wins a dance competition, even if it is in Amritsar.

I’d say I’m perfectly content… but I’d be lying. I keep imagining Taani and Surinder in bed together and I have to say it’s kinda freaking me out. There’s a reason movie stars are pretty – it saves us from the trauma of imagining what our neighbors are upto.

Enjoy the pictures I just put into your mind. :mrgreen:

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24 Comments

Posted by on December 17, 2008 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

24 responses to “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

  1. the post-punk cinema club

    December 17, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Ahh, you are much kinder than I was. I think I had just built it up to SUCH A POINT OF CATACLYSMIC PRE-CONCEIVED AWESOMENESS that anything sub par would have been a let-down. And so I was very let down. Sadness.

    I now wait in fear and trembling for SRK’s autistic role in My Name is Khan…

     
  2. Kanan

    December 17, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    I love the geeky SRK! 😀

     
  3. Amey

    December 17, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Dear Surinder, please read my interviews, XOXO, Jennifer Aniston

    Jenninder???

     
  4. Ian

    December 17, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Amrita, Given that we know the premise before we see the film, it was never going to be anything other than three-stars standard Bollywood fare. Conservative, (Taani changes from young thing full of life making a love marriage, to arranged-marriage husband worshipper); and – I’m on a limb here – misogynist – in that Surinder’s deception is perfectly acceptable. If anything annoyed me about the film, that was it.

    This was never going to be Chameli, or Meenaxi, or Chokher Bali; Earth, or Fire or Water; and I don’t think anyone anticipates otherwise.

     
  5. shweta

    December 17, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    I had finally begun to appreciate SRK again, but he keeps letting me down 😦 unfair!

     
  6. ravi nair

    December 17, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Never been a SRK fan meself :-). I cannot understand what is so special about him? Ah well, to each his own,…

     
  7. naren

    December 18, 2008 at 1:16 am

    I know you really love cinema and you’re just the person to share this with. It’s on a site called passionforcinema.com and it’s Dibakar Banerjee, director of Oye Lucky talking. It is riveting. The first link is a small article. The second is an audio of an interview – discussion, actually – with Dibakar Banerjee. The language is a bit brutal, though

    This is the article http://tinyurl.com/55panv

    The audio file is on this page http://tinyurl.com/5wv5lh

     
  8. Nida

    December 18, 2008 at 1:48 am

    Hi Amrita,
    My feelings were similar to yours. I expected more and thought the film was just okay. And all that mush in the middle/second half you brought up just made the whole thing drag for me. I guess I feel a movie should be either silly chick flick or deep and philosophical. It can’t be both at the same time–you have to pick one!And I don’t think Aditya knew what he wanted, so he tried to have it all with all the “God made the match” stuff.

    I’m not really blaming SRK though. I’m blaming Adi Chopra.

     
  9. Hades

    December 18, 2008 at 5:50 am

    I’m afraid SRK hammed his way though Suri’s role.

    He was much better as Raj. In fact, Shah Rukh will always be better as Raj. The Suris of the world aren’t meant to be played by the SRKs of the world.

    Having said that, SRK can be brilliant when handled well. Case in point: Dil Se. Mani Ratnam sure did manage to get a superb performance out of him.

     
  10. M

    December 18, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Amrita,

    you’re EVIL, you know that? (MUST get image of neighbours canoodling out of head!)

    Longing to see this movie (suffering from SRK withdrawal, I’m afraid) but the reviews have me very scared…I was actually *bored* by much of OSO, and this is starting to sound like it might have the same effect…

    I’m afraid Aditya Chopra just lives in an alternate reality – why else would he do this to this movie, and come up with Mohabbatein, in the first place…that movie made me gag so badly…you think we should contact Maniratnam and have him remake this movie the *right* way??? In the meantime, there’s always Chak De…

    M (in holiday mood)

     
  11. sachita

    December 18, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    So, bollywood dance doesn’t save the marriage? there goes my bolly dance for world peace story line, I had even James bond in the script.

    The reviews are only making me want to watch a movie. I normally tend to stay away from SRK, yashraj and Karan johar(atleast not hit the theatres, reserve them for an utter boring day).

    I think Adi chopra himself is just starting to peep out of his bubble? I mean the man is 40+ I think, but it just has occured to him that DDLJ might not be the real romance, that bollywood isn’t all about romance, (trying to throw us back to 70s era- tashan, jbj)..

    but it has kind of made me wish, he prolly is better off sticking to chick flicks like salaam namaste and hum tum deal. I mean they were bad in general but did good for their genre?:) Also, that would also prevent me from watching the movie altogether. See the Mohabbatein, I haven’t watched till date. But this one, I want to watch it and then later on probably I will curse it.

     
  12. memsaab

    December 19, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    I love SRK, but I can’t stand Adi Chopra for some reason. I guess he’s just too…umm…regressive? misogynistic? paternalistic? ANNOYING?

    Didn’t love DDLJ, hated Mohabbatein and might give this a pass even though….I love SRK.

     
  13. Amrita

    December 20, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    PPCC – oh lord, I have a feeling you’re in for nothing but pain if that’s what he’s going to play. The best thing to do for SRK movies is to keep your expectations down and go in a mellow mood. That always works for me.

    Kanan – he was definitely the nicest thing about this movie 😀

    Amey – the celeb-couple from hell indeed!

    Ian – yeah I really don’t get that “why isn’t this a new age indie pic” criticism that’s running around some circles. Why would you think Adi Chopra would make that kind of movie. More to the point, why should he?

    Shweta – hahaha, it wasn’t that bad!

    Ravi – he can be very charming in certain scenarios. The latter part of this movie was not such a scenario.

    Naren – thank you SO much for that link! I haven’t been there in a while and I’ve obviously been missing out. It’s kind of crazy to hear what he went through.

    Nida – yup, that’s where I am too! Both on the “choose your side and stick with it, please” and “Adi Chopra’s dry phase is having a dry phase right now”!

    Hades – well, there was a bit of pork in both characters don’t you think? 🙂 You know, when Dil Se came out, I didn’t really care for it that much, and I still think the end was anti-climactic and rushed. But in retrospect that was a pretty awesome movie. Still the only modern soundtrack that I can listen to on a loop without complaining too.

    M – Heh heh heh! :mrgreen: I love it when a plan comes off! RNBDJ is not THAT bad, it’s just not THAT good. It’s 2/3rds entertaining, 1/3rd yawn-city. I have a feeling you’d love it though.

    Sachita – hahahahah, you’re quite complicated aren’t you? 😀 I think you should probably watch it. It’s pretty good time pass esp if you’re in a theatre with other people who share your opinion of what’s going on. As for Adi Chopra – I have no idea what his deal is. But at least his movie is a hit unlike all the other movies he’s released this year.

    Memsaab – You know, I can’t offer an opinion on this? I saw DDLJ when I was at an impressionable age with my best friend in tow and we all thought it was THE most romantic movie we’d ever seen in our lives. But then we also though Boyzone was singing about the meaning of life so what do we know? Mohabbatein came out much later and it was crap. That I know. Nothing cute about it at all. And this one just feels like a middle of the road entertainer to me. So I dont know – maybe he just needs to make more movies so I’ll know whether I hate him or not.

     
  14. Amey

    December 22, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Can also be the name of their offspring 😉

     
  15. Amrita

    December 22, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Amey – argh! make the bad pictures stop!

     
  16. A Cynic in Wonderland

    December 23, 2008 at 1:39 am

    I have not had the nerve to watch it. I dont think will stomach it even if it comes on cable. after “execrable saccharine-fest that was Mohabbatein”- it needs a strong person to inflict the movie on oneself

     
  17. Amrita

    December 29, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Cynic – lolz, it’s not as bad! I promise! You can safely watch it on cable. But then I watch The Thornbirds on cable so maybe you shouldn’t take my word for it! 😀

     
  18. pitusultan

    December 30, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Fantabulous review, Amrita! Your review is way way better than mine, and I can finally untangle some of my hmmm? inducing thoughts. Why why why is the writing (and direction) sooooo incredibly lazy? This fella (Genius Chopra) comes up with one movie after 8 long yrs, they drum it up like dekhoji Adi Genius Sirji ki nayi pikture hai, they have the Rabba samaan SRK and still they can’t hit the bulls eye? I mean, I’m not expecting another DDLJ here, but come on! What do these YRF people DO all day??!! Grr.

    I give full marks to my SRK though 😀 I actually cried in the scene where he’s like I don’t have any expectations for muhabbat anyway! My cousin swears I mumbled “Weally? But akkha India wuvs you SRK ji!” Sniffle. And apparently in the sleeping in the barsati scene, I was all, Hmm baby ya know I won’t make u sleep in some stinky ole attic , come to Pitu ;-D

     
  19. vishal shishangiya

    December 30, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    KINGKHAN IS GOD OF BOLLYWOOD,
    LOTOF HEROIN BOLLYWOOD QUIN…..BY SRK
    LIKE EXAMPLE:
    (1)-KAJOL (2)-RANI (3)-DEPIKA (3)-ANSHUKA
    (5)PREITI

     
  20. Amrita

    December 30, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Pitu – lolz, I can imagine you! SRK was actually pretty spot on and this was the movie in which I came to realize that the “five expression” tag is because he has a very distinctive smile (which I knew already but didn’t actually analyze). Bechara needs to find a whole new way to smile if he wants people to say he’s doing something different – he didn’t smile at all in either Swades or Chak De and see how people reacted!

    Vishal – I think most on that list are Opium than Heroin.

     
  21. Beth

    December 30, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Never mind all that, would someone (other than AChop) pls make Bolly Thornbirds? “I’ll get you, Father Gonzalez” hissed Bindu.

     
  22. Maxine

    January 9, 2009 at 4:41 am

    I dunno… the images you’ve put in my mind are actually quite pleasant… perhaps because I do have the odd hooking-up-with-someone-waaaay-more-attractive-than-I-am fantasy. For me, the appeal of stories like RNBDJ is that they remind ordinary (even unappealing) looking, desperately uncool people (like myself) that there’s always hope that someone who society would consider ‘out of their league’ just might look beyond their exterior to see what’s within (and for some insane reason, love it). (Don’t laugh, it’s been known to happen!) I guess it’s hard to relate to this if you’re one of the beautiful people, but it would be very sad if all the cool, pretty people got together. I guess that’s the value (to me at least) of this kind of story.
    Anyway, that aside, I agree with your take on the film. It was poorly written and could’ve been executed a whole lot better, but was generally what one would expect from Aditya Chopra (knowing what we do of him). I liked the honeymoon pics at the end a lot though.

     
  23. Amrita

    January 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Maxine – I think that’s pretty much the given fantasy of having a movie star crush, isnt it? It’s what we all imagine in our bedrooms I suppose. Not laughing at all! The honeymoon pics were definitely the sweetest of the lot and it made me laugh when he said he missed Bobby.

    Beth – So awesome! But until then, how about Sins? Make sure you have adequate amount of hot water for the shower you’ll need to take afterwards.

     
  24. pitusultan

    January 9, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Ewwwwwwww SINS!!!! I had forgottent that pikture! Now I have dirty images of a slick and shiny (giggle) Shiney with that horrid girl in the nurse outfit playing sex games in a CHURCH! *gag*

     
 
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