Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

Dance With Me

I guess it's a no brainer to know I'll head to the box office to watch any movie with Shah Rukh Khan on the marquee, and what more when he plays a middle aged, average working class salaryman who's about to embark on quite the romantic adventure of his life.

His Surinder Sahni is your typical routine joe who works for Punjab Power, meek and gentle, and a nerd to most. His love life is practically zilch, but on a visit to his old school teacher's home, he gets captivated by the beauty and vivaciousness of his teacher's daughter Taani (Anushka Sharma), who has heard about him because of the frequent comparisons her father makes. But that day turns out to be a tragedy instead, with her fiance and in-laws meeting with a fatal accident, and her father coincidentally suffering a stroke. A decision was made then, for her to be betrothed and married to Surinder, someone whom her father trusts, but this shotgun, arranged marriage turns out to be a loveless one for Surinder.

There's this albatross hung around his neck, because his arrival heralded the darkest period in Taani's life, and thus was told upfront that while she can be a good wife to him, but she will never love him. Naturally this breaks Surinder's heart because there's nothing in this world he wouldn't do in order to bring her happiness that was originally hers, if he had in the first place not been associated with pain when he entered her life. While he has some little itsy-bitsy happiness stemmed from Taani's taking care of him, he still feels shattered knowing that whatever sincerity, care and concern he'll be showering on her, will have zero effect in trying to win her over.

Opportunity presents itself of course, when Taani, bored with being a housewife, signs up for a dance class with Surinder's sponsorship. With the help of his good friend Bobby (Vinay Pathak), he transforms himself to the suave romantic hero with an alter ego Raj, crafted according to the male leading men in films that his wife appreciates, and decides to take ownership on his love life by wooing Taani from scratch with this new, outgoing persona. But alas as we all know, such a plan becomes a recipe for disaster, because while Taani would not change her heart for Surinder, he has now taken the extreme into becoming someone totally different, and thus struggles with the pain of living a lie, especially when his plan becomes successful and leaves him pondering over whether to live a lie forever, just to be with her.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi thus becomes embroiled with plenty of situational comedy involving different identities, but at its core is still a very strong romance story dealing with the notion of unconditional love without expecting anything in return, which Taani fails to fathom why anyone would go to such lengths in order to bring happiness to her life. Written and directed by Aditya Chopra, this story is strictly for the romantics at heart, otherwise you'll naturally balk at the thought that nobody could recognize Shah Rukh Khan whether or not he's the ordinary man Surinder, or the styled up Raj, especially when his wife Taani is the one who is blind-sided. But of course you can live with it if you buy into the whole Clark Kent-Superman secret identity where a pair of spectacles does wonders.

The literal translation of the title means "a couple made by god" and as you know the man up there has a sense of humour sometimes, preferring to allow the couple to go through a number of painful periods in order to strengthen their resolve for each other. However, the story still steered very clear from the darker themes such as adultery, although Surinder and Raj are essentially the same person, Taani's falling for the latter does come after a long period of courtship, and curiously, she doesn't reveal her marital status till late. So while that theme might rear its ugly head once in a while when you pause from the incessant bonding between Raj and Taani, it doesn't get broached beyond that.

Being a Bollywood movie would also mean plenty of song and dance, and being set against the backdrop of a dance competition, it brings about opportunities for the characters to hit the dance floor their moves - I particular enjoyed the sequence in Dance Pe Chance. Shah Rukh Khan gets to showcase both extremes in character, one being the nerd with two left foot, while the other being at the opposite with plenty of smooth moves to show off. If anyone's in doubt of his acting ability, I guess this one movie will show what he's capable of. In fact, between his portrayal of Raj and Surinder, I prefer the latter more, because he had fused some wonderful nuances into his Surinder, that makes him an instantly likable character, while at appropriate moments, his portrayal shows you that tender side of him as well as the internal emotional struggles he has to go through as he woos his wife. Newcomer Anushka Sharma holds her own against the veteran as the young wife Taani, who's at constant odds with her marital obligations, and on the other knowingly falling in love with someone whom she becomes dangerously attracted to. Of course what she fails to realize is that they're the same person after all, and her best performance comes from the finale where you can see how she reacts to her make believe world come crashing down under the weight of realization.

I guess loving someone unconditionally is that constant challenge, if it's at all possible extending otherwise from that of a mother toward her child. This film is an ode to that kind of loving emotion, and to a certain extent it puts the other person on a higher pedestal than oneself. I would prefer to overlook the flaws in the movie if any (well, if you consider how Surinder has those bulging muscles to begin with, not like he has some Handsome Suit to fit into!), and highly recommend his one to all the die-hard romantics out there, given the excellent performances, story as well as the beautiful songs that puts romance back into the air. An average joe can have an extraordinary romance, and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi captures that wonderfully.

Dance Pe Chance

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