Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam: An In-Depth Look Part 2

I left off in my Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam write-up right before “Nimbooda." And warning, in this post be spoilers for the whole film.

Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) and Sameer (Salman Khan) have just had a spat – he refuses to come and watch her performance at her cousin’s wedding and she tries to goad him into it by saying that maybe she’ll meet someone there…

She does. Vanraj (an understated Ajay Devgan) sees her dancing and her spark and falls head-over-heels for her.

And to be fair, who wouldn’t? Aishwarya is fantastic in “Nimbooda” and it’s become one of her best-known songs.

Vanraj’s family and Nandini’s family go ahead and arrange for them to be married.

Nandini’s father likes Vanraj’s quiet and truthful nature. Vanraj liked Nandini’s spark for life. Nandini’s family doesn’t bother to ask her what she would like. This is a problem because, of course, she had already fallen for Sameer. When Nandini’s mother breaks the news of the engagement to her, Nandini freaks out – admitting her romance with Sameer. And Sameer is kicked out of the house. Nandini’s panic when she realizes what happened is heartbreaking – and we see what the dangerous, burning chandelier has done to her…

And here is the big difference between Sameer and Vanraj – Sameer romanced Nandini outside of the family structure where Vanraj went about things through official channels. Sameer, being from Italy, didn’t understand the huge pull and influence that family has on a traditional girl like Nandini. And when he did finally realize how powerful the influence of her father was – it would be hard to ignore being kicked out of the house – he underestimated her love.

The story very cleverly gives us a counterpart to Sameer and Nandini’s relationship in the form of Nandini’s cousin, at whose wedding Nandini first met Vanraj, and her husband. The cousin runs away from her husband’s house and elopes with her lover – with Nandini’s help and support. Nandini would most certainly have run away with Sameer if he had committed to the act but he didn’t. Sameer, who was the free agent here, never returned for her.

Nandini goes through with the wedding to Vanraj – extremely reluctantly. Aishwarya’s face here is so sad…

And Vanraj is confused – because he thought she
wanted to go through the marriage! Imagine that bait and switch! Here he thought she agreed to the marriage and yet she refuses to let him touch her.

But Nandini’s father, for all that he is a traditional patriarch who doesn’t listen to his daughter’s feelings, is a good judge of character nonetheless. Vanraj does get frustrated and angry but he loves Nandini. And he’s a grown-up – unlike the childish Sameer. Instead of asking his dead father for help, Vanraj decides that if the only way to see Nandini happy is to reunite her with Sameer – that is what he’s going to do.

He takes her to Italy to find him.

Even though his entire family thinks he’s crazy, he’s just crazy-smart like a fox. He can’t possibly compete with this fantasy image of Sameer she has built up in her mind. If he really wants a life-partner in Nandini rather than a beaten-down wife, he needs to get her to confront Sameer. If she stays, he never really had her anyways and he’s not losing anything except an unhappy wife and he’ll be giving the woman he loves the gift of happiness.

The first scenes in Italy – and I’ll just note now that “Italy” is really Hungary – are heartbreaking. Vanraj is trying his best but Nandini doesn’t understand his motivations. She thinks that he’s
mocking her. It doesn’t occur to her that the reason he’s doing all of this is that he can’t stand to see her so unhappy. She shuts down even more and retreats into fantasy with Sameer.


The switch in her feelings starts around here. Vanraj gets a lead on where Sameer lives and he takes Nandini out to go to his house where they meet his mother, played by the divine Helen-ji.

(She looks just the same as always! What a beautiful lady!)

Nandini just missed Sameer and she and Vanraj chase after him.

Chasing after Sameer, they’re stupid enough to try to catch a ride with some White People – possibly because they haven’t seen enough Bollywood movies to know that White People are bad news. The Whities try and rob the couple at gunpoint. Nandini is shot!

And we get a nice picturization of a song contrasting Vanraj’s practical care for Nandini’s well-being with Sameer’s romantic ennui. He still sees her as this hothouse flower, while Vanraj is busy dealing with the whole messy package of the emotionally (and now physically) injured Nandini.

Finally – FINALLY – Nandini begins to realize that Vanraj isn’t doing all this to make fun of her emotions. He really cares about her.

He sees her struggling…

…and can’t stand to see her in trouble.

This is the moment she opens her heart. Look at Aishwarya’s face here – she captures this mixture of disbelief that he’s helping her and the first feelings of affection for the guy who would do this for her.

While Nandini is mending her heart – and arm – in the hospital, Vanraj accidentally befriends Sameer. We can see the difference between them – Vanraj is a hard-working man and very serious while Sameer is a flighty layabout. Flighty layabouts are not without their charms – I’ve dated a few – but I know who makes the better husband.

When Vanraj later realizes who his new friend is, he tries to track him down again and is led to a restaurant where Sameer is said to show up nearly every Friday. Vanraj and Nandini go but the hospital bills have eaten up their funds… what to do when the train conductor comes?

Just showing how Nandini’s feelings have begun to change, the woman who wouldn’t even let Vanraj touch her suggests a trick they spotted a couple doing on another train ride…

And she willingly embraces her husband…

I love Ajay’s face here…

Nandini was testing the waters with this little trick and she’s surprised and overwhelmed by the depths of Vanraj’s emotions towards her.

She allows herself to soak it all in.

While Vanraj is just holding on for dear life…

Neither wants to let go.

Sameer isn’t at the restaurant but they wait anyways. Vanraj is coaxed into dancing with the “Italian” dancers by the restaurant owner.

Nandini looks on with amusement – you can see the wheels turning around in her head, changing her mind about Vanraj.

He asks her to join him and she shyly refuses. We the audience know that it’s shyness but Vanraj is now so closed off to Nandini that he interprets it as the hatred she once had for him. Look at her face in the second image there and you can see that there is no hate in it.

She’s not entirely disappointed when Sameer doesn’t show. Besides, Vanraj drinks a little too much champagne and basically confesses his true feelings for her – puts them in words so she understands but he never forces his affection on her. Certainly not physically but not emotionally either. His confession comes in form of him explaining how all that he wants is
her happiness.

Vanraj passes out and Nandini sleeps by his side all night – keeping watch over him.

The next morning, Nandini has made up her mind. She is going to stay with Vanraj. You can see it in her face and I think that if they had left Italy at this point Nandini would have no regrets. But Vanraj is now completely closed down to her and he has not been following the changes in her feelings. He doesn’t realize that she’s given up her idealized image of Sameer and tries to play off everything he said last night by pretending it was drunken ramblings.

But if they leave without seeing Sameer, Vanraj will never be convinced of Nandini’s love and affection for him. Fortunately, Helen-aunty calls to set up a meeting between Sameer and Nandini! (Actually, any phone call from Helen-aunty would be a fortunate thing!)

Vanraj is resigned and Nandini is sad because she knows what she has to do. And even if she doesn’t want to stay with Sameer anymore, it will still hurt her to say good-bye for the final time.

Aishwarya’s face just captures the feeling perfectly – she’s sad and resigned and just a little bit teary-eyed. This isn’t the face of a woman going to be reunited forever with her lover; it’s a woman bidding a final farefell.

So while Sameer is running around town with Helen in a rush of excitement, Nandini is preparing to bid him farewell.

Vanraj doesn’t realize that she’s going to be saying good-bye to
Sameer and has a very sad fantasy sequence where we see how he is interpreting this final meeting.

We know it’s fantasy because Nandini hasn’t acted like this since before her gunshot wound. In poor Vanraj’s mind, he’ll be left crying while Nandini and Sameer share a loving reunion…

His determined face tries not to show it but Nandini knows he’s dying inside and yet she can’t say anything because he wouldn’t believe her.

At the opera house, scene of the finale, he knows she has to leave…

She tries to take his blessings…

The despair on Ajay Devgan’s face…
it just goes to show that the most handsome men are not always the best romantic heroes. Just think of Sanjeev Kumar, for one!

Of course Sameer knows right away that something is wrong and Nandini explains that her infatuation with him has gone. She has left the idealized image of romantic Romeo & Juliet love behind and has realized that true love is something more and she’s not going to throw away the love of Vanraj to chase after a dream.

I get the sense that Sameer will be okay, though. He has Helen-aunty after all!

But the final scene… it gives me the shivers just thinking about it! Nandini chooses her choice!

(Ajay’s face here just kills me…)

(“Will he take me back?”)

Echoing their first meeting…


And then little hearts fly out of Filmi Girl’s head as she faints from all the romance.

The complaints I’ve heard about
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam seem to center around a misunderstanding of the second half of the film. The way I see it, Nandini’s father acts in a very irresponsible way by not taking his daughter’s feelings into account when setting up her marriage. Yet, in the end Nandini ends up choosing her marriage not because of societal or patriarchal restrictions but because she falls in love with Vanraj – a different kind of love from the type she had with Sameer. A grown-up love.

Sameer is a good man but he is not a responsible man nor does he take responsibility for his life choices. He's constantly calling on a Higher Power and either blaming or thanking God (and his dead father) for everything that happens to him. He trusted fate to bring Nandini to Italy and it did but not in the way he wanted. And that is how fate works. If Sameer had only put a little effort into his love for Nandini, he could have found her and she would have gone willingly. But he doesn't. At his core, Sameer is a man of inaction.

Vanraj, on the other hand, is a very decent and honorable man in a different way. He doesn’t realize that Nandini doesn’t want the marriage at first. And when he does figure out the whole story, he doesn’t blame anyone but acts in the best interests of all parties. Vanraj has much more patience than I would in this situation. If Nandini’s husband had been any other man, he wouldn’t dumped her pain-in-the-ass self right back at her father’s house at the first sign of trouble but he doesn’t. Nandini’s father might be insensitive to his daughter’s emotions but he
is a good judge of character. Vanraj is a man of action. He works to earn Nandini's trust, love, and affection.

It becomes very clear, once we see more of Sameer in Italy, that Vanraj is the better match for Nandini. Can you imagine the mess of a relationship that the two flighty lovers Sameer and Nandini would have had once their first bloom of love petered out? That doesn’t justify the pandit’s harsh treatment of his daughter, though. He could have waited a year for her infatuation to burn out. He could have slowly introduced Nandini and Vanraj but the pandit’s desire to keep his own honor trumped everything else.

If there is a villain in
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, it’s Nandini’s father.

Every time I see this movie, I’m struck again at how beautiful and deep the emotions are in it. Far too often, movie romance celebrates the infatuation – the rush and blush of first love. We never see what happens afterward. And the performances are top notch by the entire cast – Salman is charming and light-hearted; Ajay is serious and sympathetic; and Aishwarya Rai puts in what I think is probably the best performance of her career. I’ve never seen her so expressive as she is here.

NOTE: I wrote this ages ago and since then, Aishwarya has really rocked it in both Guzaarish and Raavanan.


Amol said...

For an older movie along the same lines, I recommend Mounaragam, starring Kamal and Revathi with a great soundtrack by Ilayraja.

S said...

^ YES! Mouna raagam is a great movie and the soundtrack is to DIE for. If you haven't seen it already run to get a copy.

luscious-words said...

This is one of my gateway movies into Bollywood and I really need to re-watch it to pick up on the subtleties that I missed the first time around.

It's through this movie that I found Ajay Devgn and started my fascination with him and his roles. Others may come and go, rise and wane, but Ajay is always in my heart. *g*

I will also admit that it is this role and others similar to it that have put me off Salman Khan. I suspect I need to find one of his action films to watch objectively then judge from there.

This movie also secured me as an Aishwarya fan because she is so beautiful and expressive. She runs the gamut from unabashedly in love to retreating in pain, and all of it apparent through her expressions not just her words.

Philosopher's Manifesto said...

hmm nice explanation well..the higher meaning of the story line and the link between characters and their names is very clear.

nandini-symbolises the cow nandini-which is supposed to be very beautiful....sparky....lively....cow.....very beautiful attractive and heart throbing......

Sameer-symbolises the sameer-breeze of air ......a dillusion .....which carries away the ...innocent nandini with it ........and she get in love with sameer....but sameer is a breeze of air ...and not is fresh...exotic.....and erotic...

Vanraj-sumbolizes the vanraj .....the king of forest...where the nandini ...belongs...too....he is the real owner of the forest in which nandini leaves...he opitomizes the maturity ..the patience .....and dignity of a forest king.......

kunalmistry said...

@Filmi Girl: "Every time I see this movie, I’m struck again at how beautiful and deep the emotions are in it. Far too often, movie romance celebrates the infatuation – the rush and blush of first love. We never see what happens afterward."

To see what happens afterward, check out Saathiya (2002) directed by Shaad Ali and starring Vivek Oberoi and Rani Mukerjee.

Although a remake of Tamil movie, Alaipayuthey, it was quite refreshing and watchable movie.

Vishal Singh said...

Hi...have you done the reviews of any other movies like you did for Hum dil de...can you please share the links...I would love to read them...

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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