Monday, January 27, 2014

Slightly Twisted Romancing Countdown, Bollywood Style

All of these scenes are by and large "junoon" moments marooned in non-junoon stories. They range from slightly k*nky to the kind of violent . . . and they tend to take place between characters who strive for healthy dynamics (in filmi terms at least) at other times and places in their relationship. Also, all of these films were big hits, and not just cult anomalies that slipped through the cracks in the public's sensibilities. 


5. Mohini (Madhuri Dixit) and Munna (Anil Kapoor): Tezaab (1988)


Words fail me when trying to describe 80's masala.

It is perhaps enough to say that this movie makes little sense, except for the romance, which makes no sense at all. Is it twisted when a guy who wasn't in love with you before you refused him decides to jump off a building just to spite you  . . . just because he promised he would if you wouldn't admit undying love?



Or is it twisted when months later, after a lengthy recovery (pictured in five rehab stills), the same guy writes you a letter (of unknown content), after which you sing of your regrets about "how things went down" rather literally and proclaim oaths of constancy on pain of death? I really don't know.




Maybe it's just chemistry, but on Bollywood crack.


4. Kanchan (Rakhee Gulzar) and Captain Ajit (Shashi Kapoor): Sharmilee (1971)


So, to sum up the important bits. . .  Ajit falls in love with the Kamini, the evil twin (Rakhee). But he accidentally gets engaged to the good twin, Kanchan, (also Rakhee). Good twin falls in love with her fiancee, but is rejected when evil twin returns and clears up the misunderstanding. Evil twin and Ajit frolic, good twin pines away. Evil twin is sucked back into the vortex of her naughty past, and good twin is forced to marry Ajit, be rejected as herself, and then save Ajit by pretending to be her evil sister.

The plot is rather twisted . . . that's really not even the half of it! Plus, Shashi (in general) can be counted on for some rather twisted courting practices in more than a few of his roles, in which he summons up the Kapoor "inner monster" (see below for more). In this film, the monster is let out of its' cage more than once.

In a scene that made me hate his character a little, Ajit chokes the good twin, "frustrated, shall we say?" that she is not her sister. But in a stroke of genius (on the part of Rakhee AND her character), Kanchan doesn't recoil in fear.

Instead of  kowtowing, the good twin turns herself into the evil twin, harnessing her own power, and effectively halts Ajit's violence with an eerie laugh. She gives a scary good impression of Kamini, and Ajit turns back into his fluffy self. It's a twisted moment not just because we wonder if the good twin is really the bad twin, or perhaps is starting to turn bad . . . but we also wonder if Kanchan, so long a doormat, actually is starting to enjoy being pushed around. Now that she can turn it to her own advantage, that is.



The weird power dynamics between Kanchan-playing-Kamini and Ajit as the somewhat petulant army captain, may smack of abuse. But these same dynamics are also mindbendingly empowering and maturing for the painfully shy Kanchan . . . and the plot arc somehow manages to sidestep looming interpersonal violence and eventually institute relational harmony.


3. Prince Salim (Dilip Kumar) and Anarkali (Madhubala): Mughal-e-Azam (1960)


Salim may have gone down in the annals of myth (filmi and otherwise) as the man who would sacrifice everything (power, wealth, position, life) for love . . .  but he still romanced like a royal. His command of Urdu  is his greatest tool, and he knows it.  A common lover might dream of his beloved's acceptance by his family, and the beloved might find the hope a comfort.

But, since Prince Salim is very much a prince, he dares to dream bigger.

In a scene that shocked me when I first watched it . . .and still strikes me as one of the most ambiguous moments in the film, Salim teases Anarkali with the idea of a future where she rules Hindustan . . .calls the shots, or the gallows (whatever execution practices Mughal's preferred for the common folk) . . . and generally wields the ultimate power over the Mughal territories.

I find the scene fascinating partially because I personally can't tell if Anarkali is (A) Turned on by the potential for great power; (B) Distressed by the potential burden of power; or (C) Caught somewhere in between both sentiments. Her 'O' face (above) is just too easily confused with her misery face. Yet, it seems important to know what she feels. Going by the qualities showed by her character elsewhere in the film, I lean toward the opinion that she is indeed turned on  here. . . but by the possibility of acceptance and peaceful existence as Salim's bride, not by any chance to wield authority over the masses.



Salim, however, probably IS turned on by the thought of the beautiful slave girl transformed into a powerful queen. And hey, who can blame him? One could argue that he is punished for this desire later (this is a Hindi film, after all) . . . but I'm inclined to like him more just because he isn't intimidated by the idea of yielding to a woman's authority, unlike his father.

2. Raj (Raj Kapoor) and Rita (Nargis): Awaara (1950) 


Raj and Rita come from very different backgrounds . . .  and their personal history has been periodically poisoned by the shame of their class difference . . . a shame that Raj cannot seem to shake. After a particularly shaming experience, Raj acts on both his long-held desire for Rita and his long-nurtured bitterness toward her social milieu. The scene is a long one . . . and it vacillates between moments of giddy fun (swimming and frolicking) and angry/controlling outbursts from Raj.

One moment he is shaming her in his intelligent and acerbic way  for her people's classist prejudices (and her tacit approval of it . . .from his perspective at least).


























The next, the banter is all in fun again.


























But the real twisted aspect of it arrives when Raj forces Rita to submit to him, both physically and mentally, and not only does she acquiesce. . .


But she also seems to get off on it.


Course, this isn't exactly a compartmentalized theme. Throughout the story, Rita seems to like Raj just the way he is, inner monster and all. Perhaps that's the secret element in transforming a junoon story into a love story.

1. Rahul (SRK) and Anjali (Kajol): Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (2001) 


In the early subplot of their romance in K3G, Rahul asks Anjali out on a kindof, sortof date to the bazaar. Anjali has no idea she is on a date, and thinks that Rahul wants talk shop--literally--she thinks he wants to name a price for her dukan. (I couldn't help but think of  the"You want to buy my new milkcow/No, I want to marry your daughter" scene from Fiddler on the Roof.)



And just as she is processing the fact that he does not, indeed, have any interest in her *ahem* shop . . . Rahul decides to take the bangles she is interested in and SLOWLY, ever so SLOWLY, push them over her wrist.

It's obviously uncomfortable, but she doesn't try to move away, as she is mesmerized by the romantic dialogue Rahul is spouting in his measured and charismatic fashion.

















Interspersed with the monologue about the difference between everyday bonds and romantic bonds, Rahul says three or four times, "I hope this isn't hurting you . . ." all the while continuing to "force" the bangles upon her. And finally, when the bangles have "arrived," she gasps. If you haven't seen this, I swear I'm not embellishing this at all. I'm actually toning it down. I've yet to see a bedroom scene in Bollywood that manages to be as sexually charged as this. (Proving again that one doesn't always need the literal when one has the metaphorical.) And beyond that, one can't help but admit that the sensuality of the scene isn't your average sugary sort. However, Anjali doesn't complain, and their later marriage seems to be a harmonious one, so I'm certainly not going to point any fingers.

Tell me what scenes you think deserve to be on this list!

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