Wow, I'm really, really sorry this post took so long to write! I realize I promised it weeks ago, but school has been a lot more intense this semester than I anticipated...I'm in a whirlwind of nursing exams and papers...my daughter's demanding all my attention and I just can't give it to her right now...all I know is, I need a good Bollywood movie in my life, stat!
And, speaking of a good Bollywood film...Luckily, before school began, I finally sat down to watch Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, the stirring romance starring Salman Khan, Aishwarya Rai, and Ajay Devgan.
HDDCS is like no other Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. Sure, it starts out a bit like Devdas, but takes such an unexpected turn after intermission that it didn't seem repetitive at all(I realize this was made before Devdas, but it was still nice to see SLB didn't make two films that were too much alike). It's so beautiful, unique, and romantic film that I'm sure I'd like it even more with subsequent viewings.
Nandini (Aishwayra Rai) is the favorite daughter of a well respected classical Indian musician, Pandit Darbar. Being Daddy's Little Girl, she's a bit spoiled, and has always gotten what she wanted. So when an Italian musician named Sameer (Salman Khan)comes to India to train with her father, Nandini throws a little hissy fit because she has to give up her room.
However, when Sameer and Nandini meet, sparks fly.
From their first meeting at the chandelier(one of my favorite scenes),their chemistry is undeniable. One thing is clear--Salman Khan is not afraid to touch Aishwarya Rai! Nor is he intimidated by her beauty. Yes, I know they were involved offscreen as well, and regardless of personal opinions on all of that drama, I still think they deserve full credit for their jodi in this film. Just check out the hauntingly seductive song, "Aankhon Ki Gustakhiyan" (Please also note how hot Salman Khan looks in his outfit. He should dress like this more often, just my opinion).
Anyways, despite how cute Sameer and Nandini are, there's a little bit of a problem-- Sameer has some growing up to do. When Nandini slaps him (it wasn't hard, but she still should have kept her hands to herself), he literally leaves the wedding celebrations to go pout in his room.
Nandini tries to apologize, but he's just as stubborn as she was about giving up her room. She warns him that another man will fall in love with her at the party, but he chooses to sit and sulk instead. And this is first mistake.
Enter Ajay Devgan as Vanraj, the man who does exactly what Nandini warned Sameer against--he falls in love with her on first sight at the wedding. Prior to this film, I'd never seen Ajay onscreen and knew him best as Kajol's real life husband. To be honest, I was a little creeped out by him as he gazed at Nandini from afar. He was totally wrong for her, in my opinion--I was already sold on her ending up with Sameer, despite his immaturity. "Keep dreaming, buddy", I said aloud,"She's already taken!" Since I thought the chances of Vanraj actually winning Nandini over was slim to nil, I relaxed and actually forgot about him for awhile.
Yet as Sameer and Nandini's fate took a turn for the worst, and Vanraj kept popping up in intervals with a marriage proposal he conveyed to Nandini's parents, I realized (to my dismay) that this guy wasn't going anywhere. Sure enough--Sameer was sent packing by intermission and Vanraj married a stoic Nandini, whose heart clearly still belonged to the Italian musician.
As Nandini kept resisting the advances of her new husband, I began to soften to Vanraj. He wasn't so bad, I realized. After all, most men would have sent Nandini home after the first night. But not Vanraj. He just held on to the hope that her heart would change.
(***Some slight spoilers ahead***Sorry, I can't really complete this review without discussing them)
Here's where the film completely took me by surprise. When Vanraj discovers Nandini is in love with Sameer, he does what any husband would probably never do--he accompanies her on a trip to Italy to find her long lost love.
The second half of the film is even more brilliant than the first. For one, its funny--some of the scenes with Vanraj and Nandini on the hunt for Sameer are so ironic they're comical. And Nandini maintains a lost expression on her sad face--one is left to believe she'll literally die without Sameer.
But for me, the best part about the second half is Ajay Devgan. While I started out rooting for Nandini and Sameer, I slowly began to empathize with Vanraj, and then found myself falling in love with his unselfish devotion to his wife. By the end of the film, I realized he loved Nandini in a way Sameer couldn't even begin to understand.
For example, there's a scene where Vanraj and Nandini are waiting for the bus. Vanraj boards and takes a seat, thinking his wife is behind him. But Nandini is lost in her despair and doesn't even notice the bus has left, remaining at the bus stop as her husband rides on. Once Vanraj notices she isn't present, he naturally jumps off the bus, frantically running to locate her. He finds her at the bus stop in the exact same postition as she was when he left, a lost expression on her face. Instead of questioning her about it, he sits down calmly and pretends as if the whole incident never happened, so as not to upset her. Nandini snaps out of her reverie, unaware she's missed anything--and Vanraj casually lets her know the next bus is coming.
There's another scene where the couple go to eat at an Italian restaurant. Nandini sits and sulks, appearing almost ungrateful to her husband and clearly uninterested in eating. When the server asks her what she wants, she shrugs and points to a random item on the menu, sighing heavily. But when the plate arrives (and ends up being a whole octupus on a bed of lettuce), she looks practically sick to her stomach. Vanraj steps in, as a true gentleman, and offers her his own plate.
I couldn't believe how my devotion to the smoking coupling of Nandini and Sameer crumbled on its own shaky ground and allowed me to see the gem of a man Vanraj truly was. I almost felt as if I was Nandini, as if all of her changing emotions were my own. At the end, I literally felt as if the choice between Sameer and Vanraj was mine to make--I was that involved in the film. Hats off to Sanjay Leela Bhansali for making this happen!
Although I loved Sameer, he completely dropped the ball in his relationship with Nandini. He had ample opprotunity to talk to her father and ask for her hand--and let every one of them pass him by. Sameer's immaturity may have been cute in the beginning, but it just didn't hold water when things started to get rough. This is what separated him from Vanraj--he lacked the qualities of a real man who is in love and doesn't want to lose his woman. As a matter of fact, when Nandini's father discovers the truth about their affair, he orders Sameer never to see his daughter again--and Sameer accepts without much complaint. Nandini, on the other hand, was willing to put up a fight to be with Sameer, even straining the solid relationship she previously held with her father. This imbalance between the two helped to make up my mind about which man truly deserved to get the girl--it was Vanraj, hands down.
I'd heard Ajay Devgan was a good actor, but wow, he was superb as Vanraj. I have some of his other films such as "Halla Bol", "Kaal", and "U Me Aur Hum". I haven't gotten around to watching any of them yet, but it'll be interesting for me to compare them and truly form an opinion on him. So far so good--he made an excellent first impression!
I really liked Aishwarya here. Bratty, smug, spoiled, playful...she fits all the shades to Nandini's personality like a glove. I do think she's grown as a performer in many ways since this film, but for the most part, this role couldn't have been more suited for her.
And what is going on with me and Salman Khan? Kuch kuch hota hai, I swear! The guy's growing on me, especially as in this film as the goofy-yet hot-Sameer. I dig this ditzy quality on him, in the same way I liked him as Suraj in the less popular
Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam. Yes, there were moments in the film where his expressions felt really forced (not that I'm any expert, but his reaction when he found out Nandini was in Italy was almost a joke), but overall I loved Sameer's idiosyncrasies.
Some of the other supporting cast members added just the right touch to already amazing film. Nandini's parents epitimized my vision of a healthy marriage (for the most part). They were full of giggles and praise for each other--check out this screen shot of them cracking up hysterically, in bed!
Did I mention that I wish Zohra Sehgal was my grandmother? Every time she's in a film, no matter how small the role, she manages to make me smile. Zohra has a great scene in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam where she starts to tell Sameer and Nandini the story of her marriage--and catches them being naughty! It's one of the cutest scenes in the entire film.
As in Devdas ("Do you love me?" "Or you could ask me if I breathe"), Sanjay Leela Bhansali has given me yet another line that I can't wait to incorporate into my own life. I love, love, love spicy food and always get flack from those who can't handle it. When Sameer makes a smart remark about Nandini's spicy food, she has a quick response:
As if I needed one more reason to love this film!
© 2008 Nida Nazir
Bitten By Bollywood