What Raanjhanaa teaches us about Love in India

This is not a review. Far better posts have been written analyzing how Sonam could have performed better, Rahman’s compositions could have been more soulful and second half should not have taken the political twist.

raanjhanaa_masand_630I personally connected with the film totally and have no complaints at all. My solo defense for second half is that it would have been much easier for the writers to take a conventional route post interval. [Spoliers Ahead] Like keeping Jasjit alive and make Kundan work towards getting him and Zoya together. Or make Zoya realize what she had been overlooking and fall for Kundan towards the end of the film. But life, unfortunately, always puts us in a situation to which we have no answers. And we just drift along the flow. That’s what the two protagonists do in the second half. It is much easier to harm oneself- slitting wrists, drinking kerosene.; true love demands penance – complete surrender of oneself – despite continuous rejection & humiliation. And that is where Raanjhanaa scores !

But as I said earlier this is not a review. I just want to take a look at various facets of love through the prism of Raanjhanaa and underscore a few lessons that the film might have conveyed but got overshadowed in other discussions.

Lesson#1: “Love is a function of Time and Distance”

How many times have we heard people breaking-up over “Long- Distance” issues.True that Zoya’s love for Kundan was almost forced one due to his suicidal attempts but he got shift-deleted so easily from her hard disk as she moved out of Banaras?! Then how come the flame continued to burn in Kundan’s heart who worked his way up to become the Man Friday for Zoya’s family thinking that to be a qualification good enough to earn their approval? For the simple reason that while Kundan continued to live in the same world, Zoya had begun afresh! New faces, new ambiance, and the urge to have someone constantly “around you”, these become highly decisive factors in choosing a partner and Zoya falling for Jasjit was just one more case in this list.

Lesson #2: “You are not in love with her but in love with the idea of being in love with her”

Raanjhanaa uses the oldest Bollywood trick- guy mesmerized by the girl’s beauty and falling for her. That kind of infatuation always dies a natural death. But the problem with Kundan was the feeling got sowed when his mind was quite impressionable. And like most beliefs embedded in our  minds during that age, he tended to believe that she and her love was the end of the world. And that’s why another hot girl effortlessly surrendering herself  to him  does not lure him at all. Like religion, this feeling for Zoya was beyond all logic. As he rightly puts it before the interval ” Tumse pyaar karna tumhaara nahi mera talent tha… koi aur ladki hoti to usse bhi utna hi toot ke pyaar karta!” First love is always sacred because it makes you comfortable with a highly misplaced sense of heroism about it.

Lesson #3: “You can have a car of any color as long as it is black!”

This famous quote by Henry Ford could not be more true when it comes to marriages in India. We will have colleagues, best friends and even  business-partners from diverse background. We will donate generously for all festivals.  But when it comes to choosing a life partner he has to be from the same caste and religion. As if the individual chose it for himself and is to be blamed for having born in a particular family! No amount of qualification, intellect, social-standing or character can compensate for him belonging to a different sect.

Zoya was conscious of this when she was only in the ninth grade and slaps Kundan for lying to her about his religion. When it comes to love marriages, people choose their partners wisely to reduce hassles at home . So basically its not love but calculated risks. And when heart dominates head over these matters they put up big lie and hope they don’t caught till the rituals are over. But unfortunately, the truth always surfaces before you would want it to.

Lesson #4: “Its not about losing her. Its about someone else having her.”

Kundan never felt bad about Zoya not reciprocating his feelings. But the moment she mentions Jajit/Akram’s name, he almost attempts to drown both of them. Why? Because love is the most selfish thing. You don’t realize this but you start feeling a sense of ownership over the person. If she can’t be yours, she better not be someone else’s either.

And Kundan does not reveal  Jasjit’s  identity to Zoya’s father out of jealousy. Just the plain fact that one of the many reasons cited by her from the very beginning, for rejecting Kundan, was that he was a Hindu. And she completely chose to ignore it in Jasjit’s case !  So basically religion was never a factor. Call it elementary in the larger picture, given that she was never in love with Kundan in first place, these things always becomes difficult for anyone to digest.

Lesson#5: “Using. Refusing. Abusing.”

Was Zoya using Kundan. Yes if you consider the fact that she got him to remove the thorn (prospective doctor husband) from her life and fix her marriage with Jasjit as well. She continuously hugs him and pillion rides his scooter only to get away saying that she never thought of him more than a friend. But then was not Kundan using Bindiya as well to help him with Zoya ?

In this game of taking, the person with a soft corner for you, for granted, and not expecting him or her to build false hopes about a future with you is wrong on part of the person seeking help as well. The only defense for Kundan in this case is perhaps that he was overtly vocal about his feelings for Zoya throughout while Zoya keeps everyone guessing till the end. Is it a very gender-specific thing or are we being too biased. Well I guess guys are to be equally blamed for this. They will take all the slaps and even the spit on their face only to revel in the hope that someday she might change her heart ! Sadly, she never does.

Lesson #6: ” Man’s world vis-a-vis the woman’s”

What was on Jasjit’s mind as he lay on his deathbed while talking to Kundan in the hospital. Was it Zoya’s condition? No. Rather it was his unfinished work in politics. Love is just one of the many things in a man’s life. But when a woman falls in love, it’s the only thing in her life. She is completely unapologetic about it (kissing Jasjit in full public glare outside the examination hall) and makes the man’s world her own (actively taking part in party-activities once she becomes his girlfriend despite having no clue about it beforehand). She surrenders herself completely to her love and even goes to the extent of conniving her marriage to be with him. Strangely enough, the man, no matter how much rational he might be (and here he is the founder of a political party), becomes weak and ends up falling for her incredulous plans always.

Lesson #7: “My love is subject to society’s approval”

The pre-climax scene has Zoya confessing to Kundan “…duniya thukegi mujhpe agar maine tujhse pyaar kar liya”.  And this confession was no more a part of the plan to get him to the rally which was designed to take away his life. She actually did end up feeling immense admiration & gratitude for this man who so selflessly dedicated his entire life to her. She was equally guilty of Jasjit’ death. But whose penance was stronger? Kundan could have run away but he chose the more arduous path of redemption. It is difficult not to like such a person. But if that is the case then why did she let him goto the rally at all? For the simple reason that she wanted to get rid of him!

It was neither vengeance for Jasjit’s death nor envy over loosing out the Party Leader’s position to him. She was falling for him and the only way to curb this feeling was to permanently get rid of him. Even if both of them knew that she was not being opportunistic, the world would have interpreted her as exactly that. ‘How could she have the same man in her life who was responsible for her ex-lover’s death?’ The writers decided to leave these interpretations open to us and simplified by having Zoya put it up in a single phrase “…maine yeh kyun kiya yeh batane mein aap logon ko puri raat nikal jaayegi.” Some questions are better left unanswered.

Lesson#8 : “Nobody really moves on in life.”

I have heard so many people giving relationship advice to others to move on. What on earth does it exactly mean? That you completely eradicate your ex-lover’s memory from your mind like the protagonists in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind did? Or does it mean that you become so thick-skinned that you cease to bother about them? You may delete your inbox, move onto another relationship and even marry someone on the very day your ex-flame is getting married, but their memories will continue to haunt you.

And all this is because of the simple reason that a person molds you into a new being when you are with them. So when they move out of your world, they take away that part of you with them and it never comes back leaving you void from within and too exhausted to walk on the same path again.

As Kundan sums it up beautifully at the end “Mahadev ki kasam, agar woh ab bhi bole ki pyaar hai to dobaara se uth jaayein. Par ab saala mood nahi hai. Kaun phir se pyaar kare… dil lagaye?”  Sadly enough, this bitter truth about love and life is what lingers in our minds as we walk out of the theaters. Nobody really moves on. Just the interpretation of memories change.

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25 thoughts on “What Raanjhanaa teaches us about Love in India

  1. Solid effort here Abhishek & all for a good cause as I personally feel the film deserves it. Good to see you back with a bang,this is one of your all time best posts IMO…….

  2. nothing beats a well thought out post… and this one’s a gem.. yes, it’s biased and romanticized – but so what, all our views are biased and coloured by our notions of life… what makes the post special is that it’s personal and heartfelt, and as a result, it’s genuine.. great job Abhishek…

  3. This is what i love about Blogs, when Authors do not go a la Film Critic mode,but Instead write about it, why they liked it, and brings a new perspective which one might not thought of while watching it. Bow to you

  4. Superb post Abhi. Though i liked the film, while leaving the theatre there were a few mixed thoughts in my mind. But your post has helped me gain a fresher and convincing perspective about the film. I am tempted to go and watch the film again.
    The monologue by Dhanush in the end was superb and conveyed the entire essence of Dhanush’s character.

  5. What a superb explanation and points sir.
    Hats off to you for writing this.
    But i don’t felt right about lesson 5 : using, refusing , abusing.

    Kundan never loved Bindiya and she also knew that. When he tells her to marry she don’t think that he really don’t love her, it’s just his anger and still she agrees with him.
    She was loving her but she never got his love.
    So he have used her but not like Zoya who literally used her while she knowing he loves her and she is not going to marry him.

    • First of all thank you Biresh for liking the post. Though Zoya was more manipulative, I do believe that Kundan knew he could take Bindiya for granted as well. Yes he might never have given her even the subtlest of the hints which unfortunately Sonam’s character dropped from time to time, but Dhanush’s character knew he always had a backup in form of Bindiya.
      The perception is subjective. I just borrowed from what I usually see around me in relationships. Raanjhaana was just a point of reference.

  6. Hey Abhishek

    A comprehensive review about Raanjhanaa! I liked it.

    Of the many chords you touched, a couple I resonate with.

    1. I feel Zoya is clueless about love. She got carried away by Kundan then and Jasjeet later: that’s all. She did justice to neither in that I find it plainly ridiculous that even for someone who didn’t love Kundan, she cannot forget slapping a boy endlessly and least of all the reason why he being a reason for her to leave Banares and there is no crap of love to go on with Jasjeet’s love for the country: it was all along her preoccupation with Kundan non-verbally which dominated the show.

    2. As much innocent I want to feel of Kundan, you’re right about him with Bindiya and what is this funny behavior of blaming a woman when he knew what he was pursuing … I am glad he asked her not to love him for any consolation or conflict within as to what others might think at the end or even of going on a long vacation (you know what I mean) but what is this funny idea of he needing to rescue her in every situation of her making? What use did the woman put use of her own education when all she did was run upto the jaahil Kundan for ideas? I find such insecure women throwing their education and exposure to social evils at the thought of a challenge annoying: even assuming that security is one thing and education is another, why was she not approaching Jasjeet darling to get the damsel out of her dismissal?

    Everything’s forgiven for the cast and the stellar performances of all!!!!

    • Hi there. It’s been a year since you have commented and you probably are never gonna see this, but yeah, I felt like I should say this. What I feel after reading your comment is that the movie had you carved up in such a way that you ended up ‘hating’ Zoya for the way she handled Kundan’s love and ‘loving’ Kundan for his selflessness throughout the movie. And the fact that you used the word jaahil to make your point dominate gets me an idea of how much you disliked Mulsim Zoya. I really don’t know if you or anyone ever is going to get what I’m really tryna say, but lemme tell you this, if the leading cast was of opposite religion, comment of yours would have been poles apart from the one I’m replying to, trust me. And why’s that? You already know. Thankyou. And Sorry.

  7. Just a conclusion: I watched the movie for the first time a week back and a few million times thereafter … Zoya is vile and Kundan is indefatigable and exasperating as characters but very cleverly concealed by each one having a good pie of a role to chew on … 🙂

  8. I came across this movie on a flight back home (Kuala Lumpur) from Delhi after visiting India for the first time (in 2014). This movie was so different from the usual Bollywood fare I was used to. The actor was non-typical as he was super skinny, non-muscular which was suprising but resfreshing. And omg, can this guy act! I binge-watched so many of Dhanush’s film after that! Then, there was the movie’s prime location. Varanasi was my first to-visit place in India, so the film’s setting gave that film an even more magical feel. Of all the cities I’ve visited in India, Varanasi definitely holds a special place. I didn’t like the sad ending for Kundan (but I understand it) and his last dialogue haunted me for a long time. So realistic and tragic, which made the movie even more compelling. I was rooting for a happier ending for Kundan but am glad the movie dared to NOT give the audience what it wanted or expected to see! Thank you for the post. Your observations ring true to me – about one’s first love and the complications of love in a multi-religious society, for one. This is a movie I truly enjoy watching over and over again, especially for Kundan (I found Zoya annoying but I just focused on Kundan, I guess lol). I know I will feel depressed after watching this but I never seem to learn!!

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