It takes a few years for Hindi language films to get to the public library in Iowa. I’m not yet one of the 50 million Netflixers–still watching movies the old fashioned way: putting discs into optical scanning bays on a player.
It seems there’s a nice quality to coming home from a hot Iowa day to watch Bollywood films in the evening with a fan humming in the background. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi was pleasant romantic fare, a lengthy but enjoyable film that blends something of a self-made male Pygmalion with a secret identity twist.
Indian mega-actor Shah Rukh Khan plays Surinder Sahni, an ordinary nerdy guy who, within the film’s first ten minutes, lands himself in an arranged marriage with a woman he’s fallen in love with at first sight. Taani Gupta has lost her fiancé to an accident on their wedding day, and soon after, her father succumbs to a heart attack. But not before expressing his wish that his favorite student and beloved daughter join in marriage.
The start seems contrived, but the pacing is so rapid, one is launched into the meat of the film without much pause for thought. In the next two-and-a-half hours, Surinder deals with his situation: a wife who will keep his household, but who professes she will never feel love again. When Taani enters a dance contest, her husband, just wanting to see her dance, disguises himself and much to his alarm, is paired with her as a partner.
Think Clark Kent here: how could a guy get rid of his glasses and mustache and not be recognizable to his wife? I accepted it, because the plot in the film moves forward more on the untruth being lived. Surinder’s alter ego is a clumsy ladies’ man. But what happens when she begins to have feelings for her still-awkward partner? How serious is this one piece of deception to a relationship? It happens all the time in American media; in fact the lie drives most of the plots in sit-coms today. Of course, if people didn’t lie, there would be no reason for the particular episode.
My wife was wondering out loud about the eventual reveal. Would Taani object to being deceived? Or would love conquer?
If the script is a little too predictable, the acting skills of the leads pretty much cover it. The expected Bollywood dance scenes are fun and clever, and the music is catchy. I confess that’s one of my favorite aspects of Hindi filmmaking. There is some element of faith and religion in the film, a bit more than I’ve seen in other Indian work. The husband is devoted to prayer, and because of her losses, the wife is alienated from God.
I can recommend this film. There are good expressions of friendship and loyalty. Shah Rukh Khan is a superb actor. He does well with a role I would have thought out of character for him. If your American children can sit through Hindi with subtitles, it’s an entirely safe movie for watching. Awkward flirting is about as sexual as it gets. One scene with maybe a half-dozen mentions of the B-word.