“How could Maya (Rani Mukherjee) not be happy with such a doting husband as Rishi (Abhishek Bachchan)?”
This is the most repeated question I have seen by those criticizing the movie. I have not been overwhelmed by the movie as such and I will come to the problems later. But I think the kind and level of criticism it has received in the circle I know is overdone. With the questions like above.
So, I will take up that question. Rishi was a very, very nice person. And extremely tolerant. At least for his patience and tolerance, I would admire him. But that does not mean every woman in the world must be happy with him as a wife. People’s expectation vary, and they vary wildly. His expression of lदve, his notion of caring were not what would suit Maya. To many of us he’d be a picture-perfect husband for never bothering about Maya not being able bear a child. But that wasn’t the kind of behaviour that helped Maya. Her frustrations, her anxieties did not find an outlet. What would have really helped her was something Rishi kept making fun of – “Discussion”. Probably she’d have been able to come closer to him, if instead of pretending that the issue did not exist, he’d have talked to her. If they could share each other’s disappointment, she’d have been able to get, whatever was bothering her, out of herself. She could not do that. Not discussing made her feel that she was fighting with her problems alone. No – once again, I do not blame Rishi for his intentions. There can’t be nobler ones. Its just that, the way he tried to achieve them wasn’t the way that would have worked with Maya. He did not understand why should it be so. It’d have worked with him, had he been in Maya’s place. Ultimately Maya did not do any better either. Probably she knew his intentions, probably somewhere she recognized what the problem was. Her guilt for Rishi is very clear when she is cheating him (unlike Dev’s [Shahrukh Khan]). But she found herself incapable of solving the problem. If you have been in a situation like this, you’d know how difficult the solution is, if one exists at all. You do not hate, rather like the other person. But in that particular relationship, he/she is just not the one suitable for you. And if you try to get out of the relationship, you’d hurt the person, which is not the thing to do on your agenda.
There was a time in Indian Literature, when in order to be a hero, a character had to have certain number (was it 16?) of (good) qualities. Otherwise he’d not qualify as hero. Over time, the things have changed. Now, we would rather not have the lead character as someone with all possible “good” qualities of the world. If it is so, the story/movie becomes a subject of mockery by us. But we still want the lead character to be someone who is lovable or with whom we can sympathize. Yes, we are ready to accept even underworld dons as the lead characters, but they have to be lovable like Munnabhai and Circuit or, by now traditional, don who had fallen into this world because of his bad and cruel circumstances. If the person is bad because of his inner weaknesses, we are still not ready to accept that person in the lead role. And probably that’s why the prominence given to the character of Dev (Shahrukh Khan) does not quite seem in place to us. While the relationship problems of Rishi and Maya was not about any of them being inherently bad, but rather about their incompatibility; the problems with Rhea (Preity Zinta) and Dev can be mostly traced to Dev’s personality and behaviour. Even before the accident, when he was a rising star and hence had no reason to be frustrated with his professional life, it was clear that he did not like Rhea’s attempts at making her career. He’d expect her to follow him in his pursuits, but would not display even slightest interest in hers. Rhea’s character is the strongest of all the main ones in the movie, and if Dev was not so terribly bogged down by his complex (sometimes superiority complex, sometimes inferiority – and probably the two are very much linked together), Rhea was ready to make attempts. If Dev was only a little more supportive of her dreams, Rhea would have reciprocated even better. The accident and the resulting professional disappointment of his only worsened the situation. A self-centered person that Dev was, he never tried to make things easy for Rhea. He presumed that Rhea had a superiority complex, which she never really had. And kept pursuing it to an extent, where even Rhea had to give up. She is a reasonable character. She knows how far does she want to go and knows that at a certain point, she has to give up. If the other selfish person is so burdened with the feeling of self-pity, then her attempts at making the situation normal would ultimately fail. But whenever she saw even the slightest hope, she tried to come back. Dev was just too hopeless.
Dev’s is a character that is easy for almost anyone to dislike. I, myself, disliked it. But that does not mean he can not be the lead character. He is not unreal. He is bad, but very, very real.
About Dev and Maya coming together. Well, their situation is not a mirror of each other. However, given their discontent and frustration with their lives, I would not be surprised that they came together. But this is where comes the weak point in the movie. Projecting their love as the “true, made for each other” love is naive. Even in the movie, the role of circumstances has been brought forth again and again. Their love was a result of closeness resulting from their circumstances. Eternal love is difficult even if your personalities match, because people themselves change. And circumstances change only faster. So, fine! Their earlier marriages did not work out because they were not with compatible people. But that this love is eternal and will survive is not so obvious. Maya may pretty soon find out that Dev is not a nice character after all. That while his bare attacks at her woes felt good somewhere earlier, this are not likely to remain so forever. That his meanness is not so attractive as it seemed when she found Rishi’s doting overdone.
So, overall, the characters and situations are very real in the movie. But it is the conclusion that seems highly flawed. And not at all convincing.
But you know there is a catch. The voice-over (of the narrator) is that of Shahrukh Khan. So, one could possibly conclude that the conclusion has been shown from his point of view. And possibly at a time when their relationship is working well. Possibly he has been able to overcome some of his complex by being with a comparatively low profile partner this time. However, that’d be too far fetched, wouldn’t that be? 🙂
To repeat, a movie with realistic characters and situations, but naive and unconvincing conclusion.