Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi requires some determined suspension of disbelief. A prematurely middle aged man marries a bright, lovely young girl immediately after she experiences a family tragedy. He loves her on sight, she doesn’t see him at all. He changes himself to become a man she could love. But he does it in an extreme way. He masquerades as another man, utterly different from his everyday self, and starts to woo her. What happens if she recognises him? What if she prefers the ‘other man’? How can he get himself out of this situation? And who will win the big dance competition?
I’m not telling.
I really like this film. It has excellent acting by Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma, and characters I could empathise with or understand, even when I didn’t agree. I know some people object to the premise that she doesn’t recognise her husband immediately. Personally, I think that if you suspect every man who looks vaguely like your husband or boyfriend is him in disguise, you probably have bigger issues than the film does. Aditya Chopra hits some false notes including a ridiculous sumo wrestling interlude, but it’s really a story about people not gimmicks so I can turn a blind eye. There is ample entertainment in the romance, humour (please note I am not using the C word), dancing and music.
Surinder Sahni works at Punjab Power (motto: Lighting Up Your Life) and lives all alone in his family home, a huge ornate house. He is an unassuming man who has fallen into a rut. Until he falls for Taani. Seeing her disappointment on top of her grief he wants to do something to make her happy, or at least stop her from giving up on happiness. Surinder is considerate as well as shy and doesn’t presume on his new wife. He sleeps in the attic room and calls her Taani-ji, so painfully polite. Suri doesn’t do macho or overbearing – he is atypical for a romantic lead. In his own beige way he tries to show his feelings, hoping his actions will speak for him. He sees her laugh watching movies and tries to understand the appeal of filmi heroes but he is worlds away from that flashy style. This is one of my favourite Shah Rukh performances. He plays Suri as mostly subdued, with a shy romantic streak blooming as he dares to dream.
The expression on his face when he sees the tiffin Taani has prepared for him is priceless. Shah Rukh strikes the right blend of physical comedy and heartstring tugging pathos as Suri.
Suri’s flamboyant hairdresser friend Bobby (Vinay Pathak in excellent form) helps with a makeover. The idea is Suri will go watch Taani at her new dance class, and then surprise her with the new look. But he can’t stop himself from trying to get closer to her. And so Raj is born; vulgar, extrovert, inappropriate Raj Kapoor who can say and do things that Suri won’t.
Shah Rukh doesn’t play Raj as cool – he is a nerd’s idea of a cool dude and always that bit off key. I’m not surprised Taani didn’t recognise him. He has terrible fashion sense and constantly over-accessorises (thanks to Aki Narula). There are some delightful moments of Raj getting cocky, only to have Suri’s panic leak through when he doesn’t know what to do next. Raj becomes Taani’s dance partner for a competition – another touch of fate or divine intervention. The relationship has a rocky start but Taani can’t help eventually responding to Raj’s simple warmth.
He helps her reconnect with life in a way that Suri’s patient hands-off approach doesn’t. Shah Rukh portrays two quite distinct characters, and I could see Raj growing and becoming more of a second skin over time.
Raj is a drug that Suri cannot kick. When Bobby challenges him, Suri admits he can’t stop. The deception escalates and as Raj he taunts himself over his failure. This dark tone of self awareness and self delusion made Suri’s deception seem more real.
He created a mask and resented being trapped behind it. As Suri he wants Taani to see the real Suri, and fall in love with him as he is. As Raj, he is spontaneous and affectionate. But what happens to Suri if Raj succeeds in winning Taani’s love? And if Suri kills off Raj, what will that mean to Taani?
Taani is the apple of her father’s eye, and about to marry the man she loves. A few tragic minutes later she is married to Suri and relocated to Amritsar. At that time she may not have cared much for her future as she was traumatised and grieving. Anushka has a natural and happy quality, but she can turn that off in an instant, and she portrayed the conflicting emotions and loyalties very well. Taani rarely looks at her husband, and certainly doesn’t see him so I could believe she didn’t recognise him in disguise. The more Suri tries to engage her, the more she blocks him out. She’s not a crying whinging wet dishrag though – Taani is a spirited woman and even does a Dhoom style motorbike stunt. She really comes to life when she forgets herself in things that had been her pleasures in her old life, especially dancing.
She resents feeling indebted to Suri even as she appreciates his generosity, but is making the best of things. Taani doesn’t have friends in Amritsar apart from Raj, who refuses to not be allowed to be her friend, so he is her only confidant. She comes to a crisis point, and I think it was as much about wanting to actively live again as her attraction to Raj.
Taani finally allows herself to love and to reconnect with life. While Anushka is very pretty she seems real, not a plastic beauty, and I found her convincing and appealing. I also had severe wardrobe envy when I saw Taani’s clothes, especially her lovely embroidered dupattas.
The theme of a couple brought together by God is always present. The presence of religious observance and ritual in their lives helps give that more resonance as it seems like a genuine belief not just a dramatic conceit. The gold of the temple at Amritsar is picked out in Taani’s dress, the yellow tiffin, Suri’s car, the new bedsheets and flowers Taani leaves in his room. For him, Taani is divine love and she is lighting up his life. The corny picturisation of Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai can’t detract from the message of seeing an aspect of divinity in the one you love, or who loves you.
I really like that it shows Suri seeing himself as Suri, but Taani sees only Raj. The tension in the bizarre love triangle is well maintained even in lighter moments. I think that the inherent acknowledgement that some characters were not always behaving well made it more palatable and less WTF, so the resolution is oddly satisfying. My eye-rolling muscles barely got warmed up, I just went with it and enjoyed the unravelling.
Whether it is the bustle of Amritsar, Suri’s majestic old house, Taani’s clothes, the framing or the use of colour, Ravi K Chandran makes it look stunning and it’s a total pleasure to watch. This traditional sounding song is over the opening titles but not on the soundtrack, and it is a beautiful start to the film.
The Salim-Sulaiman soundtrack is mostly excellent and Jaideep Sahni’s lyrics seem to match the story very well. Haule Haule is beautiful, and the choreography is perfect uncle-in-love style. Retro tributes are now old hat, but the clever lyrics made up of film songs and titles and the vocal by Sonu Nigam lift Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte. Shah Rukh really gets the style of the Hindi film greats he mimics, particularly in the Rishi Kapoor segment. Lara Dutta is miscast as Helen, but Rani as Neetu more than makes up for that. I much prefer the songs Vaibhavi Merchant choreographed. Shiamak’s style is too reminiscent of 80s TV variety shows and I’ve seen enough of that to last me. Dance Pe Chance and the dance competition numbers are not memorable, although I appreciated Anushka and Shah Rukh maintaining their characters in the dances so they worked as drama rather than as songs. But so much colour and movement can’t be a bad thing.
See this for an unusual romance, good songs, beautiful visual design and of course the lovely performances by Shah Rukh and Anushka. Just remember to suspend that disbelief! 4 stars!
Heather says: I am quite ambivalent about this film. On one hand I do really like Shahrukh’s ebullient Raj and most of the time I like his characterisation of the more reserved and introverted Suri. But on the other hand there is much of the story that I don’t like, and I’m not very impressed with the character of Taani despite Anushka Sharma’s best efforts. Taani seems a very superficial character and the few personality traits she is allowed to display switch on and off depending on how much comedy Aditya Chopra wants to include in the scene. When she is allowed to be cheery and feisty I quite like her, but most of the time she is too one dimensional and is only there as a reason for Shahrukh to play dress-up.
As far as the story goes, I don’t like the way that Taani is pressured into marriage with Suri at such a difficult time in her life. However even worse is the direction the story moves in later on, when Suri decides to make his wife choose between Raj and himself. It’s manipulative, very unfair and just plain wrong. I don’t see how such a plan can possibly demonstrate true love and I think Taani would be much better to leave Suri and Raj altogether!
What I do like though is the character of Bobby Khosla and I think that Vinay Pathak did a great job with his role as Suri’s friend. There are a few scenes near the beginning where the character of Suri is initially developed that are also quite sweet and hold a lot of promise but unfortunately I don’t think the film ever delivers on these. While both Shahrukh and Anushka bring everything they can to their roles, ultimately it’s the story that lets it all down in the end. The songs are great and I love Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte, but for the rest, it’s not a film I particularly enjoy. I think it’s worth watching for Shahrukh, who does have some excellent comedy moments and he at least seems to be enjoying himself. The rest is disappointing. 3 stars.
One of my favorites, there is something so down-to-earth and pleasing about this film. Here is a take on the polar opposites in Suri and Raj http://pakhipakhi.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/rab-ne-bana-di-jodi-pe-chance-maar-le/ that you might find interesting.
Hi pakhipakhi – Thanks for the link. I noticed the coloured shades, but never saw the correlation with Raj’s identity as clearly as that post articulates. There is a lot more happening in the film on a purely visual level than I expected, and there are some really nice recurring elements. Cheers, Temple
Hello again Heather and Temple! Much influenced by many negative reviews that I had read, I never saw the film until a few months back when my niece convinced me to watch it with her. She had seen it before and liked it quite a lot. I hastily put aside my reservations and much to my surprise, I enjoyed it very well indeed! Heather, you are right, one should be able to suspend belief to enjoy the film 🙂 Like you Temple, I had moments of ‘This is so wrong, STOP IT’ when Raj tries what Suri couldn’t but you know, I think it can be true. Many actors admit to being very shy and introverted but when they take on a role, they can be someone else altogether, someone they want to be but cannot. So I understand how Suri with his repressed love and desires cannot but let Raj make a play for his wife. I am not sure I liked Anoushka’s character much but I didn’t mind, this is Shah Rukh’s film and he carries it well.
Good to hear from you as always 🙂 You may have got us the wrong way round I think. Despite being a cynical anti-romantic type, I really liked the film and had few issues as my disbelief suspension worked just fine. I bought the idea, and saw that Suri had an internal struggle and a friend who thought he was nuts but would support him anyway so it had the necessary shades of grey to make it more palatable. I don’t agree with Heather that making Taani choose was quite so terrible – at that point, there had to be some way of finalising the charade. I doubt that pretending it never happened would have worked, and it may have been harder on Taani to have one man suddenly disappear. Either way, she had been duped and needed to find out, and Suri/Raj needed to know where matters stood so the next steps would be clear. Anyway, I find it engaging and entertaining and I’m glad you liked it too 🙂
Hi! I’ve been silently following your blog for quite a while now, and I would love to see your review of Panjaa. I am a Pawan fan, and a die hard one, and I really want to read your take on the movie. Hope you’ll review it soon! Great blog, and keep up the good work! 🙂
Hi Nishant – Firstly, thanks for breaking your silence 🙂 I saw Panjaa on Friday night and I think I will need to wait for a DVD to give it a fair review. Pawan Kalyan was excellent but I felt the story was lacking, and the romances didn’t convince me at all. The audience were really responding to the dialogue – cheering or laughing in lots of speeches and of course I missed so much of that. I think the film dragged in the first half, but maybe subtitles will make a difference. I loved the action sequences though – they were fantastic! Cheers, Temple
Thanks for the reply! The reason I actually commented requesting for a review is because I believe your reviews are among the most unbiased and down-to-earth reviews that I’ve seen. Most local sites here are so biased, you wouldn’t believe it. The first half did take off a bit slow, but then I guess the story demanded it, being a serious gangster movie and all. Yeah, Vishu Vardhan is excellent in making stylish films (the Tamil Billa, for example), and it shows here too. The fact that this is his first straight Telugu film does not show, as most Tamil directors tend to put the Tamil nativity in their Telugu movies too. I’ll wait till the DVD comes out, to read your review. 🙂 And what do you guys too? Are you a husband and wife couple? Keep up the great work!
That’s very kind of you to say 🙂 I know what you mean about the local Telugu sites – that’s one of the reasons I started writing about what I was watching. It is so hard to find anything useful about the film itself that isn’t completely biased for or against the hero. It’s not helpful for a new fan starting out! Luckily lots of friendly Telugu movie fans here and on Twitter/Facebook keep the recommendations rolling in.
Heather is married, but not to me 🙂 We’re both female and love films with lots of good dancing, so Telugu films are great entertainment. We were very happy to find that they show here, and maybe one day we’ll get subtitled prints.
Oh, alright! For some reason the names Temple and Heather stuck me as a couple, 🙂 It’s really cool that you guys watch Telugu films, and yeah, the dances are awesome! I myself love those choreographed dances (with people in the background) and prefer those over the duet songs. 🙂 Again, keep up the great work! Imma check in every week from now on, and comment when I can! 😀 Take care! (BTW< I'm now a fan of you guys.) 🙂
Awww!! I LOVE RNBDJ!! It’s one of only 5 films where I just love SRK! 😀 I found his acting as Suri delightful and even though Raj is painful to watch at times, for once SRK’s general OTTness totally works for the character.
I am usually terrible at suspensing disbelief (you should ask the person who was sitting next to me during Ladies vs Ricky Bahl, I was scoffing every 5 minutes). But this one just pulls you in and it doesn’t really matter anymore. I showed this movie to a few of my friends and it was hilarious to watch them hurl abuses at Raj (for being manipulative, so I guess they were in Heather’s corner) while rooting for Suri who was “so sweet”. And the whole time I kept yelling: “But it’s the same person you guys!!!” 😀 So I guess they had no problems with the split personality. 🙂
I know there are a few things that are wrong with it, and for me the biggest eye roller was towards the end when the whole “I see God in you” bit gets repeated ad nauseaum. But… but… so fun, so colourful and so quirky is this movie, I can’t help but love it despite all its shortcomings! 🙂
Hi Dolce. It feels like it’s been a very long time since we agreed on a film 🙂 Hurrah!!!!
Does it? I think that’s because I’m taking a looong break from Tolly-Kolly masala and the like (I’m going through a stage where people pointing fingers at each other, shouting and fighting doesn’t quite cut it for me. Prithviraj is an exception of course :P). So we haven’t been watching the same movies, which is why I can’t really contribute anything meaningful to your reviews. 😦 I still read them with delight though! 🙂
It’s actually Suri that I think is manipulative – I quite like Raj 🙂
It’s the way the story develops that I don’t like. I think the actors all do a good job with what they have to work with, but it’s not a film I want to watch over and over (which is usually the case with SRK films).
I still re-watch the songs though 🙂
I really didn’t like RNDBJ the first time I watched it–I had already reached my saturation point on SRK “Raj” roles and clueless heroines. For some reason I decided to rewatch it a few months later, and I liked it much better, especially the nuances of Taani’s character that you mentioned.
It got me thinking about the other movies when Shahrukh has played two characters (or two versions of the same character), and how I always seem to prefer him in the more uptight, socially awkward version, like the the uptight husband in Paheli. It’s interesting that of his last 8 leading roles he’s played double roles in 5 (Paheli, Don, Om Shanti Om, RNDBJ, and Ra.One) and some very non-Raj like characters in the others (KANK, Chak De, My Name is Khan.)
Hi Liz. I first saw SRK in his early negative roles in Baazigar and Darr. Although he is the Raj-est Raj, that’s not my preferred avatar for him, although as I was confirmed as a fan by then I watched them all. But I rarely re-watch the fluffy early films (fear of the see through nipple flasher shirts is another reason), while I do return to the dark side. Some of the films you list are near the top of my SRK list – Paheli (so pretty!), Chak De (he is the best co-star I have ever worked with in Indian cinema and my cheering in the stands may not be entirely “acting”), Don, OSO. But my real guilty pleasure is the ultimate double role – Duplicate! He plays 2 characters who impersonate each other so you get 4 times the Shah Rukh, one in patchwork leather overalls and even in drag (he looked like Dynasty era Joan Collins). It’s a very silly film but it never fails to make me laugh a lot. Cheers, Temple
Oh I LOVE RNBDJ! I don´t know wether it´s my usually high tolerance level for manipulative stories and characters, but I never had a problem with the story. It was the first indian movie ever seen in a theater for me so I guess that it will always have a special place in my heart. 🙂 I was watching it with afriend who doesn´t watch indian movies at all and she too liked it very much. It´s a good introduction movie to Bollywood because all the performances are kind of restrained (except the raj-parts of course) and there is not much overacting.
I also adore the “I see God in you”-angle that so many people in so many reviews seem to get wrong but it´s is as you said, it´s about seeing God in both partners, as equals. The only thing I didn´t like was the ending, it seemed kind of rushed as if Adi Chopra was running out of time and had to end it somehow. Awesome review, as always.
Thanks 🙂 I wouldn’t have picked this as a good introductory Bollywood movie, primarily because of the filmi references and in-jokes. I think OSO is actually easier to pick up when you know nothing – but it’s interesting you had a success choosing this for a friend. Well done!
I don’t mind the ending, and I especially like the end credits. They tied up the story in a very fun and sweet way.
On first watch with my sister we both LOVED this film, with slight reservations which were overshadowed by our pleasure in it. On the second watch again with my sister, we were struck more forcefully by the limitations, especially what a non-entity Taani is and how she is given no control over her own fate. But that’s Adi Chopra for you 😀
I had some reservations the first time I saw this, but they dissipated on the next viewing. Maybe I was just building my own loopholes so I could enjoy it without guilt, but I found the internal logic and character behaviour was convincing and complex enough. Taani struck me as a character who had choices, and always went for the non-controversial one. But I do prefer Aditya Chopra as a producer rather than director. One word says it all – “Mohabbatein” 😦
I found thinking myself that this is a slightly updated version of “Mouna raagam”. Anyways, I agree with Heather and am not sympathetic to either of the lead characters. I am bewildered at all the praise to Anushka’s Taani. SRK is at his best usual manipulative on-screen self though.
**MILD SPOILER ALERT**
I do not understand the ending at all. A wife with any self-respect would just walk out, I guess. But then, it didn’t look like Taani is a gal with any grit. Also, her acceptance of the truth (with such joy and NO reflection) makes me think her original choice was a mere consolation prize and knowing the truth made her more happy. Because, what she did believe about Suri was shown to be all false.
Hi Violet. Both RNBDJ and Mouna Raagam show the rarely seen story of what happens after the wedding paraphernalia is packed away so I agree they have something in common. Obviously I didn’t have the same issues with this film, partly because SRK’s Suri was self aware so I thought it was a shown as a considered deception not a heroic thing. I do think there was some reflection prior to Taani’s acceptance of Suri but again, if you don’t believe in her epiphany at the temple that element doesn’t work.
Mind you, I only have tolerance for this stuff in a make believe filmi world.
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