I was very excited when the package from Amazon arrived yesterday with Flirting with Pride and Prejudice : Fresh Perspectives on the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece edited by Jennifer Crusie and So You Think You Know Jane Austen? : A Literary Quizbookby John Sutherland and Deirdre Le Faye.
But the most exciting package to arrive was the one with the DVD Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (or Straight from the Heart). I first saw this movie on local TV 4 or 5 years ago, and since then I’ve been trying to locate a DVD of it, so when I was placing my orders for the above two books, I simply had to have this. Besides starring one of my favourite Bollywood actresses, Aishwarya Rai, the film’s character, Vanraj, played by Ajay Devgan made me swoon with his noble and selfless love for the heroine, Nandini (Rai). The cinematography is simply stunning.
I cried over a number of heart-achingly tender scenes. Heart aching because Nandini married the wonderful, strong and reserved Vanraj, who truly has a heart of gold, and loves her so very much that he was willing to go all out to unite her with her first love. But she refused to let the past go, and chose to cling on to a love that could never have borne fruit, because the flippant Sameer (played by Salma Khan) could never give her up for her own happiness as Vanraj did.
Sameer struck me as a spoilt mummy’s boy whereas Vanraj is the more matured, stable and considerate family man who will cherish Nandini. Although she didn’t really appreciate his sacrifice, nor understood the pain and suffering he’s silently and stoically bearing, as well the love and passion that’s simply smoldering in his eyes whenever he gazes at her (God, she is so blind to the love that’s just staring at her!… at first), he trudged on without complaint, and just simply commandeered the entire operation of tracking down Sameer (supposedly in Italy although the setting is Hungary) for her.
Vanraj’s father couldn’t fathom why his son would send his wife, whom he’s deeply in love with, to her lover and wondered how he could take the pain of relinquishing her to another man. Vanraj explains,
Love isn’t selfish. It lies, not in your [own] happiness, but in the happiness of the one you love. [Although] the moment will be painful for me, but her one smile will erase all my pain.”
My tears just rolled at that point. How could you not love a man like him? The viewer can’t help but hang on rooting for Vanraj. The die-hard romantic in me simply just kept on praying and hoping that Nandini would choose to return to him. They struck a truce just before they visited the village where Sameer lives, and agreed to start their relationship again as friends. When she was accidentally shot on the way back chasing down Sameer, he was so remorseful (he’s the one who attacked the robber on a moment of bravado and rebellion, and caused his gun-totting accomplice to misfire) and worried for her safety, he went to a chapel to pray for her. There, he met Sameer (but didn’t get to learn his name) who questioned why God should wish for man to suffer hurt. Vanraj replied
He gave us sorrow so that we can learn how to love.
How true! Vanraj also told Sameer that
God is not between us, He is within us.
But I digressed … Anyway, by the time she has recovered, Nandini has already grown to admire Vanraj’s upright character, and I suspect she started to have some feelings for him as well. They were travelling on a tram to a bar (where Sameer is supposed to be performing) without tickets cos they were down on funds, they faced being ousted by the ticket inspector if they couldn’t produce any. Nandini quickly suggested that they pretend to be locked in embrace so that the conductor couldn’t get any response from them and had to go away. Only they became quite engrossed in the moment. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when they ended up dancing at the bar after another futile search.
The climatic scene came when Sameer’s mother contacted Vanraj and gave them his whereabouts, appealing to him to help reunite Nandini with Sameer. I felt a great sense of satisfaction when Nandini turned Sameer down,
You have taught me how to love, but it is my husband who has taught me to abide by it.
and chased down Vanraj for this final scene, my absolute favourite, on a beautifully lit bridge:
Nandini: Must you go away?
Vanraj (shook his head): May I say something?
Vanraj: I can’t live without you.
She held out both of her clenched fists; he chose the right one with the mangelsutra (spelling?) — the sacred symbol of marriage — fastened it around her neck and they embraced. This final gesture has significant implications as she has not worn it since their wedding, so her willingness to present it to Vanraj and for him to tie it signifies a renewal of their marriage vows, and of her acceptance of his love and her duty towards him. I like to think that his willingness to put her happiness above his own has moved her more deeply than she admitted and perhaps, made her fall in love with him in the end. I watched some of my favourite chapters again this afternoon, relishing some of the poignant moments, especially the ending, and shedding more happy tears. This has got to be one of the best Bollywood romance I’ve seen so far, apart from Bride & Prejudice (which is also good, campy fun and stars Aishwarya).
Ooh … and I couldn’t resist putting this little bit. One of the reasons I like this movie so much is the lead actor Ajay. He is so full of suppressed passion and angst, while at the same time exudes such strong, silent dependability you can’t help but melt in the intense emotions swirling in his eyes. Since I’ve known of him before Clive Owens’ King Arthur caught my eyes, I have to say that Clive Owens bears a passing resemblance to him, and could’ve passed off as a fairer version of this prolific actor, who’s also an Arien.
If there’s one Bollywood romance you have to watch, this is it. I could go on raving about it, but here’s a little confession. I’m always embarrassed about movies that make me cry, but I was openly crying while watching this and not a bit self-conscious about it at all. It affected me deeply at some level and the message is so beautiful that I’m not ashamed of being maudlin about it.