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Revisiting Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi: Notes on masculinity, gender politics and Anushka Sharma’s debut feature role

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, which was released in theatres in 2008, had no divine entity interfering with the love story. It was a shoddy Shah Rukh Khan in double roles.

Pratishruti Ganguly
Dec 22, 2021
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Aditya Chopra’s 2008 romantic comedy Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi released only weeks after the tragic 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Regardless, the film went on to become the highest-grossing Indian film globally, and the second highest-grossing film in the country that year. Needless to say, the audience connected with Shah Rukh Khan’s dual personalities and the debutante Anushka Sharma’s turn as Taani, a young girl forced into matrimony by her dying father. Moreover, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi delivered on its promise of being the quintessential masala enterprise complete with many, many dance sequences and costume changes that would put Broadway to shame.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is among the many Bollywood films that do not quite believe in titling a movie as per its narrative arc. So if you thought there would be some divine Cupid intervention making the duo fall in love, be rest assured, the film spares divine entities from getting involved. But at what cost, really? If Shah Rukh Khan’s Surinder Sahni is a personality-less dolt, Raj Kapoor was an insufferable ‘macho-man’ sporting spiked hair and bejewelled jeans. It is key to note here that the key differences that the film points to between the two personas of Shah Rukh Khan revolve around machismo and masculinity. In essence, then, Surinder and Raj are two different men vying for Taani’s affections, with the implication that if Taani happens to prefer Raj over Surinder, Surinder would forever have to sacrifice his true nature in favour of a more ‘preferred’ persona.

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Sure, it is a fictional piece of content meant to entertain. But what are the ramifications of watching your favourite stars propounding changing ones own self in order to dazzle someone else, that too, for all life? The filmmaker had once claimed that Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi celebrates the ordinary man, and the humdrum routine life. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is anything but. From his shirts to the hair parting, Surinder Sahni is too caricaturish to be taken seriously. Yes, he can make dum Biryani for his wife, but his nice guy schtick gets frustrating after a point, when the film pointedly tries to paint Raj in an offensive light.

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In the movie’s defence, RNBDJ successfully inverted gender politics by letting the female protagonist drive the narrative. Some critics labelled the film to be much like Dirty Dancing, but its sexual politics inverted. One might remember the tentpole Hollywood release of the year — Iron Man — where Gwenyth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts essentially had nothing to do other than be awe-inspired by Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark. Taani was the deferential figure in RNBDJ, who both Surinder and Raj are trying to woo, either with their cooking or their ability to consume chaat at an impressively breakneck speed. Despite being let down by patriarchy when she is forced to marry someone, she takes the charge and makes the decision for herself. She is a rare Bollywood heroine with agency.

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Anushka Sharma, in her debut feature role, embodied the spunk and vigour that a small-town Punjabi woman was expected to have. She drives her motorcycle amid crowded streets like she owns then. What Surinder lacks in personality, Taani more than makes up for it with her vivacity. Shah Rukh Khan, encumbered with two sketchy roles, is still two of the worst things of the film. 13 years since its release, RNBDJ is a musical that does not have riveting music, a double role film with two superficial characters and an actress who proved her worth in her debut film. It’s silly, but not funny enough to be captivating.

Watch Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi here


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