The December premier of Rab Ne Bana di Jodi (RNBJ) was sold out in Vienna, and watched in pin drop silence. The audience sat in the dark soaking in all the love that the film brings in times of so much hate. When it was over and we stepped out of the cinema into an even darker winter night, Gerlinde Seitner from Austria's Film Institute sighed that the film had helped to light up her day. "It is the best winter release for us pale westerners. I can't remember when I saw the sun last. It has been non-stop grey, cold and dark outside. I am happy I saw RNBJ that has brought me light."
Once upon a time, the end of the year was meant to be a lusty celebration to combat the gloom of long winter nights and short days. That is, till the idea was hijacked by capitalism and it was preached that salvation lay in shop till you drop.
Sensitive minds and hearts, however, were quick to realise that the light provided by the market place is not the real thing. Many turned their back on shopping arcades much before the latest economic depression came to depress them further. Their search for a more wholesome preoccupation continues.
The longing of many in a hurry on this continent is for a material life sprinkled with spirituality and for rationality that is not necessarily devoid of emotion. I loved RNBJ precisely because I found it such a wonderful blend of sense and sensibility. Most Bollywood films are tolerated because they help audiences here to emote in a continent that prides itself on practicing logic and rationality at all cost. Bollywood films are a change from the black and white world of ‘developed' societies that are almost fanatically intolerant of that which cannot be proven with a formula or remains unseen by the naked eye.
Bollywood films are loved here because they are able to sing and dance audiences away from logic and too much analysis. RNBJ does that too, but much more. In a logical, reasonable way, the film, first and foremost, satiates the longing of all screen lovers for a well directed, scripted and acted cinematic experience. "One always has high expectations from the production house of Yash Raj Chopra, but RNBJ exceeds all expectations. It is different from the usual glossy love stories shot with exotic backdrops and surprises everyone from start to end," Sandeep Kumar told Hardnews.
Sandeep works for Siemens in Vienna and is directing Austria's first Bollywood film here. As a filmmaker, Sandeep found the story of RNBJ unique. During the screening he found himself often convinced that the two roles played by Shahrukh Khan were actually two different characters. "For me, the icing on the cake was the narration of the ‘honeymoon trip' to Japan at the end of the film. That was extremely funny especially for those in the audience who understand Hindi. With this film, Shahrukh surely convinces his Austrian and German admirers of his superb acting capabilities," Sandeep continued, breathlessly.
The sweet story of RNBJ has touched the heart of a continent that often spends millions to buy a smile, and on keeping up appearances. Gerlinde loves Shahrukh more than ever because he does not allow his bad, discoloured teeth to come in the way of a good performance. Fans feel closer to Shahrukh after watching close shots of all his warts. What matters to the audience of RNBJ is his effervescent performance, of a simple but reliable human being - and not his shapeless, discoloured teeth.
It is a relief for ordinary viewers to know that to be happy in life it is not important how you look and how much you earn. What is precious instead is the gift to be able to love, to be able to find joy in giving away all your love without thought of profit or loss. In RNBJ, people seem to sense a bit of spirituality, the missing half of our very materialistic existence.
Indeed, the criticism about too much talk of ‘Rab' or god in the film is meaningless at a time when human beings tend to love too less. For instance, Dorothea Nuernberg, Viennese author, can't talk enough of god, the ultimate symbol of love and perfection. "To see god in the other is one way of respecting and loving all human beings," says Neurenberg.