Finally, I’ve been able sit down and collect some thoughts and actually write them down. I know you thought I forgot but I didn’t. Comparing these films, is something I want to do right, so I’ve decided to multi-post picking apart things that I found intriguing about the similarities and differences of both films (DDLJ and Jab We Met). Hopefully, you will enjoy what I have to say but more so, I hope you’re curious enough to watch the films and see if perhaps I have a point 😉
[If you’re confused by any of this check out my initial post here .]
I, for one, feel trains always exude this aura of mystery and romance. Plus, some of the greatest stories begin or occur on trains, like Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express or Alfred Hitcock’s Strangers on a Train. Trains are great locations for stories because you are confined to one space for a set amount of time, with strangers. If you live in a larger city, it could be a short distance or if you are traveling, it could be long, therefore you are vulnerable to the passengers, the conductor, and the vehicle itself. This makes a train the most opportune place for two people to meet and form an attachment.
Dilwale Dulhania LeJayenge released in 1995 and has broken the record as being the longest running film in Hindi cinema history. It tells the story of Simran(Kajol), a young woman from an expat family who goes on one last hoorah before returning to India for her arranged marriage and Raj(Shah Rukh Khan), a spoiled college flunky. They meet when Raj sees Simran running to catch the train to meet her friends, who’ve given up on her even showing up, his friends on the other hand are used to him being late, so when they end up locked in an empty carrier, his friends don’t budge to find him.
While Simran and Raj have paid for a Eurorail tour, in Jab We Met, Geet (Kareena Kapoor) and Aditya (Shahid Kapur) are on a normal train ride. Aditya is a young heir to his dead father’s company who’s in the middle of a lawsuit with his adulterous mother. After stopping in on his ex-girlfriend’s wedding, he wanders onto a bus and then onto a train–ticket-less.This is where he meets Geet (he’s sitting in her seat) a bubbly freshly graduated college student, on her way home to elope with her boyfriend.
Trains are used for their literal purpose but also as metaphor. In stories, a train can navigate intangible things like time, freedom and security. All four characters meet on a train but for very different reasons and narratively, the train symbolizes different things to each character as well.
Unfortunately, DDLJ doesn’t utilize the train symbolism the way JWM does but it’s clear that Simran’s trip encompasses a freedom that she’s never experienced. Simran holds the same dreams and ideals of most women; love, romance, family. The trip releases her from her future’s thoughts and family obligations and allows her to dream for an entire month. For once she deboards the train to return home to her family, her world as a young woman changes into a married woman to a man she doesn’t yet know. She yearns for love but chooses to trust her father’s choice for a husband.
Later, when she misses the train because of Raj, the train takes on two separate positions in her life. One being a compass to her future and the other a reminder of her past promises. The train gives her what she’d been dreaming of but never allows her to forget that the trip is just a short detour to her impending marriage. On several occasions, she approaches the realization of her feelings for Raj but the train sounds, stopping her short, bringing back the purpose of her journey– to throw away her aspirations and accept her fate.
Like Simran, Aditya and Geet board a train with marriage on their minds; Geet, dreaming of her quickie union to Anshuman and Aditya nursing another blow of abandonment due to his ex’s marriage. Geet’s train symbolizes love and happiness, and when she meets Aditya, she thinks that her love and happiness train is driving her straight to Anshuman. But just like Simran, she misses her train and has to rethink her life. On trains, we purchase a ticket to a specific destination, but it doesn’t mean you’ll get there on time or that it’ll be what you wanted once you get there or even that you boarded the right one in the first place. These are all things that Geet learns on her journey.
Geet may be trekking towards love but Aditiya, has boarded escapism, trying to distance himself with any emotion close to love, because for him, it only brings heartache and disappointment. Honestly, he’s quite a stuffy, lonely guy, who ends up on a train to get as far as possible from his pain and problems. Therefore, he doesn’t “miss” his train, he chooses it, then chooses to walk away to find another vehicle of retreat.
In JWM, the train takes on a literal form and a metaphoric form but it’s also personified in the characteristics of Geet and the person of Aditya. Trains are fast moving, and fun yet bumbling and those are definitive characteristics of the girl he meets that night. Geet comes zooming into Aditya’s life and changes him for the better. She doesn’t allow him to escape but to confront his issues. His dodge from life to seek solitude and brood was interrupted by responsibility. He becomes Geet’s conductor and through that he’s able to view his circumstances in a new light and live happier.
While for Geet, Aditya is what she hoped her train would lead her to. Briefly after their first meeting, Geet wakes up in the middle of the night and notices Aditya is gone and runs after him. At the time, she probably considered the gesture civil kindness but later realizes it was much more than that. For, the train she didn’t want to miss was true love– and his name is, Aditya. She struggles with this concept once she and Anshuman go to meet her parents to announce their marriage. On the night before, she finds Adtiya and tells him– “I’m feeling this strange kind of fear. Restlessness. Like something is wrong. As if a train is leaving.”
Both films attach several expectations to their transport, whether it’s happiness, freedom or escape but the last in my opinion would be adventure. I’ve saved Raj for last because he seems to be the most normal character for his age. All four characters are in their early twenties but Raj truly is the only character that acts relatively appropriate. He is a bit of a loafer, but he’s young, so he enjoys sports and pranks and girls. He takes his trip for the reason most kids his age would– fun! He leaves England promising his father to return ready to learn the family business but none of those expectations were heavy on his mind when he lazily made his way to the station.
Trains as adventure is one of the most proper ways to view them because that is what trains bring. On a train, we meet new faces and see new places; we have an opportunity for fun, relaxation, reflection and seclusion. Therefore, Raj doesn’t “miss” his train either, for though he spends a day lost in Europe, during that entire time he still experiences what he boarded to accomplish; an adventure and it turned out to be, Love. He even realizes this himself once he and Simran catch up to their friends in Zurich–
Raj and Simran are looking over the bridge, talking about the future, when the train sounds to their right. Simran immediately begins to walk away:
Simran: I don’t want to miss the train again.
Raj: I want to miss the train again and again.
Trains as symbolism or metaphor work so well because they are a little like life, in that opportunities come and go, with paths and routes you choose to take, and each one leading you to your final destination. Therefore, the overarching train theme in these films is Life. Similar to these characters, the trains of our lives represent a multitude of things but summed together reflect our lives. We pass up one train for another, buy into a destination and travel to find what that location holds.
Ultimately, life isn’t easily planned, and our hopes can’t rest on one solitary passage or another. The choices we make culminate into a life we’ve led and though it’s important to make proper decisions, it’s also imperative take full advantage of the fortuity that awaits us. One day, all trains will cease but if we’ve ridden to our hearts’ content, gleaning and enjoying the journey–the missteps and late arrivals– it’ll all be worth it.
[still of Eastern Orient Express courtesy of Urban Review]