Like many movie buffs my film tastes vary constantly. A Hollywood drama, a Govinda comedy and a Satyajit Ray masterpiece can all hold a place in my favourites, regardless of box office verdicts. Mohabbatein was not a runaway hit when it was released in 2001. The Times of India’s Khalid Mohammed gave it a two star rating and criticised the warped narrative, the heavy bosoms of the young actresses and the length of the film. For almost two and a half hours I believed the same until I arrived at the climax scene scene.
Narayan Shankar (Amitabh Bachchan) the principal of Gurukul school has issued a diktat to the students that love is forbidden and shall not be tolerated. However, Raj Aryan (Shah Rukh Khan) the new music teacher believes in the other end of the spectrum, that it is best to love and do what your heart tells you. Raj’s love is Megha, Mr. Shankar’s daughter, who committed suicide in an earlier scene because she could not choose between her father and Raj. In between this struggle are three young lovers (Uday Chopra, Jugal Hansraj and Jimmy Shergill) who have found the women of their dreams and are now about to be thrown out of Gurukul. The school has a reputation that no student who is expelled will get admission elsewhere.
Raj decides to accept defeat and beg Mr. Shankar not to throw out the boys. He visits Mr. Shankar’s home on a rainy night before the dismissal and finds him lighting a lamp below his late daughter’s picture. The thunder crashes and leaves you in no doubt that the film is reaching its climax.
Raj begs forgiveness and agrees to do what Mr. Shankar wishes in exchange for the students’ education. Mr. Shankar instructs him to declare to the school that his (Raj) teachings were all false and meaningless. Shankar haughtily says that in the war between fear and love, love always wins.
As Raj moves to leave, he stops in his tracks and points out that all he sees is a 55-year-old father reminiscing over his dead 19-year-old daughter. Mr. Shankar was lost then and is lost now. He reveals that his real reason for coming to Gurukul was to share Mr. Shankar’s pain and to show him love. He says Megha needs both her lover and her father united, to complete her.
WHY IT’S SO SPECIAL:
The whole movie had Raj instructing the kids to break all the rules and violate school discipline to pursue love. This did not go down well with anyone, including my 14-year-old self. Why pursue this obsession at apparently all costs? Hence the all-important last scene was a must for the movie to redeem itself. And it surely did.
The setting was the right one. The wooden furnishings, brown walls and fireplace give out a sense of warmth, coziness and intimacy. Unlike other climactic scenes taking place out in the open with hundreds of people, this scene needed intimacy.
This scene would not have been as effective had it not been for its two lead actors. Amitabh is the superstar of the millennium, while Shah Rukh is the King of Bollywood. Until that scene, Amitabh had always been arrogant, strong and completely convinced of his philosophy. This is the first time he lets down his guard. It is obvious that Aditya Chopra has left the best until last – the dialogue is very powerful. The line “Aap zindagi ki har jung jeete chale aaye par zindagi ke saare sahare haarte chale aayein” (‘you have been winning all of life’s battles but have lost all of life’s supporters’) sums up Mr. Shankar’s situation effectively. Shah Rukh on the other hand can make one teary-eyed within minutes. Narayan Shankar’s character was obvious within the first fifteen minutes but the depth of Raj Aryan’s ethos is revealed in this scene.
The same magic was later repeated in the final confrontation scene of Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham where once again the authoritarian Yashvardhan Raichand melts down and confesses his love for his son Rahul. Bachchan and Shah Rukh create magic on screen every time. When combined, it is a powerhouse of the nation’s best actors as demonstrated by this scene which won the Best Scene of the Year at Filmfare Awards in 2001.