Anjali from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai – The Girl Who Got Away

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Posted on: 16/11/17

All of us wanted to be Anjali. From rocking jumpsuits to making Rahul eat dirt in their ritualistic basketball games –Anjali was the personification of #goals for us 90s kids. But now that we are grown people; children of the intensely ‘woke’ internet and time itself – Anjali seems far from perfect.

To find flaws in childhood heroes is quite humbling. Deep hours of introspection, several drives down nostalgia nukkad and giant helpings of dessert later – we may find ourselves in a position of balance between denial and acceptance. Equally denying and accepting both what was then, and what is now.

Come take this walk with us, whilst we deconstruct someone who had waltzed into our lives with a rainbow friendship band roughly 20 years back; and never really left.

Tomboyish till you stop kidding yourself

You have to give credit where it’s due. For an industry that had a history of being stuck at gulaabi gaal, reshmi zulfein and sharbati aankheinAnjali was a miracle. The tomboyish exuberance, the loud disposition, the nonchalance towards fashion and social mannerisms was more real than Bollywood likes to be– Anjali was more common in our schools and colleges than what our movies had made us believe. Millions of girls across India felt seen for the first time. For this, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai – will be a landmark and blessing to Bollywood, always. Yet, we cannot deny the fact, that for a path-breaking character, Anjali succumbed to the very stereotypes that she broke.

She adorably fell in love with her best friend, and then started feeling territorial when he started spending more time with the new chick in college.

To cope with that, she tried being someone she’s not, all decked up and pink – that was a disaster for the books. The misery should have ended at that. But that was not to be. After getting her heart broken, she leaves her flourishing college life to run away to mommy – because she just couldn’t deal.

Later we are introduced to another Anjali, equally likeable- but the difference was stark – the proverbial ugly duckling had blossomed into a beautiful swan – more sexy than bubbly, devoid of the nervous energy that had followed her in college everywhere. The lost love and BFF she’d lost years back meets her serendipitously (we’ll just pretend that his 9 year old was not precociously scheming to bring them together from two different ends of the country) – and voila, Rahul falls in love – or maybe realizes that he’s always been in love with her (how convenient)

Floating balloons and dribbling Coscos aside, what had seemed eventual then, feels unfair now. Now here are a few questions that we have:

  1. Did Anjali grow into the woman she was, on her own? Or was a part of her always trying to be what Rahul would like?
  2. What if Anjali would not have changed drastically, would Rahul still have followed her around in the summer camp?

Oxford who? Get the OmJaiJagadish stamp of approval

Tina was the one who got ragged first day of college – London se aayi thi, babe had to get her sanskaar checked (Pahlaj approved). Later we realize Rahul, the cool dude who liked to visit mandir on Tuesdays wanted to check if the woman he’s fancying is good enough to be taken back home to matashree (oh Rahul, someday we’ll talk about your sneaky ways).

Do you realize that this is a recurring theme throughout the movie? Unfortunately, the new and improved Anjali was tripping on this kool-aid too –proudly making us believe that you ain’t no sampoorna bharatiya nari unless you sing bhajans like a pro and dance Kathak in a beat. Not that these are not what we should aspire to be – but this shouldn’t be the only demarcations of what makes us ideal Indian women. Not everyone has the voice of the songbird or the grace of a tuned dancer – the ever relatable Anjali was slowly setting unrealistic standards by the second half of the movie.

Ladkiya basketball nahi khel sakti

The film started with Rahul losing to Anjali miserably. Fast forward to 10 years later – she ended up getting humiliated at the court, in more ways than one

Now, was that really necessary; yes you do forget your ways around a sport if you fall out of practice, but for a character that got defined for her love for the game, could she have forgotten how to play? Anjali may have won over Rahul’s heart in the end, but she lost basketball, and that’s a heartbreak we hope she carries still.

The small voice of a boy chiming ‘ladkiya basketball nahi khel sakti’ after the game was over is just a cruel thing to make part of a culture which thrives on discriminations stemming out of such stereotypes.

18 years after the release of the movie, Karan Johar had apologized to a girl from Mumbai University, who had questions similar to ours, he had said, “It was ridiculous of me to have done that. Shabana Azmi called me after she watched the movie and asked why was it that Anjali found only rejection when she had short hair and played basketball, and later, when she was shown as a sari-wearing, feminine woman with long hair, she finds love… It was really stupid. I apologise”.

It’s both interesting and heartbreaking to realize that the person, who gave us the character, did not believe in her anymore; but realizing what went wrong is just one part of us keeping Anjali relevant in our lives. Here’s hoping that the Anjali(s) who grew up in the 90s – loved to keep their hair short, took to athletic wear and loved getting tanned while playing basketball, don’t believe that they have to change anything about themselves – and that they have to be the conventional sense of feminine to find true love. I am sure by now they do realize that the ones worth loving – shall love them anyway.  

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