(Will You Be Friends with Me?)

Hindi, 2002; 155 minutes; with Hrithik Roshan, Rani Mukherji, and Kareena Kapoor.
Music: Rahul Sharma
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Producer: Yash Chopra
Director: Kunal Kohli

Friendship has sometimes been described as the noblest of all human relationships, untainted, in its most idealistic moments, by considerations of blood, expediency, lust, indeed what might be called “history”. It has been a subject of the commercial Hindi cinema for several decades, but friendship began to be trivialized around a decade ago when the Hindi film, opening itself up to the reality of liberal sexual mores and the idea that a friendship not leading to sexual intimacy between men and women might well be not merely possible but even desirable, found itself unable to grapple with the theme of friendship with any degree of complexity. Thus, in Maine Pyar Kiya, viewers were subjected to juvenile representations of friendship, with the heroine Suman (Bhagyashree) sporting a cap with the word “FRIEND” emblazoned on its front.

Mujse Dosti Karoge’s representations of friendship are not much more complex, though – — as we shall see — an advance upon the notional idea of friendship in the Hindi film of a decade ago. The film revolves around the familiar triangular relationship. A train takes Raj (Hrithik Roshan) away from the town of Simla to Delhi and from there to London, and so he leaves behind his childhood friends, Tina (Kareena Kapoor) and Pooja (Rani Mukherji). Years pass: Raj, who has always been more partial to Tina — she alone is given a quick kiss on her cheeks as Raj and his family board the train — appears to think that he is corresponding with her by internet from London, but in fact it is Pooja, who signs Tina’s name on the emails, with whom this exchange takes place over the years. When Raj returns to Simla as a young man, Tina appears to him exactly as she had in his fantasies; but, of course, the woman with whom he has fallen in love through her letters is Pooja, at whose insistence Tina pretends that she authored the letters. Little iconic tokens — the gobi [cauliflower] parathas, Erich Segal’s Love Story, the habit of church-going — eventually give the game away, but not before Raj’s father promises Tina’s father that his son will be his son-in-law. Though the carefree Tina has now herself been charmed by Raj and she begins to fall in love with him, it dawns on Raj that Pooja is his true and only love. Pooja, in whose very name is contained the idea of piety and devotion, offers to become the proverbial female sacrificial figure; as Raj has been promised to Tina, she scarcely wants to be the agency that would lead to an unfulfilled or, much worse, deliberately broken promise. But since Raj is now in love with Pooja, she is persuaded that they must openly declare their love; but just as they are about to do so, returning to India from London, Tina, wholly unaware of Pooja and Raj’s attachment towards each other, falls into Raj’s arms. Her father has just passed away; she now declares herself bereft of family — “mere is duniya me ab koi nahi” — except Raj..

Pooja once again insists upon removing herself from Raj’s life; and, as a testimony of their love for each other (since, at once level, all true love is always unrequited), Raj most reluctantly accedes to her view, but only on the condition that Pooja should also arrange to find herself a husband and marry the same day that Raj is to be married. His rationale, evidently, is that in burdening Raj with Tina, she should herself come to the realization of what it means to share one’s life with someone whom one doesn’t love. In this respect, Mujse Dosti Karoge offers variations on the well-rehearsed theme of qurbani (sacrifice) that is nearly the sine qua non of the Hindi film’s treatment of triangular relationship. But since the Hindi film remains keenly devoted to the idea that sacrifice is itself a shared ideal, it is evident that all three parties in the triangular relationship will have to shoulder the burden. Slowly but surely, and how else could it be otherwise, Pooja arranges to get married the same day as Raj, so that his promise to Tina should not be broken: much hinges on the notion of promise, an essential artifact of moral civilization. But it is also transparent that though Raj had first asked Pooja, ‘Mujse Dosti Karoge’, “will you be friends with me”, the question must eventually be directed at Tina herself. Thus, towards the very end of the film, as the everyone is gathered together for the two marriages, the sindhur that Raj intends to place in Tina’s parted hair falls on Pooja’s head. That marriage is already consummated, so to speak; and Tina, who has slowly come to the understanding that Raj and Pooja are destined for each other, herself blesses the couple.