Kaise main kahoon tujhse, poison hai tere dil mein…
Almost two decades ago, a young boy and a young girl charmed their way into our hearts–the boy with his innocent boy-next-door romantic portrayal [Strike 1] and the girl with her inside out beauty–in Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein (2001). Together, they made us believe that true love, eventually, finds its way [Strike 2]. These people are none other than our childhood (and adult-life) heartthrobs R. Madhavan and Miss Asia Pacific 2000 Dia Mirza. Popularly known as RHTDM (prounced rhythm), this movie made sure that the audiences don’t get over its romanticism [Strike 3] for a long long time.
As a general rule, one only gets three strikes before they’re out. Wondering what all these are all about? These strikes are put by a 25-year-old me on the kid me who innocently misinterpreted RHTDM’s toxic behaviour as romance. Years later, when I recently decided to re-watch it for a feel-good vibe, my eyes were opened to a toxic Maddy and a gullible Reena, two people we so don’t need in the 21st century anymore. Never did. It’s kinda felt like a less intense version of Kabir Singh.
Here are some of the glass-shattering thoughts I had while watching the 19-year-old cult favourite, as an adult:
1. Mechanical engineering student surviving on proxies, a smoker, “dada” of the college, a misogynist, objectifies women–so far I see no sign of innocence or cuteness in Madhav Shastri.
2. Now Saif Ali Khan is looking handsome. I almost forgot he was in this film!
3. The Hindi vs English war of abuses between Maddy and Sam (Saif) is seriously cringy, man. We get it, you are rivals, get over it.
4. Another episode of college-level misogyny by Maddy, great. Again stopped by Sam, GREAT!
5. After setting up Sam and getting him suspended for two months, Maddy has picked yet another brawl. So far, this is the third fight eight minutes into the movie. Okay then!
6. Why did the director make R. Madhavan overact so much? And what’s with the teeth clinching, dude? Saif is fine tho. Fine.
7. Okay so Sam has gone to America after graduation and there’s a leap of three years. Maddy is still in Mumbai and giving coaching classes to budding engineers. Sure, sure.
8. Wait, what. His “San Francisco project” has been approved and he has to go there for a year? At a salary of $12,000 per month? WTF! And he rejects it? Double F! For his dad? Oh, yes, it’s a Bollywood film.
9. So Maddy earns Rs 25,000 a month. Spends 50% of it on alcohol and ciggies for his friends (none of whom work, BTW) and asks his dad, who runs a DVD store, for money to watch a film. Sounds about right!
10. Suddenly he’s in New Delhi and sees his “my kinda girl” aka Reena Malhotra dancing in the rain (cliches abound!). A clear case of love at first sight…for Maddy, of course.
11. He spots her again at a friend’s wedding there, takes pictures of her, and stalks her crazy (read drinks from the glass she discards after finishing and brings it home to show off her lipstick mark on it to his friends). Creep alert!
12. He spots her again, this time in Mumbai (‘coz life’s just that kind), drives into a truck gawking at her, and leaves his friend on the road to look for her. That’s #FriendshipGoals!
13. Maddy and his bff track Reena’s bff and find out that she’s betrothed to another guy. But not before tricking her into giving them Reena’s phone number.
14. He then calls Reena and pretends to be a telephone operator to get her home address and next thing you know, he’s outside her bungalow. Of course, he’s following her around as he can’t manage the guts to actually talk to her. That’s real nice, Maddy. Real class.
15. So the guy Reena is betrothed to, Rajiv, is supposed to come back from America after a week to get to know her better before the wedding. Reena hasn’t seen him ever since they were kids. Call it a cosmic twist but Maddy somehow finds this out and is encouraged by his dad to pretend to be Rajiv and woo her in the next seven days. Once she falls in love with him, he can come clean. Hey, did you know pyaar = fraud and it’s okay because “pyaar mein insaan important hota hai, naam nahi (In love, who you are is more important than your true identity).” Last I checked, this was called cheating.
16. Okay, so the plan is on. And to prevent the real Rajiv from contacting Reena in the coming days, her phone connections are being cut by Maddy & friends. Those who think this is romantic, DO YOU STILL NOT SEE THE PROBLEM HERE?
17. The flower thing is kinda cute. Much like Reena, I’m impressed too.
18. It feels right to him to eat chicken (being a pure vegetarian) for love but it doesn’t feel wrong to cheat her. Bollywood logic, y’all.
19. Besides lying to her, he also stands her up. Nice touch, there.
20. Now Reena can’t go to the office because Maddy won’t let her go as part of the no-office-for-the-next-5-days rule. Can’t believe she agrees to miss her important meeting for Maddy.
21. So, the five days are over and Reena is madly in love with Maddy.
22. Maddy has the chance to kiss her but his ‘conscience’ doesn’t let him. Where was it all this while?
23. Okay, so the real Rajiv and his folks along with Reena’s folks have all flown to Mumbai from New Delhi and guess who the mystery man is *drumroll, please*! It’s none other than Sam aka Rajiv Shyamrao! What the whaaaaat!
24. Reena flies back to New Delhi to get married to Rajiv. Meanwhile, Maddy beats the shit out of Reena’s watchman who had slapped him earlier for misbehaving and not leaving the premises. Now that’s the real Maddy.
25. What’s more? When Reena refuses to talk to him, Maddy’s misogyny takes the ugliest turn when he almost suggests that women should be taken to a corner and (raped?)
26. Maddy goes back to his college dadagiri and goes to Rajiv’s house to settle this man to man… Only to find out that Sam is Rajiv. He confesses that he and Reena are in love and Rajiv better go back to the USA, knowing very well that we won’t.
27. Sam confronts Reena about this who in turn says she wants to stay away from Maddy. Later, in yet another episode of Maddy vs Sam, Maddy is handed their wedding card by Sam himself as a warning. There’s no foul play.
28. Oh wait, I spoke too soon. Maddy chases after Reena and when he fails to make her understand why he did what he did, he yells as her like a maniac, threatens that he could have done anything he wanted to with her in those five days, and leaves her mentally abused.
29. Obviously, he gangs up on Rajiv before he has a change of heart and leaves him be.
30. Maddy has now decided to take that San Francisco job and go far away from him. Meanwhile, Reena is realising how much she loves the man who wronged her.
31. Agh, the dad card I was so waiting for. Now Maddy’s dad goes to Rajiv to talk him out of it but is respectfully denied.
32. Mid-pheras, Reena and Rajiv stop to have a heart-to-heart where Reena finally confesses how much she loves Maddy, the wrong guy, but still goes back to the mandap all ready to marry Rajiv, the right guy.
33. After all this time, Rajiv takes Reena to the airport so Maddy and Reena can live happily ever after. The end.
BRB. Gotta rethink my definitions of love and happily ever after.
Featured Image: Disney+ Hotstar