As a constituent of the majority of population across the country, if not the entire world, I have always found myself bewitched, enamoured and startled by Shah Rukh Khan's magnetic aura and charm. Time and again, he has managed to pull at the delicate heart strings of a million of young women, leaving them languishing for a Raj, Rahul or Aman in their lives. In an era where beautiful and intoxicating romances have become a relic left behind in antiquity at best and object of scorn and ridicule at worst, Shah Rukh Khan films provide immense comfort for us famished souls looking to drown themselves in swoon worthy melodies and picturesque visuals.
In his vast oeuvre filled with distinct roles and aspirational modes of life, a film like Veer-Zaara somehow manages to shine out. As a viewer my understanding of the film has evolved over the years, watching and rewatching the cinematic rendition of a cross border love story as a bubbling teenager with rose tinted glasses and then as an adult, terribly conscious of political and social oppressiveness around. The ubiquitous presence of patriarchal structures, for example, hits a different note when you're required to sacrifice your individual aspirations and bow down to the tyranny of social expectations. The plainness with which Zaara accepts her fate of leading a rather inconspicuous life, fulfilling the traditional role of a wife and mother, drives a dagger through your heart and makes you wonder about the innumerable women who have spent their lives in obscurity, unable to fulfil their potential or realise their true worth. The excruciating battles fought by Saamiya, trying to make a mark for herself in a world that rewards male privilege, reminds you of the persistence of a hierarchy that exists to stifle all ambitions, coercing you to succumb to its suppressive demands.
The movie ends with a 'happy ending', the protagonists reuniting after a long separation of 22 years and yet inspires in you with a bittersweet feeling. One leaves the film unfulfilled, not able to feel a sense of cheerfulness because the sense of a poignant loss continues to linger longer after. The denouement fails to compensate for the 22 years stolen from the prime of Veer and Zaara's life, highlighting the abject futility of life sacrificed at the altars of power and forces greater than us. Veer languishing in prison for over two decades and Zaara dedicating her life to the growth of a village in a country alien to her, appear to be consequences of the choices they've made. In the inconclusive debate between pre-destination and free will, their acceptance of their unique predicaments seems to have sealed their destinies.
The film, however, is testament of our abilities to rise above our circumstances and engineer change around us through innate goodness and simplicity of noble actions. Zaara's insistence on establishing a high school for girls in the village sparks a flame for the larger cause of gender equality. Years later, Saamiya Siddique appears to be a product of one such school, who is able pursue her interest in law and create an impact with her humanitarian values. The imagined hatred between two countries, continuously at war with each other, is erased when Chaudhary Sumair Singh and Maati, along with their entire village embrace Zaara with open arms. In another instance, the matronly Mariam Khan is left wondering whether the entirety of the neighbouring country is blessed with affable, conscientious and considerate sons like Veer.
The most potent however is the power of love, that ennobles both Veer and Zaara, allowing them to shine with the incandescent light of their nascent virtue and strength. Their actions are not governed by selfish desires but by the instinct to accomplish the greater good. Veer's decision to acquiesce and accept his incarceration to ensure Zaara's happiness and preserve the honour and dignity of family and Zaara's selflessness in working for Veer's community set them apart from the crowd. This is not a love based on the modern yardsticks of constant communication, physical intimacy or even of mutual companionship. It is this love that emanates from the lovers, burns and brightens the world around them that elevates both and Veer and Zaara from the physical to the spiritual plane.
"Ye khuda ke roop mein insaan hain, ya insaan ke roop mei khuda?", Saamiya ponders when the gravity of sacrifices made by both Veer and Zaara dawns upon her. The Neoplatonist school of thought argues that there is one superior from of Being that is beyond the conception of human thought or language. The only way to experience that force is through our love for the beloved. As we express our love in the truest form to the beloved, we inch closer and closer to that Supreme Being. In my most favourite segment of Veer-Zaara, it feels as if the two protagonists have come into contact with the One. The song 'Aaya Tere Dar Par' is a supplication to the Almighty, depicting the worshippers' devotion to God. It is simultaneously filmed as Veer's dedication to his beloved, in whom he posits his own God. Veer and Zaara coming together towards the end of song symbolises the harmony of human love and spiritual union with Supreme Being.
Veer and Zaara, therefore not only transcend social barriers and geographical borders but also the intangible spiritual borders. The immutability of love and its presence that determines our actions provides us the hope, zeal and optimism to tackle all challenges and emerge triumphant in the most dire of circumstances.