Chapter 17: Tanhayee

Jaise andheron ki ho gehraai.

We are living in extraordinary times. A pandemic has brought with it paranoia. Tanhayee is a topical song in times of social isolation. “Loneliness is difficult to confess; difficult too to categorize. Like depression, a state with which it often intersects, it can run deep in the fabric of a person,” writes Olivia Lang in her book The Lonely City. Loneliness is physical when there is nobody around someone to talk to or share their life moments. Loneliness is also emotional when one is part of a crowd yet feels completely alone. The word Tanhayee also means loneliness. Akash learns that Shalini is returning to India for her wedding when they both know she does not love Rohit. After she leaves, Akash is hit by unbearable loneliness that makes him feel like he is staring into the abyss of darkness. Jaise andheron ki ho gehraayi. He is physically and emotionally alone. The song Tanhayee depicts this state of Akash. In the making of the film, Saif Ali Khan beautifully described this song as, “Not all grief is poetic. Some of it is angry.

Akash is in a cemetery.

In Jaane Kyon, Akash explored the city of Sydney with Shalini while talking about the vagaries of love. In Tanhayee, he again walks through the city of Sydney and goes to the same places that he had visited with Shalini, but this time, he is all alone. Whether it is the cinema hall where they watched a movie together, the walks that they took on the sideway next to the train track, or the restaurants where they had great conversations—all these places remind him of the time he spent with Shalini. Everything is the same; the only thing that has changed is his company. Kal koi tha yahin, ab koi bhi nahin. Someone was here; now there is no one. In Kafka On The Shore, Haruki Murakami writes, “Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.” As Akash does not have Shalini with him, his memories of these places are tearing him apart from the inside.

Akash visits the same places that he had gone with Shalini.

In Tanhayee, Akash’s inner turmoil mirrors his external surroundings. He is the only one who is still and lost in his thoughts while surrounded by people who are going on with their lives. The city feels strange to him, and his life has come to a halt. Time has stopped for him, but for others, it has fastened its pace. His outward silence contrasts with his inner upheaval. He is chasing the shadows of his past. He walks through lifeless places, such as the cemetery. He is often seen on edge, sitting on the edges near heights and waves—like his own life is on edge. He is running but cannot escape. He is eating but is not satiated. He is hearing but is not discerning. He is waiting for a train but is not going anywhere.

Akash and Shalini in similar positions.

Akash never believed in love and did not get as to why people fall in love. But he ends up falling in love with Shalini, who is getting married to someone else. It is the first time he has felt feelings of what true love could be like, which is enduring and not like his affairs that lasted for two weeks. He also saw Shalini’s face in his inner conscience during the opera when he closed his eyes to know about the person whom he loves. He has changed from the person he was earlier. And, it is love that has brought this change in him. Akash and Sid fell out because of Akash’s inability to comprehend Sid’s feelings for Tara. Akash believed love was lust. In his parting words, Sid had warned Akash that only when he will fall in love someday will he empathize with Sid’s predicament. Akash finally understood what Sid told him earlier that when love happens, it does not occur by thinking. It just happens, without an invitation, without any rationality. After Tanhayee ends, an inconsolable Akash inadvertently calls Sid instead of Sameer. Maybe something inside him was trying to make him remember Sid’s words.

Shalini, too, is shown to share this sense of loneliness in Tanhayee. She leaves for India along with Rohit. Before she boards the flight at the airport, she pauses and looks back, hoping to get her filmy airport ending. As it often happens in films, the hero stops his lover from boarding the flight just in the nick of time. But Akash is nowhere to be found. Shalini goes ahead. Moments later in the song, she is feeling cold, missing the warmth of Akash’s jacket. Like Akash, she is also sitting on the edge, playing with her engagement ring, unable to display the courage to throw it away. She is trapped, sitting by herself in the house where the window is nothing but a cage.

Shalini is in a cage.

Early in the film, Shalini and Akash had watched a romantic movie together. Shalini is in a somber mood after the movie. Akash, in his usual Akash-ian way, mocks Shalini for her emotional investment in films. He ridicules the whole premise of romantic films. He says, “Bhai, in love stories ke liye to bahut dimaag chahiye, woh yahan baithi aasun bahan rahi hai, woh vahan baitha aahen bhar raha hai.” Akash, who scoffs at the predicament of lovelorn characters, undergoes the exact same state later in the movie. And, funnily, he would be the one crying for love, and Shalini is the one who sighs, as seen in Tanhayee. Of all the three friends, he gets the filmiest ending where he confesses his love in front of three hundred people and, that too, at someone else’s wedding. Films, like life, find a way of getting back at those who try to mock it.