Chapter 3: Akash and Shalini

Waise bhi perfection ko improve karna mushkil hota hai.”

Akash first meets Shalini at his college graduation party and is immediately floored by her beauty. Sid, who was sketching a portrait of Shalini, directs Akash to her. Akash finds her “gorgeous.” When Akash is suggested that she does not look his type, he says, “Mujhe kaunsa usse shaadi karni hai ya nahi, or vaise bhi kya farak padta hai vo meri type ki hai ya nahi.” His type of girl is someone who lives her life and lets him live his life. She is not emotional and possessive, like Priya (Suchitra Pillai). His affairs did not last beyond two weeks. He was more interested in the physical aspect of a relationship and ran away from the emotional aspect. It is not difficult to fathom how Akash reacted when he heard about Sid’s love for Tara. He was bragging about his sexual escapades with women all the time and his friends never raised any moral compunctions against his philandering ways. Akash, thus, felt that Sid, too, was following in his footsteps when he learned that Sid was in love with Tara. Akash did not realize that Sid was serious, which caused the turmoil in their friendship.

A still from Dil Chahta Hai.

After Akash sees Shalini, he goes to her and requests a dance. Shalini is not interested and ignores him. True to his style, Akash then lays down on his knees in front of everyone and proclaims his love for her. He says, “Main tumse aur sirf tumse pyaar karta hoon. Meri har saans, meri har dhadkan, mere har pal mai tum aur sirf tum ho, Shalini. Mujhe yakeen hai ki sirf isliye janma hoon ki tumse pyaar kar sakoon, aur tum sirf isliye ki ek din meri ban jao. Tum meri ho, Shalini, aur agar tum apne dil se poochhogi to jaan logi ki main sach keh raha hoon.” This sequence plays an integral part in their lives, as we see later in the film. Shalini disappears and comes back in the second half of the film when Akash leaves for Australia after his fight with Sid. When they argued, Sid had told Akash that he would realize that love happens on its own when he will fall in love. The film’s trajectory shifts to make Akash realize the meaning of love. No surprise that he meets Shalini on a plane in which all three of them are going to the same place—Akash, Shalini, and the flight. He embarks on the journey of love, and Shalini becomes his companion.

‘Akash’ means the sky. He is vast, and he is eternal like the sky. He is egotistical and is always flying high. His name fits his personality. He thinks he is perfect and does not have any flaws. When Shalini tells him, “Haan, phir buraaiyaan toh hum sab me hoti hai,” he does not believe it. Towards the end of the film, he tells Sid, “Waise bhi perfection ko improve karna mushkil hota hai.” In contrast, ‘Shalini’ means someone modest and humble. True to her name, Shalini is grounded and is down to earth. Their personalities complement each other. In their journey, Shalini grounds Akash and mellows him. In the land down under, Akash changes, with Shalini being the catalyst for the change. 

Akash and Shalini develop a friendship in Sydney. They talk about the vagaries of love. He believes love to be a waste of time. “Pyaar karke apni zindagi barbaad nahi karunga”, he tells her. Shalini tells him that love does not happen by any decision; it simply happens. Akash then tells her, “Toh main hone nahi deta.” Similar words were said to Akash by Sid. “Kyunki yeh tu aaj nahi samjhega, lekin ek din tujhe ehsaas hoga ki pyaar soch samajh kar nahi kiya jata bas ho jata hai.”

Akash does not believe in love.

At some earlier stage in the film, Shalini and Akash watch a romantic movie together. After the movie, Shalini is in a somber mood. Akash mocks Shalini’s state of being too much invested in films and ridicules the premise of romantic movies and says, “Bhai, in love stories ke liye to bahut dimaag chahiye, woh yahaan baithi aasun baaha rahi hai, woh wahaan baitha aahen bhar raha hai.” Ironically, Akash, who scoffs at the predicament of lovelorn characters, would undergo the same state later in the film. And, funnily enough, he would be the one crying for his love, and Shalini is the one who is sighing, as seen in the song Tanhayee. When Shalini is about to leave for India for her wedding with Rohit (Ayub Khan), he is devastated and is crying alone in his room. When love strikes him, he does not want to believe that he can be in love. What stopped him from telling Shalini that he loves her? Some sense is instilled in him. He comes back and proposes to Shalini. He admits that love can happen anytime to anyone, just like Sid had told him. He realizes his mistake and calls Sid to apologize to him. He became a more grounded Akash from the always-flying-in-the-sky Akash.

The relationship that develops between Shalini and Akash is built upon the theme of separation. The moments Akash realizes that he loves Shalini are also the ones when he thinks he will lose her. The first such instance happened when Akash and Shalini were at the underground metro station in Sydney. They run to catch a subway train. Akash enters the train, but Shalini is left behind on the platform. The door closes; the train departs. It was the first time Akash felt a kind of vulnerability that he was going to lose Shalini. Given his always joking nature, he would have laughed at the turn of events. But the desperate way he tries to open the doors to let her come inside was the first time he starts to feel something for her. There is a fear and anxiety in the eyes of both as they are going to be separated.

The train scene between Akash and Shalini.

The second instance occurred during the opera scene. The hero of the opera Troilus is dead, and he is standing at the gates of heaven pleading to God to give him a chance to meet his lover Cressida one last time. Again, the feeling of permanent separation between the lovers in the opera makes Akash realize the one person he cannot bear to be separated. As Shalini says,”Kaun hai woh jiske saath ek pal bitane ke liye tumhe hazaar maut kabool hai?” The one person you love the most is the one you are most afraid of losing. He sees Shalini as his Cressida and would accept a thousand deaths to be with her for a single moment.

The third time the theme of separation is visible was when Akash gradually falls in love with her, but he refuses to tell her. In Tanhayee, he is swept by the pangs of loneliness due to separation from Shalini. However, Shalini’s Uncle Mahesh (Rajat Kapoor) makes him realize that Shalini will be married to Rohit and that Akash might lose her forever, so he decides to fight for her. He stops her wedding as he cannot bear the thought of being separated from her. He uses the exact words that he said to her the first time he met her in the nightclub. He lays down on his knees as he did earlier. He says, “Main tumse aur sirf tumse pyaar karta hoon. Meri har saans, meri har dhadkan, mere har pal mai tum aur sirf tum ho, Shalini. Mujhe yakeen hai ki sirf isliye janma hoon ki tumse pyaar kar sakoon, aur tum sirf isliye ki ek din meri ban jao. Tum meri ho, Shalini, aur agar tum apne dil se poochhogi to jaan logi ki main sach keh raha hoon.” But this time, he means that he is in love. She is his breath, heartbeat, time, and if she is not there, he will not survive being separated from her. Love is not finding someone to live with. It’s finding someone you can’t live without. After hearing this, Rohit comes and tries to get hold of Shalini. But this time, Akash punches him, precisely the reverse situation earlier when Rohit had hit Akash. His story is so melodramatic that even Sameer said, “Zindagi bhar kehta raha kisi se I love you nahi kahunga, aur jab kehna pada toh teen sau logo ke saamne aur kisi aur ki shaadi me.”

Akash proposes to Shalini twice in the same manner.