"But the use of the name goes beyond tea. Even amongst buildings there are numourous contenders for the title 'Taj Mahal'. Someone in Delhi uttering the phrase 'Let's meet at the Taj' would be inviting you to a 1970s tower block rather than suggesting an excursion to Agra."
Giles Tillotson, writing in Taj Mahal (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008)
It is, perhaps, fitting that a film that bills itself as "a tribute to love" should use the Taj Mahal in its avatar as a symbol of love, of selfless devotion. And it tickles me to no end that it's used as a thread in my favorite love story of the six portrayed in the film, that of Raju (Govinda) and Stephanie (Shannon Esra).
It also tickles me that the film plays on the misunderstanding that can arise when one is not quite clear about which Taj is being referred to. Raju is certain that the girl of his dreams is a gori mehmsaab who will, one day, exit the doors at the Delhi airport and get into his cab. He even knows how it will all happen: his guru will give a signal on the day his Dream Girl is to arrive. Light will shine, breezes will blow, bells will ring, a conch will be blown, there will be drumrolls, and flowers will shower from the sky. The gates of heaven (ie. the airport doors) will open, and the Dream Girl will appear, surrounded by celestial dancers (in this case, flight attendants). The Dream Girl will approach, and will utter that fateful word: "Taj".
Of course, what happens next serves to underline Giles Tillotson's point: sometimes, when you ask for the Taj, you're not asking for "an excursion to Agra":
What can Raju do except gather up the pieces of the model of the Taj, and vow to fix it. He eventually ends up helping Stephanie (who ends up having most of her belongings stolen) find her boyfriend, Rohit, who has returned to India so that he can, according to the wishes of his parents, marry an Indian girl. As they travel in search of Rohit, Stephanie is oblivious to the fact that the devoted, selfless Raju has fallen in love with her. Raju asks nothing more of his guru than to be able to give Stephanie what she wants. Along the way, he mends the broken model of the Taj Mahal:
Eventually, Stephanie comes upon the mended model of the Taj:
She gazes on the sleeping Raju:
And, thinking back, she has a sudden realization. She wakes Raju and confronts him with the model:
And although you would think this would finally be Raju's chance to tell Stephanie how he feels, he doesn't, remaining selfless to the end, thinking only of what he believes she wants, to be united with Rohit. "Oh, this," he tells her, "I made this for you," adding:
Thankfully, Stephanie comes to realize that, well, as she tells his parents:
And finally, the taxiwalla ends up with his Dream Girl:
One final note: one of the very endearing things about Raju is that he's always singing. When we first meet him at the beginning of the film, he's singing "Kisi Shayer Ki Gazal" from the film Dream Girl:
And when he's sitting on his taxi, singing with the model of the Taj in his hand? He's referencing another song that uses the Taj Mahal as a romantic backdrop, "Ek Shahenshah Ne Banwa Ke Hansee" from the film Leader:
I'll certainly deal with that in a future post in the series, but the fact that Raju's singing gives us a double dose of filmi Taj just tickles me to bits, and I couldn't resist including it. Wah Taj, indeed!