It's somehow fitting to mark Valentine's Day with a new entry into this Taj Mahal series, the Taj being viewed as the ultimate symbol of love.
But I'm a little cyncical about Valentine's Day, and for me, probably the best film that represents a slightly more cynical side to the Taj Mahal -- and a film that probably contains my favorite use of the Taj Mahal -- is Shaad Ali's 2005 film Bunty Aur Babli, starring Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherji. The film tells the story of Rakesh Trivedi (Bachchan), a small town guy with big dreams who wants a life different from that of his father (a railway employee), and of Vimmi Saluja (Mukherji), a girl who is convinced she's going to be the next Miss India.
The two meet when they are both running away from home -- Rakesh from a job interview his father has arranged for him, and Vimmi from the marriage her family has arranged for her. The two discover that together, they have a bit of a gift for the grift -- and they set out on a spree of cons, ironically becoming famous in a way they both could never have imagined. They take on new identities, calling themselves Bunty and Babli -- but they also find themselves being pursued by ACP Dashrath Singh (Amitabh Bachchan), who is determined to arrest them and stop their crime spree.
What I love about the film (and there's a lot) is that one of Bunty and Babli's biggest scams is their plan to sell the Taj Mahal to an unwitting American who is only too happy to fall into their trap, as the Taj Mahal is the desired wedding location for his girlfriend.
The plan is an elaborate one, involving them not only disguising themselves, taking the American into their confidence, but also infiltrating a government office to pull off the final details.
But the sale of the Taj Mahal isn't the only moment the Taj appears in Bunty Aur Babli. In fact, images of the the Taj Mahal turn up constantly through the film. The Taj is always there, always in the background.
For example, it's there when Bunty and Babli decide to get married:
It's there in the government office that Babli sneeks into (pretending to be the official in charge of the sale):
It's there in the background when Bunty and Babli pay off the people who helped them pull of the scam sale of the Taj Mahal:
You'll even see it in the film's item number "Kajra Re" (featuring Aishwarya Rai), which marks the point at which ACP Singh finally catches up with Bunty and Babli:
I love the fact that in the images with Bunty and Babli, the Taj Mahal is gloriously set against a blue sky, but is enshrouded in mist or fog when ACP Singh turns up. It's as if for Bunty and Babli, the Taj is, truly a symbol of love (and of the sacrifices they will make when they have their first child); but for Singh, the Taj represents something murkier, something less noble. "No one ever did anything so extravagant for love," is how Giles Tillotson (in his book Taj Mahal) describes the view of the sceptics who do not ascribe to the view of the Taj Mahal as a symbol of love. I can see that being Singh's view, when Bunty and Babli tell him they're giving up the life of crime in order to set a good example for their child. But the fact that they do is, perhaps, like the Taj, a symbol of that very love.