Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

“Come… Fall in Love.”

Directed by: Aditya Chopra

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Amrish Puri, Farida Jalal, Anupam Kher

In a Nutshell:

This insanely popular and successful Bollywood romantic comedy opened in theatres in 1995 and, apart from a few short interruptions, has been playing ever since. In February 2015 it was cancelled after an unbroken 1009 week run, only to be reinstated by public demand. Fans just keep going back to sing the songs, laugh at the comedy, swoon at the romance and fall in love all over again with its two irrepressibly charismatic stars, drawing comparisons with that other crowd-participation cult favourite, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Built around theDDLJ is a vibrant and unabashedly old-fashioned romantic comedy that will put a warm gooey smile on the face of even the most miserable, hard-hearted bastard.

The Plot:

Raj (Khan) and Simran (Kajol) are two young non-resident Indians living in rainy old London with their families. Raj’s wealthy liberal dad allows Raj to have a fun-loving, westernised lifestyle. Simran’s parents are far more traditional, especially her stern father Baldev (Puri).

Baldev receives a letter from an old pal in India asking him to honour his word on a promise made 20 years earlier – that Simran will marry his son, Kuljeet. Simran dreams of true love and meeting The One, and isn’t too happy about the idea of marrying a guy halfway across the world who she’s never met. She reluctantly agrees, but persuades her dad to let her go on a trip around Europe with her friends before she gets married.

By sheer coincidence – or is it fate? – Raj and Simran end travelling along the same route. Simran finds Raj a bit silly and uncouth at first, while he finds her a bit uptight and constantly flirts with her. He also enjoys winding her up, playing practical jokes on her. However, once the screenplay contrives to have them both miss their train in Switzerland, separating them from their friends, we enter classic mis-matched couple on the road territory. Gradually, their friendship builds and they realise that they are in love with each other.

After the trip ends, Simran confides in her mother that she has found a guy she truly loves. Her father overhears and goes nuts, deciding to move the family to India the very next day.

Now Raj must pursue Simran all the way to India if he has any hope of stopping the wedding and living happily ever after with his true love…

The Performances:

The first reason to see DDLJ is the exuberant performances from Khan and Kajol. Now known as the King of Bollywood, the film was a key factor in Khan’s rise to prominence, and he’s fantastic as Raj. He has a natural gift for comedy and is incredibly endearing, and his character gets one of the craziest movie intros ever.

Kajol is the perfect foil for Khan’s antics with her fiery personality, bundles of energy and smouldering beauty, but is also capable of delivering laughs in some of the comic set pieces. The pair build on the partnership they established in the earlier movie Baazigar, and their chemistry is so natural that it’s quite easy to believe that these two characters really belong together. It’s a family movie so there isn’t much steamy stuff, but there is a palpable sexual tension between them. This all means that while the plot is routine, you really long for that inevitable happy ending for this loveable couple.

From the supporting cast, Amrish Puri stands out as Simran’s father, Baldev. He’s a guy who means well, has worked all his life to provide for his family, but has his traditional values built into him. Puri is a good enough actor to make him sympathetic even when he is at his most domineering, and forcing his daughter to marry a douchebag. And you do not want to get into a staring contest with this guy…

Musical Moments:


The second reason to watch DDLJ is the music. The whole soundtrack is wonderful and all the dance numbers are great, but the one that really stood out for me was “Mere Khwabon Mein”. It comes early on in the movie as Simran is dreaming about finding romance, and it also introduces Raj. A whole book could be written about this sequence – it’s probably my favourite four minutes of cinema in the last ten years. I’ve spent the past two decades saying that if there is a greater expression of cinematic joy that Singin’ in the Rain, I’ve yet to see it. Well… I found it!

We flip back and forth between Raj’s epically silly introduction which shows him busting some moves on the rugby pitch, being ultra-competitive at bowling, picking up girls on his motorbike and – for some reason – having a foot race with a plane. Meanwhile, Simran is teasing the audience coquettishly with a towel after her shower, jumping around playfully with her mum, and finishing up with an uninhibited dance in the rain that makes Gene Kelly’s signature number look a bit sluggish.

The only downside is that the song comes very early in the movie and is so wonderful that – for me, at least – none of the others quite matched up to it. But what a great number. Seriously, if this scene doesn’t arouse some kind of emotion in you, check your pulse, mate. You may already be dead.

Verdict:

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) was my first Bollywood movie. I picked it pretty much blind, and luckily I hit the jackpot. The film is an absolute thing of joy and, as a cinephile, it was fascinating to see a different style of acting, directing, singing and dancing than I was used to. Don’t worry about the daunting-looking 189-minute run time. It breezes by, and even my six-year-old daughter sat through the whole thing and loved every minute of it.

The last act, set in India during the build up to the wedding, did sag a little, but I think that was because there was a lot of social and cultural stuff going on that went over my head. It soon picks up again with a rousing fight scene and the inevitable, well-earned happy ending. It blows my mind that almost no-one in the English-speaking world is raving about this movie, because it’s a genuine feel good crowdpleaser with something for everyone. I’d really love to see it with a crowd of fans in an Indian movie house now…

Rating: 960/1009

Trailer:

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