25 Years of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ): What Makes the Film So Special Even Today

There are films of all kinds that we are exposed to, very few of them go on to become commercially successful and maintain their iconic status despite the passage of time. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or DDLJ as it is more popularly known as, is one of the rare films to have that distinction. There has been enough and more that has been written about the film, with people praising the film for various aspects, while even attracting some criticism for its cheesiness, overtly sentimental nature and emphasis on a more old school romantic style and family values. So, let me not try and analyze the film per se, as that would simply not make sense, nor will it add any new insight into the film otherwise. So, what does this write-up intend to do? Simple, it is about why the film deserves all the love and appreciation that has been coming its way, and how I have evolved with the film over the course of these 25 years.

Well before DDLJ released in theatres, I was already hooked to the music of the film. I was in my first year of graduation and vividly remember watching the making of the film as a special one-hour capsule on Doordarshan National, perhaps a first ever for Bollywood. I also need to make a confession; I did not watch the film on the first day of its theatrical release. In fact I need to admit that I actually watched Yaraana on the first day (both DDLJ and Yaarana had released on the same day, 20th October, 1995) but in those days I would gladly commit hara-kiri to watch a Madhuri Dixit movie and I can only laugh about the whole thing now. My first viewing of DDLJ however was on the opening weekend itself, on a Sunday afternoon with my family at Shanthi Theatre, Coimbatore and of course I was smitten by the film, Raj and Simran moved on soon from being mere movie characters to people with whom I seemed to connect a lot.

I went on to revisit the film in the same theatre a couple of times more during its 11-week run over there. In fact, when DDLJ was to be replaced at Shanthi Theatre, I was a bit dismayed. But then the film went on to find a new home in the city, shifting to the 2 screen Ambal Complex (now called Senthil Kumaran Theatres) in Ram Nagar, Coimbatore where it went on to play for 5 more weeks. Fun fact-the adjoining screen in the same cineplex was playing Rangeela back then, another Hindi film which had already captured the minds of the young audience. Considering that a good majority of the students in my college did not really know Hindi, it was amazing to see them appreciating Hindi films like HAHK, Rangeela and DDLJ. So much so that there was a guy in my batch who would stealthily cycle out from the boys hostel at night all the way to watch DDLJ for as many days as he could manage, something that we all found to be very funny.

I think I even went on to watch a rerun of the film more than 3 years after its original release, this time at Deepa Theatre, Madurai and I was amazed to see a decent turnout for the film even then. Later on though I have gone on to enjoy many, many more movies of SRK, including a couple of them directed by Aditya Chopra later on (Mohabbatein and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi), I would say that the magic of DDLJ is something that is absolutely special, something that can never be replicated. In fact over a course of time on subsequent viewings I not only managed to remember most of the dialogues, but realized that the writing is so powerful that even many of the supporting characters have well defined arcs and there are so many moments which have gone on to become memorable in the history of Bollywood.

One of my favourite moments in the film is the portion where Raj Malhotra (Shah Rukh Khan) and Chaudhary Baldev Singh (Amrish Puri) are feeding pigeons, an occasion that Raj tries to utilize to get closer to Simran’s father, Baldev Singh. With a perfect blend of emotion and subtle humour, the scene featuring two fantastic actors turns out to be a treat to behold, something that never fails to impress me even today. I can go on and on about some more precious moments from the film, some of them include when Raj lands up at Simran’s place only to realize that she and her family have shifted base back to their hometown in Punjab, the tomfoolery between Raj and Simran as they miss the Eurail at a particular place and end up having to travel together for a while, the emotional discussion that Simran’s mother, Lajwanti Singh (Farida Jalal) has with Simran and Raj on realizing their sincere love for each other, the entire climax portion at the railway station. Each one of these moments still pack a solid punch even today despite multiple viewings, thanks to the power of solid writing, wonderful execution, and powerful performances.

And those dialogues, what do I say, come on, haven’t we all (okay many of us) addressed a particular special girl/lady as “Senorita” at some point of time? 😊 And “bade bade deshon mein aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti hein” is something that I have used time and again when I am in the right company and in a good mood. On that note I must sheepishly admit to having silently muttered “palat” on a few occasions in my life too, imagining that I would probably also get as lucky as Raj in the bargain. Though I continued to watch the movie over the years, mostly on TV, I always marveled at the fact that the film continued to run at Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir and thus watching the film over there was something that I always yearned for. For some strange reason I never managed to get that opportunity for a long time, despite having worked in the city for a while in the early 2000’s and having visited the city on many an occasion even later.

Thus when I decided to relocate forever to the Maximum City, a little more than a decade ago and with an intention of pursuing my passion, to get into the magical world of cinema, I knew that I would soon fulfil this long cherished desire of mine. So finally, I did get lucky on 27th January 2013, a Sunday as I went on to revisit the movie at Maratha Mandir along with my brother and sister-in-law. What made the show even more special was that the balcony of Maratha Mandir was totally packed, the audience was completely enjoying the experience, prompting the dialogues and the song lyrics and that the iconic single screen cinema with its comfortable ambience and very reasonably priced canteen (apart from the specially priced tickets exclusively for DDLJ) nearly gave me the feel of taking me back in time, straight to the 90’s. A little more than 2 years later, when DDLJ was about to celebrate its 20th anniversary, I knew that there was only place in the city where I had to be, Maratha Mandir cinema of course. And thus, I did enjoy the film all over again, in the same pristine environment, glad to see several others also landing at the cinema out of their enthusiasm for the film.  

My Prized Possession !

The very same year, perhaps just a few weeks earlier my father gave me a surprise by saying that he would like to casually go all the way to Mumbai Central, take a stroll down memory lane etc. but came back a lot later than expected, explaining that the delay was only because he felt like watching DDLJ all by himself at Maratha Mandir, having heard so much from me about the experience from before 😊. Over the last 25 odd years I have gone on to relish the songs and the dialogues from the film again and again, felt happy at connecting with so many people over DDLJ and discussing it threadbare, wanting to even visit some of the lovely places from the film (now that’s still pending). My brother and sister-in-law surprised me once on my birthday a few years ago by gifting me a DDLJ cowbell replica, it still adorns my bedroom door even today. I was totally looking forward to watching the movie with possibly many more fellow enthusiasts on it’s 25th anniversary at Maratha Mandir, hence feeling disappointed of course that it could not happen. But I am hopeful that I will get to make up for the same shortly, by managing to still do the same in its silver jubilee year (if not the anniversary itself).

As for now all I can say is that it’s time for me to meet Raj and Simran once again, something that will continue to happen for as long as I have it in me to still say “come…fall in love”.

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