Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge turns 500 this week. For 500 golden weeks it has been running at Maratha Mandir and in an age of short attention spans, rapidly evolving ideas of entertainment and a whole lot of choices, such longevity is to be applauded. And analyzed.
A caveat: I am partial to DDLJ. There is no way I can objectively analyze its strengths and weaknesses. There are two reasons for that.
Reason Number 1 is that when I saw the movie for the first time in 1995 I was in first year of my college . Romance was in the air. Not the level-minded, studied compatibility tests of the mature years. Crazy, impulsive love with no thought of consequences. Pure, innocent white-hot passion. A pang in the heart, butterflies in the stomach, a whiff of perfume, a shy smile, a stolen glance—–yes those were the days. For someone in the “mood for love” DDLJ was a godsend— A contemporary love story between two real people ( real by Hindi movie standards), intensely romantic, original and yet within the framework of the typical Hindi familiar (innovative so that it separates itself from the crowd and yet familiar so that it does not make us uncomfortable in any way), garnished with humor, excitement and breath-taking music. In short, I always evaluate DDLJ with my heart rather than my head. Because everytime I see DDLJ, I see myself as I used to be 10 years ago.
Reason Number 2 is Kajol. She looks amazing in this movie, acts like a million bucks—-and when she burst onto the screen in a towel and then danced in the rain in micro-minis—-there were small explosions going in my head in 1995. In 2005 they still do.
Now here is my mature analysis of DDLJ. The mid 90s were a period of dramatic changes in India’s entertainment landscape. Liberalization had brought in cable TV—-with the stranglehold of Doordarshan relaxed, people were faced with the onslaught of American culture through MTV/Channel V. And it changed India’s tastes forever. The hoi-polloi were no longer satisfied with the technically poor movies that were the norm in 80s with their garish costumes, loud music and hackneyed plots. They wanted something different—-a movie that was western in appearance and yet Indian in spirit, that embraced MTV culture without forgetting our traditions. DDLJ fit the bill perfectly.
It was far removed from the low-brow vulgarity of the David Dhawan-Govinda school of filmmaking that had driven away the family audience from the theatres. Yet it was prurient enough to keep the college audiences happy, but not so raunchy that parents squirm in their seats. It was not violent, it was not uber-realistic—-in short dead center in the comfort zone of Indian audiences. In an India bewildered by the rapid incursion of a new lifestyle, DDLJ offered a message of acceptance and assimilation of two ways of life.
Because of that, DDLJ is more than just a hit movie—–it is an important milestone in Indian pop culture history.
Subsequent movies have tried to follow DDLJ’s formula with various degrees of success—but gentlemen, this is the original.
500 weeks have gone and DDLJ still seduces us with its message of “Come fall in love”. Yes we are still in love. With DDLJ.