20 years on: Why DDLJ will always remain a cult film

(Published in The Huffington Post India: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/shaira-mohan/20-years-on-)

Bade bade deshon mein choti choti baatein hoti rehti hain!’

This dialogue became the bane of my existence for a short period of time when my sister decided to adopt it as her pet phrase in response to almost everything!  But even today, 20 years after the release of this iconic film, the opening tune of the title track “tujhe dekha toh yeh jaana sanam” makes my heart skip a beat.

Even today Raj and Simran’s love story is talked about in every household and every generation. From the catchy dialogues and one-liners delivered from scenic Swiss backdrops that are so synonymous today with the creative genius of the late Mr. Yash Chopra to the heart-wrenching story steeped with family values and lessons of following one’s heart, the movie ticked all the right boxes and tugged at the heartstrings of everyone who watched the film.

So what’s changed in these 20 years?

Not a lot, apparently. Except we lost some great heavyweights of Indian cinema along the way like Yash Chopra and Amrish Puri, God bless their souls. Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir still screens DDLJ shows every day and even today, the cinema hall is packed to capacity. Even today the idea of love, however matured, is still emulated by most people from the perfect-on-paper, rebellious chase for love that Shahrukh Khan and Kajol portrayed in the movie. Every ‘Raj’ is still looking for his ‘Simran’ and vice versa. In a recent interview SRK revealed that young actresses and fans claim that he has ‘ruined love for them’, to which the Baadshah of romance wisely responds that every Raj and Simran is different and that we must find our own versions of them that fit into our lives.

What the ‘reel’ world gave us and we heartily gorged on decades ago, today poses a question mark on our real world perceptions. What’s changed is that this simplistic, untouched idea of love and doing what it takes to triumph without ever giving up hope seems to have got lost in the woods of the 20th century, somewhere along the way. Today the will to survive – to love longer, fight lesser, endure more and respect most seems to have taken a backseat giving way for the ugliness of an anarchist, idealistic society that often forgets the basic values they were brought up with. Thankfully we have such memorable films as DDLJ to remind us of who we truly are and what we don’t need to be.

Apart from debuting as something of a love trendsetter back in 1995, the movie also paved the way for other filmmakers to be able to target the NRI market on a larger scale. Living in Munich, I often meet NRIs who may enjoy the occasional western opera and theater but their hearts are still with our Bollywood Rajs and Simrans. Interestingly, Aditya Chopra, Yash Chopra’s son and director of the film had originally wanted an American male lead and cast Tom Cruise in the lead role but the idea was opposed by his father who wanted the story to be about two NRIs (non-resident Indians.)

Today, 20 years on, the indelible Raj and his ‘Senorita’ are all set to star in Rohit Shetty’s Dilwale and in all likelihood, to tug at our heartstrings once more bringing back a flood of nostalgia from the original masterpiece. A proud moment no less is the fact that for its 20th anniversary, DDLJ will also be screened at the National Museum of Ethnology in Japan! I just watched a video starring the two leading actors engrossed in an adorable tete-a-tete reminiscing about the movie that changed their lives – and also ours.

As I await the release of Dilwale with bated breath and ‘tujhe dekha toh yeh…’ playing in the background, I lose myself in a daydream of a day that seems not so long ago that I first watched a movie that had me wishing I was Simran in a white salwar kameez in a lush green field in Punjab running towards my Raj, serenading me with the famous love ballad on his guitar.

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