20 October 1995. Who knew back then that this date would be etched in every Bollywood fan’s brain as if it’s where the entire industry started. Who knew that then 23-year-old Aditya Chopra would create a film that remains so close to so many hearts a whole 25 years after its release. Who knew that Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge would still feel so current after two decades and a half, encompassing the British-Indian diaspora in quite the way it did and still does.
I was barely a teenager when DDLJ released but I remember being wide eyed with excitement when it emerged that a friend of my mum’s was organising a group trip to the cinema to watch it. I loved going to the cinema and was totally in awe of the movies and the glitz and glam that went them. I can still feel that feeling now, if I dig deep inside. However, 25 years on, when I watch DDLJ now – if I can stop myself from uttering the dialogues before they are said – I still feel like it depicts current British-Indian life. That complicated yet comfortable place of being traditional enough to fit in (and unwaveringly support India in cricket all the way) but also British enough to feel deeply-rooted in the country I am born in. So it’s made me think that I’d like to relive why I still love the film just as much even today, having lived through its hype throughout its entire life since release. So here goes 20 reasons, in no particular order…
1) The feeling I just described above is something that no other film gives me. There have been many films picturised with a UK backdrop but not one matches DDLJ. Not one.
2) Shah Rukh Khan. Do I really need to explain? No? Well I’m going to anyway. This actor wasn’t one I would say I was a fan of until DDLJ. It’s the first film of his I saw in the cinema. It’s the first time I genuinely felt the excitement of Bollywood. As Raj, he is every girl’s dream and more. He says all the right things. He flies half way across the globe to get to Simran. He’s just… perfect.
3) This is going to feel like a bit of a cop-out but my next one is Kajol. Kajol as Simran, even now, is representative of what many women went through at the time and may even be going through in present day. A want for some independence, a want for some trust from the parents and a want for a love that is oh so dreamy. Oh, what it would be like to be 18 again! Kajol gives Simran something that only she could’ve given – the mischievous, fun and hard-to-get girl that is probably every man’s nightmare but also every guy’s most beautiful dream. That’s her.
4) Switzerland. Yes, Raj and Simran – along with their friends – go on a Europe trip but it’s mostly shot in Switzerland. I say this in all humility but when I visited the country with friends, we re-traced some of the steps of the film and visited some of the locations. It was truly like being on a live film set. The country is stunning even on the rainy and dull days and its backdrop during the DDLJ holiday is such an important part of Yash Chopra’s legacy. The green fields, the stunning flowers and the spectacular feeling that love always sunny. Switzerland is the place that really sold the DDLJ dream.
5) As a Londoner through and through, those places in the film that feature the capital cannot go without a mention. The station where Raj and Simran leave each other, giving way to Ho Gaya Hai Tujko To Pyaar, the Southall convenience store that Simran’s father (played by the late Amrish Puri) owns, Trafalgar Square where he feeds the pigeons, Leicester Square where the two groups cross each other before they fly away… just all of it. For me, it helps me identify more with the characters and the plot but I’m really not sure if that’s the case for my fellow London fans.
6) The soundtrack of DDLJ is something that my words will always fall short for. I remember my cousin got married in the year after DDLJ released and I watched the film over and over in the country the wedding happened in. I was so obsessed with Ruk Ja O Dil Deewane at that time. But as with every album where each song is arguably better than another, I have had different favourites throughout the years. However, there’s no better pleasure than watching those songs in the film itself. Each song is a representation of something happening in the film and it therefore gave a different take on an album back in 1995. That was a time when songs were often placed into very irrelevant parts of films and would sometimes be the lure of someone watching a film. With DDLJ, it was all change!
7) Patriotism was a huge part of the story of Bauji, Simran’s father. His pride was his home country, India, even though he resided in London. This is yet another feeling that the film puts across that pretty much all Hindi film-lovers will identify with. His strength of feeling for India was what made him act the way he did and his expectations of others’ behaviour was also derived from that same patriotism. It provided a great basis for his decisions, especially when it came to his daughters.
8) The dialogues of DDLJ are memorable to say the very least. However, it’s actually so heart-warming that even today, one can see them being put into memes and the like to make them fit in with current affairs. How many times have you used “palat” or the “jaa simran jaa, jee le apni zindagi”? And not to mention the most popular “bade bade deshon mein aisi choti choti baatein hota rehti hai”! It’s not known fully whether the dialogues were written by Javed Siddiqui who parted ways with the Chopras or were re-done by Aditya Chopra when he developed the story of the film, etc. But either way, these dialogues remain in people’s hearts and that will never change.
9) Anupam Kher as Raj’s father is perhaps one of the most delightful ensemble cast members in the entire film. His comedy is perfect and the way he supports Raj in getting to Simran and her family is something that tugs at the heart-strings. What makes their bond so unique is that he is someone who expects his son to fail academically but in love, he totally never leaves his son’s side. It was in contrast to Bauji and showed that two fathers of the same generation can have completely different outlooks.
10) Farida Jalal as Simran’s mother is another character which stands out. She has a few unforgettable scenes in the film, perhaps the most popular is when she’s telling her daughter that her and Raj should’ve eloped because nobody would understand their love. And that’s when Raj sits her down and explains that running away would’ve been too easy. Awww!
11) The respect that the offspring had for their parents. This might sound like an odd point to add in but I think for a film which, 25 years on, is defined as a cult-classic, it’s relevant to include. Simran had enough respect for her father to speak to him about going to Europe with her friends rather than just do as she pleases without having the conversation. Raj also had enough respect to make sure he introduced Simran to his father in and amongst the wedding festivities. It showcased sonewhat that, even outside of India, there’s still respect that a child has for his or her parents… as if you ever dared to think otherwise!
12) The budding romance between Raj’s father and Simran’s bua – Anupam Kher and Himani Shivpuri. Their scenes together represent love at first sight somewhat and this was so in fitting with Kher’s character. It showed much about where Raj’s romantic streak came from and Shivpuri as Kammo bua was a little flirty anyway. Although sometimes unmentioned when people write about DDLJ, I think this was a wonderful part of the film and showed that love wasn’t just for the youngsters!
13) Stolen moments of romance are what made Raj and Simran’s love story particularly effective for me. It wasn’t plain sailing for them but they always found moments to be together, even if it was on the roof when most people were asleep. This was where I found the freshness of their romance was kept alive. They showed that although there was stress in the overall situation, they themselves were still romancing.
14) Raajeshwari/Chutki played by Pooja Ruparel is one of my most favourite characters in DDLJ. She is Simran’s younger sister who is her confidante but she is also someone Raj trusts with things too – such as a Karwa Chauth secret. She is the exact character that was needed in order to approve Raj’s arrival at the wedding in Punjab and also to bring them both together when their mutual understanding failed them, so to speak.
15) Train journeys in Bollywood are have often been used to show depth of feeling (or to squeeze in a song!) for a character but in DDLJ, they aren’t just that. The train journeys in DDLJ provide some time for the groups to reconvene and talk, but also when Raj and Simran get stuck with one another, the animosity Simran feels is also comedic. The scene where Raj is trying to open the train carriage door and then tries to woo Simran by telling her “tumhaari aankhen meri naani ki yaad dilaati hai” is laugh-out-loud even today. What a chancer!
16) Who can forget that famous church! That church which I visited with friends is actually situated in Montbovon, which you travel in between the mountains to get to on a special train. And that church is truly stunning for real. It’s where Simran goes to pray and Raj catches her and then he stays back to ask God to grant her prayer. It’s one of the most poignant locations in the whole film and it really is a church to remember.
17) The idea of a selfless love and choosing the difficult road is something DDLJ captures very well in its lovers. My last point is a perfect depiction of selfless love but it happens throughout the film. Raj seems to turn from a brat who is happy to tell a lie to get a case of beer to someone who is thinking only of saving his ladylove from a marriage she hasn’t chosen to get into. He then has a conversation with Simran and then her mother that he does not want to take the easy road and run away to gain happiness but rather to win it in front of everyone’s eyes. DDLJ makes you feel like this is what love is and that’s the beauty of this love story.
18) That scene when Raj is stopped in the car by the police in Switzerland is one of the funniest scenes for me in the entire movie. What Raj says to the police officer is nothing of French but he is just so hilarious! Bon Jovi, Bon Jovi…
19) The climax scene is the most powerful, with Raj’s dialogue to each family member, as if he’s talking to Simran. I’m pretty sure there’s not a dry eye in the house even today when seeing that. It’s a real tear-jerker. His apology to Preeti – played by Mandira Bedi – is perhaps one of the most endearing things about him as a character. He seems to be more aware of feelings than many of the heroes that have come before or after him – many of which SRK himself has played. Raj is all heart and this scene just goes to show that, in case the rest of the film wasn’t enough to figure that out.
20) Last but not the least by any means, another point which cannot go without mentioning is the big fat wedding. There were many things that made DDLJ the classic it is. But it gave way to a central plot around a wedding and this has been replicated over and over. Yash Chopra did weddings like no other. That’s why DDLJ is like no other.
Was 20 reasons enough for you to want to watch this film again? As if you needed 20 more excuses!
Congrats to the entire team of the film who have made it the big success it is. It’s a true form of escapism and idealistic love. It’ll always be one that’s close to heart and may that always be the case for many more generations to come.