Dilwale Dulhania, Le Jayenge, is a tasteful example of strength in adversity

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Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Brave-Hearted Will Take the Bride) is the biggest and longest running feature film in the history of Hindu cinema. Originally released in 1995, the blockbuster reached its 600 week (12 year) run in April of this year, securing its place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Yash Raj Films, the entertainment powerhouse with a freshly inked animation deal with Disney, released a massive 2-Disc DVD set of the super-hit which catapulted the careers of young stars Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan. Complete with behind the scenes footage, interviews, deleted scenes and award show highlights (Dilwale racked up ten FilmFare Awards), this edition is chock full of goddies for newbies, and diehards who feel that a three hour running time just isn’t enough.

In his directorial debut, Aditya Chopra takes the viewer on a delightful journey of love and tradition. Simran Singh (Kajol) is a respectable young Londoner who is dutiful to her parents and a hopeless romantic. She yearns for love and in her poetry journal she fantasizes about meeting her dream man. Enter Raj Malhotra (Shah Rukh Khan), also from London . He’s an obnoxious slacker who shuns love at all costs, and though he can’t pass his college exams, he is quite skilled at picking up chicks on his Harley. Both are about to head on a month long train tour of Europe with their own group of pals, but for different reasons. While Raj’s father (Anupam Kher) encourages his son to sow his oats before starting a new job, Simran’s domineering dad reluctantly agrees to her request for one last hurrah before locking her in an arranged marriage with his best friend’s son…a louse whom Simran has never met.

Sounds like the perfect recipe for instant romance, but it’s not exactly love at first sight. In fact, upon meeting each other, Raj is quite successful at getting on Simran’s nerves between railroad cabins before they reunite with their traveling companions, a scene loosely reminiscent of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies of Grease fame. Along their trip, Simran finds herself becoming increasingly agitated by Raj’s impish behavior. To make matters worse for the poor girl, Raj makes her miss the next train to Switzerland with their friends, leaving the two of them alone in France to embark on their own set of misadventures. By the time they return home, Simran and Raj’s tension has blossomed into passionate love. But after overhearing a confessional with her mother about her feelings for Raj, Simran’s enraged father ships his family off to Mumbai to expedite the marriage plans, leaving Raj to face the challenge of his life. He must race against time to India , not only to stop the wedding, but to gain her family’s blessing to marry her.

Although the storyline moves at a near glacial pace in the first half, it picks up more than enough speed in part two, when the lovers scheme to turn the wedding festivities in their favor. Shot primarily on location in Zurich, Switzerland, the cinematography is dated in comparison to its sleeker successors, including Kabhie Kushie Kabhie Gham and Veer Zaara. However, what Dilwale does possess is a freshness and simplicity that lays the foundation for the four-dimensionality of later films. It truly spotlights the characters, their respect for family and the balance of the old world and the contemporary. This is most evident when the film’s hero, Raj, insists on keeping their love open and winning the approval of Simran’s father after being urged by Simran and her mother to elope, an innovative statement in Indian filmmaking at the time. In many storylines it was most commonly the opposite, as young lovers were forced to defy authority and run away together.

The famous musical sequences lend excitement to the film and ignite the screen with sensual energy. Dilwale spawned the mega hit Tujhe Dekha To Yeh Jaana Sanaam, and the playful Mehnah Laga Ke Rakhna, the catchy theme for Simran’s vibrant Engagement Night. But it is the chemistry of Dilwale’s two stars, Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan, that are at the forefront. So much that their on-screen electricity has made them one of Bollywood’s hottest duos. Kajol portrays a more reserved and elegant character that is a refreshing change from the feisty, tomboyish roles (Kabhie Kushie Kabhie Gham and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai) she is known for.

I am sure many female fans will proclaim that no one makes goofiness sexier than Shah Rukh Khan. Some of his comedic scenes may be a little overextended, but there is no denying his unique screen presence. However, we do see a more sensitive and mature side to Raj as he fights for his bride, and later his life. Painting the perfect backdrop for their love are Chaudhry Baldev Singh (Amrish Puri), Simran’s whip-cracking dad, contrasted by Lajwanti, played tenderly by Farida Jalal. Kuljeet (Parmeet Sethi), is the egotistical groom-to-be you’ll love to hate.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is a tasteful example of strength in adversity. As one of the first movies of its kind to feature European Indians, it pleasantly displays the power to change, and the power to remain steadfast in the face of change. More importantly, it sends a strong message to youth that transcends all cultures; that one can stay rooted in their values without submitting to the standards of today’s disposable society, and still gain love and freedom .

Dilwale has showed staying power in its eleven-year run, and proves that it is still the crème de la crème, an anecdote to Indians living outside their homeland, and a sensory feast that appeals to all cultures. It is a great introduction into Bollywood, and could well lead to an addiction to the entire genre.

* * * * 1/2
Weak: 1 Star   Average: 2 Stars   Good: 3 Stars   Very Good: 4 Stars   Excellent: 5 Stars

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Sam Tehrani

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