The Timeless Romance of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaenge
By Siraj Khan
About 40 years ago, when as a young music director Ravindra Jain started to record songs for Chor Machaye Shor, he had no idea that he will be (indirectly, of course) changing the entire landscape for Bollywood romantic movies of the future. That although blind himself, he would manage to leave people wide-eyed in amazement. He was, and still remains today, the only Bollywood composer who always writes his own lyrics. From his flowing Aligarh pen came Le jaenge le jaenge dilwale dulhania le jayenge – a Kishore Kumar + Asha Bhosle superhit duet, picturized on Shashi Kapoor and Mumtaz, which was to become an integral part of every wedding over the years.
About 20 years after the release of that song, Yash Chopra decided to make a movie. The original story-line was a British boy and an Indian girl love affair, living in London. The movie was to be made in English and Yash Chopra wanted to have (believe it or not) Tom Cruise for the lead male. Though receptive, Tom Cruise was not readily available and a lot of time was lost going back and forth. That’s when son Aditya came into the equation, rewrote the script and launched his career as director with this venture.
NRI Raj’s role was first offered to Saif Ali Khan but for some unknown reason he did not accept it, after which Shah Rukh Khan was made the offer. Shah Rukh Khan was initially not very comfortable with the role either. After playing powerful characters in Baazigar and Darr, to play the button-cute purely romantic Raj seemed too diluted. At that stage even Kajol was not signed up for Simran’s role. The first actor to come on board was actually Anupam Kher (Shah Rukh’s businessman father). The name of the movie was still undecided at that time, with several names being bounced around. One day Kirron Kher had accompanied her husband to a production meeting during which she went through the script and suggested the name Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaenge to Aditya. That tagline immediately rang the bell loudly with everyone and the name of the movie was firmed up almost instantaneously. The film was released in October 1995. The rest, as they say, is history.
Earning $20 million worldwide, DDLJ was declared one of the biggest Bollywood blockbusters ever, winning numerous awards. Audiences appreciated the duo of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol so much that they were cast together subsequently in several other successful film, including Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)and My Name Is Khan (2010), and are often referred to as Indian cinema’s most loved on-screen couple. Shah Rukh himself credits DDLJ with making him a star that he is today.
Several contemporary films have paid homage to DDLJ. For example, Jab We Met (2007), Bodyguard (2011), Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), and Chennai Express (2013) all included scenes very similar to the train scene, wherein a girl is running to catch a moving train and is helped aboard by a boy with his outstretched hand. The British film Slumdog Millionaire also contains a scene where a young girl and young boy replace the adults usually seen in the “train scene”.
However, the story of DDLJ did not end with the “train scene”. There was one rather unprecedented and perhaps unexpected record that it also created. It played at the Maratha Mandir theater in Mumbai and completed a continuous run of 1000 glorious weeks in December 2014. To commemorate the event, cast members including Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Anupam Kher, Farida Jalal, Mandira Bedi and Pooja Ruparel appeared on TV show Comedy Nights with Kapil. Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and director Aditya Chopra also attended a live chat with fans at the theater on 12 December. Two people who were terribly missed were the late Yash Chopra and Amrish Puri.
DDLJ generated about $1 million for the theater owner Manoj Desai over the period. In later years, the run was reduced to one matinee show per day, where many film-goers having seen the movie 50 or more times still clap, cheer, mouth the dialogs and sing along to the many songs of the cult film, which are popular even today.
President Barack Obama, in his speech at the Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi during his visit to India in January 2015, reproduced a Raj-Simran line, “Senorita..bade bade deshon mein” to a pleasantly surprised audience and received a thundering applause.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaenge is not a film any more. Put together cohesively as a story of timeless romance and a victory of true love, it has now become an institution in itself.
(Siraj Khan is a world citizen who lives a life without boundaries. He is a connoisseur of South Asian film music and has been the creative director of some of the most engaging and entertaining musical concerts in New England, using music, poetry and the performing arts effectively for outreach and connecting people of all ages, faiths and nationalities. While the OP Nayyar concerts presented in Boston and elsewhere have been his signature events, he has managed and directed several other concerts like Adnan Sami Live in 2013 and more recently directed the widely acclaimed Gul-o-Gulzar, a musical drama to celebrate and showcase Gulzar’s 50 years in Bollywood. Siraj is a finance and audit professional, working in the global non-profit space)