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Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge - Movie Review


Published: October 14, 2010


By JENNIFER HOPFINGER


DDLJ
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

Starring Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Amrish Puri, Anupam Kher


Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, or DDLJ as it’s known, is the longest-running Indian film in history—it released in 1995 and it’s been continuously playing ever since (one theater in Mumbai still has daily showings). The title has an old-fashioned ring to it—it means “The Brave-Hearted Will Take the Bride”—but it’s about reconciling the past with the future. It captures a moment in time—the mid-1990s—when India liberalized its economy and opened its doors to the world, and with it came tremendous social and cultural change as Indian tradition clashed with Western modernity. Suddenly, Indians weren’t just Indians, but world citizens like never before. The reason the film’s appeal is so enduring is because India is still negotiating those changes and the film’s main character, Raj, resolves those issues of identity within himself.

 

Actor Shahrukh Khan’s portrayal of Raj catapulted him to superstardom—where he remains to this day—arguably the most famous actor in the world. When the film released, Khan had been in the business for three years and already had more than a dozen decent films to his name, but he was known primarily for his villainous roles. DDLJ not only made him a star, it also turned him into the quintessential romantic hero. His character became an archetype for future Bollywood heroes—brash, hip, and Westernized, but also upstanding and distinctly Indian. Gone was Hindi cinema’s street-tough, angry young man of old—the new hero was cosmopolitan, privileged, and proud of his roots.


Khan was paired with actress Kajol—for the second time (the first was in their 1993 hit Baazigar), but this outing made them a legendary onscreen couple, and they went on to co-star in the hits Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), and My Name Is Khan (2010).


DDLJ was a film of firsts. Aditya Chopra, the son of filmmaker Yash Chopra, made his directorial debut with DDLJ—at the age of 23. The movie also firmly established a new and important audience for Hindi cinema: non-resident Indians, NRIs as they’re called, Indians who live outside of India. Today, many Bollywood films are specifically made and marketed with this audience in mind.


The main characters, Raj and Simran (Kajol), are NRIs living in London. Raj wears a leather jacket, drinks beer, drives sports cars and motorcycles. He’s a terrible student, a great athlete (at Western sports), a bad boy with a good heart. His rich dad loves him to pieces and spoils him rotten. Simran is more traditional, a sweet and sensible girl from a middle-class family. For the most part, she obeys her strict parents, who plan to ship her off to the Punjab to marry the son of a family friend, even though she dreams of romance.


Raj and Simran meet while vacationing with their friends in Switzerland—a literal and symbolic escape from the strictures of family, where they break loose and indulge in some fantasies. Theirs is not a new story—boy falls in love with girl who is about to be unwillingly married to another. But Raj refuses to do anything as deceptive as elope—the love of a virtuous Indian woman makes an honorable man out of him. The action moves to India in the second half, where Raj sets out to win the approval of Simran’s family—and her stern father couldn’t be a tougher nut to crack. The couple believes that old and new ways can co-exist—by choosing each other and then earning their parents’ blessing. Raj and Simran become different people, better people, because of it.




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