Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge / DDLJ / The Brave-Hearted Will Take the Bride
Year of release: 1995
Directed by: Aditya Chopra
Simran and Raj, both NRIs brought up in Britain, meet and fall in love on a grand European tour. However, Simran is promised in marriage to the son of a family friend who lives in Punjab. Simran's father, Chowdary Baldev Singh, who prides himself on having retained his cultural values while making a living as a small shop owner in London, is intent on strengthening the bonds with his country of origin by arranging a marriage between his daughter Simran and the son of a family friend, Kuljeet, in Punjab, India.
Raj, who is madly in love with Simran, follows her and her family, hoping to be able to prevent the wedding and win the bride. Winning the support of Simran's mother and the bride, he succeeds in ensuring that she remains uncommitted throughout the pre-nuptial rituals. Then Raj discovers that the groom is not worthy of Simran. He eventually succeeds in winning Simrah's hand and the approval of her father and the couple board a train, the beginning of a journey that will take them back to Britain.
Film Review by Hannah Graveling (3rd year student, Transnational Cinemas: Issues and Identities course, 2012-13, Hannah.Graveling.firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the most popular films in the world: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995, starring Kajol and Shahrukh Khan)
DDLJ is one of the films that you must see before you die, whether you usually watch Bollywood films or not. The songs are classic and catchy, the characters funny and relatable and the family interactions definitely offer an interesting view on Indian family values. The film takes a look at generational differences, creating a wholesome mixture of modern liberal thinking mixed with traditional ideals on chastity and the importance of family that I am sure many of you can relate with.
To give you a bit of background information, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge- or DDLJ as it is better known- was first released in India seventeen years ago, yet the fans and critics have never been able to get enough of it. Not only has it broken records, been called one of the best Hindi films ever made, and found fame internationally, but it is still being played continuously in some Indian cinemas nearly two decades later, such is its popularity even today. Viewers familiar with the film sing or mouth along with the words, similar to the audience of The Rocky Horror Show, but this is no scandalous spectacle. Fans the world over, from all cultures and walks of life, adore this endearing transnational love story for its heartfelt characters and a narrative that spans continents.
I do not often find myself engaging with Bollywood cinema, but honestly I was enchanted by DDLJ. I would be very surprised to find Indian cinemagoers that are unfamiliar with this most famous of Bollywood productions, yet I feel that the story is just as accessible to those with little or no knowledge of the culture at all. The story of tragic romance is, after all, an internationally explored concept, the protagonists are loveable role models and the humour is always smile-inducing, even with subtitles. At three hours long this film may be a tad longer than most popular films you may be used to, yet no moment is rendered dull or unimaginative. Bright colours and catchy songs bring out the best of Bollywood cinema, mixed with the familiar settings of London and the surprising inclusion of some spectacular scenery in mainland Europe.
The basic narrative follows the tale of two young NRIs, Raj and Simran. Raj is a comical rascal, failing his degree course but still the pride of his wealthy father. His antics are shown to be somewhat rebellious despite his healthy relationship with his family, as he steals alcohol, wears leather jackets and lives as Westernised a life as he can. In contrast, Simran is a romantic teenage girl dreaming of the day she will meet her prince charming, but trapped by the promises her traditional father has made for her arranged marriage back in India. Her father is quite strict, though he believes that his actions reflect the best choices for his family, and, as a result, she is more conscious of appearing conventionally Punjabi than Raj, who does not seem to care what anybody thinks of him. They meet on a holiday with friends in Switzerland and- despite Raj’s cocky demeanour- they grow closer together and eventually fall in love. Unfortunately, upon her arrival back in London, Simran’s father insists on their travelling back to India to await her marriage, and the young couple are torn apart by his patriarchal authority. Needless to say, the chosen suitor is immediately shown to be completely inappropriate compared with her real lover. A brave and honourable Raj follows them to India, with the permission of his own father, to win her hand through the heart of her family. DDLJ is extremely heart warming and its content is definitely suitable for family viewing.
I was fascinated to discover that the themes of this film examine the international spread of non-resident Indians and how their lives have changed as a result of the move West. The message of the film, however, repeats that it is the contents of your heart, your values and your actions, that determine your identity, not the place you live. I am a sap for romantic tales of virtue and bravery, but I think that anyone who has ever lived abroad or consider themselves to be from another culture than the one they live amongst can empathise with the more complex themes. Raj’s actions to be with the woman he loves takes him back to the homeland, only to discover that, if anything, his time abroad has broadened his mind and added modern wisdom to his traditional values of family importance, chastity and honesty. Somewhat unusually, I am told, compared with romance narratives before it, the lover’s morals withstood his temptations and the film rewarded him for it in the end. For example, at one point the young lovers have a chance to escape together, as many younger British viewers, including myself, may have assumed that they would attempt to do. However, Raj’s resolution not to deprive Simran’s father of his patriarchal right is shown to be a most honourable trait; he would rather do the right thing, even if it meant losing his love. If you had not realised it before, three hours with a more complex protagonist than meets the eye can introduce key ideas that develop a simple love story into an award winner for most wholesome and popular production in India.
In addition, the song and dance numbers that inspired the title of the film, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, or translated, ‘The Brave Hearted Will Take The Bride,’ are now well known songs across the world. I found their style and form easy to listen to, the meaning of the lyrics was comprehensible despite the translation from Hindi, and the repetitive patterns of the tunes allowed even a newcomer to this culture like me feel like I could hum along with the melodies. While the dance numbers may have been originally placed to break up the narrative somewhat in this epic journey, I found myself hooked on the entertainment and entranced by the performances. “Mere Khwabon Mein Jo Aaye,” Simran’s song of pleasure at the prospect of meeting her true love, is dreamt up in characteristic teenage fashion to the exasperation of her doting mother, who worries that she will be disappointed by the realities of an arranged marriage. And when Raj follows Simran to India and joins in secretly with her fiancé’s wedding party he leads the song “Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna,” which she responds to, revealing to him her still hidden affections. In this way, the song and dance numbers become fantastic sequences of narration that lightens the somewhat serious subject matter in a refreshing way. It almost seems crude to use the term ‘foot-stompers’ in relation to the elegant, melodic songs, but their mood and energy is truly infectious.
For those readers who may be more familiar with Indian cinema, it is the famous actor Shahrukh Khan who plays Raj, the loveable rouge who captures Simran’s heart. He is a multi-award winner and possibly the most famous Bollywood actor of his time. You may find it interesting to know that he was initially doubtful about the role, dubious when it came to the romanticism of his character, since he had previously played highly esteemed villains. He has since looked back on DDLJ as the film that made him the celebrated actor he is today, with the media often nicknaming him, “King of Romance” and also “The King of Bollywood.” His acting style in the film is maybe a little exaggerated for my tastes, lending Raj something of a caricature’s personality at the beginning, but he saves it later with very sincere promises of virtue and honesty that could win over any viewer. Interestingly, director Adi Chopra originally thought to cast the Hollywood actor Tom Cruise as the film’s protagonist but was talked out of it by his father, the film’s producer. Had Cruise been cast the film would have undoubtedly been completely different, the themes of Hindi virtue lost, and the film’s reception could not have been nearly as successful. As it is, Khan’s performance made his name as a romantic actor and secured the film’s success at the box office.
Playing opposite him is the infamous Kajol Devgn, awarded Best Actress at FilmFare more times than any other, except her own aunt before her. She actually played Khan’s lover in two commercial successes in that year, the other being Karan Arjun, in which she plays an entirely different, more background character from the spirited Simran that carries this blockbuster production. In DDLJ her character’s joys and despairs motivate the narrative and Raj’s actions to the very end, climaxing in a powerful scene of hopeless longing that tugs at the heartstrings. However, she does not seem to know how to help her own situation in my opinion, glumly following her family’s orders obediently but with little genuine respect besides the obligatory. While Raj represents the Westernised youth of many NRI families but with an honest heart and brave spirit, Simran counters with her strong beliefs, level-headed personality and clear inexperience when it comes to actions such as drinking alcohol. I found that the combination of the two lead to hilarious situations as well as exasperating ones before they finally become conscious of their strong bond.
In addition to all this talent, the director, Aditya Chopra, has won many awards for his filmmaking, and special acclaim for DDLJ despite it being his directorial debut at the relatively inexperienced age of twenty-three. He has since gone from strength to strength within the realm of Bollywood film production, taking a lead from his father- an award winning film mogul- but DDLJ will always be his most famous creation and no doubt the making of his success. Since his father’s death, it has been anticipated that Adi Chopra will step into his father’s shoes running Yash Raj Films, which he has been Vice Chairman at since 2010. If you ever wanted to get into Bollywood films, it may be argued that his are the best place to start.
In conclusion, should you desire a film to make you chuckle, entertain you for hours and make you think a little more about the world around you, then DDLJ is certainly the film for you. The transnational themes and scenes set in familiar British settings allow the film to retain an air of international importance and demolish the perceived boundaries between the different cultures involved, yet it does so with an air of happiness that is altogether thrilling. I found that it allowed an accessibility not always afforded in Bollywood films for Westernised audiences, while at the same time managing to remain a firm favourite to many in homeland India. Other NRIs can empathise with the difficulties explored in the narrative especially finding a balance between the old cultures that many families’ elders were raised with, and the new opportunities that living abroad has afforded their children. Altogether, this is an interesting viewing, whether you choose to see it as an afternoon’s frolic into a new area of entertainment, or a more serious look at the true meaning of being Indian at heart.