20 years on: How Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is continuing to weave magic

If only SRK and Kajol had made more movies together, maybe I would have returned to movie halls, more than I do now.
Updated 30 Oct, 2015 03:08pm

Once upon a time there was Sholay.

Then came Madhuri, who taught us that ek, do, teen were not just numbers.

Soon came the Khans, rolling on to our screens one after the other, like Gabbar Singh the villain of Sholay who became as much a household name as the heroes of the classic film, was really on their chase.

One of them soon became a badshah and his Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, became such a cult film that one movie hall in Mumbai continued to show it daily since its release. It has now been 20 years.

Circa: 1988. It was back to school after the holidays and everyone was talking movies. Not Michael Fox or Mathew Broderick, for a change, it was Bollywood.

Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak had been a big hit, its hero Aamir Khan the most handsome thing to have hit the heart of young Indian girls.

A year later, Salman Khan with his long hair and a pigeon as a costar walked into our lives and we thought ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ would remain our eternal movie crush.

Heartthrobs of the '80s.
Heartthrobs of the '80s.

Then came Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ) and a red rose (even if it sprayed water) became the most prized possession, even if St. Valentine kept insisting it had a monopoly on all things red!

In some sense, it was our coming of age movie.

Raj was that typical Punjabi boy who had more money than brains. If you grew up in Punjab like I did, you would know that would pretty much be every second boy in Chandigarh or Amritsar, driving around aimlessly with blaring music in his fancy car.

But Raj also took us on a journey away from the ‘pind’ (village) and the ‘khet’ (fields).

He took us to faraway Switzerland and for the first time we saw, awestruck, those mountains with pristine snow and a countryside that looked like a picture postcard.

We must have really loved it because Yash Raj films decided we can’t get enough of it. So for the next decade, all the heroines were dancing on the same slopes of the Swiss Alps, in the same chiffon saris and we just wanted to drape a shawl and keep them warm.

Raj (SRK) and Simran (Kajol) also introduced us to romance in Bollywood. Not the rustic Sholay love that had mesmerised the audience exactly 20 years before DDLJ’s release, nor today’s Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt type of funky love.

Instead, it was more like the mills and boon stuff or fluff that we were reading hidden from our mothers in those days; although Raj was far from the typical tall, dark or handsome hero we wanted to swoon over! (Who would have seen that radical shift of a dream man on a horse sweeping us off our feet to our hero instead sitting on a ground feeding pigeons?).

On their journey, Raj and Simran showed us the Euro rail and we realised train travel did not always have to smell of parathas and pickles! (And that you must almost miss your train to win your man).

I visited Switzerland for the first time this summer. It was as beautiful as it was in the movies. The cows were grazing with bells around their neck (that Swiss cow bell also an iconic moment in the movie), the storybook houses were intact and I kept visualising SRK and Kajol driving by in that red car.

Until I reached Interlaken, where I suddenly expected to see most of Bollywood at every corner.

This is the city that Yash Chopra made his own and where a majority of his films were shot. A big sign leads you to the ‘India Village’ but more than that, this city honoured the filmmaker with the title “Ambassador of Interlaken’.

I was here. I could have had ‘that’ moment. Making a last minute dash to catch a train, I thought my SRK would stretch out his hand.

Alas, no music played in the background, nothing moved in slow motion. But sitting on that train winding down through narrow tunnels and stunning countryside, I realised Yash Chopra had got it bang on.

We were on our way to Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe. Later I learnt, it was also where a drunk Simran runs around on the snow singing ‘Zara sa jhoom loon main’. No wonder, Indian food is easily available even when you are on top of the world!

But the song that still takes us down memory lane, ‘Tujhe dekha toh’, was shot as far away from Europe as possible. Those mustard fields of Punjab were probably Yash Chopra’s ode to his (and my) hometown Jalandhar.

My parents met him there once, and without hesitation he picked Kajol as his favourite. It has to be an honour, given the long prestigious list of Yash Raj heroines, including Aishwarya, Madhuri and Sridevi.

I haven’t really watched many films in recent years. In fact, it has been more than seven years since I went to a movie hall. But, I did get to meet SRK once. You can keep saying he has aged or over acts but his courteous demeanour made me feel like I was the real star.

And then yesterday, I saw the snippet. Kajol and SRK’s celebration of 20 years of DDLJ.

Those dialogues, Raj lifting Simran again, (probably a lucky mascot) there was magic in it, there is magic in them. And I felt cheated.

If only they had made more movies together, maybe I would have seen a few more. At least this December, after a long long time, I will be at the movies.