#71 #Scriptors100BestFilms #DilChahtaHai

Every now and then comes a movie that redefines the moviemaking standards. These movies are considered milestones. ‘Coming-of-age’ genre is something Indian filmgoers were not really aware of, until Dil Chahta Hai hit the screens.

I still remember my first impression after watching the movie 15 years ago – The film smelt like a freshly baked cookie. The freshness of this ‘cookie’ was so pleasant that it was impossible not to munch on it again and again. Freshness, in what terms, one might wonder. Let’s see.

The era that preceded ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ saw ‘urban’ film characters to be something like Suman and Prem, Nisha and Prem, Simran and Rahul, or Pooja and Rahul. They were, more or less, all the same – young, dreamy, believed in love, searching for ‘the one’, respectful of their parents, they even had typical names (I mean, come on, enough with the endless Rahuls and Prems and Nishas and Poojas.) Many of these films made a huge impact in their time and gave us great entertainment. However, the movie watching experience always felt like a ritual. As an audience we could predict a few things and we were seldom wrong.

Dil Chahta Hai had three protagonists, three friends – Aakash, Sameer, and Siddharth (Sid). They were, in my opinion, quite different from what I had seen so far. Aakash didn’t care a hoot about anything. He didn’t believe in love. He just fooled around. Sameer was different in a totally opposite way. He believed in love so much that he fell in love, let’s say ‘generously’. Something, that Indian filmgoers had seen only a heroine do, i.e. frantically search for ‘the one made in heaven’ – Remember Pooja from ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’? Then there was Sid, a surprisingly mature (for a Hindi film hero) and sorted artist, whose definition of love… Well, he didn’t have any definition. He didn’t believe in ‘searching’ for love. He believed in ‘being searched’ by love and he also believed the moment of love is most sudden and nothing of that moment may be what you expected.

Then there were heroines. Were they ‘typical’ heroines? May be. I mean a heroine has to be adorable, understanding, and pretty – this they all were. But Shalini, Pooja (Come on, one clichéd is allowed :-P), and Tara brought something extra, something individualistic to their personas. Shalini was a simple and naïve girl and despite being in a relationship out of obligation she found the strength to do the right thing. Pooja was as confused about love as Sameer was. Being a girl didn’t make her any more sorted than a boy. Tara… well, for one, she was older, two, she was a divorcee, and three, she was an alcoholic. Not a typical ‘girl’ to be paired with a hero in his 20’s, now was she?

But Farhan Akhtar, in his debut screenplay writing and directorial venture, brought these characters together and made it happen. Akhtar gets extra brownie points for being a fresher (this might be the quality that brought the ‘fresh cookie’ effect). Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy complimented the freshness of the movie with music that had something different, quite youthful (in a 21st century kindda way) to it.

The film didn’t require any ‘method acting’ worth of performances, but ‘staying true to the characters’ is a simple yet tricky thing that every actor in the film seemed to have achieved successfully. Aamir Khan (35), Saif Ali Khan (30), Akshay Khanna (25) – at that time – managed to get into the skins of the new college pass-outs in their early to mid twenties. Saif, in particular, was noted for resurrecting himself out of the hackneyed 90’s. He was such a good surprise!

Preity Zinta always looked interesting, and interesting she looked in this film as well. I personally remember her in this film for her amazingly fresh presence. In my opinion Shalini is one of the most desirable heroines of the Indian cinema. Sonali Kulkarni, a new find in the Hindi cinema but a well-known face in Marathi, was quite a refresher from the same old faces. With her darker complexion and (not exactly, but sort-of) geeky or intellectual style she made herself noticeable. Dimple Kapadia, a beautiful and talented actress, proved that she ‘experiments’ by doing a role opposite an actor 20 years her junior. Since then she has come a long way doing films such as ‘Being Cyrus’, ‘Luck By Chance’, ‘Finding Fanny’ (Thing to be noted – All young directors).

Now we see all such kind of things happening in Hollywood or many other world cinema. This ‘freshness’ in Dil Chahta Hai is worth a special appreciation because it happened in the mainstream Indian cinema that is, hate to admit, but is quite a clichéd. This freshness came at a prize – the movie was a success only in the metro cities and urban regions. The good thing is it didn’t affect its revenue despite the heavyweight competition from the films, such as Lagaan and Gadar.

Commercially and critically successful, Dil Chahta Hai is one of the must watch Indian films. It may never carry the grandeur of Mother India, Sholay, or DDLJ, but it has a lot of ‘original’ to offer and that we must not miss.

Vishal Wagh
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Vishal Wagh

Lazy Writer. Voracious Reader. Big time comedy and horror films fan. Love to chill and hate to chat. Still exploring.
Vishal Wagh
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