Dil Se…

Before I begin (technically I’ve already begun), any of you who think this post, based on the title, will be me opening up about my feelings on some topic or another then I apologize because it’s not exactly that.

Rather, the title is “inspired” by the 1998 Bollywood movie of the same title.  In fact, a good portion of this post revolves around the film.  So, if you enjoy reading a bit of personal recollections then read on.  If you want views on wider implications of the film and/or Bollywood, you may want to skip the first few paras!  If you’re not interested in either, well, up to you if you want to stick around.

For any non-Pakistani/Indian reader(s), the relevant translations are at the end of the post.

The Birth of Bollywood in Me

I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia by a Pakistani father and an Indian mother.  Growing up, summer vacation was the only time we traveled, barring a few winter vacations when the summer wasn’t working out.  The majority of those trips were to India; very few to Pakistan and the times we did go to Pakistan, it would be for like a week after the month and a half or more spent in India.

The first music that hit my ears, as far as I can remember, was from Bollywood.  Not sure if it was Papa Kehte Hain which my dad would sing along to in order to encourage me, to achieve, from a young age or if it was Chandni.  It wasn’t too long before Ek Do Teen had me cursing myself for not knowing how to count in Urdu/Hindi past ten!

I believe the first movie that really captivated me was Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, I was alreadyvlcsnap-2016-05-22-23h31m03s209 into cricket by that age and was developing a competitive streak so you can imagine why such a movie had me enthralled.  From there, I just wanted to watch more.  I loved television and I was beginning to love movies.  Sure, the Disney films and film adaptations of cartoons also had their place for me; but, Bollywood was just something else.

Oh, and there was this Amitabh flick titled Toofan which inspired my friends and I to dress up like the character Toofan, run around pretend we’re fighting baddies whilst singing Aaya aaya Toofan!  Bhaaga bhaaga shaitaan!  We must have been like 5 or 6!

After a certain age, not sure which age, trips to India wasn’t just about relatives any more.  I loved seeing painted posters/walls of the up coming films to be released that summer.  Some cousin or the other would always have one of those trailer shows tuned in to the television so that only created further anticipation or a desire to watch a certain film.  If the film had one good song, just one good song, I was sold – I had to watch it!  I would buy audio tapes of at least fifteen different sound tracks that were hot during that summer.  However, rarely was I ever allowed to go watch a film in the cinema.

At some point in my life, my parents had decided that Bollywood was trash – and who can blame them – hence I was always discouraged from watching it.  India gave a bit more of an opportunity because my parents would be busy shopping or socializing so there was less of a watchful eye on me; but, watchful enough to say no to the cinema.  I still did manage to see a few movies though and as I grew older, the parents became slightly less rigid.

Nevertheless, those summers in India were filled with playing the season’s hit songs on the tape player and dancing away with my cousins no matter how bad I was.  We even had dance-offs inspired by shows like Boogie Woogie.

I’m a man for nostalgia and a sizeable portion of it is attached to Bollywood from the 90s.  I actually watch some movies just to relive memories attached to that particular film.

Recently, I did that with Dil Se…

Reliving the Dil Se… “Experience”

It was 1998 and Shah Rukh Khan was the King of Bollywood.  His performances as the romantic hero in films like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge (DDLJ) and Dil To Pagal Hai had made him an unparalleled icon of the time.

I watched Dil To Pagal Hai the previous year in the cinema.  I loved that movie!  The music was enchanting, actually no, the music plus the visuals/choreography and how it all fit in the story line was enchanting at the time.vlcsnap-2016-05-22-23h46m49s812  I was 12 then.  You could feel the love and the hurt portrayed by the actors/characters.  It was so emotional, so intense.  I almost cried at some point; the only time I have cried during a film was when Salman Khan’s bhabhi fell down the stairs in Hum Aapke Hai Kaun and died.  I was 7 or 8 then.

Anyway, coming back to Dil Se…  There was tremendous hype and expectation from the film because of

A) Shah Rukh Khan

B) The title of the movie – certainly this will be another epic romance from King Khan

C) The director Mani Ratnam – he had delivered Bombay which was a massive success

D) Last, and certainly not the least, the music

I must have been first exposed to the trailers whilst in Allahabad watching television.  The song Chaiyya Chaiyya was a super hit, the video was unique at the time – half the battle was already won. vlcsnap-2016-05-22-23h18m46s159

Then came the trailer of the title track and it had me like ‘woah!’

The song was sung with emotion with a purposeful beat.  The video showed Shah Rukh and Manisha Koirala sticking together to fight the odds – or so it seemed because of the explosions behind them as they ran hand-in-hand or because of them binding to each other in a basket of fallen leaves.

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This was going to be epic!

What elevated my expectation and anticipation levels were  the few days I spent visiting my cousins in Lucknow.  They must be at least 5 years older than me, or more?  I’m not sure.  I looked up to them, viewed them as the cool guys that I wanted to be.

vlcsnap-2016-05-22-23h38m11s558They had bought the Dil Se… sound track the moment it came out and we drove around the city, windows down, music blaring out loud so people knew that these guys were down.  Or at least, that’s what we wanted to believe.  They would then discuss the songs with their friends  who would ride with us:

 

Kya lyrics hain!  ‘Woh yaar mera khushboo ki tarha, jiski zubaan Urdu ki tarha!’

‘Dil to aakhir dil hai naa, meethi si mushkil hai naa’…wah!  Baat to sahi hai ki hai!

‘Dil hai to uljhan tou hoga’…ah-ha-ha-ha-ah, wah, gehri baat hai bhaaaaiii!

Their analysis of sorts had me in  a state of mind-blown!  They were right, what poetic, deep, meaningful lyrics!  Surely the film will be just…wow!

Of course, I also made these observations as a mental note so I could repeat this to anyone else and come across as someone quite cool.

Now, I really didn’t have any hope of watching the film because tickets would be nigh impossible to get before we would go back to Saudi.  One of my greatest desires was to watch the first day-first show of any movie I wanted to watch.  However, that could never happen because a movie was always released on a Friday and the first show would be at 12PM – this would clash with Friday prayer.

Back in Allahabad, a couple of days after the release, I was with a paternal cousin and his friend:

Cousin:  Haan bhai, abhi picture dekh kar aa raha hoon…

Friend: Kaun si?

Cousin:  Dil Se…

Me:  *gasp*

Friend:  Acha haan woh, jis mein Manisha terrorisht hoti hai naa?

Yes, he said ‘terrorisht’.  Some people may be unaware but, and correct me if I’m wrong, s becomes a sh in Hindi, whilst sh becomes a s, and z becomes a j.  Or may be it’s not a Hindi thing, but it’s definitely a thing among a segment of the population in India.  So, there’s a portion of the public that will say Sa Rukh Khan, my cousin Zaid is commonly referred to is Jaid.

Anyway, so that was a spoiler for me although I knew very little as to what a terrorist was except for it being something negative.  Nevertheless, I still had high hopes.

On my last day in Allahabad that summer, one of my aunts dropped by and said “let’s go, I’ve got tickets for Dil Se…” and I couldn’t believe my luck!  4th day after release!  We got onto a rickshaw, a cycle rickshaw to be more specific – specifying just in case any of you like to visualize whilst reading, and went to the cinema.  I didn’t tell my parents.  It was the 3-6 show.  Our train to Delhi was 9 that night.

We reached just as the Chaiyya Chaiyya song was finishing so that was a bit of a bummer.  The movie progressed slowly, the emotional drama of Shah Rukh’s previous romance films was missing, and it all seemed just a little serious, and very devoid of any love.

Satrangi Re was a surprise in terms of Manisha looking quite hot.  Didn’t see that one coming!

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I went from praise to

vlcsnap-2016-05-22-23h25m46s165

please be mine…

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be mine…please…pl…

Overall, it was all anti-climatic and unsurprisingly, the film didn’t fare too well at the box office.

I was in a bit of trouble when I got home because I hadn’t informed my parents and they had no idea where I was (no cell phones then).  I was happy though, that I finally got to watch a movie I had been dying to watch, in the cinema, and close to its release date.

18 years later, I watched the movie again, just because I had these memories attached to the film.  Of course, I have developed a perspective on love in the last 18 years and I couldn’t help shaking my head at some happenings in the film.  Then again, those happenings were common in Bollywood romance flicks and can probably help explain not only the behaviour of people in Pakistan/India looking for love but also explain how certain films have lost their appeal to the same generation that once adored them.

On Pursuit of Love or Just the Pursuit!

In the film, Shah Rukh Khan pursues Manisha Koirala despite her saying NO several times.

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I swear, I won’t come after you again…after you say ‘yes’ of course.

He just refuses to believe that she doesn’t love him back.  Why does he love her?  We don’t really know nor find out.  Why should she love him back?  We don’t really know and never really find out.

 

That’s the story of countless pursuits of love in Bollywood flicks.  Pick up your typical aashiq deewana in India or Pakistan and he’ll be infatuated with a girl based on very little.  Some of these aashiq deewanay will pursue in the exact manner that King Khan and many before and after him have pursued the girl – force the issues and refuse to believe they’re not likeable without any solid reason.  Manisha, apparently, does end up reciprocating his love in a weird way but reciprocates nonetheless.  Again, countless Bollywood films will have you believe that haseena maan jaayegi.  In reality, some girls do just need the attention and they’ll say yes.

For those of us who treat finding the right partner like solving Rubrik’s cube, it makes very little sense.

How many relationships, that form out of this simplistic approach are filled with happiness five years after it was formed?  I wish I had an answer; though I’m sure some will understand what I’m trying to say but at the end of the day without any research, I can’t make any conclusive statements.  Besides, the Rubrik’s cube approach is no guarantee of a happier relationship either!

On a Generation and Romance Films

The success rate of 80s/90s type romance films i.e. simplistic romance/love, seemingly began to decline  as the first decade of the new millennium came to a close and that trend has continued.  The greatest example has to be the massive flop that was the SRK/Kajol starrer Dilwale.  A film that was apparently supposed to whip up nostalgia of what was considered a great love story back in the day – DDLJ.  

That audience has grown up.  That audience has gone through its ups and downs of love.  The urban audience, especially in India, has seemingly grown up faster than the rate at which us 80s born kids may have grown up at being from the subcontinent.

The 90s and early 2000s made love very grandeur and with very little substance.  We were a people at a certain age that loved grandeur, and some still do, and cared very little about substance mostly because most of us were single and very ready to mingle.

Bollywood made us want to fall in love, win that chase, go through some dramatic ups and downs and then live happily ever after.

Those films were a hit among married couples at the time too, you may argue, and you’re right, they were.  Why though?  Unhappy couples who didn’t quite the romance whirlwind they wanted lived the experience through a movie perhaps?  Just a theory.

There’s a reason why the Pyar Ka Punchnama series has been a success at the box office, with both the old and new generation, simply because it has substance about relationships and the audience can relate to it.

It would be very interesting to know people’s attitude towards romance films, Hollywood or Bollywood, pre- and post-relationship or whilst they’re single versus being in a relationship.

Anyway, I’ll end this here.  I’ll probably watch Dil Se… again at some point, relive these memories, still feel this delicious chill when the two major songs play, still gawk at Manisha Koirala in that song, and conclude the movie was alright in the end.

Translations

Dil Se… – From the Heart…

Aaya aaya Toofan!  Bhaaga bhaaga shaitaan! – He/the storm (Toofan means storm whilst it was also the name of the protagonist) has come!  He/the storm has come!  The devil has run, devil has run!

Kya lyrics hain!  ‘Woh yaar mera khushboo ki tarha, jiski zubaan Urdu ki tarha!’

What lyrics!  (Repeats lyrics) ‘My friend is like a scent, one whose tongue/language is like Urdu’

‘Dil to aakhir dil hai naa, meethi si mushkil hai naa’…wah!  Baat to sahi hai ki hai!

(Lyrics) ‘The heart is the after all, it’s a sweet problem is it not?’  Brilliant!  He’s nailed it!

‘Dil hai to uljhan tou hoga’…ah-ha-ha-ha-ah, wah, gehri baat hai bhaaaaiii!

(Lyrics) ‘It’s the heart after all, pain is inevitable’…*sound of appreciation*, brilliant, so deep!

aashiq deewana – hopeless romantic to put it simply

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