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25 Years of DDLJ: The SRK And Kajol Film Is One Of The Few Bollywood Romances That Still Filters Through My Cynicism

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Are you a fan of those comic strips and animated videos that parody Bollywood movies to show you just how stupid or sexist or illogical they can be in their stereotype reinforcing fashion? I know I do. The more I grow up, and sensitise my mind to problematic notions around love, relationships, Indian culture, female sexuality and other concepts peddled by Bollywood until the early 2010s (some even now), the harder it becomes to retain my innocent enjoyment of these movies. Like, remember how Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Valentine’s Day was a whole mood? Yep, gone. That being said, there’s one movie that still manages to penetrate all that adult cynicism and make me believe in those grand, Bollywood-esque notions of love and romance. YRF and Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhaniye Le Jayenge or as we fondly call it, DDLJ, starring SRK and Kajol (also favourites!) as Raj and Simran could still, in my humble opinion, ‘get it’!

Today marks 25 years of DDLJ since it released in 1995. And let me tell you, #DDLJ25 is a huge deal. For starters, YRF has been doing an adorable countdown to this day on social media, and if watching SRK in that black jacket, pulling down his round, black sunglasses and smiling knowingly does not make you, as the tagline goes, fall in love all over again with him, you’re LYING. Laakh kar le tu inkaar sajnaa! Credit where credit is due, the music by Jatin-Lalit remains evergreen, and few love songs come close to what ‘Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jaana Sanam’ can evoke. Not to mention, no shaadi is complete without ‘Mehendi Laga Ke Rakhna’!

I woke up today to SRK and Kajol having changed their Twitter names to Raj Malhotra and Simran, their character names, from the movie. Raj and Simran are Bollywood’s gold standard for romance, and to some extent, so is Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol’s pairing. I still remember, while Dilwale didn’t excite me as much, I was all for the promotional videos of the film, where SRK and Kajol indulged in fun banter, giving off a strong whiff of their DDLJ days. The fact that the 90s kids who adored Raj and Simran then now know that these two are friends IRL adds a whole different charm to rewatching the film.

Also Read: To Mark 25 Years Of DDLJ, A Statue Of Shah Rukh Khan And Kajol Will Be Unveiled In London’s Leicester Square!

When I saw DDLJ for the first time, I fell hard and fast for Raj Malhotra. Why wouldn’t I? SRK’s charm was at the zenith when the film released. I was much like Simran, the kind of girl who danced in the shower like Kajol’s Simran. Who was so obsessed with the slow-mo shot of Manisha Koirala splashing water on her face in 1942 A Love Story, that I did the action every other morning. I wanted to grow up and earn money so I could one day buy stuffed toys and gifts for myself à la Madhuri Dixit’s Pooja from DTPH. I travelled to Europe in 2006, straight out of tenth grade, and right on brand, developed a schoolgirl crush on one of the guys in our tour. (I also bought a cow bell like Simran did because, well!) Switzerland, with its snow-covered mountains, those cozy train travels for hours on end, staying in wooden cabin-like hotels… it does something to you!

As recent as 2018, when I was on another European holiday, I wanted to wear short dresses and walk in the cold London streets because that is what Yashraj heroines do while the plebeians all shiver and bundle up.

I know if I were to say these things aloud today, they would sound stupid. Because these ideas of heroines and heroes adhere to very stereotypical gender roles that Bollywood has fixed for its leads. And I am glad that filmmakers today are trying to change that. But I’d hate to think how more cynical I would have been had I not experienced this charm of romances like DDLJ, and skipped and gone straight to questioning the logic, “Okay, how did Raj get that open air convertible in the middle of nowhere?” or “Simran just went from escaping one man-child to falling for another”. Or that extremely cheesy line about Raj being a Hindustani mard who would never do anything wrong with a girl when we all know that ship hasn’t just sailed, it was never even built.

There was something about Raj and Simran’s love, or maybe in the intensity of Shah Rukh Khan, the undisputed Badshaah of Romance, looking at Simran like he was seeing the light for the first time. You cannot deny that ‘palat‘ wala observation is actually based off of basic human behaviour, where someone who likes you will always turn around for that one last look! And Kajol played it perfectly!

There was an innocence (not naïvete) to Kajol’s Simran, that most Indian girls can relate to because most of them continue to live their lives according to their parents’ wishes. The fantasy of escaping all that society throws at you, in an exotic locale, and there encountering someone you totally did not expect you’d like…. We’re all about new dating trends and almost-relationships and hook-up culture when travelling. But really, aren’t most of us secretly hoping that the biggest adventure of all be bumping into someone who can change how we perceive the world. I thought Raj and Simran both fell in love on that trip because they’d both had rather sheltered lives, and understanding each others perspectives broadened their minds and built that connect.

Besides, travel as a backdrop for self-discovery and romance is a trope that gets its audience every time! At least DDLJ wasn’t YJHD, where the girl had to change who she was for the guy to start thinking she was cool. Simran’s glasses were perhaps her biggest appeal!

And that, I believe, is one of the biggest reasons for me to go gaga over Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. When we are young, we all have these incredible notions about true love and romance having the power to go up against all odds—angry parents, classism, societal norms—and emerging victorious. It is only later, when we grow up and have romantic encounters of our own, do we realise that the world is not a Eurotrip and that IRL Raj would’ve probably been killed by on orders of Baldev Singh for daring to fall in love with his daughter. Sure, they were both Punjabis, but nobody asked about castes and sub-castes here. And let’s not forget, going on a vacay together and spending your life being married to each other are different situations. You can watch another SRK film, Chalte Chalte, to know what I mean.

But DDLJ, despite all those tropes, gives you plenty of glimpses into the emotions behind them that sell you on the love story. Remember the cool father-son relationship between Anupam Kher and SRK’s Raj, a stark contrast to what Simran had with her father? But in the end, didn’t both fathers do what they needed to for their children’s happiness?

 

So, I’m not saying Simran was right when she agreed to marry a guy of her father’s choosing. I’m saying, I understand why. I am not saying I condone Baldev Singh playing God with his daughter’s life. But I understand that he did ultimately want Simran’s happiness, just liker Simran’s mother did, because he let her live her zindagi, once when she wanted that solo trip and the second time when he realised, “iss ladke se zyada pyaar Simran ko koi nahi karega“. I also understand what the arrival of Raj at the wedding meant to Simran, who until then was feeling rather alone, but now had a shred of hope to cling on to.

Today, having seen the world as it is, there’s a filter in my head that make me detest most of the old romances upon rewatch. But DDLJ manages to penetrate through all those filters and still make me go mush. When SRK nods his head, as he plays the banjo in the rain, and sings “Ho gaya hai tujhko toh pyaar sajnaa….” to Kajol, I’ll be nodding my head too without realising! Yes Raj, yes! And when my parents start the topic of arranged marriages because your girl sucks at finding a guy herself, I just want to take a vacay, find my Raj, run across a yellow field into his arms, and tell him, “Mujhe le chalo, Raj!” Luckily, my bauji and maa are super chill, and I won’t have any of the aforementioned complications.

Just waiting for Corona to F off so this Simran can jee le apni zindagi! Happy 25 years of DDLJ!

Also Read: 22 Years Of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai: How ’Pyaar Dosti Hai’ Set Me Up For Heartbreaks

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