Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge completed twenty-five years yesterday. Twenty-five years ago, the film intended to bring to us love, trademark romance, sheer passion and well-timed humour. Nobody could've imagined then that the seeds they sowed would bear fruit even at the silver jubilee. And let's be honest, almost every second individual has dreamt of (still dreams of) finding the Raj to their Simran or the Simran to their Raj. Their amour is still the epitome of love even after 25 years. DDLJ set the standards of romance, and romantic films so high, very few films have been able to get close to recreating that magic on screen. And needless to say the film was one-of-its-kind even in its time.
Being born around the same time as DDLJ, I take some pride in saying that I've grown up with the film. One of the reasons I touched a newspaper as a child was to check the TV schedule and see if an SRK film was airing anywhere. Learning and reciting the dialogues as the film played was a brief highlight of my teenage years. But apart from losing count of the number of times I've re-watched DDLJ in the digital era, I've been lucky enough to live the film at Maratha Mandir too. A theatre packed with people who adore the film as much as you do, the hooting and the whistling, and the outburst of emotions and laughter – it's the experience of a lifetime for every DDLJ fan. There isn't anything new to say about the film that hasn't already been said through multiple books and a plethora of articles; yet, the film has managed to impact every individual differently.
Of course, the film has its flaws. People have been pointing out the flaws ever since it came into existence. But isn't perfection a bit too sophisticated and, in turn, boring? To me, the film is all but perfect and the imperfections are negligible, considering the fact that the film has shaped me as a person. Yes, it is a love story, but there's much more substance to it. Simply put, the film illuminates more than just the love between two romantic partners. The very first scenes of the film depict love for India. Be it ever so slightly, but as a child, it did instil a feeling of patriotism in me. Baldev Singh (Amrish Puri), even after living for more than two decades in London, doesn't let the culture and tradition down. Then there's the love between a father and a son (Anupam Kher and Shah Rukh Khan): Raj's father spoils him with a Europe trip even after he fails University only because he worked hard to give him the life he, the father, never had. Then he comes all the way to India to help his son on his quest to marry Simran (Kajol). Raj doesn't have a mother, yet he mentions her and her teachings throughout the movie, time and again. Simran shares a friendly relationship with her mother (Farida Jalal), who doesn't want to see her daughter go through the same struggles and make the same sacrifices she did. Simran expresses her love towards her father by agreeing to marry a man she has never seen, just out of respect and trust towards him. Her father eventually gives in to her happiness. The film also touches on Baldev Singh's fondness for pigeons, which is used as a metaphor for Indians in the story.
Apart from a sense of patriotism and strong cultural beliefs portrayed by every character, there are events that stand against patriarchy. Yes, Simran takes every word her father speaks as an ultimatum, but the father does fulfil his daughter's demands, first by letting her go on a trip and, finally, letting her go with Raj. We see two fathers, both belonging to the same soil with the same core values, yet their ideas of bringing up their children are in contrast. Then there is the message of respecting women (the morning bedroom scene after the song 'Zara Sa Jhoom Loon Main'). On the surface, the story of Raj-Simran can be seen as a fantasy that's too good to be true, yet the characters have become templates to many boys and girls in the real world. DDLJ, of course, is celebrated as one of the most-popular romances not only in India but worldwide, and rightly so. It also ticks off all the essential cues moving away from romance that makes the film a larger than life experience.