I think it's safe to say that anyone who watched Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ) in 1995 will vividly recall the completely immersive experience of romance and fairytale on celluloid. Hindi cinema was on the verge of change. Movies like Rangeela, and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun before it, had pushed the narrative from multi starrer action dramas to lighter, breezier romances.
I remember my aunt calling me from Mumbai telling me how she sighed at every scene of DDLJ and insisting I watch it immediately. Another relative still possesses remnants of the tickets from a screening in London that left her spellbound. I on the other hand, must confess to watching a pirated version of the movie on my little 25-inch screen. Despite the terrible print, atrociously mixed 'jhankaar' beats and random ad appearances on the screen, the magic of Shah Rukh Khan shone through. I was all of 22 then and like many girls my age, all I wanted was to own a cow bell and to take a magical journey aboard the Eurail.
It can be argued that DDLJ had a fairytale like quality to it. "The righteous prince saves the helpless princess from her wicked father." To me however, it was not the fairytale that captured my heart, it was the captivating charm of Shah Rukh Khan (SRK). He redefined romance on film. His career before DDLJ was following an upward trajectory anyway but with DDLJ and subsequent movies like Dil Toh Paagal Hai and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, SRK firmly established himself as the dream lover of Hindi cinema. With DDLJ, Shahrukh Khan became 'the SRK' and Hindi cinema changed forever.
Objectively speaking though, the movie's fresh storyline was its unique selling point. A huge deviation from the clichéd Romeo and Juliet romances seen before. That put together with iconic dialogues, the breathtaking locations of Europe, the lavender sari, the epic "palat" scene, the enchanting melodies of Jatin-Lalit, the beautiful meshing of the NRI world with the large extended family of Punjab and the unforgettable train sequence gave us an experience like no other.
At a recent home viewing of the movie during lockdown, I noticed that some parts of the movie have not stood the test of time. I do not know if in 2020 Simran would agree to marry a man she has not seen, or if Raj and Simran would "behave differently" on their Eurail trip. Yet 25 years on, DDLJ has an endearing quality to it. Its almost fairytale-like innocence makes for great family viewing even in 2020. For me though, it is pure nostalgia. I don't mind being whisked into the enchanting world of Shah Rukh Khan just one more time.