Down Nostalgia Lane: The Akshaye Khanna-Aamir Khan-Saif Ali Khan-starrer Dil Chahta Hai

Now, 21 years later, when India is in a state of flux again, wouldn't it be nice to know how Akash, Sameer and Siddharth are doing?
Down Nostalgia Lane: The Akshaye Khanna-Aamir Khan-Saif Ali Khan-starrer Dil Chahta Hai

What happened to Akash, Sameer and Siddharth?
I often find myself wondering about the lives of these three protagonists in Farhan Akhtar's debut film Dil Chahta Hai.

The movie opened to sell-out crowds in 2001 — a contemporary film portraying Indian youth growing up in the changing milieu of the 90s. As a fellow millennial, the movie resonated with me. From the characters' way of dressing to the songs, everything felt convincing. But what really captivated me were their personalities. I felt like I knew these people, that  I was one of them. Taking inspiration from his own boyhood adventures, Farhan Akhtar created the character of Akash, the troublemaker; clueless and loveable Sameer and the introspective Sid: three friends who are polar opposites and yet, are bound by friendship.

But does friendship survive after school and college? The movie begins with visuals of an ambulance late at night in Mumbai. We are told that someone close to Sid is seriously ill and may not make it. Hearing this, Sid calls Sameer, who is surprised and delighted to hear from his friend, and we are made to understand that they haven't spoken in a while. We also learn that Sid and Akash have had a falling out, but the reason is not revealed. The movie, from here on, oscillates in time and shows us the joy and eventual estrangement the three friends go through over the years.

Chronicling their lives after college, we get glimpses of the strong bond of friendship that existed between them. A phone call was all it took to bring the three together, regardless of the time or distance between them. Add to this their impromptu Goa trips, relentless banter and heartening attempts to poke fun at each other's expense and you get an endearing envy-inducing camaraderie.

But soon, the carefree days are behind them; they are no longer boys and need to become responsible adults. The transformation from the happy-go-lucky youth to adults weighed down with responsibility, often requires a little dissension. Akash doesn't believe in love, it's too much trouble for him. He prefers his single, carefree life. So, when Sid declares his love for an older woman, Akash cannot understand him. He cracks vulgar jokes and insinuates that Sid's feelings towards the older woman are nothing more than lust. This infuriates Sid. As a man expressing his deepest feelings, he is looking for solace and understanding from his friends. So when his sentiments are trivialised, he slaps Akash in disgust and disappointment. This outburst from Sid shakes up Akash and drives a wedge in their friendship.

On their trip to Goa, they had sworn that their friendship would last forever, but just a few months in, the three friends are on different paths — each changed, lost or confused. Akash moves to Sydney, Sid leaves for Kasauli and Sameer is left behind, wondering if his friends will ever reconcile. But, as it becomes evident later, this distance turns out to be imperative; it is only when you are truly alone that you understand the importance of friendship.

The three friends grapple on their own trying to make sense of life. We see how they reform through setbacks and turn into grown-ups — ultimately, coming together as better people and strengthening their friendship.

Dil Chahta Hai was a ray of hope for children of the 90s. The opening up of the economy caused a huge flux: we moved away from DD to cable channels, making our choices became limitless. Exposed to the cool and hip world of the west, it was hard to identify with traditional culture. Some movies tried to explore this new phenomenon like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, but the world created in it was aspirational, not real. Dil Chahta Hai stayed true to young India, who were conflicted by their duty to their family and their own aspirations. Moreover, we identified with our friends more than our family and the film explored this beautifully. Everyone could connect with some character or other and feel their own experiences coming to life.

So now, 21 years later, when India is becoming a world power and is in a state of flux again, it would be nice to know what Akash, Sameer and Siddharth are doing. Are they still friends? Are they married? Do they have children? If yes, what type of fathers are they? And how are they coping with the changing times? A reprisal of Akash, Sameer and Siddharth would be something to behold. And it would give millennials another chance to see themselves on the big screen.

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