Contemporary Romance — Movie Review
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jeyenge
A Romantic Romp from England to India
Action, comedy, romance, real life lessons, and outstanding music come together in this classic Bollywood love story for a riotous romp from England, through Europe, and off to India. Join Raj (Shah Rukh Khan), the son of an eccentric, self-made millionaire living in England, and Simran (Kajol), daughter of a hardworking, middle class businessman who prides himself on having kept his Indian culture alive despite raising his family in a faraway western country, as they fall in love and struggle to overcome the obstacles that threaten their happiness.
As one of Bollywood’s classic romances, fans of Indian cinema are likely familiar with Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, commonly abbreviated as DDLJ. To those who are new to the genre, this film is an excellent place to start. As the directorial debut of Aditya Chopra, son of the renowned Yash Chopra, and produced under the Yash Raj Films studio banner, DDLJ brings all the strengths of that Chopra family together in one of the most iconic romances of the era.
Aside from stunning settings that range from sunny England, to snowy Switzerland, and then to the picturesque mustard fields of India, the film also boasts great costume design, smooth cinematography, excellent scripting, and an outstanding soundtrack. Of course, with the music produced by the duo Jatin-Lalit, and performed by singers including the legendary Lata Mangeshkar, Udit Narayan, and Kumar Sanu, you can count on it being an auditory treat.
The supporting cast in this film also helps propel it to greatness. With Amrish Puri portraying Simran’s stubborn, conservative, ultra traditional father, and Anupam Kher in the role of Raj’s liberal, laid back father—Kher and Khan make a delightful father-son screen pairing—the family dynamics are believable, realistic, and you’ll probably want to give Puri’s character a good shake before the film is done. Farida Jalal is excellent in her role as Simran’s mother, Lajjo, while Pooja Ruparel proves delightful in the role of Chutki, Simran’s little sister. Among the other supporting characters that shine, Mandira Bedi played the role of Preeti excellently and was lovely in her limited appearances.
One of DDLJ’s greatest strengths, and certainly something it is known for, is the masterful way the story juxtaposes traditional Indian cultural values (largely quite patriarchal and conservative in nature) with the more liberal, romantic ideals of the modern / western world. It is a film that tackles some hard issues, which were contentious at the time and remain so in many places today, including arranged marriages, loyalty to one’s parents, and the pursuit of individuality, personal freedom, and true happiness.
Best of all, DDLJ manages to address its subject matter in a way that doesn’t bludgeon the audience over the head with a mandatory set of morals. Over the course of its 3:09 runtime, viewers can sympathize with the plight of Simran’s father, cringe at some of Raj’s over-the-top antics, and ultimately fall in love with these characters like millions of people already have.