Driving Down the NH-17

-Mrinalini Shinde

(Image courtesy of Akshar Pathak from http://minimalbollywood.com/)

Warning: Author may tend to use hyperbole and generalisations heavily, attributing to a love of the subject  in question.

You know how there are those movies,  which become institutions? The ones that cease to be DVDs and seep into a collective consciousness? Maybe because they unwittingly or not, have their origins in a collective consciousness. I felt like writing a tribute to one such movie, that not only set the trend for numerous films on friendship to come and defined the urban ‘cool’ but became a cult, with pretty much the following of a generation. The 70s had its angry young man, at war with his past and social elements,  and we had three boys, who drove to Goa on a whim.

So, what makes Dil Chahta Hai an institution?

It was the first time in cinema that there were no apologies about being well-off, and enjoying yourself. Somehow, the youth were supposed to exact revenge, save the day, be patriotic, or the other extreme of being woebegone addicts or criminals. And I’m not saying that they weren’t absolutely great movies too. But, here were three friends, whose main purpose seemed to be, being friends with each other,  and having a great time in the process.

The humour is brilliant, without being too understated, or blatant, and definitely steering away from sleaze, which is a considerable feat. I still crack up every time at so many lines like “Tumhein kya lagta hai? Main roz is takiye pe baithta hoon?” or “Did she scare you, mate?”  (If these lines don’t make you smile, it is imperative that you partake of Dil Chahta Hai, immediately.)

People take to the three protagonists instantly. The brash, sarcastic Aakash, he-of-the-soulpatch, who believes that love is a silly myth, only to be proven dramatically and painfully wrong. The shy,  quiet observer, Sid, who finds his voice and joy in his art, and in his muse. The excitable, loyal Sameer, who falls in love at the drop of a hat, and gets caught between his two warring friends, being loyal to both. Almost every bunch of friends has similar individuals, lending the characters and the storyline an appealing credibility.

Also,  the film balances cinematic liberty with the thought processes and situations faced by people that age, which the viewers identified with, when the movie released, and they continue to identify with every time they watch the movie again. When you feel an undefinable love for someone, which you know your friends and family might not be entirely comfortable with. When you think that the idea of romantic love is balderdash, till you meet one person who makes you question that belief in entirety, that you’re a convert, vulnerable. When you fall in ‘love’ so often that it’s hard for you to convince your friends that this time, it’s the real deal. When you’re the single child of a single mother, and you disappoint and hurt her, without having intended to.  When you’ve  been so busy  partying and being attended to all your life, that you never realised that you have to go out an earn a living, even if it is just taking over your father’s business. When you think arranged marriage is for a generation way past its prime, but end up falling for the match your parents ‘arranged’ for you. When you love someone and you think they reciprocate, but for some unfathomable reason, they are with a douchebag. Dealing with disagreements with your best friends, jealousy, nerves, and uncertainty. Every protagonist deals with his own demons, which is deftly woven into the storyline amidst great locales, lounge sequences and lovely songs.

But, apart from these profundities, there is also the fact that every single actor in the films, steps ups and does a great job.  Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna and Saif Ali Khan, become (pun intended)  their characters. Dimple Kapadia’s layered portrayal of the ‘older woman’ is spot on. Preity Zinta breaks the shackles of her ‘bubbly’ stereotype, giving a deep, spirited and a totally likeable performance. Sonali Kulkarni is fitting as the girl-next-door, and Suhasini Mulay as a single mother is poignant in her little screen time. Although an actor of Rajat Kapoor’s calibre seems quite under-utilised as Shalini’s uncle, although the script did good not to demand more of his character.

And yes, the songs. I am a big believer in the holy trinity of Shankar Ehsaan Loy, and DCH is probably one of my favourite albums of theirs. The diversity of the songs and the vocals and lyrics combine to make memories that make people still, sing along in full force, if they hear a chord of the song play. I am especially fond of the kitschy way in which ‘Woh Ladki Hain Kahaan?’ is picturised, as it tributes/parodies the visuals from 50s, 70s, and 80s Bollywood.

The shots of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the lovely showcase of what a perfect Goan holiday involves- the beach volleyball, the hikes and the bikes, chilling at the Chapora fort, the yachts and water-scooters, are priceless.

And the most iconic journey of them all-  the road trip in the blue Mercedes 300SL down the NH-17 highway, with the title song playing in the background.

Thank you Mr. Farhan Akhtar, for an institution. It was the start of a new day, nay, a new world in the Indian film industry.

Jagmagate hain, jhilmilate hain, apne raaste,

yeh khushi rahe, roshni rahe, apne vaaste.

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