It was the best of times. It just simply was!
It was the year 1995.
The European countries opened up its borders with Schengen…
The Internet opened up to the public with World Wide Web…
Toy Story opened up a world of possible impossibilities with the first full computer-graphics movie…
And Shah Rukh Khan opened up his arms out wide and said ‘Come… Fall in Love!’
Yes, all this happened that same year! And while each event has impacted our lives in varying degrees, the one that wins hands down for us romantic suckers is the last one… the release of the quintessential romantic Bollywood film ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ (DDLJ – watch new trailer here)
This movie oozed romance in all aspects. The stunning Swiss countryside with the spectacular church spires of Saanen and Gstaad provided the romantic backdrop. (Remember THAT bridge from the ‘Palat’ scene? THAT church from the prayer scene? THAT station where they miss the train? THAT chocolate shop which she runs out of?).
Shah Rukh was the lovable, playboy, romantic hero with a heart of gold, (his dark days of killing off his heroines on screen finally behind him!). Kajol was the dreamy-eyed romantic girl, unconventionally fresh and beautiful, and a style completely her own (Uni-brows became the thing of the 90s because of her!) And the soundtrack of the film perfectly complemented and buoyed the romance, not just between these two love-struck protagonists, but also of generations of couples since then.
During an exclusive chat with Lalit Pandit, (of the music director duo Jatin-Lalit) memories from the making of the music came tumbling out from nearly two decades ago. How ‘Ruk Ja O Dil Deewane’ was inspired by chocolate-boy Rishi Kapoor’s charming ‘Bachna Ae Haseeno’. How the camera crew waited patiently for weeks for the fields of mustard flowers to bloom into a spectacular bright yellow to shoot ‘Tujhe Dekha To Yeh Jaana Sanam’. How ‘Mehndi Lagake Rakhna’ originally had 25 beautiful stanzas written out, and had to be shortened to just 3… by a popularity vote in the studio! How song rehearsals, studio recordings and film shoots would always be accompanied by a lavish feast of authentic Punjabi food, the highlight being thick, hot and delicious Parathas by Yash Chopra’s wife, Pamela. How the Parsi Brun Pav of the famous Film Centre canteen kept the musicians going all day, sometimes all night, not just because it was delicious and satisfying, paired with hot masala Chai, but also because it was inspiring to eat the legendary music composer Pancham-da’s favourite food! Wow, now THAT’S a story!
So, is it the stories that make a popular film into an evergreen classic? Most of us growing up in the 90’s have had a DDLJ story of our own, be it a college crush, a holiday with friends, an awkward proposal or a ‘Sangeet’ at a big fat Indian wedding. Or, is it the memorable dialogues that we still rattle off? Or the melodious songs that we can probably sing backwards? Or the symbolic objects like the Cowbell, the Mandolin and the Rucksack? Whatever the reason, this film has reached an iconic status, is STILL running at the Maratha Mandir theatre in Mumbai, and has just completed an uninterrupted run of 1000 weeks at the box office!
To celebrate this huge achievement of the longest running Bollywood film EVER, a tiny and exclusive gathering of friends and family witnessed a very special evening unfold at Yash Raj Studios. And it was only fitting that the suave King Khan stride in with that same rucksack, to relive moments from the making of DDLJ, with his doe-eyed co-star – the still-gorgeous, effervescent and outspoken Kajol!
It was Raj and Simran all over again as we listened, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, about SRK’s reluctance to sign up for a ‘soppy love story’ and Kajol’s dismay at such a long and boring name for a film! The use of the trychel or the Swiss Cowbell to subtly bring in a simple, rural feel.
The ‘extremely unglamorous Mandolin’, according to SRK, which was actually first-time director Aditya Chopra’s favourite music instrument. The hasty draping of Kajol’s chiffon saree in a barn in a Swiss village, by now-famous fashion designer and Vogue India Director, Anaita Shroff Adajania. The ‘morning-after-the-night-before’ scene, which went into retake after retake because SRK’s funny-sounding zipper would get the young duo into giggling fits. Priceless, this!
But the highpoint of the evening was when I stood up, wearing a ‘90’s Love’ tee and a black beret a la Simran, and with a pounding heart asked the stars to recount any special memories around the food and extensive travel during the film’s shoot… Only for you who Follow The Eaten Path! 😉
Kajol dreamily remembered the smooth rides and spectacular scenery that whizzed past the Eurail train windows, while SRK recounted how the film’s romantic quotient remained intact, despite Paris being dropped from the shoot schedule. Soon, both stars were fondly recounting the late Yash-ji’s love for food. Kajol loved the fact that unlike all other filmmakers, Yash-ji liked his heroines well-fed and healthy, not starving and skinny. SRK piped in with a little anecdote, when, while preparing for an intensely emotional and dramatic scene, Yash-ji had asked a rugged and in-character SRK, in blood-soaked and torn clothes on the verge of giving a power-packed shot… ‘Are you hungry? Parathey Khaoge??? (Have some Parathas?) I was still guffawing hard at this, when the moment arrived… Almost in a romantic slow-motion, the charming and witty Shah Rukh Khan gazed directly at me and declared solemnly – with a quick flash of his signature dimples! – ‘If you want the best job from your actors entice them with food… because the way to an actor’s heart is through his stomach!’ Sighhhhh! I almost swooned… almost!
That, my friends, is the single, most romantic thing that anyone could have said to a foodie… Not ‘Palat!’, not ‘Main Nahin Aunga.. tch!’ but this. And while I am still soaking in the moment, I’ll leave you guys to go catch the film once more and relive its heady romance… yet again!
‘Main chali, banke hawa..a…a…’ 😉