It’s the canonical Bollywood romance that established a new cinematic template for modern, multicultural love when it first hit the screens in 1995. Natashja Rathore demystifies the timeless appeal of Yash Raj Films’ Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in her documentary, Still Rolling — The DDLJ Story (2016), and adds a new layer of meaning to Huzan Tata’s memories of her favourite cult classic.
The sound of a cowbell. The sight of a sarson ka khet — a field of bright yellow mustard flowers. The strumming of a mandolin. The snow-capped mountains and green plains of Switzerland. For many lovers of romantic Bollywood fare, these might conjure up the same image; Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) — one hand outstretched, helping Simran (Kajol) catch the Eurail train she was about to miss. And that was the beginning of a love story that’s been playing daily at Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir single-screen cinema hall for a little over 23 consecutive years — about 1215 weeks and counting as of the time of this issue going to press. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, or DDLJ as millions know it, released on October 20th 1995, turning the two lead actors into superstars overnight. A landmark in Indian cinema’s history, DDLJ’s release was also a key cultural moment in the post-liberalisation decade, with the movie’s influence still apparent in the work of directors today. Director Aditya Chopra reshaped the tropes of Bollywood romance and introduced audiences to the ‘NRI (non-resident Indian) film’, which was defined by its new-age patriotism.
I was only five years old when I watched the movie in the theatre with my family that year (1995), and my cousin still remembers that I had wanted to dance to each song or jump into the screen to be serenaded by the hero every time Raj brandished his trademark dimpled smile. My mother, too, probably hasn’t ever forgiven me for making her miss Zara sa jhoom loon main thanks to lo eva legacy of my having to use the loo right when Asha Bhosle started crooning the fun number. And while I’ve definitely grown up since then and learnt that love and longing aren’t as music-filled and dramatic as the movies make them out to be, I continue to have a soft spot for DDLJ and will watch it any time it’s on TV. Such is also the case for 28-year-old filmmaker, visual communicator and creative strategist Natashja Rathore. She attempted to demystify the inner world of the movie and the secret of its unending run with her documentary Still Rolling — The DDLJ Story, completed three years ago for her graduation project as a student at The London Film School.
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