We’re back to Bollywood, finally, with the massive hit, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
This movie was a HUGE deal when it came out in 1995. I remember going with my parents to see it in theaters when Bollywood movies in theaters were still something of an anomaly in the US. This movie was an event for all Indian diasporic people, with a reception similar to that of Titanic. It made half of Titanic’s box office gross, despite being a smaller Bollywood movie with no English-language appeal. Also, it’s still playing in theaters in India (set to hit 1,000 weeks in cinemas before the end of the year).
This movie is 3 hours long, so this recap will only cover the first half of the movie, and then I’ll leave you on the cliffhanger intermission scene and we can reconvene in a week. You can share your thoughts and feelings in the comments. Are you full of rage that I split this review? Are you wondering if unibrows should come back? Are you hoping for big romantic gestures?
You can watch along on Netflix Instant because the Internet is a beautiful place.
0:01 – The movie opens with Chaudhry Baldev Singh, Baldev for short (Om Puri) feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square. This is one of the first big movies to feature Indians in the Western world. He is meditating on the idea of home, and whether these are the same pigeons he once fed in India. The theme of immigration and Indian identity are fairly important to the entire movie narrative, and is probably one of the major reasons the movie became so popular so quickly.
0:03 – SONG TIME. Again, the lyrics are important as they are meant to evoke that longing for the home country that many immigrants feel.
0:05 – The mom in this movie, Lajjo, calls her husband at work every morning to make sure he arrives safely. I call my mom after work almost every day to complain about the cafeteria lunches. Progress!
0:06 – Even at 8-years-old, I could tell that the little sister, Chutki, was the worst person ever. She’s full of great terrible lines about how one is as old as one feels and all of those terrible platitudes. Basically, she is the type of person who will enter her teens telling people she only reads the classics, and is an old soul, and society is being slowly eroded by our forgetting the greats before us. Even her mom is like get ouuuuuut.
0:08 – Our female lead Simran (Kajol) enters in possibly one of the greatests romcom heroine entrances ON FILM.
Unfortunately, we cut immediately to mom reading her diary entries about a mystery lover (sex dreams, let’s be real) out loud, which is a huge no. But to make it weirder because of the power of family, Simran decides to just keep narrating her weird lyrical prose about the mystery lover. The two sisters in this movie are a high school lit magazine DREAM. Simran swears that this dream man exists, and thank God for film editors, because we get to meet him now in a song.
Note the many scenes in this song to show us how cool this mystery man is. He plays rugby in the rain! He rides motorcycles! He runs with airplanes? He falls backwards into pools? I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now, but this SONG is SO GREAT, and it’s mostly due to the majesty of Kajol’s unibrow and endless charm.
0:12 – We finally get to meet the dream man, Raj Malhotra (Shah Rukh Khan), a rich handsome playboy who has failed out of college. A common recurring theme in Bollywood movies is class tension, so added to the immigrant narrative that underscores the whole story, we have the rich boy (with likely loose morals, but not that loose because he’s a good Indian boy) vs. working class traditional girl. Raj calls his father Pops, which definitely gets old fast. Also, his father is played by Anupam Kher, who was most recently in Silver Linings Playbook, so there’s your natural progression of immigration and globalization.
0:18 – Baldev receives a letter from his childhood friend in Punjab, which aside from the general excitement that letters from home usually bring, Simran finds out that her father has promised her to his friend’s son, Kuljit. Simran is not pleased. Lajjo suggests asking Simran, but LOL silly women with their ideas and independent thoughts. Simran runs to tear her fantasies out of her diary because why dream?
0:19 – Simran’s friend Sheena invites her to take a European vacation. The most important part of this is SHEENA’S OUTFIT. HELLO 1994 HOW ARE YOU?
0:20 – Simran pitches the Europe trip to mom, to which mom laughs and pretty much is like good luck asking your dad, never gonna happen.
0:22 – Raj meets Baldev when he fakes a headache to buy aspirin as a ruse to buy beer after Baldev states that the gas station is closed. There is an argument, an altercation, and Baldev is full of rage at these Westernized Indians who are the worst kind of people. Oh Raj, this is the same man who almost ripped out Indiana Jones’ heart. Don’t mess with him. Good luck asking Baldev about that vacation, Simran.
0:25 – Baldev recounts the story to Lajjo, and the music is exactly the right amount of over dramatic, and Chutki is the right amount of poorly-timed self-righteous.
0:27 – Simran knows the way to her father’s heart is through morning prayers. They have a nice little chat where he says how proud he is of her, and Simran pulls the, “I’m super obedient and marrying a stranger, if you could let me see Europe,” card which seems fair. Probably not fair enough. ASK FOR A PONY SIMRAN. NOW’S YOUR CHANCE.
0:29 – Simran and Raj are both late for their trip, for heightened romcom meet cute as they run through the train station frantically and he manages to pull her on before it’s too late. FYI: this scene has become Bollywood iconic, which is pretty obvious. Throughout this scene, I am deeply concerned for Simran as she seems to have no bra support. Oh that’s why, it’s fallen out of her bag and Raj has found it.
0:31 – They are chatting now and by chatting I mean Raj is trying to flirt and Simran is shutting this down. Simran is also wearing a terrible vest dress thing with slits that could’ve only been worn in 1994 or by FKA Twigs.
0:33 – As part of their vacation package, there is a fancy dinner in Paris. Raj’s friends join Simran and company and after some weird flirting between Sheena and Raj, 7th wheel Simran attempts to get some sweet sweet revenge on Raj for using tired lines and bragging.
0:46 – Raj has apologized (read: pranked) Simran and now has delayed them by messing around at a random store where Simran was trying to buy a cowbell (IMPORTANT). This mishap has caused them to miss the train, and now they’re stuck in small-town Switzerland together. Hijinks?
0:48 – Simran decides to hitchhike her way back to the train. She is of course stopped by the police, but luckily Raj drives past and pretends she’s his crazy wife and gets her out of the predicament. LOOKS LIKE THESE CRAZY KIDS ARE STUCK WITH EACH OTHER. I would also like to point out that at 18, I didn’t chill in pencil skirts and long silk scarves. I wore hoodies and leggings, which is exactly what I’m wearing now. Simran is cooler than me.
0:51 – The car breaks down. They’ve made it like maybe 1 kilometer. Simran and Raj decide to walk, and along the way, they tell stories about their families and lives. It’s almost like they’re learning something about each other and themselves along this journey.
0:53 – Simran gets tired and decides she wants to stop. Raj finds a room in what looks like some random Swiss family’s house. The catch: they have to share a room!
Simran’s traditional sensibilities are offended and she goes to sleep in the barn, which is definitely nicer than some hostels I’ve stayed in. Raj, being a dick, follows her to make fun of her.
0:55 – Raj managed to find a McDonald’s in this small town and bought her food. She doesn’t want it because strong women don’t admit when they’re wrong and instead stay stubbornly silent. Raj apologizes and tells her of the whole plan for travel. BAD NEWS: the barn roof has holes in it (somehow magically placed directly over them and their fire…but no where else), so now their barn plan is ruined. Great job, WEATHER.
0:57 – Raj’s plan (which is definitely the same plan I would use now) is to just drink. Simran is offended, until she’s not.
I would like to point out that it’s clearly daylight hours when they start drinking, so I’m confused about a lot of things.
1:02 – OH NO, Simran is convinced she had accidental sex last night because Raj is a dick and led her to believe that. Spoiler alert: this is the worst part of this movie. It’s honestly terrible and you can skip this blurb if you’d like to keep believing that everything is great and adorable. Anyways, regarding the accidental hook up and Simran’s appropriate panic. Nice Indian girls don’t do that, not that I would know. (Sorry Mom, it was a joke?) Seriously, the whole, “We had sex and it was great and magical” joke to a girl who clearly is crying and upset is the most messed up part of this movie. Also the worst, Raj then flips it like I WOULD NEVER TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOU OR ANYONE, because he just did that in playing this joke. Raj, you’re the worst!
1:10 – Simran and Raj are now travelling together and actually becoming friends, because if weird rapey jokes don’t make you besties, than nothing will. Simran finds a church and stops to pray, and Raj decides to pray that Simran gets whatever she prayed for because she’s a good person, which seems to point to a bit of a redemption arc for him.
1:11 – Simran is scandalized that Raj has never been in love. Raj is supposed to be a recent (yet, rough-looking) college grad, that’s probably fine. Also surprise reveal: Simran is engaged in an arranged marriage. Raj is horrified.
1:13 – The success of this movie is primarily because of their chemistry and damnit even rewatching all the weird stuff that goes down, their chemistry is great and perfect and no wonder they kept acting in things together.
1:15 – After they are reunited with their friends, Raj admits his feelings for Simran. He plays it off like a joke and says he’ll be a playboy forever and Simran is annoyed. Raj then plays it off like a hypothetical: would Simran run away with him if they were in love, or would she stay with the man she’s supposed to be with? The train whistle interrupts this seriously tense moment and they both return to the train.
1:18 – A month has passed and they have returned to London. Simran invites Raj to her wedding in Punjab. Not-in-love Raj says he will not be going to this wedding. If only there was a song to suss out their feelings.
1:26 – Simran discusses her burgeoning love with her mother. She’s grown a lot in this past month and now understands love in a way that only a world-weary 18-year-old can understand. Baldev overhears this. This is gonna end poorly.
1:29 – Raj and his father discuss the fact that Raj is in love and he encourages him to go find her. Won’t he be surprised and disappointed.
1:31 – Raj goes to Simran’s house only to find out that the family has left for her wedding. He notices the cowbell and gets inspired to head to Punjab to find her. In so doing, he does the most annoying thing ever and breaks the 4th wall so the movie can announce intermission. Thanks Bollywood!
Come back next week and see what happens! Or you can keep watching and then come back next week to yell at me in the comments. Either or.