The stories and movies to which a person best relates, often become their most cherished. Remember that adage! Cause the day you find a romantic film as relevant to your life as Dil Chahta Hai is to people of my generation, you will also be unable to forget its images, dialogues, performances and story-line. That will always be the place Farhan Akhtar’s first directorial venture holds in my heart. (There’s something about the rawness and unharnessed energy of newbie directors that helps many of them excel their first round at the turnstiles.)
It works so well because Akhtar has targeted the final product at an intelligent audience, and taken many commendable risks along the way. He knows we’re sick and tired of all the unreal shenanigans seen ad nauseam in countless Bollywood love stories the past few decades. So this one’s told with maturity, realistic drama and comic panache.
Maintaining a fluid yet mellow-pace throughout, Dil Chahta Hai is woven around the love and life discovering experiences of three young friends. Sameer (Saif Ali Khan) is the sort of chap who wears his heart on his sleeve, and lets the ladies walk all over him, dominating each and every aspect of his being. Siddharth (Akshaye Khanna) is an introverted artiste bottling up himself, his dreams and aspirations for that one true person who’s willing to understand all that he is about. And Aakash (Aamir Khan) is the mandatory non-believer in hard-work and love. When Sameer finally finds the woman of his dreams, but finds it hard to tell her so, we’re there for him, cheering him on. When Siddharth falls in love with a gorgeous and mature older woman , Tara (Dimple Kapadia), we understand and feel for him. And as Aakash slowly but surely develops a desire to love, we wish him all the best.
And it is all courtesy Farhan Akhtar, folks. Rare is it that a director understands each of his characters and their motivations so well, thereby enabling us to mirror ourselves in each of them. Be it Sameer’s uncomfortable first chat with Pooja (Sonali Kulkarni), a confused Suhasini Mulay’s anguish at her son Siddharth’s silence, or a heartbroken Aakash’s subconscious call to his best friend, we’ve all been there before in our lives, but never seen it on film. And Farhan knows!
It’s undeniable that the director chose a mega-talented cast so that each would fit snugly into their respective roles. But to their credit, no one, not even the superb character artistes, falter a single scene. (Someone get me the telephone number of the actress who played the ironically annoying and cute Deepa. At times, I felt I was in love. And the character Subodh has me believing a watch as a gift to the real-life actor would be apt.)
Saif Ali Khan once again demonstrates he has impeccable comedic timing, delivering each and every line Akhtar wrote with equal brilliance. But here we see Jr. Pataudi excel at drama too. Akshaye Khanna stuns with another subtle and mature performance, and all one can ask is why he does not do more films. (If one had to single out a character and performance that makes the movie the best, Khanna’s is it.) And Aamir, saddled with the most conventional love tale among the three boys, makes it exciting by implanting Aakash with just the right degree of confusion and confidence.
Of the ladies, Preity is Preity, loveable and extremely pretty all the time. Plus, you know what this woman is always thinking thanks to that great emotive visage. Dimple Kapadia too is gorgeous – just looking at the woman, you know why Siddharth falls for her - and when Tara breaks down in the scene after her conversation with her ex-husband, you remember why this woman is a National Award winner. Sonali Kulkarni, Ayub Khan and Suhasini Mulay are great support. (I’d honestly give everyone credit, but I don’t know their names.)
Ravi K. Chandran probably knew that the direction and performances would be hard to beat, so his cinematography complements rather than competing. (Chandran’s rustic locales in Priyadarshan’s Virasat are in stark contrast to the urban angst and gloss seen this time around. Now that is versatility.) He also works in tandem with the editor and Farah Khan to dream up the most unique and wonderful dances and visuals for each of the great tunes. The special effects in “Kaisi hai yeh rut”, the fun loving jump-appeal of “Koyi kahe kehta rahe”, the laugh-out-loud mockery of old Bollywood in “Woh ladki hai kahaan”, etc., it is hard to pin-point a favourite, and you’ll be sorry if you miss a single video for a bathroom break.
Actually, nothing transpires during Dil Chahta Hai that would warrant a visit to the salle de bain. C’est tout parfait! Farhan demonstrates as much excellence as his equally talented parents, Javed Akhtar and Honey Irani. If Honey ever finds out that the story she wrote for Yash Chopra’s Lamhe has been replaced by her son’s Dil Chahta Hai, as my favourite romance of all time, I’m sure she’ll smile like never before. Boy, you´ve made her mighty proud!