Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar

Producer : Anish and Ajay Tuli
Director: Hansal Mehta
Tabu, Manoj Bajpai, Saurabh Shukla

Released on : October 6, 2000

Reviewed by: Anish Khanna

out of 
If you are looking for a "timepass phillum" this weekend, pass on this one. "Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar" is not only an intelligent film but a film that will make the willing viewer think. Writer-actor Saurabh Shukla concocts a world where things are not as they always seem and people are multi-faceted - very akin to reality itself.

The film is a chronicle of the adventures of Ram Saran Pandey (Manoj Bajpai), who has left his U.P. village to live in Mumbai. His world basically revolves around his friend Gaitonde (Saurabh Shukla) and his job as an auto mechanic. One day Ram Saran meets a newspaper writer - Kaamya (Tabu) - who is impressed with his honest nature and projects him as a hero of sorts in her column. Ram Saran instantly falls in love with Kaamya and his love grows as Kaamya spends an increasing amount of time with him in order to complete a script she has been entrusted to write for Mahesh Bhatt (Bhatt himself) based on Ram Saran's life. Meanwhile, Gaitonde gets stuck between a wife he can't provide for and his shady, advise-doling , "Dubai returned" friend Tito (Aditya Shrivatsava). We soon see Ram Saran's "honest" life sent into a downward spiral with the rest of the characters involved in the kaleidoscope of events.

These are some of the most interesting characters you'll ever see on screen. The film introduces all of its characters in a positive light, but as the film progresses this illusion is shattered. We first see Gaitonde as the cute, rolly-polly videographer who although occasionally swayed by Tito, is rather loyal to his friend Ram Saran. By the end of the film, this could not be farther from the truth. Ram Saran's wife, Gayatri, is first shown as the average, sorrow-baring, servile Indian housewife and her fights with her husband seem rather commonplace (with Tito playing peacemaker between the two). Later we realize that Gayatri and Tito are having an affair and plan to milk Gaitonde of his money and then elope. Kaamya is introduced as an honest, truth-seeking reporter who quits smoking for Ram Saran's sake. But later we see that she is an integral part of the spineless, high society she complains about and in essence uses Ram Saran to obtain success.

Ram Saran, our protagonist, is really the most interesting of the lot. He is "honest and truth-seeking" at the outset of the film and believes that "truth will always win". But all it takes is a few losses for him to literally go off the deep end. His entire world is shattered and he believes that his only salvation is escape from his society to Dubai. Interestingly, he justifies it at one point by saying something oxymoronic to the effect of "I am true, and truth always wins, so I can use whatever means I need to in order to win". He also says that "people aren't bad; their time is bad". Ram Saran, built up in the media as a good human being, buys into this comfortable illusion and disregards any of his own negative qualities (and justifies them no less). One might make the argument that situations changed Ram Saran from an honest human being to a greedy one, but really - can rejection from a woman justify murdering to make money and move to Dubai? Hardly, without any inherent greed being present form the outset.

Manoj Bajpai is an institution of acting in this film. To say that he gives a compeling performance is a grave understatement. From Ram Saran's honesty to his pataoing of his "dhak dhak" girl to his vulnerability to his shock over what he has been reduced to do - Manoj Bajpai breathes life into this character. This is one of those few roles in Hindi cinema where you can say "nobody else could have played this part". It's true. Saurabh Shukla brilliantly does the tight-rope walk between honesty and betrayal throughout the film, making the audience love and hate the character almost simultaneously (and incidentally, Mr. Shukla writes a terrific script). Tabu is neutral enough in her portrayal of Kaamya for us to interpret her actions. The role, though integral to the story, does not demand much more from her. Still, the actress does not disappoint.

Hansal Mehta (who incidentally makes several guest appearances a la Subhash Ghai in the film) has done an impressive directorial job. The opening sequences ("Swagatam Swagatam") set the tone of the film by showing days from everyday life of ordinary people. The way comedy is easily weaved into the drama of the film is a difficult thing to execute smoothly, but Mr. Mehta does it well. Witness the scooter sequence where Gaitonde and Ram Saran are discussing a plan to kill people to make money as their scooter is impounded behind their backs twice. Both times they go to the police station and openly discuss what they are about to do as they pay the fine to get the scooter back. We see the irony of a cop seated and in front of him two conspirators are discussing murder very casually. Mr. Mehta also integrates Vishal's supportive music well with songs flowing very well with the tone of the film. Incidentally, Vishal's background score is particularly impressive.

The ending of the film is interesting to the extent that we don't know if this is really happening. In a dream-like camera quality - we see Ram Saran as a big don in Dubai. But Saurabh Shukla writes this scene to be incorporated right after Kaamya's Filmfare acceptance speech where she states that Ram Saran and Gaitonde live happily ever after. So is this really the ending of the film as Kaamya has written for Mahesh Bhatt? Or maybe this is really happening - and the emptiness and greed of the Dubai scenes are meant to be in stark contrast to the "happily ever after" that Kaamya speaks of. The beauty of this is that it is left to us to interpret. And both versions are equally discomforting and disturbing.

This is great cinema - comic, dramatic, absorbing, intimidating, and thought-provoking, while entertaining at the same time. "Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar" is a film that you should "take to heart" - for it is the most intelligent film we have seen all year.