"Jaa Simran jee le apni zindagi." "Bade bade hhehron mein aisi chhoti chhoti batein hoti rehti hai." How many of us still use these lines in our daily conversation? I'm sure many of us who came of age in the '90s related to the film even more than the generation before us and the one after. (Also Read: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Happy 1000 Weeks: Top 10 Dialogues)
Come, fall in love.. all over again! The image of a white salwar kurta-clad Kajol embracing a leather jacketed Shah Rukh Khan instantly evokes the name of the film, borrowed from an old Bollywood song, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
Curious cinegoers like me thronged the theaters to watch this latest offering from Yash Chopra, the king of romance, in the autumn of 1995. (Also Read: 19 Years Later, 19 Top Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge MomentsM)
The film marked the debut of his son Aditya Chopra as a director and for Shah Rukh Khan, who was steadily climbing up the success ladder, it was to be a breakthrough new role, a far cry from his stuttering menacing self in the last Yash Chopra film, Darr.
As we milled into theaters, little did we realize we would never walk out the same again.
The film embraced us in a cozy cocoon, as we were drawn into the now-often-told story of Raj, a motherless rich boy who lives in a swanky house somewhere in London neighbourhood Hampstead, knocks back beers, has the trendiest set of wheels and an indulgent 'Pops,' and never misses the chance to play a prank on unassuming fellow desi shopkeepers.
Simran, a young teenager living in a modest house somewhere in the less posh Southhall, say-dreams as she prances around in a towel and a short skirt in the privacy of her room, writing poetry for her yet-to-arrive knight in shining armour. She has an indulgent mother, a stern shopkeeper 'bauji' and keeps a strict eye on the women in his house as he dreams of his desh ki dharti and sarson ke khet. (Also Read: Shah Rukh Khan's DDLJ Celebrates 1,000 Weeks With Clean-Up, Special Show)
Bauji announces one day to the unsuspecting Simran that she is to marry Kuljeet, the son of his best friend in Punjab. As Simran requests her father for one last shot at freedom, as all of us brace ourselves for this joy ride on the Eurorail. When Raj meets Simran, it seems as if the film had struck an emotional chord with the British-born second generation desis the most, as it resonated with their own stories and dilemmas. The diaspora were caught in the conflict between loyalty towards the culture and traditions of the motherland and the need for independence and the sense of belonging towards the adopted home - all themes that underlay the central love story in the film.
So, as the two miss their bus in Interlaken in Switzerland, a hyper Simran is pacified by a cocky Raj, "Senorita, bade bade shehron mein aisi chhoti chhoti baatein hoti rehti hain," unfolding a chain of events for Simran who downs cognac and sheds her inhibitions, prancing around in the snow and mock-seducing Raj...who tells her the morning after that he didn't touch her even when he could easily have. Yes, the Bharatiya sanskaar and such a nice munda that he is, Raj set many a heart fluttering in the audience. As Simran and Raj realize they are in love, the scene shifts from London to Punjab.
The Indian Joint Family and Raj's mission to win them over - from feeding pigeons with Simran's father who he had taken a "drunk panga" with, teasing the ladies like the unmarried Bua or Simran's to-be sister-in-law who loses her heart to Raj, playing antaksahri with Simran's sister, helping Simran's mother in the house or chiding Simran who says it is better to elope than suffer the ordeal of separation - form the rest of the film.
As Raj carved a space in every female heart, most already envisioning him as their Prince Charming, a bit of dishoom dishoom follows and just as we all felt that Raj and Simran had nearly lost each other, Bauji's announces 'Jaa Simran jee le apni zindagi,' - and Simran runs to catch Raj's extended hand from the bogey of a train. Like the Indian Railways, the scene was etched in celluloid memory forever.
So what did it do for us?
It made Shah Rukh and Kajol the eternally romantic new-age couple. All those who felt till then that on screen chemistry was a thing of the past now had a poster couple for romance, and for me personally no one has been able to take that spot 20 years later.
The big fat Indian wedding, read Punjabi weddings, became trendy. Karwa Chauths , mehendis and sangeets were now ceremonies that were uber cool, after all the so-called traditions identified as Punjabi became pan-Indian and it was indeed hip to do the Balle Balle.
The hero was no longer desi, he was a pardesi - the NRI who was often seen as debauched, read dyed hair, flimsy clothing, juggling bottles of wine and ciggies and in need of a class on sabhyata as seen in the classic Purab Aur Paschim stories, was far more desi, even if their clothes were designer.
Repeat value - when was the last time we thronged the theaters four times in a month to watch a film over and over again. Well, I definitely did for DDLJ, and am proud of it.
The film's cheesy lines found their way into regular conversations. The songs are hits till date. Each time they are played, you cannot help but sing along too, realizing you remember the lines as if it were just yesterday.
And to end with a cliché, DDLJ is indeed like an old wine whose taste has only gotten better with each passing year.