Shailesh Kapoor: DDLJ: A Thousand Weeks, A Million Memories

12 Dec,2014

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

There’s little that can be written about Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) by the way of facts, that’s not commonly known or easily found. This month, the 1995 film completes 1,000 weeks at the box office, holding forte in the morning show at Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir for almost two decades now.

 

DDLJ is the original NRI romance, of which we saw many versions for almost 15 years, till the overseas market saturated and Salman Khan changed the rules with his brand of homemade cinema with the likes of Wanted and Dabangg. Over years, DDLJ has influenced many directors, writers and actors, in both films and television. Earlier this year, Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt starred in a semi-spoof-semi-modernised version, called Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania.

 

But nothing, it’s now well understood, would ever come close to the original. If any Indian filmmaker, however big a stalwart, wants to make the greatest love story of Indian cinema, he would know his benchmark is set incredibly high.

 

I have lost count of how many times I have revisited the film, in whole and in parts. But I distinctly remember half a dozen visits to the theatre in October-December of 1995, many of them to the infamous Uphaar cinema in Delhi, which was a short ride away from the IIT campus.

 

Even in those days, when film marketing was not an assault being unleashed on us through a mix of media, DDLJ had become an event film leading upto its release. I don’t remember what exactly would have led to it, but it just seemed the right follow-up film to the immensely popular family film Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (HAHK), which had released more than a year earlier but was still running strong in the theatres in late 1995.

 

The second half of DDLJ was HAHK-like in many ways, in that it evoked the same family values and emotions that HAHK managed to. There was always a split verdict on which half was better, and over the years, the first half may have won that debate. But I firmly believe that it is the second half that brought the families to DDLJ, and created repeat value.

 

DDLJ was re-released in 2005 on the completion of 500 weeks. Watching it in a half-filled multiplex was an odd experience, after many packed-house screenings a decade back. I’m not sure if classics should be re-released at all. It takes away from the house-fullness of it all, if there were a term like that.

 

Sometime in 2011, I was at Mannat, waiting for SRK, who was running late for our meeting. It was Sunday night 9pm and Max started airing DDLJ. Watching the film for about two hours at SRK’s home is as surreal as it can get. If ever there was any element of ‘star-struck’ in me, I saw the last of it that night!

 

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