Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dil Se...

Let me first say that my prayers and thoughts are with all of those who have lost loved ones in the recent terror attacks on Mumbai. It's hard to watch a movie like "Dil Se..." at a time like this and not think of the horrible reality of hate crime and terrorism. I usually don't use this blog to post on anything other than straight film reviews, but I just wanted to let everybody know that I am posting this review and an upcoming review of "1947 Earth" without any intention of offending or glazing over something which rings horribly true for those who are living it. I'm sensitive to what you are going through, and although I am fortunate myself to have never been a victim of a terrorist attack, my heart goes out to all of you.

Secondly, I want to thank publicly and warmly my blog readers and newfound friends Summer and Katy for sending me this film as a present on their recent trip to Mumbai (thankfully, they were unharmed by the attacks). Along with Dil Se... I received 1947 Earth, Deewar, GolMaal, and Chotker Bali, so reviews on these films are forthcoming. Thanks again guys!

But onto Dil Se.... I was stumped for awhile on what to say about this film. It was quite a switch from the recently watched Main Hoon Na. Folks, if you're looking for a Shahrukh movie thats not your typical sugary song and dance, then Dil Se... is for you.

I'm used to watching love stories that make me feel good, a huge fan of rom-coms and heartwarmers such as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. But Dil Se... was very much opposite. Yet it appealed to a different side of my heart, the side that understands the yearning and passion of love that isn't always good for you. The side that wants something it can't have and can't understand why. The side that believes there is a thin line between love and hate.

How do I describe Dil Se...? Moving? Tragic? Disturbing? Passionate? Intoxicating? It was all of these things, really, and as a viewer I fell completely under its spell. But it was also one of those films that lingered in my mind for days after its end, bits and pieces resurfacing in my memory, the sweet and the bothersome. That's why I had a hard time putting my thoughts together for this post--I wasn't sure how a film could make me feel touched and disturbed at the very same time.

The film kicks off with Shahrukh's character, Amar, at a train station (***This isn't really a spoiler, but it will be a play by play of Shahrukh and Manisha's first meeting. I'm including it in detail only because I thought it was so effective***). Everything about this first scene is foreboding...shadowy, dark, lonely, with gusts of wind howling in the background. A dark, cloaked figure sits on the bench nearby. The whole thing reminded me of the beginning of a deliciously good ghost story.

Amar awaits his train, trying to light his cigarette in the wind. He attempts to make conversation with the cloaked man, asking him for a match, but receives no response. And then...brilliantly...the cloak whips off the man on the bench in the violent wind...and...why,its not a man at's Manisha Koirala!

Instantly smitten, Amar tries to buy the woman a cup of tea. She quietly accepts, but while he's making the purchase, the woman's train arrives. Amar runs back just in time to catch only a glimpse of her face as the train departs, holding his two cups of chai in the rain.

Why go on and on about this little scene? Because its serves as a symbolic precursor for Amar's luck---as well as he and Meghna(Manisha)'s tumultuous affair.

Believe it or not, this eerie encounter is followed by the cheerful and ever so popular "Chaiya Chaiya"--the song that made train dancing famous. It's Shahrukh energy at its best, and the chereography makes it really fun to watch (or imitate, if you dare). Malaika Arora makes a cameo in this song (That is her, isn't it?) and it appears as if Amar's forgotten all about the mystery woman at the train station.

Don't worry, he hasn't. Amar's actually just begun his somewhat disturbing mission of stalking Meghna. Another angle to the film that I found bothersome at times.

He stalks her on the air at his radio station.

He stalks her when she is trying to make a personal phone call.

When she asks him to stop following her, he refuses to listen, and jumps on the back of a bus to follow her home instead.

As a matter of fact, the whole thing got pretty irritating to me, until their showdown in the desert--where I just about felt like hitting Amar myself. His violent, aggresive, male chauvinistic approach to conquering Meghna was a huge turn off for me. I say "conquering" because that's just what he was doing--attempting to win her over, with virtually no regard for her feelings or what she was saying.

Some can argue that this was how deep their passion was, and that essentially she really was in love with him as he thought. She just wouldn't admit it to herself because of her situation. That could be, but he told her she was "fast" and "a tease" just because she wasn't interested in him! I don't know, maybe I misunderstood something along the way, and I welcome anyone else's take on this, but I just didn't get this part of the story.

I did, however, soften to Amar and forgive him after this. There would have been no other way for me to continue the film had I not. I'm glad I did--the romance between him and Meghna took an interesting turn after all of this. I actually believed Amar did love her, and he proved it many times for the duration of the film. The song depicting their love affair was hot--and featured some creative chereography that shows why Farah Khan is Farah Khan. A bit choppy and rough, but it did match their attraction.

Love it or hate it, you've got to admit it's unique. And I'm sorry, but the whole red satin thingy was super cool.

The second half of the film gives us Preity Zinta in her debut role! Yay--nothing like Preity to add some much peppy punch to the situation. I loved her character instantly, and I'm glad she was included in this film. It was her character,Preeti, (yep, same name just spelled differently) whose fate I cared for most during the last parts of the film.

Also, I never noticed the age difference between Preity and Shahrukh--although I'd heard it complained about before--until this film. I thought they paired up beautifully in Veer Zaara, but she looked much younger than him here. Still, they have some great scenes (and lines---who could forget the hunka-bunka-bunk coversation?)together, and even a cool dream sequence, also nicely chereographed. Not only that, but Shahrukh proves he had a nice body before Om Shanti Om...

I can't say much more without spoiling the ending. And, trust me, you want to remain surprised here. Just know that even though the movie may have some upsetting elements, its definitely worth it. I watched this film late at night and woke up with the thoughts lingering like a "Dil Se..." hangover. It's just that kind of film... it effects you.

If you've seen the movie, I'd love to hear your thoughts! This is one that I'm sure a lot of people have different opinions about. Although I loved the film, I think I'd have to see it again to really organize my thoughts on the deeper elements. It's something I could watch again tomorrow and realize there were parts I'd missed the first time around.

In the meantime, I'll be working on my next post, also another controversial film--1947 Earth!

Text © 2008 Nida Nazir


Ipshi December 9, 2008 at 8:28 AM  

ooh, 1st to comment? oh my!
firstly thank u for ur kind thoughts for my city. As a reporter, albeit a soft story one, it has been very hard to stand by as these b******s raped the city that i love with all my heart.

on to the review, this movie was very disturbing for me too, and methinks SRK's chauvinism at the beginning was there to show what a typical Indian man he was. Because that wud illustrate the point of how terrorism touches even the simplest ppl?

Reema December 9, 2008 at 10:13 AM  

The end of this movie is a scene that really never leaves you. Everytime I think about or hear about this movie, that last scene is all I see.

It's not rewatchable for me. I saw it in the theater, and that was enough. Though I do watch Chaiyya Chaiyya regularly. :D

Nicki December 9, 2008 at 11:22 AM  

Nida's back. Yah! Did you get my message in Facebook? Just wanted to make sure.

I saw Dil Se so long ago. I know that I didn't enjoy it as much. Maybe because I wasn't in the right mind to watch it. I haven't seen it since then. The music is wonderful. I loved every moment of it. Everyone acted well. Manisha is sooo lovely in the film. Preity is great as always.

Priyanka,  December 9, 2008 at 1:07 PM  

For me, the opening and concluding scenes are the definitive scenes of the film: the possibility of what could be, the reality of what was. However, although I have watched it twice and did not mind re-watching it the second time, I would only see it again after long intervals. The songs are wonderful, especially the haunting 'Hai Ajnabi', the locations beautiful and memorable, if puzzling, characters (apart from spunky, forthright Preity!) but it leaves you with too overwhelming a sense of loss and dislocation.
You really articulate it so aptly when you say, "I wasn't sure how a film could make me feel touched and disturbed at the very same time."

I am looking forward to reading your review of 1947 Earth!

Nida December 9, 2008 at 1:13 PM  


Wow, so great to get your perspective on it! I think you may be right...that the film was trying to put us in Meghna's shoes...especially when they showed the flashback of her village and family being murdered...
I can only imagine what you are going through, both as a reporter and a resident of Mumbai. Again, my thoughts and prayers are with you, Ipshi!


Totally agree with you on that last scene. Unfortunately, when I woke up the next day, it was the first image in my mind. And then, just when you think you've pushed it out of your short term memory, you glance at the cover, and....
I can see how this would be disturbing for most, and can understand how you might not want to rewatch it...It certainly was bothersome for me. But I still found it to be a gripping film.
"Chaiya Chaiya" was the only sunshiny part, wasn't it?:)

Nicki! I did! Although I couldn't play the video..:( I'm thinking I can find it on youtube? Thank you for the recommendation! I can't WAIT to watch a Korean rom-com...Now that school is just about over...YAY!
About "Dil SE..." Yep, I would say you'd have to be in the right mind to watch it. It's not like "Main Hoon Na", something I can watch anytime, anyday, anywhere. This one you have to be in a strong minded mood.. I thought Manisha was lovely, too. Kind of reminded me of my stepmother.

Nida December 9, 2008 at 1:18 PM  


Welcome and thank you for commenting! I agree-it will be a good long while before I watch it again, and as Nicki said, I will have to be in the right frame of mind (not having a case of the blues to begin with)...

I think that sense of loss is what I was feeling when I woke up the next day with images of "Dil Se..." flashing through my mind...

theBollywoodFan December 9, 2008 at 1:40 PM  

Hi Nida: I absolutely *love* the soundtrack to Dil Se, it's one of A. R. Rahman's most iconic. The songs were such a sensation and rightfully so, and they're all so good! I particularly like 'Ae ajnabi' (in which Manisha Koirala was fantastic), 'Satrangi Re' (which used a verse by Ghalib!), and 'Jiya Jale' (the choreography).


Nida December 9, 2008 at 1:46 PM  

Hi Bollywood Fan,

Yes, it is a great soundtrack, isn't it? And the chereography in the romance numbers seemed so different from Farah's usual stuff. Thanks for stopping by!Can't wait to discuss "Earth" with you!

Priyanka,  December 9, 2008 at 2:17 PM  

Thanks, Nida! I have only recently discovered a host of many great blogs on Bollywood and am really enjoying revisiting favorites and learning more about old Bollywood gems through them - great to discover your blog as well! Best:)

ajnabi December 9, 2008 at 4:09 PM  

Hi Nida! So glad you finally got the chance to watch this modern classic. I agree with the Bollywood Fan that its soundtrack is one of the finest ever. Satrangi Re is so freaking gorgeous I must have watched it a million times.

Bollywood is usually comfort food for me--I can stick a B'wood movie in when things are stressful and decompress. "Dil Se" is more like a gigantic serving of turnip greens that you know you need to eat because you haven't had anything plant-related in ten days--lots of nutritional value but leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. The more I watch it, the more I understand its symbolism and insight into the internal Indian conflicts it picturizes through Meghna and Amar's relationship. It also uses a lot of Layla/Majnu references, which explains the Sufi songs. Gorgeous.

I talked about it more in my review here:

Great review and, as usual, gorgeous screencaps! :-D

ajnabi December 9, 2008 at 4:10 PM  

Whoops, sorry, I meant Aman. ;-)

ceci0924 December 9, 2008 at 6:59 PM  

Hi NIda,
Lets do a movie night soon and watch this one, please?

Joss,  December 10, 2008 at 2:38 AM  

Yep, it's a difficult one. I loved the music, of course, although the songs were particularly pop-video-ish, in that they didn't really fit into the narrative of the film. They could all have been removed and the whole thing would still have made perfect sense. Yes, too can watch Chaiya Chaiya over and over. It's inspired.

I have to confess that it was only when I watched this film with a non-Bollywood friend that I realised that Aman was little more than a stalker, not an obsessed lover. He hardly knew the girl, so it couldn't really be called love, jsut lust. The only reason I accepted all this so unquestioningly the first time I saw the movie is because this seemed like typical Shah Rukh behaviour. I had seen him pester strangers in Chalte Chalte, and Swades. I just thought that the whole love-at-first-sight thing was a Bollywood convention that we have to accept. Thankfully, I soon saw other movies where he plays a self-sacrificing hero, and I liked him better then.

The end of Dil Se came as a total shock. I only watch the film now if I am feeling really frustrated, angry, and maybe self-indulgent. Then I feel I need 'to watch Shah Rukh getting blown up'. It's got to be a pretty bad day for that though!

Magpie Ima December 10, 2008 at 11:53 AM  

the song that made train dancing famous
Great line, Nida! It made me laugh, probably because this is one of my favorite songs ever and a very frequent YouTube watch.

I completely agree that this was a very disturbing movie and, much as I hate to admit it, SRK totally creeped me out. But possible the best soundtrack ever, so that makes up for a lot.

I can't wait for your review of Earth which I thought was an absolutely amazing film. You might want to read the book on which it's based Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa.

Anonymous,  December 10, 2008 at 6:39 PM  

I first saw "Dil Se" on the big screen when it released years ago - didn't think much of it - found the romantic song interlude - in the picturesque Tibert - not fitting in with the story at all. Liked the picturisation and choreography in the title song - dil se re other than chayia chayia

I saw it again on DVD with friends after a few years and liked it which makes me wonder if it was ahead of its times?

Music indeed is the hallmark of this movie - all the songs are very good

Nida December 10, 2008 at 7:28 PM  

Priyanka--Hope to hear from you again soon!

Ajnabi-Well put! See, that's what I struggled with in writing this post. I liked the nutritional value in "Dil Se" but it definitely left a bitter taste in my mouth. And, like you so accurately said, Bollywood movies usually leave me with a giddy high...not so here. But still a worthwhile film and, yes, awesome tracks! And I think you were right, his name is Amar. :)

Ceci--Sure we can! But I warn you--this isn't a "feel good" film...its kind of depressing, as you can see from the above comments. And you haven't seen "Main Hoon Na" yet! We could do this one, but we'd have to watch "Main Hoon Na" directly after to reverse the effects!

Joss--wow, that's so true! I think that's what bothered me most in the first half. I felt he couldn't possibly love her already, so he was just stalking and being arrogant. And mean! How dare he call her fast and a tease! Pfft-just because she didn't want him!
I don't know, in the second half I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt because he had then spent more than just passing time with her...You know, that night in the desert. He was kind of sweet then.
I, too, prefer self-sacrificing Shahrukh(a'la "Veer Zaara") to obsessive, possesive, psycho-stalker Shahrukh (Here and "Chalte Chalte" as you pointed out).
That's hilarious(sometimes you need to watch SRK getting blown up)!:)I think even he would find that funny!

Magpie Ima--Lol--glad it brought you a good laugh! Gosh, that song just makes you want to get up and dance, doesn't it?
"Creepy" is a good word for SRK's behaivor, esp in the first half...eek.
As for Earth--yes, if was fabulous!I already have the post sketched in my head, just have to type it out one of these nights!Will do soon... And I had no idea-will have to read the book now, thank you!Powerful title!

I agree, the songs didn't blend in with the storyline so much--they were kind of abruptly inserted.
I think you may be right--maybe people would be more accepting of this film now, when commerical films are seen as the same ol' stuff and the arthouse films are getting more attention for being unique and different...who knows?
Thanks for stopping by and commenting--welcome!

daddy's girl,  December 12, 2008 at 5:37 AM  

I found this film very disturbing, and it definitely haunted me after I watched it, especially that ending! Ratnam wanted to make a film that would make viewers uneasy and uncomfortable, and he succeeded.
I found a lot of food for thought in the film although it was hard to grapple with those thoughts because of the rather stark and often unpleasant presentation of the characters - I love Ipshi's comment above, about Aman's character, because it definitely gives me a different way of looking at that character.
I think terrorism stirs up very complex and difficult feelings on all sides and in so many different ways, and I like that this film confronts that boldly and doesn't try to over-simplify it. I think it was definitely a brave film (for both the cast - SRK especially, considering his commercial credentials when the film was made) and the crew, and I applaud them for it, even though it's a film that upsets and disturbs me.
On the more pleasant side, the cinematography was beautiful and I loved how thoughtfully each scene was staged. I love 'Chaiyya Chaiyya' - classic; and this film also memorable for being Preity Zinta's memorable debut!

Nida December 15, 2008 at 7:01 PM  

Daddy's Girl--Thanks for stopping by! I agree, it was definitely haunting...Ipshi's comment made the whole thing all the more clearer to me. And you are so right--the film did show two sides to terrorism. Perhaps that is why it was a flop in India? I agree, it was very brave of the cast. They had to know it would be controversial. And Preity--what a film to debut in~!

Ipshi December 17, 2008 at 8:22 AM  

im glad u took my comment as a simple understanding - just what it was. not many wud have the maturity.
terrorism is such a touchy topic for us but somehow, we have so much of it our lives already that movies based on it just don't make sense... even Fanaa wasn't a big hit over here...

theBollywoodFan December 17, 2008 at 9:49 AM  

That's a great point Ipshi has about how films on the subject are received. Dil Se was a miserable failure at the box office. Fanaa, on the other hand, was indeed a super hit and one of the top grossers of 2006, alongside Rang De Basanti, Lage Raho Munna Bhai and Krrish.


Nida December 17, 2008 at 10:41 AM  

Wow, never thought of it that way, Ipshi and Bollywood Fan! Sadly, it makes is an escape from reality to many, and when terrorism is your reality...Well, let's just say "Dil Se" may hit too close to home.

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