Two decades down the line, why is Dil Se one of parallel cinema’s most beautiful offerings?

Loving someone deeply makes you feel vulnerable. Love someone deeply and your heart is bound to get broken into pieces. Love ends up intoxicating the mind. It makes you feel miserable. The beginning of love is unpredictable, while the end of it is sad, but all that happens in between makes the experience worthwhile and pretty much unforgettable.

Mani Ratnam’s 1998 romantic thriller ‘Dil Se’, a film starring Shahrukh Khan, Manisha Koirala, and Preity Zinta brings to light the extent of fragility and emotional turmoil one goes through when one falls in love. The film, shot across picturesque locations such as Assam, Leh, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, and Bhutan, explores the seven stages of love mentioned in ancient Arabic literature.

These are:

  • Hub (attraction)
  • Uns (infatuation)
  • Ishq (love)
  • Akidat (trust)
  • Ibadat (worship)
  • Junooniyat (obsession and madness)
  • Maut (death)

Shahrukh Khan’s character Amar goes through all these stages after he meets Meghna (Manisha Koirala). At a time when Bollywood films focused excessively on foreign locations and baseless romance, Dil Se ‘dared’ to throw light on an issue as sensitive as the insurgency in India’s Northeast. The film is painted with a multitude of human emotions, right from love, innocence, and fragility to pain, anguish, and vulnerability.

What makes the film stand out?

A simple and innocent love story:

No exaggeration, no fancy outfits, no heavy piles of makeup, no fancy locations, just pure romance. The film has countless traces of innocence. Amar meets a mysterious woman on a rainy night at the Haflong railway station to catch the Barak Valley Express. She asks him to bring a cup of tea, but when he returns with two cups of tea, Amar witnesses the woman boarding a train along with 2-3 male passengers.

Amar meets Meghna yet again, this time in Assam. The rest of the story deals with various encounters between the two characters that end up bringing them closer to a point where they find it hard to live without each other. Amar returns to Delhi after completing the assignment, but as luck would have it, their paths cross again.

The film, with its tight and gripping storyline, doesn’t go off-track even once. Making a film showcasing the seven stages of love mentioned in the Arabic literature came as a breath of fresh air at a time when Bollywood producers were busy producing masala romantic and action films.

Soulful Music:

Dil Se’s music has undoubtedly been one of the prime reasons behind the film’s growing popularity in recent years. The soulful compositions of A.R. Rahman, backed by heart-warming lyrics by Gulzar sahib sound like poetry in motion. Right from ‘Chaiyya-Chaiyya’ to ‘Ae Ajnabee’ and ‘ Satrangi Re’, the film’s soundtrack is ornamented by a wide range of emotions.

The Song ‘ Chaiyya-Chaiyya’, sung by Sapna Awasthi and Sukhwinder Singh, has been filmed on a moving train and talks about a male lover’s love for his partner. The song borrows a lot of words from the Urdu language in order to paint a colorful imagery. Some of the lines from the song are as follows:

Woh yaar hai jo khushboo ki tarah,
Woh jiski zubaan Urdu ki tarah
Meri shaam raat, meri kainaat
Woh yaar mera saiyaa saiyaa

Other songs such as Jiya Jaley, Ae Ajnabee, and Satrangi Re were no less popular and became superhits overnight.

Another major feature of the soundtrack is that the songs blend effortlessly into the film. No song looks out of place. All of these songs are popular till date. The beauty of Dil Se’s music album has grown by leaps and bounds over all these years and is expected to grow even further in the times to come.

Poetry in Motion:

I remember Sabyasachi Chatterjee telling Manisha Koirala’s character

‘Ishq mein nasha hota hai, yeh hamaare liye nahi hai’

This is one of the countless dialogues that sound pleasing to the ears. Tigmanshu Dhulia has handled the dialogues with perfection. The sheer rawness of the dialogues adds significantly to the beauty. Most of the dialogues sound like poetry to the ears.

Tackling a Sensitive Issue to Perfection:

At a time when producers and directors shied away from throwing light on sensitive issues such as terrorism and political instability in India’s northeast, Dil Se broke all the barriers and threw ample light on the reasons behind the insurgency. The atrocities inflicted by the army on the citizens were also portrayed skillfully.

Despite having a tight and gripping storyline, great music, and excellent performances, the film failed to garner positive reviews in India. Most people disliked the film simply because ‘Ladki toh terrorist thi”. Two decades down the line, the film remains one of parallel cinema’s finest offerings.

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