DDLJ: The Heart Stealer

Film Favorite, DDLJ or Dilwale Dulaniya le Jayenge, featuring Bollywood’s ultimate love story, celebrated its silver jubilee and ended its longest run on Indian Cinema after the lockdown. But its sheen remains undimmed.

When the perky song and dance sequences unfold, members of the audience jump up from their seats and gyrate in the aisles, clap and egg the star pair on as they cavort on the silver screen. The Hindi film “Dilwale Dulaniya le Jayenge (DDLJ)” celebrated its silver jubilee in October 2020  and had been running for close to 25 years at the frayed-at-the-seams Maratha Mandir theater in Mumbai. It was curtains at Maratha Mandir for the cult film when the lockdown happened in March 2020.

The sheen of the Hindi rom com (the longest-running in the history of Indian cinema) remains undimmed. The movie still commands a devoted following. At Maratha Mandir, audiences would watch the saccharine love story play out against the pristine back drop of the Swiss Alps and mouth well-known dialogues along with the lead pair, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. Many had probably watched the film as many as 15 times, related a die-hard fan.

The fan following cuts across gender, class, caste and creed – aspirational middle-class Indians for whom Switzerland became their bucket list destination, swooning teenagers, peppy college students, young lovers, and, lately, even stray passers-by who pop in to hear their favourite songs and dialogues again and again.

Directed by then debutant director Aditya Chopra whose late father Yash Chopra was famed for his celluloid romantic fantasies set in exotic locales, the narrative is simple. A young boy and girl of Indian origin, Raj and Simran, born and brought up in London, fall in love during a vacation with friends in Europe. But soon their romance collides with the reality of their parents’ disapproval, born out of their conservative Indian outlook and the fact that Simran has been promised in marriage to her father’s friend’s son.

The film smashed box office records and marked the coming of age of Bollywood. Today, Bollywood is recognized as the most prolific film industry in the world, ratcheting up 800 to 1,000 films a year, yet DDLJ’s simple message of young love has endured.

“It changed the face of the industry and captured the hearts of everyone who saw it,” Avtar Panesar, a senior spokesperson of Yash Raj Films, said in a press release.

Indeed, a bronze statue of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol will be unveiled in the spring of 2021 in Leicester Square in London and will join the Scenes in the Square movie statue trail. It will shoulder nine other movie icons of the past 100 years, eight of which were installed in February this year. The line-up includes Harry Potter, Laurel and Hardy, Bugs Bunny, Gene Kelly, Mary Poppins, etc. By a happy coincidence, Leicester Square is where the celluloid lovers Raj and Simran are first seen in the film. Other London locations that take centre stage in the film are Horseguards Avenue, Hyde Park, Tower Bridge and King’s Cross Station.

However, in the film it is Switzerland that exudes as much star power as Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol; the bewitching cameos of the country seem to stoke their love effortlessly. …the journey on a panoramic Swiss train is when sparks fly between Raj and Simran. There are cameos of charming hideaways like Gstaad, including the station where the duo miss their train and the humped Saanen bridge where Raj confesses his love for Simran. (Indeed Gstaad Tourism has a Bollywood tour which swings past the iconic locations that figured in DDLJ.)

The movie was shot all over Switzerland. There is the typical Swiss church where Raj and Simran pray together; Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe with all-embracing views of the Swiss Alps where Simran dances in the snow in a red dress and boots!

And the DDLJ-besotted can even pose with large cut-outs of Simran and Raj at Mt Titlis (9,908 ft) after they arrive on top of the mountain via Titlis Rotair, the world’s first rotating gondola.

And as the first bars of the song, “Tujhe dekha to yeh jana sanam ripple like the soft lapping of a Swiss lake, can you deny that your heart beats a little faster, feet tap in rhythm and memories of your own love story plays out in your mind?

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