Dil Se

Bhooty month may be over, but Dil Se is the most haunting, bone-tingly Bollywood movie I've seen yet. I cannot explain why, but this movie has grabbed me. I like all its subtleties and how so many of the questions the characters raise and deal with linger - in them and in me. And let's just face it, it's gorgeous. I don't know how to talk about cinematography intelligently, so I will just say that thanks to Santosh Sivan it is Asoka-like (well, that's obvious) in its eerie, gray, drenched beauty.

When I started thinking about how to write about Dil Se, I thought I could just say the movie haunts me and leave it at that. But being poorly acquainted with leaving things at that, here are some of the things that I found so compelling, many of which seem to be explorations of the often unshown flip side of the romantic comedies I love so much.

If only it were as easy to wipe people out of your heart as it is to erase words written in sand. Until this scene, I wanted to cast someone else in SRK's place, maybe Aamir or someone with a little more heft, thinking there were bound to be speeches he couldn't carry. But he showed his heart broken, his buoyancy sunk, his spark snuffed. Wanting nothing but to sit there and hold yourself tight in protection, as though you can force out the emptiness or coldness or hurt if you make yourself small enough.

I have been thinking about fate a lot lately, and I was surprisingly happy to hear Zohra Sehgal's character say that we carve our own fate. I should know better than to take any kind of life advice from Bollywood literally, but this warmed me - much needed in this gray and complicated film.

More life advice one might not want to follow, no matter how tempting, because it's probably not as easy as that: "Say yes just once. We'll go far away from here."

This particular sweet-but-goading dialogue is not much different from many others in Bollywood, but I like the way it was phrased (or at least translated) here: "I don't believe in one-sided love. There must be something between us. The only difference being you're not willing to accept the truth. And I do. What's the matter? No courage?"

And on the lighter side, the refreshingly open and light-hearted conversation between Preeti and Amar about "hunka bunka bonks," which, according to Preeti, eighty percent of girls do before marriage. But when he wonders if she's in the twenty percent, she says, "What else? I didn't have the guts?" then calls him out with "Looks like you're from the twenty percent too."

Also, this movie features what I hope is Farah Khan's tongue-in-cheeck remake of the teach-the-naive-girl-how-to-dance-in-the-lake scene from a certain wildly popular movie from the late 1980s that featured prominently in all slumber parties of the era. And I hope this is the last time I will ever think to compare SRK to Patrick Swayze. Also on the subject of dancing, in each of the movies I have watched this weekend there has been a dance sequence that features a star with a bunch of people lined up behind them with their arms fanning out, making the person in front look like a Hindu deity. Whether with Karisma, SRK, or SRK with Preity, done in fun or drama, this move always makes me happy.

Moving from naach to gaana let me add that the music here is superwow. A. R. Rahman at his rich, evocative best.

Oh, and there are elephants. You know how I love elephants.

I do so hope this movie concludes my current stretch of Very Badly Subtitled Films. When the ones here were visible, they were great (outlined in black and put as far into the black bar below the letterbox as possible), but for the third time this weekend they were omitted from all the songs. I'm at the point that the next time I rent, I will ask the person at the desk at the video store to please kindly stop playing The Muppet Show for a sec and just check my selection for me quickly, just so I don't get home and end up sad. I just hate feeling that I'm missing something.

Aside to Preity Zinta: absolutely fantastic debut. Your character here is so completely charming. She's flawed but she tries. She's cute but she makes a point. She's fun but she thinks about things. Can I be her for awhile to see what it's like to balance all of these things successfully? Truly a star turn.

Oh, and if you would like a plot summary and review with good pictures, go here.


Anurag said…
Aah...what better way to discover the blog of a bollywood lover than reading about the great 'Dil Se'.

I distinctly remember the first time I watched the movie in a theatre. Left me speechless. Haunted me for days, yes.

And that one shot. Just when 'Chhaiya Chhaiya' begins. The screen, and so does the theatre, goes absolutely dark. Two glimmering diyaas light up the screen in gorgeous yellow. And the train slowly emerges out of the tunnel ...

Santosh Sivan's cinematography, A R Rehman's music, SRK's brilliant dance and the train - pure unadulterated bliss.
Cool! Thanks for leaving a comment. I can't imagine how amazing it would be to have seen this in the theater. "Haunted" is the word for me too. Agreed about the train scene too. One of the very best I've seen. I was really surprsied to read that Sivan also did Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, which, while pretty, was not to me breathtaking like Dil Se and Asoka.
Anonymous said…
I was actually surprised at how much I liked Dil Se by the end. At first I was irritated by SRK's whole "I'm going to stalk Manisha Koirala even though she has yet to give me any indication that she has the slightest interest in me" behavior, but once I got past that (and some of the more ill-considered song picturizations), I thought the second half was really compelling. Though there was also a nagging feeling of "Dude, why the hell is he still hung up on Manisha when Preity is around?" Even I wanted to marry her.

Also, regarding the cool multiple-arms dance move, have you seen the Deedar De video? I haven't seen the movie Dus, but I caught the video for this song, which I thought had some particularly nice use of that move.
I know! I was irritated at SRK - or, rather, just not all that convinced that he was pursuing a good path - until she wrote her little note in the sand. That got me, I don't really know why. I also did not lie them dancing in the big read pouch. But the rest of the picturizations were okay by me, although Ir eally do think part of the one in the water must be a joke due to its Patrick Swayze-ness. I also agree re: Preity. Thte candidness of that character was so appealing. She just was who she was, and she was considerate of others, but she spoke her mind, laughed when she felt like it, asked questions when she felt like it, did what she thought was right. Do you think she knew the whole truth by the end? I kinda think she did, although to be sure I didn't quite follow all the chain of events there that lead up to ka-boom.

Basically when I got Dil Se, I was feeling skeptical about it because I don't generally like fictional trauma-drama, whether in movie or book, but I had read so much about how good this was, and I wanted to see the dance on the train. I didn't pay nearly a smuch attention to the rebel plots and was much more sucked into the romance.

I haven't seen Deedar De. I will hunt it down. I don't htink my store has song compilation videos but I have it on good authority that I need to purchase some, so maybe I just will!
everytime i watch it i wanna watch it again and again.. its dark movie but looks white. afterall ther is no evil in this movie even it deals with terrorism. the bad in this movie got their part of the story. and i almost cried when manisha tells her story to mr khan. i just wann awatch it againa nd again
Pankaj Sachdeva said…
Beth, fabulous review. I keep checking your reviews. Regarding the big red pouch and dancing in the water, the song actually is a depiction of seven stages of love. That is why you see Manisha dancing in all the colors of rainbow. If you look at the lyrics, they show the seven stages of love so famous in Arabic literature - also, popularised by Dedh Ishqiya's trailer - how a person goes from attraction to death (maut) in love. That is also true of the film as well.
Hi Pankaj - Aha! Wonderful explanation. Thank you!

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