November 10 2015
It’s an Indian film that has notched up 20 years and a special screening in London did it rich justice…
IT’S A STAGE that has played host to some of the biggest film stars on the planet and on Saturday (November 7), a part of Bollywood and the Punjab descended on the British Film Institute (BFI) Southbank as never before.
In fact, it felt like a Bollywood / “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” takeover of the main theatre at the BFI. The title comes from a well-known song which has the immortal line, ‘the brave hearted will win the bride’.
NFT1 cheered, jeered and shed a tear as the young Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) – Bollywood’s no.1 star, romanced Kajol in one of the most popular films ever to emerge out of India. Not only that – the Badshah of Bollywood, SRK sent a video message to a special couple…
Earlier this year, “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” (known also just as DDLJ), notched up a 1,000 screenings at a cinema in Mumbai, 20 years after it first screened.
It came to London not just as a film that was marking its 20th anniversary, but also as one included in the BFI’s Love Season – ‘Films to fall in Love with…films to break your heart’. There are other Indian films in the season – see here for details.
Rhidan Davis, BFI programme manager, explained why DDLJ was included in the Love Season and was on hand to see the frenzy it inspired.
“It was an obvious choice for us to make a song and dance about it as part of our LOVE season, presenting the most enduring love stories from around the world.
“Working with Yash Raj Films and their partners to host a sold out screening at BFI Southbank feels like a fitting tribute to the film in its 20th anniversary year, and to the unforgettable pairing of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol as Raj and Simran,” he declared.
As you would expect of a Bollywood movie there was a happy ending – that was never in question, but how Raj, played by the young SRK wins over Kajol, as Simran, is not at all predictable and the last scene -one of the most famous ever shot in the history of Indian cinema now – is one of moment and impulse.
The film may have dated slightly at its edges, but it remains powerful and emotionally resonant – not least because the cheeky charmer that is Raj maintains ‘Indian values’ in wooing the shimmering, independently-minded, feisty Simran.
The subtext of the film may have some issues for those who go looking for them, but it’s undeniably, at a more superficial level, just a thoroughly uplifting, entertaining, and warming tale, which follows the classic trope of rejection (on the part of the woman), annoyance , acceptance, desire and communion – but in an Indian and very Punjabi context.
And the music is sensational – as it must be if a Bollywood romance film is to really make a mark.
To add to the atmosphere, and commemorate the 20th anniversary, Asian TV channel, B4U, unveiled its search for a real-life Raj and Simran before the screening and this real life couple heard from SRK via a video message.
Rahul Sharma and Pahul Ahluwalia who live and met in London were announced as the winners.
It was their story that touched the heart of of the original producers – Yash Raj Films, which along with B4U, ran the competition.
Navraj Panesar, general manager Yash Raj Films UK, and BBC Asian Network radio Bollywood hosts Raj and Pablo, presented the couple with some special prizes for their win.
There were hampers with film memorabilia and Rahul was presented with a feathered hat – a homage to Raj’s look, while Pahul received a dupatta donated by UK fashion designer, Jyoti Chandhok. The item was in remembrance of Kajol’s appearance during the hit song, “Mehdni Laga Ke Rakhna”.
Panesar said it was the fans who have made the movie what it is today and that the film and the occasion belonged to them.
“We just made a film but it’s the fans who made it iconic. We were delighted that the film was celebrated by an institution like the BFI, which had also earlier released a book on the film. We’re humbled yet again by their support.”
Pahul revealed, on stage, that she had first met Rahul while dining at La Porte des Indes restaurant in central London and the couple had courted before returning to India to seek their family’s blessings.
The two were not only choosing their own partners – something which still meets with disapproval in some quarters in India – but were also marrying across a religious divide, as Pahul is Sikh and Rahul, Hindu.
Later Pahul added: “We’re absolutely thrilled to be crowned Raj and Simran of the UK.
“Things were a lot more conservative back then. Most girls related to Simran and were hoping to meet their Raj, but often caught between following tradition out of respect for their parents, or following their heart.”
Rahul said that he had first seen the film while in school in India and that Raj was for many, “the Romeo of Bollywood and the benchmark of romance”.
Ashok Shenoy, head international business B4U, said: “DDLJ is an iconic Bollywood film and a testament to just how diverse, magical and timeless our industry is. We were honoured to be able to champion the DDLJ legacy.”
You can see pictures of the Absolute Bollywood dancers who performed to a medley of DDLJ and Yash Raj Films before the screening began, in our latest FB post and DJ Vish later kept the Bollywood party vibe on by playing tracks in the Benugo bar.