Literary Review

DDLJ diaries

Aditya Chopra Relives... Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge; As Told to Nasreen Munni Kabir, Yash Raj Films Private Limited, Rs.2000.

Aditya Chopra Relives... Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge; As Told to Nasreen Munni Kabir, Yash Raj Films Private Limited, Rs.2000.  

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A handsomely-produced tome about a landmark film tells us only as much as the director wants us to know.

Aditya Chopra, scion of the house of Chopras and producer-director of some of the most successful Hindi films, does not like to give interviews. His photographs too rarely appear in the papers. Nasreen Munni Kabir, who has written several books on Hindi cinema, is known for her lengthy interviews with veterans such as Lata Mangeshkar, Javed Akhtar, Gulzar and Waheeda Rehman. What happens when the recluse and the interviewer come together to produce a book on Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge?

The least the reader would expect is a detailed, insightful and anecdotal volume, which advances our understanding not just of this significant film and the thought processes behind its making, but also of cinema in general. Chopra is now no longer an industry newbie — it has been 20 years since DDLJ was made and since then he has been the driving force behind many significant and blockbuster films, including Chak de India and the Dhoom franchise. What he thinks and says matters. So does this book open up the Chopra mind to us?

Yes and no. He does give us a fairly detailed countdown of various facets of the making of DDLJ, from his initial ideas to the shooting of certain scenes to the songs, music and even choreography. We also get some idea of his own early musings on cinema and Hindi films. But it is hard to escape the feeling that not only is this his voice, but also that he gives out what he wants to. Kabir, an expert in getting that telling anecdote and asking that follow-up question, is largely missing. So often does one think — if only he spoke more about this or that. Still, given his miserliness in giving interviews, we must do with this.

The early portions of the book — as he warms up, so to speak — are a treat. As a child, he thought everyone he met only made films and grow up as a typical upper-class teenager, listening to the same western pop hits as his peers. But he gradually realised that he was becoming “detached from Indian values and emotional experiences” and he threw out his western music CDs. It was these Indian values that ultimately formed the foundation of DDLJ, the film that has become a kind of cultural marker for the generation that grew up after Manmohan Singh’s economic reforms, a generation very comfortable with consumerism and tradition, western in external appearance but also seeking cultural moorings.

Backed by his father — himself the chronicler of a certain kind of upper class Punjabiyat, where chiffon saris, pearls, international travel and opulent lifestyles co-existed with karva chauth — young Aditya Chopra took the saga further in tune with the changing times. He intuitively realised that the new Indian — and in this case, also the non-resident Indian — was a combination of, to use a cliché, tradition and modernity. The strict and hidebound patrician in DDLJ, who yearned for his fields in Punjab and fed the pigeons in Trafalgar square, was happy to let his daughter travel all over Europe, but wouldn’t dream of her allowing to choose her own husband.

Chopra Jr.’s own cinematic influences are quite interesting. He admires Raj Kapoor, but closer to his generation, thinks highly of Mansoor Khan and Sooraj Barjatya. “I saw myself somewhere between these two directors. I was probably not as rooted as Sooraj, but more rooted than Mansoor, not as westernised as Mansoor, but more westernised than Sooraj.” In addition, he doffs his hat to Manoj Kumar, whose Purab aur Paschim (1970) was an earlier articulation of the NRI’s anxieties. “It was through his films that I realised that I was very patriotic.” Nasir Hussain and his carefree characters were another benign inspiration. This would have been a good moment for Kabir to explore further, but it is clear that this is all that we are going to get —indeed, this is more than what we have ever got out of this reticent filmmaker.

Even with these limitations, this is a book that film buffs and historians will be able to use in future studies about this significant film, which has become some sort of cultural marker. It is a handsomely produced tome, with rare pictures of not just the film but also its director, stars and technicians working behind the scenes, though many will find the high price discouraging. Early handwritten scripts add an archival value to the book. Kabir, who designs her own books, has included images that will give the book lasting value for collectors and lovers of this film.

Aditya Chopra Relives... Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge; As Told to Nasreen Munni Kabir, Yash Raj Films Private Limited, Rs.2000.

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Printable version | Nov 14, 2018 10:21:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/aditya-chopra-relives-ddlj-review/article6842121.ece

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