MUBI Podcast

India's 25-year (and counting) marriage to "DDLJ"

June 10, 2021 MUBI Season 1 Episode 2
MUBI Podcast
India's 25-year (and counting) marriage to "DDLJ"
Show Notes Transcript

The longest-running film in Bollywood history, 1995's "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (aka DDLJ) caught the imagination of a country in transition and practically created a new Bollywood subgenre. Rico gets the inside story of its creation and legacy from DDLJ co-star Anupam Kher, costume designer Manish Malhotra, and critic Anupama Chopra — who literally wrote the book on this classic rom-com.

Our first season, titled “Lost in Translation,” spotlights movies that were massive cultural phenomena in their home countries, but nowhere else. With episodes spanning nearly every continent, tune in weekly to discover unique film stories from around the globe.

Each episode, we publish a complementary piece in MUBI's online film magazine Notebook in a new series called “MUBI Podcast Expanded.” This week, Anupama Chopra shares an excerpt from her comprehensive book on this landmark Bollywood film DDLJ: A Modern Classic. Read the article here.

MUBI is a global streaming service, production company and film distributor. A place to discover and watch beautiful, interesting, incredible films. A new hand-picked film arrives on MUBI, every single day. From iconic directors, to emerging auteurs. All carefully chosen by MUBI’s curators.

[Rico Gagliano] Heads up. This episode contains at least one addictive musical ear worm and worse yet...spoilers. [Crowd clamour, cheer; Music plays] [Rico] December 2014. A Friday night in Mumbai, India. Outside the landmark Maratha Mandir movie palace, a crowd swarms a white limousine. Flashbulbs pop as the car doors open and two of the biggest stars in Hindi cinema step out - Shah Rukh Khan, in a dapper black suit, and Kajol, in black gown and a crutch from a recent leg injury. Half a dozen security handlers form a ring around them to hold back the ocean of fans who are right on the line between party mode and worship mode. [Clamouring, music continue] [Rico] Everyone's here to celebrate the movie that made these stars - director Aditya Chopra's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, universally known as DDLJ. Tonight's screening will mark the movie's 1,000th consecutive week at the Maratha Mandir. I'll save you the math. That's 19 years. [Music continues] [Rico] A street band plays DDLJ's theme song, while nearby a camera crew asks random fans to sing it. [Woman sings in Hindi] [Woman 2 sings in Hindi] [Men sing in Hindi] [Rico] Everyone knows every single word. Later, inside the 1,000-seat theater, Shah Rukh and Kajol take the stage. [Cheering] [Rico] It's pandemonium. [Shah Rukh Khan] DDLJ. 1,000 weeks. On behalf of Kajol, myself, Aditya Chopra, bahut bahut bahut bahut bahut dhanyavaad. Thank you very much. [Cheering] - [Man] We love you! - [Shah Rukh Khan] I know! [Rico] So, that was six years ago. Today, DDLJ is still playing at the Maratha Mandir Theater, more than 25 years since it debuted. [Laidback instrumental music] [Rico] I am arts and travel reporter Rico Gagliano and, from the curated streaming service MUBI, welcome back to the MUBI Podcast. MUBI showcases beautifully hand-picked films from around the globe. On this show, we tell you the stories behind those films and any other movies with stories worth telling. This first season we're calling Lost In Translation. We're learning about international cultures through the films they love, specifically, movies that were culture-defining mega hits... in just one country. And the poster child for that concept might very well be DDLJ. For viewers outside India or the international Indian diaspora, this 1995 Bollywood flick comes off like a super sweet, globe-trotting musical romcom but, for many Indians, it was way, way more. [Anupam Kher] So, I think people were just in shock that somebody had made a film like this. [Rico Gagliano] That is Bollywood movie star Anupam Kher. He was in DDLJ and he's one of lots of people I spoke to to learn how this sunny romance became the longest-running film in Indian history, created a new blueprint for mainstream Hindi language movies, and even changed where Indians traveled. So, listen up, 'cause Kher and the rest are about to help us translate Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge - "The Brave-Hearted Will Take the Bride." [Music continues] [Music concludes, resonates] [Rico] The story of this movie starts with its creator, director Aditya Chopra. Today, he's one of the biggest film-makers in Bollywood and he's so reclusive... I can't even really tell you what he looks like. The most recent photo I found online is almost a decade old. [Anupama Chopra] He has never, ever engaged with the press. He has no interest in publicity. He doesn't want to be known. He doesn't want to be seen. [Rico Gagliano] That's film critic Anupama Chopra, no relation. She did score a rare interview with Aditya, for her book, called Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge: A Modern Classic. [Anupama Chopra] He said to me that, "One of the things that makes me the film-maker that I am "is my ability to go into a theater and watch a movie with everyone, "with, you know, regular people, "and the minute I sort of become a known face, I become a celebrity, "that whole process will become tainted in some way "and that will take away from the cinema that I want to make." [Rico] The kind of cinema he wants to make is big, massively popular movies and he's been gearing up to make those almost literally since the day he was born. [Grand orchestral music] [Rico] This is a musical number from a 1985 film called Faasle, one of 22 movies directed by Aditya's father Yash Chopra. He'd started out making hard-hitting dramas but became legendary for making the exact opposite. [Anupama Chopra] What Yash Chopra was... And we all call him Yash ji. "Ji" is an honorific. It's a sign of respect. We all call him Yash ji. You know, he was the man who finessed the art of creating these gossamer fantasies, you know, these grand romances, beautiful films with beautiful people. So, he was a man who really, at least for for my generation, established what the vocabulary of love was, you know, how people express themselves, his songs, his music. [Rico] This scene from Faasle is a classic example. In it, the heroine's draped in a sari of billowing white and purple chiffon. And as she bursts into a love song... [Music - "Hum Chup Hain" by Lata Mangeshkar & Kishore Kumar] [Rico] ..She and her lover spin and sing through the lush meadows of Switzerland. By the way, this was Yash Chopra's first time shooting a movie there. It would not be his last. [Anupama Chopra] He was one of the first film-makers in contemporary Hindi cinema to kind of really, really exploit foreign locations. You know, he shot so often in Switzerland that there's a lake there named after him. It's called the Chopra Lake. [She laughs] You know? Switzerland looks like this untouched, pristine landscape. So, he was that man, he created these larger than life, exquisite fantasies of romance which allowed you to forget that the real reality outside is maybe less than perfect. [Rico] So, that's the kind of film-making Aditya Chopra grew up around. As a teen, he wasn't into arty Indian auteurs like Satyajit Ray. He spent his weekends in big theaters, seeing big, commercial movies. Like, every one of them. [Anupama Chopra] He actually showed me these notebooks that he used to make where, you know, he would write about the film, he would write the synopsis of the story and what he felt about it, and then also make this prediction about whether it would work or not work. So, he's a guy who's really steeped in mainstream Hindi cinema, because that is in his DNA. That's his genetic code. [Rico] But when Aditya started working in Bollywood, as an assistant to his father, it was at a weird time, The '80s were turning into the '90s and there was a sense that mainstream Hindi cinema, all the formulas Aditya had been studying all his life, might be in need of some changing. Because India was changing. [Music continues, concludes] [Anupama Chopra] When I was growing up in the '80s, it was...the economy was closed. [Rico] Very closed. Heavy restrictions on imports and something called the Licence Raj, a complex system of hoops businesses had to jump through before they could start up or make anything. [Anupama Chopra] So, you could only buy a few things. You saw glimpses of the good life in Hollywood films. But none of that in terms of just consumer products was really available to you. I grew up with one television channel. [Rico] Then, practically overnight, everything was different. [Manmohan Singh] To realize our development potential, we have to unshackle the human spirit of creativity, idealism, adventure and enterprise that our people possess in abundance. [Rico] In late '91, India's then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh announced the country was opening up. The government allowed more competition, more imports. Multinationals flooded in. [Manmohan Singh] India is on the move again. We shall make the future happen. [Rico] In the span of a few years, middle class city kids like Anupama Chopra went from having access to that one TV channel to dozens, from everywhere. [Anupama Chopra] You have satellite television coming in and suddenly this sort of sleepy nation starts to race. [Laidback instrumental music] [Anupama Chopra] I grew up in a middle class home. It was very much about conserve, about, you know, save money. And now it was all about spend money, get the sort of shiniest toys that you can. [Music continues] [Anupama Chopra] The media opened up. Suddenly, the place was awash in, like, these very sexy, color supplements that sold you all the latest consumer goods. It was a great cultural journey. And for all of us who came of age at that time, really it was like being thrown into a whirlpool, because you went from one thing to completely something else. [Rico] Also in the early '90s, tensions between India's religious groups boiled over. There were deadly riots. And it's in the middle of all this that Aditya Chopra started working out the story for his directing debut. A story that, whether he consciously meant it to or not, was going to speak volumes to an audience trying to figure out, in the middle of this cultural whirlpool, what it meant to be Indian. [Music concludes, resonates] [Light orchestral music] [Anupama Chopra] It's, of course, a boy and a girl story, but what what makes it interesting is that this boy and this girl are actually second generation Indians, who live in London. The girl's family is extremely conservative. She is going to have an arranged marriage to a man she's never met. [Woman speaks Hindi] What she does is, before she goes off to India to have this marriage, she says to her father, who's extremely stern, you know, this patriarch, she says, "You know, all I want is you give me one month. "I want to go live my life. "I want to go on the Eurail. I want to see Europe." [Woman speaks Hindi] [Music swells] [Man speaks Hindi] [Woman speaks Hindi] [Anupama Chopra] And he says yes. [Man speaks Hindi] [Woman speaks Hindi] [Music swells, man chuckles] [Anupama Chopra] Of course, he doesn't know that this guy, this charming man, who's going to sweep her off her feet, is also going to be on the same damn train to Europe. [Raj] Open the door, darling. Open the door. [Rico] That charming man is named Raj, the happy, London-born son of a rich, way more lenient and liberal Indian dad. [Raj] Just joking. [Rico] Of course, in the middle of their euro trip, Raj and the girl, whose name is Simran, miss their train, which, of course, forces them to share a hotel room in... of course, Switzerland, where of course, they fall in love, despite Simran's impending arranged marriage to some guy she's never met in Punjab. [Anupama Chopra] They come back and the father finds out that this has happened, is extremely unhappy, sells off, overnight, his business, his house and shifts the family back to India. And now Raj follows her to Punjab, pre-Google, pre-internet, finds exactly where she is, and they have this romantic reunion in the fields of Punjab. And then... And then Raj says that he's only going to marry Simran with the permission of her family and especially her father. [Woman speaks Hindi] [Rico] Simran says it'll never happen, they should just run away. But Raj insists. "I may have been born in England," he says, "but I'm a Hindustani." [Man speaks Hindi, music continues] [Rico] "I'll take you only when your father gives me your hand." [Man speaks Hindi, music continues] [Rico] So, Raj hatches a plot to win him over. High jinks ensue. And I don't want to say whether Simran's father finally lets his daughter marry the brave, upstanding, sweet, rich guy who only wants her dad's blessing, but...come on. [Music swells] [Rico] Anupam Kher was one of the first people ever to hear the plot of DDLJ. [Anupam Kher] My name is Anupam Kher and I'm an actor primarily from India and I'm right now in Mumbai. It's 8:38pm in the night right now. [Rico, chuckling] Thanks for joining us in the dead of night. [Anupam Kher] Absolutely. [Rico] Kher has acted in over 500 Indian films. In DDLJ he plays Raj's rich, good humored dad. In fact, he's kind of always played dads. [Anupam Kher] On my first film, I was 28 and I played a 65-year-old man. [Rico Gagliano] Think of him as the Angela Lansbury of Bollywood and someone who's known Aditya Chopra for a long time. [Anupam Kher] His father, Mr Yash Chopra, I had done nine films with him. We used to play cricket on every Sunday at Yash Chopra's house. That was a ritual for almost 10 years or 15 years. And we had seen Adi Chopra, Aditya Chopra, since he was 10 years old, passionate, crazily in love with the movies. And we all knew four years in advance that he is going to start this movie. He used to sing the songs, he used to play drums on the dining table and he used to say, "AK, listen to this tune." [Rico] Then, one of those cricket Sundays, Aditya gave him more than a tune. [Anupam Kher] In India, there was a, till about ten years back, there was a custom of narrating the film. The director used to narrate the film to you or the story writer used to narrate the film. [Rico] They would kind of tell you the story, instead of sending you a script. [Anupam Kher] Tell you the story. Out of 518 films that I've done, I think I must have got the written script for not more than 40 films. The rest were all narrated to me. And when he finally narrated me the script of DDLJ, I was mesmerized. [Rico] Because, sure, there'd been countless Bollywood films about women falling in love on the eve of their arranged marriage... but there'd never been one like this. [Anupam Kher] Most 90% films in India or anywhere else in the world is love stories, but especially in our country, at that time. And the only thing was that in every love story, the boy and the girl's parents don't get long. It's like Romeo & Juliet. They don't get along so they will elope and then, in the final climax, the parents will agree and they will get married or they will kill each other or they will kill themselves, et cetera. [Rico] If you're new to Bollywood cinema, that might bear repeating. Yes, in the typical Bollywood romance back then, the parents never wanted the couple to stay together, so the couple eloped and, a lot of times, if the parents still wouldn't give in... the couple committed suicide. [Anupam Kher] But this was the first time that the boy tells the girl, "I will not elope or marry you till your father says, "'Okay, here is my daughter, take her and get married to her.'" That was the revolutionary part of it. No other film had done that. [Rico] Yeah, what was revolutionary was how totally traditional and conservative it was, and how simultaneously it made heroes out of what had typically been the least traditional kind of characters in Indian cinema - Indians living abroad. [Usha Iyer] They were Non-Resident Indians, so this was among the first films to explore that in detail. [Rico] Usha Iyer is an Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies at Stanford. Her specialty, Indian cinema. [Usha Iyer] Before this, the westernized person would often be the villain, but this film actually has no evil Indian who lives outside of India. Being westernized is no longer evil. In fact, the only slightly negative characters are this man that Simran is supposed to marry and his father. They are, like, patriarchal Punjabi men. In the past, you know, it would be the drinking and smoking and womanizing, leather-jacket-wearing, westernized villain, whose name was often Robert. [Rico Gagliano] Robert? [They laugh] [Rico] Why Robert? [Usha Iyer] Oh, there are so many Robert memes. And the gangster's moll would often be called Monica. [Man speaks Hindi] [Rico Gagliano] The classic example of all this is a 1970 Bollywood flick called East and West, about a good Indian boy who comes to study in hippie-era London. He stays with a family of Non-Resident Indians, also known as NRIs, who've completely lost touch with the traditions of the old country. In this scene, the hero wears an Indian-style Nehru jacket, while a cynical NRI, in a typical British suit, lectures him on the failures of India. "My dear boy," he says, "Your country hasn't contributed anything to the world." [Man] My dear boy... [Man speaks Hindi] [Man, in English] India's contribution is zero, zero...and zero. [Rico] At which point, the hero launches into a song listing all of Indians' contributions to civilization, starting with inventing the number zero. [Music - "Hai Preet Jahan Ki Reet" by Mahendra] [Rico] In other words, back then, the quote unquote, "real" Indian was easy to spot in a Bollywood film. [Usha Iyer] So you had to be Indian in appearance, you had to be traditional. All of these were markers of the good Indian hero, [Rico] But Anupama Chopra says DDLJ, and especially the character of Raj flipped the script, [Anupama Chopra] This whole idea of who is Indian and what constitutes an Indian was completely turned around, because, outwardly, Raj is completely westernized. But inside, he's pure Desi, which is pure Indian. [Rico] It's interesting. So, the movie kind of has it both ways. It's progressive, because it's saying you're not a bad person if you dress or act in a Western way, or even if you live in the West, but it's also super conservative, because it's saying what's essential to being Indian is Raj's very traditional view of the family. [Anupama Chopra] Yeah. You know, what DDLJ did was essentially sort of serve everyone. It was all things to all people. They told all of us that we can be both, you know, that we don't have to choose. You can wear the Harley Davidson leather jacket, you can, you know, have that amazing life, going on that Eurail and going to Europe and you know, being cool and hip, and still being Indian, you know, still having your core values, still having the family around you. And so you could be everything, like Raj was everything. [Rico] Now, they needed an actor who could be Raj - everything to everyone. [Music continues, concludes] [Rico] Shah Rukh Khan... was not the obvious choice. [Man laughs maniacally] [Rico] This is him, losing his murderous mind in an uncharacteristically dark Yash Chopra thriller called Darr. [Laughing continues] [Mournful instrumental music] [Rico] At the time, this was his typical role. [Anupama Chopra] You know, he was already a pretty big star. His first film, Deewana, was already a success. He then played a creepy killer, would you believe, in two films, in Baazigar and Darr, and both those films were massive successes. And in both these films, he's absolutely unhinged and he's doing all sorts of awful things - stalking women, killing women - and somehow still looking extremely charismatic. And then Aditya Chopra said to him that, "Look, you play Raj," and he actually wasn't convinced at all. [Shah Rukh Khan] I never wanted to do a romantic role. [Rico Gagliano] That's Khan, from a DDLJ documentary made by the Chopra family studio, Yash Raj Films. [Shah Rukh Khan] Because, by the time I joined films, I was 26. Normally, romantic films meant that you started off in a college, then ran away with a girl, or committed suicide with a girl, or whatever. I thought I was too old to be a romantic hero. [Rico] And, according to Anupam Kher, he wasn't even a fan of romantic roles. [Anupam Kher] Yes, I remember Shah Rukh telling me also he was not thrilled to do another lover boy. You know, he wanted to do action films, he wanted to do drama, he wanted to do various films. [Rico] Khan took the gig - you didn't say no to a film produced by Yash Chopra - but, in that DDLJ documentary, there's behind-the-scenes footage of Shah Rukh on the set of the film, talking about his character. "It's the role of a wimp," he says at one point, "I feel like a wimp." [Man roars] [Man speaks Hindi] [Rico] Which explains why, according to him, he insisted Aditya Chopra give his character a big, bloody fight scene, towards the end of a movie that really doesn't feel like it should have a big, bloody fight scene. [Dramatic music; Thudding, yelling] [Rico] Anyway, even if Khan himself didn't quite get it, it was a genius casting move. Usually, an NRI character like Raj was a bad guy. Now, he was a hero. And the same went for Shah Rukh Khan. [Man shouts in Hindi] [Laidback guitar music] [Rico] Still, right to the end, not everyone was convinced. [Shah Rukh Khan] I do remember the first time my friends saw the film. They said, "The film would be lovely without you. "Nobody's going to watch this film, "because you have such a negative and edgy image." [Music continues] [Rico] Shah Rukh's friends...were wrong. India falls for DDLJ, coming up in just a minute. Stay with us. [Music continues, concludes] [Rico] MUBI is a curated streaming service, production company and film distributor, a place to discover, discuss and celebrate beautiful cinema. Every day, MUBI premieres a new film, each one thoughtfully hand-picked by our team of curators. From brand-new work by emerging film-makers to masterpieces by cinema's greatest icons, there is always something new to uncover on the platform. And you should know that throughout this first season of the podcast, our online film magazine Notebook is publishing a complementary piece alongside each episode in a series that we're calling MUBI Podcast Expanded. This week, Anupama Chopra shares an excerpt from her book, which we mentioned earlier in the show. It's all about this landmark Bollywood film

and it's called DDLJ:

A Modern Classic. So, finish this episode, then check out the article on the Notebook at MUBI.com/notebook. And, of course, to stream the best of cinema, simply head over to MUBI.com to start watching. [Laidback instrumental music] [Rico] All right, we're back, and you may recall, a few minutes ago, we met Stanford Film Studies Professor Usha Iyer. She's a big fan of DDLJ... now. [Usha Iyer] So, it's quite interesting that when this film came out in 1995, I didn't watch it that year. I had just been introduced or rather indoctrinated into art cinema, into serious cinema. So, you know, we were watching Satyajit Ray and Andrei Tarkovsky and Robert Bresson. [Rico] But the part of DDLJ she did experience in '95... was the music, because it was in escapable. [Music - "Tujhe Dekha To" by Lata Mangeshkar & Kumar Sanu] [Usha Iyer] Film music is the popular music in India. The sale of music rights, it's a very big part of the film's budget, and the songs are released a few months before the release of the film. They can often predict whether the film will be a hit or a flop. So, if your music flops, then the film is not really going to do very well. That's how important music is. The music for DDLJ did really well, right off the bat. [Music continues] [Rico Gagliano] This is DDLJ's de facto theme song, Tujhe Dekha To, and if it isn't lodged in your head right now, trust me, by the end of your first viewing of DDLJ, it definitely will be. And, in '95, this tune was lodged in the heads of a lot of Indians. Before the movie even hit theaters, the soundtrack album sold millions of copies. [Usha Iyer] Every song was a big hit. The title song, Tujhe Dekha To, and Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna, the wedding song, were extremely popular. You would hear them all the time. [Rico] I mean, is this, like, if you're walking down the street, you'd hear it ten times coming out of cars? [Usha Iyer] Yes! You would hear it at weddings, you would hear... Cat callers would sing out these songs. [Rico] Anupama Chopra chalks that up in part to the songwriting duo Jatin Lalit, who'd already had some Bollywood success, but not on this scale. [Anupama Chopra] You know, it was very peppy music. It was also the lyrics and the dialogue, just the sound of the language in the film was very young, it was very conversational and the lyrics were like that too. They were much simpler. The music was very young, very peppy, very much a mix of Western sound but also traditional Punjab, so dhol, which is the drums, you know. [Music continues] [Rico] Usha Iyer says it sure didn't hurt that, more and more, Indian audiences weren't just listening to music. [Usha Iyer] People, by this time, are watching the songs on TV. You had these programs that are just devoted to musical numbers from films, so they're watching it on repeat, endlessly, for months. The music video was becoming very popular in urban India. I remember, in the early '90s, we were just watching MTV all the time, because it was so new. [Rico] And Usha says the DDLJ video clips kids saw there - again, way before the movie opened - offered tantalizing glimpses of its sweeping foreign locations, its hip yet fabulous costumes. It was all on a scale Bollywood audiences hadn't seen...for kind of a long time. [Manish Malhotra] So, my name is Manish Malhotra. I am a costume designer/stylist and I also am a couturier and I have my own label. And...that's what it is, yeah. That's my life. [Rico] That's an understatement. Today, Manish Malhotra is actually one of India's biggest fashion and costume designers. But in 1994, when he took the gig designing costumes on DDLJ, he was a relative newbie, with something to prove. [Manish Malhotra] I wanted to change the way films looked, because the late '80s saw a lot of decline in the look of Bollywood films. So, the '40s or the '50s or the '60s had been very, very... In fact, even the '70s had been a very influential era of Indian cinema, because there were these larger-than-life film directors that became iconic with style. But I think, in the late '80s, something got lost and looks had taken a complete toss, you know, it had completely gone out. [Rico] Tough, violent action films ruled Indian screens in the '80s. Like most Bollywood flicks, they still had big musical numbers, but a lot of times they felt thrown together, not very stylish at all. Manish was part of a new wave, bringing a hybrid of colorful, old school glamour and new school streetwear to Bollywood. [Manish Malhotra] I was so influenced by the '60s and the '70s, where colors took prominence, where style took prominence and mixing a visual, opulent dream to a certain reality, you know, so mixing and blending the two. [Rico] In fact, one of the first films he costumed was called Rangeela, which literally means "colorful". It won him the first-ever Best Costume Designer award at the 1995 Filmfare ceremony, India's Oscars. [Bustling conversations] And that was just one more reason expectations were insanely high when, just a few months later, DDLJ finally premiered, at the 1,100-seat New Excelsior Movie Palace in Mumbai. [Manish Malhotra] There was a massive anticipation. The music had already become a hit, it was Aditya Chopra's first film, it was Yash Chopra's production, Shah Rukh Khan had gained popularity by then and so had Kajol. So, everybody was on a swing, right, everybody was on an upswing of their careers and mine also - Rangeela was released. And so I think everybody was like, "Okay, let's see, what have they done?" [Projector whirs] [Anupama Chopra] I remember going to the premiere and there was such a... You know, normally premieres are... You know, everyone is really curious to see what the film is, but everyone's sort of always a little unhappy when the film is really great, because they wish it was their movie. But I felt like this was a premiere where there was just joy, because it was... Yash ji was so respected and so loved in the film industry, and here was his son, taking his first step out of the door and what a step it was. [Rico] Anupam Kher was also there that night, watching himself on-screen say the final line of the film, which happens to be the movie's title. [Man] Le Jayenge, le Jayenge Dilwale Dulhania le Jayenge. [Men speak in Hindi] [Cheering] [Music - "Tujhe Dekha To" by Lata Mangeshkar & Kumar Sanu] [Anupam Kher] I was standing next to Mr Yash Chopra, the father, and we were near an exit gate of the cinema hall and at the premiere, because it was Aditya Chopra's first film, Mr Yash Chopra had invited every single person who meant anything in the city of Mumbai, even in from other parts of India, even from London. So, it was the most power-packed premiere in the history of Indian cinema. I mean, there were producers, there were directors. Also, it was the most anticipated film. And when the film finished... [Music concludes] ..there was a pin-drop silence. [Projector winds down] And Yash Chopra looked at me and he said his heart was sinking because he thought people had not liked the film. And it was a never-ending silence, it must have not been for more than one minute. And then there was a never-ending standing ovation. So, I think people were just in shock that somebody had made a film like this. They were in shock. And that shock went on for a minute. And then I think the applause went on for 12 minutes. [Rico] The film's impact lasted a lot longer. [Woman speaks Hindi] [Anupama Chopra] There was nothing else I remember for weeks, except conversation around DDLJ and the dialogue of DDLJ and, you know, just little moments. [Man speaks Hindi] [Rico Gagliano] Like a moment in the movie where Raj, who's just fallen for Simran, watches as she goes to catch a train. [Man speaks Hindi] [Anupama Chopra] He says, palat, you know, where he says, "Turn around, turn around." "And if she loves me, she's gonna turn around." [Man speaks Hindi] [Anupama Chopra] And, of course, she does turn around. [Light instrumental music] Just, you know, little moments like this that just... And, of course, this is pre-social-media, this is pre-internet, so, it's not like we all know that everybody's talking about it, but you can still... The buzz within the industry, the money that was coming in, the kind of crowds at theaters. So, I think everybody knew within the first few days that this was going to be massive, but I don't think, Rico, anyone imagined that it would be playing 25 years later. [Rico] Actually, for many years there, DDLJ was, in a way, playing in every movie theater in the country, in the form of other Bollywood romcoms that totally swiped DDLJ's plotline, its Non-Resident Indian heroes and, yes...Switzerland. [Manish Malhotra] Because, you see, this film was London-based, and they shot a lot of it in Switzerland as well and that really got popular and that started a completely new genre of films, which were all about romance and youthful romance and shooting in Switzerland songs or, you know, making it London-based or UK-based. So, I think that chunk of 1996 to 2006, ten years, the amount I have traveled... I mean, it was just crazy. I was on a flight to Switzerland every week with one song for one film and another song for another film. [Rico] 'Cause all the movies you worked on were suddenly shooting in Switzerland? [Manish Malhotra] That's right. [Rico] Anupama Chopra says she believes it. [Anupama Chopra] I've heard such great stories about a time in the '90s when so many films used to shoot there that literally you would have one unit's light shining into another unit's camera. [Rico] Indian tourism to the UK and Switzerland boomed. Eventually the Chopras' studio, Yash Raj Films, started sponsoring package tours to their movies' Swiss locations. Meanwhile, for Anupam Kher, this is the dad role for which he would forever be known. [Anupam Kher] The day before yesterday... No, yesterday, somebody came... No, today, today. Oh, my God, Rico, today. Today, somebody came to my office to give me his book. He's written a book and he told me that, "I have a son who's 25 now "and when I saw Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, "I told myself I want to be like you when my son grows up." This has happened today, this morning, at 11 o'clock. So, that is the impact it has had. [Rico] And Shah Rukh Khan, who wanted to be a tough action star, Usha Iyer says he may have only grudgingly accepted the role of Raj, the lover boy, in DDLJ... [Usha Iyer] But then he made that his brand, you know, and then he became this, you know, what's called a chocolate boy hero for the next two decades, continuing to now. [Rico] A chocolate boy hero, that's, that's a real term? [Usha Iyer] In kind of popular film journalism. So, the chocolate boy hero is somebody who is, you know, just romantic - brings chocolates, but is also just kind of sweet and gooey. [They laugh] [Rico] I love it. [Usha Iyer] And not afraid of his own emotions. [Rico] In fact, for years, Khan played chocolate boy characters who were basically just recycled versions of Raj. A lot of times, they were even named Raj. It got to the point Khan actually made fun of it himself, in a 2007 comedy called Om Shanti Om, in which he plays a guy named Om Kapoor, who is...a Bollywood movie star. [Announcer] The best actor nominees... [Usha Iyer] There's an extended sequence of the Filmfare Awards and Shah Rukh Khan is one of the nominees and he's nominated for two films in which he looks exactly the same, only the heroine changes. [Announcer] Om Kapoor, in Phir Bhi Dil Hai NRI. [Rico] The clips from these films within a film are total send ups of DDLJ-style romances. In both, the Alps loom in the background, the heroine wears a standard-issue, Yash Chopra gossamer sari and Shah Rukh's dressed like an NRI college kid. [Usha Iyer] And she runs into his arms and he says, "My name is Raj, you must have heard this name before." [Man speaks Hindi] [Usha Iyer] So, it's a kind of spoof to say Shah Rukh Khan just played the same actor again and again and film after film had the same kind of cliche narratives. [Applause] [Rico] In other words, by the 2000s, DDLJ's innovations had become the norm, including the movie's big message, not to judge by appearances. That, no matter where Indians live or how they express themselves, it's Indian values that make them Indian. [Announcer] And the winner is... [Man] The winner... [Both] Om Kapoor! [Music swells, applause] [Rico] Of course, today, that can feel...complicated. Since the '90s, like a lot of nations, India's become even more polarized, especially along religious lines. In a multicultural country, whose values are officially Indian? And as for gender politics, Anupama Chopra says the movie gets props for having an anti-macho hero back in an era when Bollywood heroes were pretty damn macho, but also... [Anupama Chopra] You see how Aditya is playing you, you see how problematic the gender politics of this movie are, because Simran has no agency. She just sits around, you know, waiting to be tossed between her father and her boyfriend. And yet, and yet, you cannot... You know, intellectually, you have all those arguments, and, yet, when the movie begins, it just seduces you. [Rico] She's right, it does. Although, as crazy entertaining as it is, for some people, I'm not sure it's even what's on screen that's most seductive any more. [Man speaks Hindi] [Rico] This is one of a bunch of videos I found on YouTube, posted by Bollywood fans documenting their trips to Mumbai's Maratha Mandir theater to see the daily matinee screening of DDLJ. [Man speaks Hindi] The theater's closed right now, due to Covid. But earlier this year, when it was open, the manager told Indian newspapers DDLJ was the only film bringing in crowds, the only one people were willing to brave Covid to see, even though, these days, many who buy a ticket don't even watch the whole three-hour film. Some just pop in on their lunch break. [Anupama Chopra] I went back into the theater when it was 20 years old and it was like people were just there to experience some scenes, then they would leave, then they would come back in. They would say the dialogue before the characters on-screen say the dialogue, because you've seen it so many times, you're not watching it for the plot any more. And it's just like comfort food, you would just sit there and watch this film that you've seen, you know, 30 times, maybe. [Rico Gagliano] So, maybe the film isn't the biggest draw now. It doesn't seem like people are going to the Maratha Mandir over and over mainly to take in DDLJ's plot or to consider its politics. It feels like they're going most of all for the comfort of knowing it's there. At a crazy time in an uncertain world, it's a tradition they can count on. [Laidback instrumental music] And that's the MUBI Podcast for this week. Follow us to catch the rest of this season's deep dives into movies that helped shape their home countries' cultures. Next week, the Brazilian movie that turned actress Snia Braga from national star to national deity. [Bruno Barreto] Well, Snia is like the Sophia Loren of Brazil and Sophia Loren is pretty close to God, so I guess Snia is up there. This episode was hosted, written and cut by me, Rico Gagliano. Jackson Musker is our booking producer. Our engineers were Andy Carson and Rebekah Wineman. Mastering by Steven Coln. Martin Austwick composed and performed our original music. Special thanks to Austin Fisher and Apeksha Vakharia. The show's executive produced by me along with Jon Barrenechea, Efe Cakarel, Daniel Kasman and Michael Tacca for MUBI. If you're digging the show, please leave us a five-star review wherever you listen. It helps more people discover us and it also delights us. We would also love it if you e-mailed us with your questions, suggestions, or just to tell us we're awesome. Send it all to [email protected] And for an ever-changing collection of hand-picked films from iconic directors to emerging auteurs, subscribe to MUBI at MUBI.com. Till next week, it's a big world, watch globally. [Music continues] [Music concludes]