Dil Se : Best Of Indian Cinema

It has been 18 years since the release of Mani Ratnam’s Romantic Thriller starring Shahrukh Khan and Manisha Koirala. It’s a cinematic Gem sitting in the bag of tricks of visionary Director Mani Ratnam. After Directing Roja and master piece Bombay, Mani Ratnam returned to finish his trilogy on Movies based on terrorism and directed Dil Se.

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I have always wanted to write on this movie, I have watched the movie a lot of times, this being one of my all time favorites and there are a lot of reasons involved in that. So bear with me till the end and you will never look at Dil Se as another SRK starrer musical. You will appreciate the genius behind Film Making and excellent story telling.

To understand the movie let us bend down to a little bit  in Arabic Literature, What is Love? this question has been in the mind of every human being in this world. This four letter long word with only one syllable has tricked wise intellectuals throughout the world. Ever Since humans started writing, they wrote about this strange thing. So, in Arabic Literature there are seven stages of Love:

  1. Hub (Attraction)
  2. uns (Infatuation)
  3. Ishq (Love)
  4. aqidat (Reverence- often used in relationship with religion)
  5. ibadat (Worship)
  6. junoon(Madness)
  7. maut (Death)

So this question has been answered so delicately by Mani Ratnam in his Dramatic Musical.

I found this in another review of a song of the movie which i am going to cite soon. Ok So remember these as I will talk about them later in the review, so let’s move on.

In Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se Shahrukh Khan appears as an All India Radio RJ(AmarKant Verma) who is on the way to North East India preparing a radio show on  Insurgency and festivals in Assam. He is seen waiting in a train station in the intro scene of the characters. There he encounters a person sleeping on the platform. He asks for a match stick to light the cigarette, with Clouds roaring and heavy rain, you can feel the tension in the air. As a powerful gust of wind rises, the cloth under which Person is lying flies away and lo behold, beneath the cloth is not a man, but a girl. And on first sight, Amar is entranced by the poignant and beautiful Manisha Koirala. But unfortuantely for him, she leaves in a train with three other men, just as he is getting a cup of tea for her. As Amar himself remarks “Duniya ki sabse chhoti prem kahaani” (The world’s shortest love story).

Amar meets a stranger-intro

The Importance of this intro lies deep within the movie. Not only we are introduced to our leading hero and heroine, but we are introduced to the first step of Love. The First Stage of Sufi definition of Love -Hub or attraction. Amar is clearly attracted to Manisha’s Character and fell in love with her.

The Story moves on as Amar reaches Silchar to cover the festivals there. He encounters the same woman at the festival, but she denies ever meeting him. Amar gets busy with his coverage of celebration of 50 Years of Independence of India. Meanwhile he also fix up a meeting with an extremist leader and have an interesting conversation with him about freedom and what independence really is.

Talking with insurgents

A few days later Amar spots the woman in a post office, she is talking with someone (later revealed as the terrorist group she is part of). She tells him to leave her alone. But Amar who has clearly breached the second stage of love now, follows her to her home. Amar then go on to tell her that he love her. But she resist and tells Amar that she is already Married.

Amar realizing his mistake decides to apologize, but She arrives with two men, who takes Amar and beat him unconscious. Dumping me in the forest. When Amar returns to consciousness he finds out that the two men who he had though to be her husband were actually her brothers and she was not married. He then visits her home and learns that she is actually a Kashmiri. He then finds out from PCO that she was talking to Ladakh.

He then travels to Leh to cover another festival. He finds her again, in ladakh where Army shoots down a terrorist. There in a bus, he follows her again. She uses Him to her advantage in the bus to escape from the Army. While imitating to be his wife. After traveling a few kilometers The bus breaks down and they have to walk to the nearest village. On the way, he finds out that her name is Meghna. They then travel together for a distance. Then Comes the third stage of Love: Ishq. With the beautiful Ladakh in the backdrop these scenes make up the most gorgeous part of the movie. The deserted ruins of temple and Gompa makes the scenes even better.

 This is also the scene when we realize in a haunting sequence why Meghna shy away from Physical touch, she cannot accept love and physical Intimacy with anyone. She gets hyper ventilated and her jaw gets stuck when Amar tries to get intimate. Amar realizes her pain and tells her to cry and not to stop tears. Clearly something happened in her past which made her like this. And then In the Gompa arrives the song which transforms the movie completely. Shot Brilliantly with genius Choreography and Breathtaking Cinematography, the song Satrangi Re is something to behold.

Let us Tackle the song separately:

Satrangi Re

Satrangi quite literally mean something which has seven colors in it. The Seven colors being the constituent colors which make up White Light. Not only do this word means Seven colors of the rainbow namely – Violet,Indigo,Blue,Green,Yellow,Orange-, it also symbolizes the seven stages of Love in Iranian Literature, namely- hub, uns, ishq, aqidat, ibadat, junoon and maut. The two lovers in the song traverse through the seven stages in seven parts of the song and helps in narrating the story further.

First of all the director takes quite literal meaning of satrangi, as throughout the song we witness her clad in dresses of Seven different colors.

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Meghna donning the colors of Love

The Song starts as Amar sings :

Koi noor hai tu, kyun door hai tu
Jab paas hai tu, ehsaas hai tu
Koi khwaab hai ya parchhayi hai, satrangi re
[3-see bibliography below]
[[You are like a light (for my darkness), why then are you so distant?
Even when you’re near me, you’re like a a fleeting feeling
Are you a shadow or a dream, (oh you, of many colors!)]]
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Hub-Attraction

 

 

We see him trying to get close to Meghna, as if something is attracting him to her, he keeps trying to get to her. But as he remarks even if she is close, she seems far away. He asks are you a shadow or a dream? Her being a shadow shown by the black dress she is in. This Transpires to be the first stage of Love- Hub.

We then move on to the two lines from Ghalib that are repeated multiple times in the song:

Ishq par zor nahin, hai yeh woh aatish Ghalib
Ja lagaye na lage, aur bujhaye na bane
[[Love can’t be tamed, it’s like a fire that overpowers everything else
It doesn’t start when forced; but once started, it’s impossible to extinguish]]
During these lines we witness that Meghna’s dress has changed to white to show purity and love, she is standing on one side of water body, while Amar is still on the other side of water body. To reach his love he has to travel through the water (Difficulties) and go from darkness to light.
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Uns-Infatuation

We then move to the second stage, the very lyrics explaining the transition as he says:

Aankhon ne kuchh aise chhua, halka halka uns hua
Halka halka uns hua, dil ko mehsoos hua
[[The touch of your eyes sparked an infatuation (that my heart felt)]]
We also witness her change of dress colour, this will go on till the end of the song signifying colours of love. Then the character of Sharhrukh sings:
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Ishq- Love
Tere jism ki aach ko chhoote hi, mere saans sulagne lagte hain
Mujhe ishq dilaase deta hai, mere dard bilakhne lagte hain
[[Your feverish touch ignites my very breath
My pain cries out for you, while love consoles me]]
Again the work of cinematographer and Choreographer outshines here: as the lyrics itself tells us that The lover have entered the third stage of love- Ishq. He is getting close to her, but he cannot touch her yet. He quotes, that the very touch of her, ignites a fire inside him, but the love consoles him. Mani Ratnam shows this beautifully bu igniting life itself, what better way to show life getting ignited than burning a tree.
Then we move to Aqidat:
Chhooti hai mujhe sargoshi se, aankhon mein ghuli khamoshi se
[[You are like the fragrance of life itself,
You’re the desire that touches me with a whisper; nothing but silence in your eyes]]
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Aqidat- Reverence

The very meaning of Aqidat i.e. Reverence :“a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration”. The word “reverence” in the modern day is often used in relationship with religion. And thus Mani Ratnam clearly shoots the scene inside a Gompa, the monastery is lit with lamps, Amar is watching her from the outside as if he cannot enter inside the temple. She is illuminated only by candle lights, extending the religious theme of Aqidat.

So now Amar respects Meghna, spiritually, so he is going to worship her. Thus we move to fifth Step of love : Worship i.e. Ibadat.

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Ibadat-Worship

Amar sings:

Main farsh pe sajde karta hoon, kuchh hosh mein kuchh behoshi se
[[I bow to you, only partly conscious of myself]]

 He bows to her, he is worshiping the very ground she is at. Now we enter a music interlude, we witness them being in a red cloth together connected to each other. Amar has crossed the barrier and closed in the distance between them after literally worshiping her.

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The Point is further made by Mani Ratnam as we can see both of them dancing together inside water, they have both crossed some distance and found each other in the time between them.

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Then Amar sings :

Teri raahon mein uljha-uljha hoon, teri baahon mein uljha-uljha
Suljhane de hosh mujhe, teri chaahon mein uljha hoon
[[I’m enchanted by your ways, I am entangled in your embrace
Let me disentangle my senses, ’cause my desire for you is driving me insane]]
He is entangled with her, which is quite literally shown in the song by putting Shahrukh inside a net, with Manisha Koirala free outside.
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Amar entangled in Meghna’s embrace

He is trying hard to get out of her embrace so that he can get to her. He wants to get out of the net as her desire is driving him INSANE.

So we move to the next stage of Love, difficult to describe Junoon can be explained as Insanity or madness. As amar sings :

Mera jeena junoon, mera marna junoon
Ab iske siva nahin koi sukoon
[[My life is now an obsession, and so I will be till I die – 
there is no respite for me]]
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Amar and Meghna Dances with ‘Junoon’

She has become an obsession for her, his whole life has turned into an obsession, and thus he dances with madness. He remarks that there is no respite to him, thus we reaches last step of Love- Death or maut. While this part of song is at the end of the movie, we will still talk about it. As he sings:

Mujhe maut ki god mein sone de
Teri rooh mein jism dubone de
Mujhe maut ki god mein sone de, satrangi re, manrangi re
[[Let me sleep in the lap of death,
Let me drown my body in your soul
Let me sleep in the lap of death… You, of many colors! You, of my soul’s color!]]
Maut or death, the last step.
He has leaped over all the steps of love, he has reached his destination, he wants to die so that their souls can be together till infinity. If you look closely, it is the very same place where we started our journey, he has crossed the water body, and is now clad in White. They shine together with bright snow in the background giving them an angelic appearance.
How can someone create a song this beautiful, a marvel to look at. It is soul defining and with Gulzar’s exceptional lyrics and A R Rahman’s poignant music, the song is a piece of art to marvel at.

Review Continues :

The Song Satrangi Re not only marks a brilliance in Indian Cinema, it helps in narration. After the song you can clearly say that Amar has crossed five stages of Love till Ibadat. And they are both comfortable with each other.

Amar jokingly talks about Marrying her and having kids, she not so jokingly accepts that she will die. By snapping her fingers, it feels haunting if you realize that she was not joking and her psyche was very confused and scared.

They rest at a place for night, where she remarks again that you don’t know what fear is, hinging once more about her terrifying past. Then arrives the most beautiful scene of the movie when Meghna asks Amar what does he dislike, his reply is : What I hate most is your eyes, the more i want to look at them, the lesser I see. And then he says : The thing that I love most about you are the eyes, The more i look in them , the less I see. Two same Dialogues saying different things, This shows that the movie has well written dialogues and this also is a turning point. As Meghna realizes that she is also falling in love with him, and decided to leave him in the night.

She leaves behind few word imprinted in Sand, saying:

Kuch Log ret me likhen naamon ki tarah hote hain
hawa ka ek hi jhoka jinhen uda deta hai
[[Some People are like names engraved in sand,
a gush of wind blow them away]]

Those last words echo as we move to the interval with Background Music playing and the voice of singer Sukhwinder Singh singing:

‘Sitaron ke Aage Jahan Aur bhi hain
Abhi ishq ke imtehaan aur bhi hain’ -Allama Iqbal (Urdu Poet)

‘There are yet more worlds beyond the Stars
There are more examinations that love has yet to surpass’

We see Manisha reaching Her home and reciting oath for a suicide bomber, and suddenly a great love story in the making transforms into a thriller with goosebumps over everyone in the audience.

I will not discuss the movie after interval so as not to spoil the movie more for you, though i think i have already spoilt a lot. (Sorry for that, if you haven’t watched it).

Themes

In an interview the Director Mani Ratnam recently was asked the question about Dil Se, he replied and i quote :

“It was India’s 50th year after independence and we were all celebrating – look what we’ve done, how far we’ve come, how great we are – whereas there were pockets of India we’re not really willing to look into. If you do look, you will not believe they’ve been independent for 50 years. Portions, especially the border states, which were not bringing in that many votes, were not growing like the rest of India. Dil Se really came out of that.”[4]

That was what Dil Se was about, it was not supposed to be a love story, first but it came out as one with a thriller running deep within the backdrop of the movie. The Movie actually comments on the freedom of these states in the outer parts of India. The issues of Insurgency has been around in India ever since it became Independent, there are many groups political and not who have been asking for their freedom from the country and now when you think about it, nothing has changed since last 18 years.There are still factions in India who are fighting for their own freedom.

Another theme in the movie which I have already discussed in detail is the seven stages of Love as discussed in Sufi and Iranian Literature. Mani Ratnam reportedly went to Gulzar and Met with A R Rahman clearly telling them to make a song based on this theme and together they came up with the monster that we know today as Satrangi Re.

As Shohini Chaudhari remarks in her Book, ( Contemporary world cinema: Europe, the Middle East, East Asia and South Asia ), “The film is a dramatisation of the attraction between a character from the heart of India and another from a peripheral state and a representation of opposites in the eyes of the law and society”

With character of Meghna, clearly from a peripheral state and Amar from the heart of India and capital Delhi, they represents opposite in the eye of society. Meghna is deemed as an outsider, (which sadly is still the case, people from North East are looked upon a strange image within Delhi and are not looked upon as others).

Acting

Shahrukh Khan has ruled upon Indian film industry for years, he is widely known as King Khan for his famous roles in DDLJ and other countless movies. But his acting in few movies like Dil Se, Darr and Swades proves his stature. He melts into the character and makes the character of Amar his own, adding his own style to a well written role. His Rawness of acting is what makes the character even better.

Natural Ethereal Beaiuty

Complementing Raw passion of Shahrukh is the angelic beauty of Manisha Koirala, she has this ethereal beauty that feels out of world. Her face has pure innocence yet a certain depth in her expression which proves that something is wrong with Meghna, she has acted her career best and no one else could have managed around the role in which she fits in directly.

Preeti Zinta has her debut role as always happy, bubbling fiance of Amar in the movie and has acted well if you think about it. The only bad pebble comes out from the best of the cast, the great actor Piyush Mishra acts strangely in the movie as CID officer, his dubbing is very bad as it feels that sometimes he is speaking a different thing and dialogue is different. Well he certainly improved with time.

Music

The Soundtrack of Dil Se received many accolades and is now regarded as a milestone in Indian Movie Soundtracks. The first song Chaiya Chaiya became famous instantly, with whole song shot at top of a train, the song is beautifully pictured and well sung, the song was also featured in one of the top 10 songs of all-time in an international poll conducted by BBC World Service.

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Chaiya Chaiya on train

All lyrics were written to the point by Gulzar and Composed by AR Rahman (Not only  in Hindi, In Tamil and Telugu too). And has transformed the way we listen to music in Cinema.

With Great Direction; epic soundtrack; wonderful acting; breathtaking cinematography and an end which can easily go down as one of the best end to any movie ever, Dil Se Can be easily regarded as the best of Indian Cinema and thus i Put it here in my list.

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Bibliography:

  1. Dil Se Wikipedia
  2. Satrangi Re – A Brilliant blog article on song
  3. Satrangi Re Lyrics with Translation
  4. An interview With Mani Ratnam
  5. Sitaron Se Aage translation Allama Iqbal

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