I clearly remember the first time that I heard about Dil Chahta Hai was in the year 2000 during an episode of Kaun Banega Crorepati, then hosted by Amitabh Bachchan. It was a Diwali special episode in which Aamir Khan and Preity Zinta were invited. Aamir had come with a unique look with a goatee and the look prompted Mr. Bachchan to ask him some questions. Aamir told that the look was part of the character of a film that he was working on with Farhan Akhtar. About a year later, the film was released as Dil Chahta Hai on 10th August 2001. I was in class ninth at that time and used to watch movies mainly at home. Only once in a while did I go to the theater to watch a movie. I never got to watch the film when it was released. Even the cable TV guy did not show it. It was only a year later that I got a chance to see the film when the movie premiered on Star Plus sometime during the summer of 2002. I still remember the day when I watched it. I had little understanding of the nuances of films but even then I fell completely in love with the movie. I had never seen a movie like Dil Chahta Hai before, a movie that I could call as my own special one.
Over the years, I have watched this movie again, and again, and again, and I still cannot get over it. It is difficult to articulate as to what about this movie makes it endearing and personal, yet, I have written the most about this film. Meryl Streep has said, “I have a theory that movies operate on the level of dreams, where you dream yourself.” Good movies forge a connection and have a relatability factor in them that helps us see ourselves in them. Dil Chahta Hai is one of the few films where I saw parts of my life. I saw a little bit of myself in Deepa, Sid, Sameer, Shalini, Akash, and even Subodh.
In a fabulous interview with Madhavi Menon, Farhan Akhtar explained the meaning of the title of the film. The film’s title in English is usually translated as The Heart Desires which Farhan Akhtar found quite different from what he meant. He says the real translation of Dil Chahta Hai is Because I Feel Like. He adds, “Anything that happens in the movie is because the person feels like it, so that was a literal translation. They made it ‘The Heart Desires’, which is quite troublesome. In Hindi, yes, the literal translation would be ‘The Heart Desires’. But when you use in everyday language, you don’t use it like that. You won’t say, kyunki main chahta hoon ki main. You’ll say dil chahta hai—Because I feel like it. ‘It’ can’t be defined.”
In essence, the story of Dil Chahta Hai has been done before, but it the way it has been presented with an urban flair was nothing short of a revolution. Farhan Akhtar’s favorite film while he was growing up was Kranti. His mother said that every morning before going to school, he would watch the film. He would finish it after returning from school. In an interview with Farah Khan, he jokingly remarked that he wanted to bring his own kranti (revolution) to the kind of films that were being made at that time. He wanted to make a film where people behaved normally. And, he did. The film completely changed the landscape of cinema. There is now a time period that is pre-Dil Chahta Hai and post-Dil Chahta Hai. The film is about relationships that have a name. Friendship. Love. And, it is also about relationships that have no name, that cannot be siloed into categories easily.
Siddharth Sinha, also known as Sid, played by Akshaye Khanna, is one of the most thoughtful male characters that I have seen in Hindi cinema. Farhan has mentioned that it was on the sets of Himalay Putra where he was an assistant director to Pankaj Parashar that he met Akshaye. I have wondered if the characters in our films share traits with the actors who play them. Akshaye is known to be a reclusive and a closed person. He does not open up easily to people. These are also some of the very traits that he shares with Sid.
Sid is a painter by profession. He is the only child of a single mother. We never get to hear about his father, although we do see some black and white pictures of men in his house. Unlike Sameer and Akash who belong to affluent business families, Sid appears to be not as financially well-off as his other friends. He shares a frank and honest relationship with his mother. His mother gave him the full freedom to do whatever he wants, but would he still have been a painter if his father was there? Fathers are, generally, strict and it would be worthwhile to imagine if Sid’s choice of being a painter would have been accepted by his father. His mother does not force him to attend social functions because she knows he will get bored there. She says, “Duniya me aisi bahut kam jagah hai jahan tum bore nahi hote ho.” There are very few places in the world where you do not feel bored. At a later point in the movie, she probes him on his plans for marriage. She remarks, “Aaj tak toh tumne mujhse kuch nahi chhupaya,” which points out that their relationship is beyond the formal strictness of a parent and child. Contrast this with Sameer, who when stayed back in Goa with Cristine, told Akash and Sameer to not call his home till he returns. Even Akash’s parents have a certain sense of expectation from him that he does something in his life and that he should think about his future. Sid’s mother wants his son to do whatever he wants and never chides him for the decisions of his life.
Growing up in a home where there is no fatherly figure made Sid’s mother closer to him and they became joint decision partners, and maybe that is why Sid became more mature than someone of his own age. Sid fell in love with an older woman like Tara, who might be closer to his mother’s age than someone of his own age. His maturity makes him fall in love with someone who is like his mental age, and Tara is a perfect candidate. She understands him just in their second meeting by looking at his paintings, which his friends and family, even after knowing him for ages do not. The fact that Tara is also a single parent, who has a daughter and is divorced, also brought a sense of familiarity with his own mother’s hardships and perhaps, that explains why he could relate to Tara, in addition to their complementary professions of an interior decorator and a painter. Sid does not want any kind of sexual relationship between him and Tara and he even has no hope for it; all he wants is to see Tara happy. That explains his anger at Akash, whose consideration of Sid’s love for Tara as a sexual fantasy made Sid furious.
Akash was always interested in the physical aspect of a relationship and ran away from the emotional aspect. During the fight scene in the film, Akash disclosed, “Meri shuruaat bhi aise hi hui thi“, perhaps suggesting that he had his first sexual encounter with a woman who was older and experienced than him. Earlier in the film, Akash told Sid that the portrait of the woman he made resembled Miss Kashyap, their economics teacher, and he knew her figure more than Sid and Sameer. Therefore, it is not difficult to disagree with the way Akash reacted when he heard about Sid’s love for Tara. He was bragging about his sexual escapades with older women and his friends never raised any moral compunctions against his philandering ways and thus felt that Sid, too, was following his footsteps. Some part of the way he reacted can also be explained by the way Sid spoke his words. Sid said that he did not want Tara to become his nor he wanted her to marry him, which was just like the way Akash thought about his relationships. It made him believe that Sid was also interested only in a physical relationship with Tara and he has no issues with that. That is why, Akash said, “Agar aisi baat hai to mujhe koi aitraaz nahi hai. Vaise bhi tere liye perfect rahegi. Experienced hai, akeli rehti hai, aur tera roz ka aana jaana hai.” Perhaps, Akash did not realize that Sid was serious which caused the turmoil in their relationship.
Sid is shy and introvert, and he, hardly, shares anything with anyone. His beautiful paintings show that he does not allow people to enter his life. He is the sort of person who will have few friends, but those friends will be there for life. He is the careful one who remembers to pick up the bags of his friends when they go on trips. He hates being surrounded by relatives. It appears that his relatives do not get him or his profession, as he says, “Vaise mujhse yeh koi sawal kare to main jo jee mein aye keh deta hun.” But to Tara, he will not lie because he thinks she will understand given her profession of an interior decorator. He thinks deeply about problems and looks to find answers to his internal questions. Like the way, he solves the Rubik’s cube at Akash’s house. Like he tells Deepa that sometimes he wonders why does anyone love someone. Kabhi kabhi sochta hun koi kisi ko kyun chahta hai. I have thought about he became friends with Akash and Sameer. Sameer can still be understood, but for Sid to be friends with someone as pompous as Akash is a bit surprising. I would have loved to know how they became friends in the first place. Were they some sort of childhood friends, or did they meet each other in college? Akash and Sid fall on the two opposite ends of the personality spectrum. Akash is gregarious and an extrovert. He has a mean and wicked streak to him. He ridicules people. I can picture Akash with thousands of Facebook friends, and having a party every weekend, and updating his status many times a day. Sid is the exact opposite. He would have few friends and would post on social issues. Sameer is midway between the two.
There is a very interesting conversation that the three friends have in Goa that brings out further nuances in their personalities. Akash, Sameer, and Sid are enjoying the scenic view of the sea from the ramparts of the Chapora Fort during their trip in Goa. The scene became so iconic that the fort came to be called as Dil Chahta Hai fort, and any trip to Goa is considered incomplete without a picture taken at the fort. The three of them see a ship sailing through the sea and Sid remarks that they all are like that ship, and sooner or later, they will start sailing to their respective destinations and it might be possible that their destinations might not the same. He says, ten years from now, it might be even difficult to meet each other even once. Akash disagrees with him and replies that they will always be friends. Sid is the more realistic one here and he understands how life usually turns out. Friendships slowly wither away with time as people’s circumstances change. Sid understands different aspects of life.
In Jab We Met, Aditya explains to Geet that whenever he is in a difficult situation, he thinks about how would Geet react and then makes a decision based on it. Likewise, I have thought about Sid guiding me like he motivates Deepa in her low moments. He is the friend and guide who everyone wishes they had. And, he is really special. He will always remain as such. I have another personal connection with him which I will try to explore some other time.
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