That's right. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Brave-Hearted Will Take the Bride), still popularly known as DDLJ, still playing, as far as I know, in Indian movie theaters, and, 18 years after its release, still a sweet, fun cinematic ride, released in 1995. And, of course, even though it wasn't their first movie together, it was the film that made Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol's jodi one of the most raved-about ever.
Anybody who's been watching Hindi movies for longer than a day knows about DDLJ, even if they haven't seen it, but I'll go ahead and summarize it anyway because if I don't my OCD will kick in and I'll be up at three in the morning reformatting this post.
Chaudhry Baldev Singh (Amrish Puri), an NRI living in London, feeds the pigeons every morning (and everyone who's ever tried to eat an outdoor meal in London now mutters, "damn him") while dreaming of his native Punjab. I imagine that this would've been a bit of an eyebrow-lifter to the average Hindi film viewer at the time, given that Amrish Puri usually played the villain, not the homesick ex-pat wandering through gray Londontown while colorful Punjabi dancers swirl around him in a flurry of dream-dupattas. (But maybe I'm wrong about that? Someone tell me, please!)
He's lived away from home for twenty years, and he can't wait to go back. Till then, he runs his own convenience store and returns home each night to his loving wife (Farida Jalal! Yay!) and two daughters: Simran (Kajol) and Rajeshwari (Pooja Ruparel), both of whom have been raised according to his strict traditional standards. Simran's eighteen, but there's no talk of her going to college. No, she's dreaming of her one true love--she doesn't know who he is, but she knows he's out there.
He's out there, all right--way out there. Raj Malhotra (SRK) is the only child of a lavishly indulgent father (Anupam Kher). After he makes his father proud by failing university (yeah, I really did just say that), he applies to "Pops" for permission to go on a Euro-rail month-long trip with a couple of his friends. His father gives in after a while, telling Raj to go live his youth for both of them. With advice like that, is it any wonder that Raj is really immature and thoughtless?
Simran, meanwhile, has just received news that sounds the death knell to her hopes for love: the marriage to her father's best friend's son that was arranged for her from her cradle is going to take place shortly. Before she must leave everything familiar behind and go to India to become a good Hindustani wife, she begs her father to allow her to go with some of her girlfriends on a month-long train trip. He reluctantly accedes, and off she goes for one last taste of freedom.
Naturally, Raj and Simran meet immediately after departing. He does a little perfunctory flirting, more out of habit it seems than out of any real interest in Simran. Simran does her best to ignore him. But then, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, the two miss their train together and have to figure out a way to re-connect with their respective friends. Thrown together by chance, Raj and Simran are about to discover that they're each other's destiny. Of course!
SRK and Kajol, of course, are magic together. Anytime these two share the screen it's impossible for me to look away.
I've read a lot of complaints about Raj's boyish behavior in DDLJ, but here's the deal: he changes himself. Simran's love doesn't change him, love for Simran changes him, and I really, really like that theme. By the time the film ended, I was left with no doubts about whether or not he'd be a worthy husband to Simran. However, I do have a problem with his whole philosophy on "parents know best" about whom to marry. Well, sometimes, I suppose. I think in the film it's supposed to be a sign of his maturation into "ek Hindustani" in truth as well as name, but it raised my hackles.
As for Simran... well, she's very traditional. Options don't occur to her until they're presented to her by others, and she tends to obey the men in her life without many questions. But that's the way she was raised! I've seen enough to know that it's more difficult than many (especially we independence-lovin' Americans, I suspect) believe to break out of parental expectations and do what you want. I don't look down on Simran for going along with her father's wishes.
But talking about these things leaves out the fun stuff: the rapid-fire exchanges between Raj and Simran, the clever way Simran softens her father up to ask her favor, the cute interaction between her parents, as well as the sweet relationship between Raj and his Pops... not to mention SRK's perfect timing and Kajol's clear delight in her co-star.
I almost forgot to mention the great soundtrack in DDLJ. It does sound a little dated to my jaundiced ears (wow, what a mental image) but it's still totally fun, especially the opening song and the rollicking fun "Zara Sa Jhoom Loon Main," as well as the more traditional but beautifully picturized "Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna." I love listening to it over and over again. The only one I don't care for, "Ruk Ja O Dil Deewaane," is early in the film and easily forgotten thereafter.
DDLJ has that most important of movie qualities, to me: true re-watch value. I've watched it many times and I happily anticipate watching it many more. It's worth every penny and then some.