Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
“Welcome to a summer of their lives you will never forget.”
Director: Farhan Akhtar
Cast:Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna
Synopsis: Three individual’s relationships and the effect that these relationships have on them.
Dil Chahte Hai (The Heart’s Desire) is apparently something of a landmark movie in the history of Bollywood cinema. In 2001 it marked the industry’s move away from the traditional style of thin storylines, colourful imagery, endless musical numbers and bloated running times to a new tradition of, well, thin storylines, colourful imagery, musical numbers and bloated running times. But now it was geared towards youth. The numbers were no longer dominated by the same kind of twanging Sitar music that issued forth from every UK curry house in the land, and the young heroes, motoring around in their high-priced convertibles, wore the latest designer clothes and talked like the youth of the day. It looks like they still weren’t allowed to kiss their women, though…
The story concerns Akash (Aamir Khan), Sameer (Saif Ali Khan), and Sid (Akshaye Khanna), three friends fresh out of college. To say the three actors portraying these fresh-faced school-leavers are a little too old for their parts is an understatement of epic proportions. I looked it up, and their average age was 31-years-old. Khan was actually 36, and Khanna had a receding hairline. But then, this is a Bollywood movie, and reality takes a back seat to colour and romance in these kinds of movies. Anyway, the three are close friends at the beginning of the film, during which their respective characters are established. Ashak is the joker of the pack, and he’s the confirmed bachelor determined never to settle down with one woman because he doesn’t believe there is such a thing as love. Sameer is his complete opposite, seeming to fall in love with any woman who glances his way, and easy prey for any predatory female looking for someone to push around or rob. Somewhere between these two is Sid, the artistic one, who falls for Tara, an older woman with a drinking problem due to the failure of her marriage and the fact that she is barred from seeing her little daughter. That these three men are defined strictly in terms of their attitudes towards women pretty much sums up the depth of characterisation employed by director Farhan Akhtar and his co-writer Kassim Jagmagia.
Needless to say, the men’s friendship must come under stress at some point in the movie, and that happens when Ashak is disrespectful about Tara. I think something must have got lost in the translation during this conversation, but whatever he says in his own language is enough to earn a girly-slap from Sid. Their friendship forever broken, it seems, the three young men go their separate ways: Sid to Art school, and Ashak to Australia to manage his father’s Sydney office, while Sameer stays at home. Each of them experiences romantic entanglements before a hospital visit once again unites them.
Given that it’s three hours long, Dil Chahte Hai is actually reasonably entertaining. The musical numbers are kept to a handful, and can be fast-forwarded by those with no patience for that sort of thing without anything being lost from the storyline. Although most of the younger cast members are too old for the parts they play, they’re nevertheless an attractive bunch. The story, of course, is the flimsiest of frameworks upon which Akhtar builds a colourful fantasy world in which real life never intrudes. Serious issues, such as Tara’s alcoholism and exclusion from her child, are only briefly touched upon, and then only to move the central themes of friendship and loyalty forward rather than from any desire to examine these topics in depth. It all makes for harmless escapist entertainment, but it’s as light and frothy as candy floss, and just as insubstantial.