Farhan Akhtar is revered to be a leading film maker in Bollywood today. His sister, Zoya Akhtar has become one of the finest directors in Hindi cinema. Farhan’s production house which he runs with his partner Ritesh Sidhwani is one of the most successful production houses in Bollywood with more hits than misses. But it was with the film Dil Chahta Hai (DCH) that they all came together for the 1st time 18 years ago. It was Farhan’s 1st film as a director and Zoya was his 1st assistant.
Thanks to Social Media, anniversaries of iconic films are hard to miss, these days. 5 years of a film, 10 years of another, 20 years of yet another are celebrated with enough nostalgia. But with DCH, a film basically about coming of age of 3 youngsters, it is more apt to celebrate #18yearsofDilChahtaHai I think, 18 being the official “coming of age” number in our society!
In August 2001, when DCH released, it came as a whiff of fresh air in Bollywood. If you look at some of the big hits of the previous year, you will understand where I am coming from. Kaho Na Pyar Hai, Mohabbatein, Dhadkan, Hera Pheri, Lagaan and Mission Kashmir were some of these. Except for Lagaan which was bit unique and took everyone by surprise, others were of a similar trope – of love, comedy, revenge and the like. Not just the theme, DCH turned out to be a trend setter in many aspects – in films and even in real life!
- Here was a film about 3 male friends who were all rich and as famed journalist Shekhar Gupta wrote in his weekly column that time, a Bollywood film which celebrated being rich unapologetically probably for the 1st time! Subsequent to this, we have had many films in this genre with houses like Yashraj films and Dharma Productions perfecting this genre!
- I would think that DCH set the trend for many such films to follow where the protagonists set on a travel to discover themselves. Farhan’s own later film – Lakshya, Ranbir’s Bachna Ae Haseeno, Wake up Sid, Imitiaz Ali’s almost all films – Jab we met, Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar, Tamasha, Zoya’s DCH look alike – Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara all followed this theme.
- In Hindi, there were films before about friends and friendship. Usually, it would revolve around 2 friends who are from different strata of society but coming together and ending up doing a bit of sacrifice for one another. But, DCH was the 1st where 3 friends bonded like chuddy buddies. They spent a lot of time together. They shared their high and low moments. They counselled each other. And even pulled each other’s legs. Just like normal friends in real life would do. Many other films followed this trend soon. Rang De Basanti (2006), Rock On (2008), Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (2008), 3 Idiots (2009), Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), Student of The Year (2012), Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), Kai Po Che (2013) to mention a few!
- The other trend DCH set was “Road trips”! Post DCH it became fashionable for friends to pack their bags and go on long road trips. This is in real life I meant. The still of Aamir, Saif and Akshay in one frame taken at the Chapora Fort in Goa became so iconic, that I am told that the fort attracts so many young tourists clamouring for their own “Dil Chahta Hai” moments!
- For Goa, Dil Chahta Hai became its brand ambassador! Though I must hasten to add that DCH is not the 1st film to achieve this distinction. Yash Chopra’s films pulled Indians by the troves to Switzerland. But on DCH being a brand ambassador for Goa Tourism, there is an interesting and fascinating story. As I mentioned, DCH was released in August 2001. And in September the world changed with the 9/11 attacks! Goa which till then depended on foreign tourist arrivals was hit the most, with a flood of cancellations. A wash out of the biggest tourist season was staring on the face of the state. Just then, DCH was to be shown on TV in one of the channels. It hit upon some brilliant brain in the state tourism authority to ride on the film to promote tourism among the domestic travellers. I understand that they spent Rs.3 crore promoting the film during the film telecast on TV and roped in Rs.30 crore profit in that season! Dil Chahta Hai literally saved the day for Goa Tourism post the 9/11 attacks and from then on helped reduce dependence on just foreign tourist arrivals!
- Every now and then one film comes and it changes the way the same language is spoken in films thereafter. In DCH, a film which was set in an urban setting, characters spoke simple Hindi bereft of clichés Hindi films were renowned for. And yet paradoxically, introduced a set of words which were only in vogue in lyrics of Hindi films till then. Like chahta hoon for pyar karta hoon and main guzar raha tha for main chal raha tha and so on!
- Since DCH was about rich, it also set some trends on the costumes and get up of the stars. I saw Aamir with a goatee and leather pants for the 1st time! For Aamir, just after his earlier looks in Lagaan, it was a huge change. With these successive wins, experimenting with his looks would become Aamir’s template there onwards.
- As an actor, DCH was the coming of age of Saif Ali Khan! Though he was not the solo hero in this one, his performance got enough notice to catapult him to a bankable star in urban centric films! DCH set the platform for some of the biggest hits of his career like Hum Tum, Kal Ho Na Ho etc.
- The film’s music score was by the talented trio – Shankar -Ehsaan – Loy! DCH was not their 1st film but one of their very early films which opened the doors for this team in Bollywood. The songs were uber cool and introduced us to a new tone and rhythm in Hindi Cinema.
While being a trend setter in Bollywood, It can be safely said that Dil Chahta Hai was the 1st film to celebrate the “Liberated India” – i.e India post liberalisation.
When the film hit the theatres in 2001, I don’t recall it to be a mega super hit. It did decent business as expected, in metros. But it is with further telecast on TV and other media that the film started getting appreciated. Today, one can say that 18 years after the release it has reached an iconic status. The film about coming of age has indeed come of age on its 18th birthday!