Vantage point

Monday, October 14, 2002


Dil Se by Mani Ratnam is one of my favourite movies. It is definitely the most romantic movie I have ever seen. It was the master's first attempt at a hindi movie. Unfortunately, the much hyped film with A R Rahman's winner music score, failed at the box office.

I watched the movie a year after its release, mainly because everyone bad mouthed it, and said it was a half baked attempt at making a commercial hit by Mani Ratnam. So when my local cable operator was playing the movie on his movie channel (that too a pirated CD), I was not sure I wanted to watch it. But I decided to watch for fifteen minutes anyway. The movie captured me, and the next thing I knew, it was three hours later and "THE END" was flashing on the screen, after one of the most powerful endings I have seen.

There are many reasons people state about why the movie flopped. One was the high expectations surrounding it. Another was that the songs were wrongly placed. I just think that the movie was a bit ahead of its time and was very intense. Comparitively, his earlier movies like Roja and Bombay had a message, and had a bit of the patriotic element in them. Both the movie made us feel good about the country and the society and attempt to teach us something. Dil Se, I think is just a love story. People went in expecting a didactic movie about terrorism, but that is not what the movie is. It is just a love story. Sure it talks a little about why the heroine becomes a terrorist but that is just a side story. The main element here is love, passionate love.

Dil Se is the story of Amar ( Shahrukh Khan), a reporter for All India Radio who is posted to a remote state in North East India. There he sees a woman (Manisha Koirala) and falls in love with her. It is a long time before he finds out that her name is Meghana. Amar sees Meghana and it is love at first sight. She however does not show the slightest interest in him. She ditches him at a Railway Station and leaves. However fate brings her in his life again as he sees her on the streets some days later. After this he turns somewhat a stalker, following her around. She tries her best to shake him off, even lies to him, saying she is married, but her persists.

So why is Meghana fighting off such an eligible bachelor? Because Meghana is a terrorist, or as she thinks, a freedom fighter. She is a suicide bomber on a mission that will end with the murder of the President of India on Republic Day. Imagine being someone who knows exactly when they are going to die? Imagine if in this short span of life left, someone falls madly in love with you. Worst yet, imagine being in love with a woman who is going to kill herself in a few months? If you don't find all this extremely ironic, tragic and yet romantic, maybe you should not watch the movie, because you won't like it the way I did.

Very rarely is the issue of one sided love taken up on the silver screen. Generally, the girl falls in love with the boy in a couple, if not less, reels. In Hindi movies it is a song and in English movies it is a seduction, but the falling in love process is very rapid. The director handles Amar's intense one sided love very delicately and comes out on top. Like any person in one sided love, what Amar possesses in ample measure is optimism. He is sure that Meghana is the girl for him and more importantly, he is the guy for her. So he does not believe her completely, when she says she is married. He does not interpret her "No" as a "No", but as a "wait". When she tells him to stop following her and gets into a bus, he runs and jumps on the back of the bus. When she disappears without a trace, he bribes the Public Phone Booth operator to find out she went to Ladakh.

One of the most poignant and yet a little funny scenes is when the men accompanying Meghana (more terrorists) are beating up Amar to dissuade him from following her. While threatening him, they let out the fact that she is not married and was lying when she said so. All the while, when they are beating him up, he keeps asking "So you mean she is not married?" And later, in the hospital, as he lies wounded, through a broken jaw he tells his friends in a cheerful voice "She is not married!"

Later he follows her to Ladakh. There, they are in a bus which breaks down and so are forced to spend a lot of time together. It is here that one sees the ice cold veneer of the bomber girl showing cracks. She starts responding to his wishful blabberings about the future. The dialogues between them in Ladakh are simply mind-blowing and the writing skills of Mani Ratnam are brought to the fore here.

Amar: Will you marry me?
Meghana: No.
Amar Why not?
Meghana: (flashing her most disarming smile) I don�t have the time.
Amar: (puzzled) You don�t have the time??

And later�

Amar: You will not be able to live without me
Meghana: Then I will die.
Amar: Really?
Meghana: (snapping her fingers) Like this!

As I mentioned earlier, you can appreciate the irony in these lines only if you know the end of the movie or are watching it a second time.

Amar: Who is asking you to die? Just say you love me.
Meghana: No.

This is a constant feature throughout the movie. He keeps asking her to say she loves him, and she keeps refusing.

Amar: What is your favourite thing in the whole wide world?
Meghana: My mother�s hands.
Amar: Tell me what is the thing you hate the most in the world?
Meghana: I don�t like it when you come close to me.

The powerful dual meaning in this dialogue is amazing.

Amar: You are lying.
Meghana: I also hate your smile, your enthusiasm, the effervescence in you.
Amar: Actually you are jealous me.
Meghana: ( disarming smile again) Yes. (pushing him away) Now tell me what you like the most.
Amar: No, first I will tell you what I hate the most. I hate this distance between us. I hate all that is hidden inside you. But what I hate the most are your eyes, because however hard I try looking into them, I see absolutely nothing.
Meghana: (smiles)
Amar: Now I�ll tell you what I like the most. I like your eyes, because however hard I try looking into them, I see absolutely nothing. I like all that is hidden inside you. But what I like the most is this distance between us, because if it were not there, I would not have an excuse to come close to you.

The way Shahrukh delivers these dialogues is so magical, that you actually get goose bumps. Anyone who says he is just a TV actor who got lucky will revise their views after watching them.

What Amar says has such a powerful effect on Meghana that she leaves him and vanishes again. Remember she is a suicide bomber on a mission and can not afford to fall in love. As another terrorist says later �Love is intoxicating, it is not for people like us.�

After this, Amar seems to accept the fact that Meghana is out of his life. He comes home and agrees to an arranged marriage with a bubbly Delhi girl called Priti (Preity Zinta). The dialogues between them are very funny and Priti is a wonderful character. As Amar�s family starts getting ready for the marriage, Meghana and her friend (Mita Vashisht) land up at Amar�s house in Delhi. She says she is in great trouble and asks him to get her a job in All India Radio. This is obviously so that she can get easy access to the VIP�s during the Republic Day parade. She and her friend stay in a room attached to his family�s house.

After this the movie picks up pace and things start happening thick and fast. The police get wind of a terrorist plan. Amar later comes to know of this as well. He comes from a patriotic background, his father was an army officer who died in action, and his grandfather was a freedom fighter. He is appalled by Meghana�s designs.

Meghana faces a very difficult situation in the whole movie and her role has been etched superbly by Manisha Koirala. The contradictions she lives in, the commitment to death and the inability to reciprocate such intense and tempting love. Amar, torn between love and patriotism, is portrayed very well by Shahrukh.

Amar apprehends her near the Republic Day parade venue a day before the parade where she has gone for a practice run. The conversation between Amar and Meghana about the whole situation is very revealing and it attempts to explain the reason behind why normal people turn into terrorists. He finds out she has a bomb strapped around her body. He starts removing her clothes to take it out, but a Delhi police constable mistakes him for a rapist and takes him away without listening to what he has to say. Meghana slips away.

After this, to cut a long story short, he escapes from police custody and finds her just before she is going to complete her mission.

Everyone knows what happens next. I think that is the only way the movie could have ended. The last line of the movie is �

Amar: Say that you love me.

He is hugging her and presses the button, and the bomb goes off blowing up the both of them. And as the movie ends, the following verse is played in the background-

Mujhe maut ki god mein sone de
Teri rooh mein jism dabone de
(Let me sleep in the lap of death
Let me drown my body in your soul)