Dil Chahta Hai is a 2001 Hindi language film written and directed by then-newcomer Farhan Akhtar, starring Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Preity Zinta, Sonali Kulkarni and Dimple Kapadia. It is set in modern-day urban Mumbai and focuses on a major period of transition in the lives of three young friends.
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Dil Chahta Hai is cult, so I'm sure that most (or maybe even all) of you have already seen it, and those who haven't (like me, until yesterday), ought to catch up as soon as possible. So much for that.
As you can read out of the plot description, we're not fed a new story, but that can, as is generally known, also be lovely - provided that the whole thing is freshened up a little. Be it via new perspectives, eminently good actors, a great soundtrack... or a little bit of everything. That's probably what Farhan Akhtar, who debuted as a director with this one, thought too, when he puzzled out what became one of the most known Bollywood films nowadays. (By the by, I'm a big appreciator of Farhan Akhtar's work and happy to have seen all of his scheduled work by now).
The result, which may celebrate its 10st birthday this year, can be seen, and is now as then surrounded by some fresh air, to which, among other things, the great actors contribute. Many of them are high-profiled performers today. Aamir Khan, who in the same year tightened his position in Bollywood by means of Laagan, gave one of his best shots again. Accustomed down-to-earth, but not boring, he plays the buffoon Akash, and in some scenes almost eclipses his colleagues Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna. Still, those two are in full cry in Dil Chahta Hai. While Saif has been somewhat disappointing with his choice of films in the last past years, he doesn't leave anything to be desired in what's often dealt as his big break. He's the perfect cast for the charming womanizer Samir, in spite of some dubiously fashionable outfits. The third party is Akshaye, who gives one of his best performances here. Though he, just like Aamir, is no classic beauty, he's very well able to inspire as the gentle artist Sid, and soon catches the sympathy of the audience. His love to an older woman appears to be cordial and honest and is one of the best ideas of the writers. There are still to many films with old men and young women, that don't even question the age difference, and not enough with an opposite constellation. Dimple Kapadia plays Tara and I really liked her in this role - she has a calm aura, through which you can slightly see her insecurity and sadness. I also believe that Tara, in her very heart, loved Sid, but didn't feel she had enough power to listen to it and break the traditions. Sonali Kulkarni, who plays Samir's big love Pooja, isn't really worth mentioning, as her role is rather exchangeable and unimportant. And finally, there's Preity Zinta, my favorite actress, who sadly isn't very present in these days. As always, she is, in face of an unthankful hair styling, enchanting and fully fills out her role. She also makes a cute couple with Aamir, in some scenes, a concentrated passion springs up between the two of them; I'm talking about the famous metro scene, where the door shuts between Akash and Shalini... For one moment, their expressions change and the feelings are at once as touchable as the door between them. That's something I call real acting talent, and I was just captured by that scene... The two are convincing all through the film, and I still wonder how they succeeded in making that opera scene not seem kitschy.
Another great couple is the threesome of Aamir, Saif and Akshaye. The three boys'/ men's friendship is convincing and realistic (apart from the fact that a tiny comment destroys the friendship for such a long time, but we'll save that under dramaturgic freedom). This whole wonderful and interesting story (which, buy the way, doesn't get boring though its three hours), is also backed up by great locations, a fresh soundtrack and well done filming. Sydney, Goa and Bombay are portrayed beautifully, but in a realistic way, by Ravi K. Chandran. The soundtrack by S-E-L is youthful and stays in your head, and it enhances the story instead of unnecessarily deviating from it.
I could go on praising this film, but I think it's enough for today. Dil Chahta Hai lives up to its promise: It's an ode to friendship, with all its highs and lows, and a remembrance, that there's a soulmate for everyone. All of that may sound really kitschy to you, but it's been permuted resourcefully and hence remains a true milestone of Bollywood - a must-see.