Maratha Mandir Memoirs

Bombay Bucket List: Hopes, Dreams, and Memories.

Have you ever irrationally loved a sappy romcom so much that you took a detour to another era to watch it on the big screen?

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Those with a brave heart will take away the bride. An amalgamation of cliche’s we had all loved, and hoped, in our deepest darkest fantasies, would come true. And why not? Meeting a rich, cute, khandani (who also plays the piano and composes songs on a mandoline) guy on a EuroTrip; falling in love with him in a cold barn, in beautiful churches, and in bed after he’s just proven to you how he knows Hindustani girls’ obsession with chastity; having him chase you back to an insignificant, remote place in India and stopping your wedding (and quite possibily your immediate family’s ties with your extended family). Why ever not?

There has always been a certain charm in the tested pair of Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan, and anything they do would be housefull, even if it’s against everything we believe in. So, when they came together in the epic love saga (definitely not my words, jeez) of DDLJ, they make everyone swoon, including people bittered against cheesy romantic crap, like yours truly. You want to believe that there is someone that you’re meant to be with, in the end. You want to belive in everything good and pure, and the idea that a good girl can change the bad, but not so much guy just because they are in love and miraculously everything will fall into place thereafter. (Yes, girls, aren’t you listening? Charm the pants of your prince charming and somehow he’ll follow you to that random place your dad grew up in, even though he doesn’t know if you love him or it was just to let out some flirting energy. He’ll also engage in a fight with your fiance, and feed the godamn pegions to charm your strict father. SO what every love struck rich and entitled prince charming will do.)

The movie was supposed to have Tom Cruise in it, they tell me. But I don’t see how he would have charmed Simran’s anti-Angrez dad (they lived in London for about twenty years, let me remind you). Well, never mind. They got Farida Jalal to tell Kajol how she is not the queen, so no point putting on fairness creams (where did they get fairness creams in London in the early 90s, we’ll never know)!

And can we take a moment to appreciate how this movie changed the idea of romance in Indian popular culture? I mean, before this, the most epic love story was Mughal-e-Azam, from the monochrome century. And after this, every aspect of popular culture “pays tribute” to DDLJ, by either getting the protagonists “act” like the ones in the movie, play the mandilone, or steal lines from the movie- even Obama did it (well played, man, well played). There are movies pandering to this one-in which the major conflict is (retrieved from my repressed memory, painstakingly and unwillingly) how the female protagonist tries to get a wedding dress worth 5 lakhs, just because her neighbour got one. Nothing screams entitled bitch more than stealing, going into debt, and leaking a sex tape for a stupid wedding dress- but that’s probably the India that us half-diasporans will never appreciate.

But of course, we’ll all watch it every time it comes on TV. We’ll bunk college and go watch it in the theatre where it ran successfully for 1009 weeks- a good 20 years. We’ll swoon over those amazing moments and better dialogues, because well, there will never be anything reminding you of childhood crushes and romantic fantasies than the tune of Tujhe Dekha Toh… And there will never be another movie of which you’d buy CDs, because you wanted a movie collection of your own.

I remember, when I was little (we’re talking about SRK-was-my- favourite-actor-because-Kuch-Kuch-Hota-Hai little), my uncles and older cousins would tell me about how DDLJ still runs in Maratha Mandir in Bombay. And at that time, that was the only charm of Bombay-the place where trains were too overcrowded and stopped only for less than a minute every station and where my parents still owned a house I’d never been to. I had wanted to watch it, ever since then.

A year ago, I finally got the chance, when my friends and I finally took out time from our busy schedules to go watch it in Maratha Mandir. Surprisingly, it wasn’t even difficult to find the theatre. The crowd was shady AF, but the tickets were as cheap- 40 bucks, if I recollect. We got balcony seats, something unknown to us exclusively multiplex-going people. I remember being extremely surprised at how good the hallways to the theatre looked- carpeted floors, chandeliers, glassworks on the walls, a wide, spiral-ish staircase. The theatre was your standard, albeit non-smelly single screen cinema hall, but clean, with very comfortable seats.

As soon as the movie started, people laughed and clapped and even got shocked as if they’d not seen it hundreds of times before this. And the funniest part was that we actually wanted to do it with them- not a care about how stupid and shady it looked. It was as if we’d seen it for the very first time, falling in love with it all over again.

There was never a better actor than Shah Rukh in DDLJ, nor a better actress than Kajol. Farida Jalal was the best mother and Anupam Kher the best dad (sorry, Amrish Puri). It was as if we saw the world for the very first time-swooning for the entire day. It was as if the rose tinted glasses of romanticism had never been worn off due to bitter life experiences. It was as if practicality held no value, as if love was enough.

To those who’d always wanted to go to Maratha Mandir, I’m sorry for a wonderful loss. And to those who lived in Bombay for their entire life and never went there, I feel sorry for your wonderful loss too- you have lost out on the most quintessential of Bombay experiences. After all, what movie in the world ran in theatres for 20 years? And what indeed is life without the technicolor that is the irrational dream of a happily ever after?


About TheBlackWallflower

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