India's longest running film, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, marks a major milestone

The Bollywood love story has been screening for 1,000 weeks in Mumbai since its debut in 1995.

The Bollywood love story has been screening for 1,000 weeks in Mumbai since debut in 1995

A poster of the popular Hindi film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge at the Mumbai's prestigious Maratha Mandir movie hall. The film has set a record of completing 1,000 weeks of continuous screening at the cinema, a feat unmatched by any other Bollywood movie the world over. (Indranil Muckerjee/AFP/Getty Images)

Every day hundreds of people in India stream into an antiquated theatre in Mumbai. They don't go to see the latest Bollywood blockbuster. For just 30 cents CDN, they go to watch a classic.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, which roughly translates to the Brave Hearted Will Take Away the Bride, debuted back in October 1995. Since then, it's been shown daily at the Maratha Mandir Cinema.

Not just another love story

This week, India's longest running film marks a milestone. It's been 1,000 weeks since the movie's first screening.

On the surface, Dilwale may seem like just another Bollywood love story.

  • On mobile? Watch the celebratory trailer here

There is Raj, a rich, care-free, goofy, athletic, prank playing frat-boy. Then there is the polar opposite girl-next-door Simran, a middle-class, sophisticated, intellectual.

The two meet while on a tour of Europe. Initially Simran hates Raj, but after a series of events (and some singing and dancing), eventually the two fall in love. There is just one small problem: Simran's extremely strict father has already arranged her marriage to someone else.

[The movie] encapsulates a way of reconciling personal desires with familial obligations- Hindi cinema studies professor, Shakuntala Banaji, on film's enduring success

So, off Raj goes to India, not only to get the girl, but to win over her family as well. Through their journey, the two also manage to win over audiences around the world.

So what's behind the movie's enduring success?

"[The movie] encapsulates a way of reconciling personal desires with familial obligations," says Shakuntala Banaji, a professor who studies Hindi cinema at the London School of Economics.

"In South Asia, where so often young lovers who cross community and family wishes end up in jail for kidnapping, or dead, or accused of some crime, the fantasy of a privately chosen romantic love that can overcome family and community censure and be accepted is still very potent, perhaps even a necessary ideal."

Confronts 'outdated sexist ideals'

Indeed, Banaji says, even 20 years later, these problems still resonate within Indian society.

It's a view with which 28-year-old Pooja agrees. "There is something about growing up with strict parents that I think all Indian girls can relate to. Simran's character is every 'brown' woman," she says.

Cinema goers watch Dilwale inside the Maratha Mandir theatre. The theatre's 11-hundred seats are sold out most Sundays and on holidays. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)
"Indian women still deal with very outdated and sexist social restrictions," she says. "As Simran moves through this journey, falls in love, then stands up for her right to love, she realizes that she should have the right to live her life her own way. Essentially, I see it as the triumph of love, respect and equality over outdated sexist ideals."

Pooja calls Dilwale the quintessential love story, India's version of Romeo and Juliet.

An unforgettable scene

Indeed, an older movie watcher said she loved the film because she felt the chemistry between the characters was real. The film made Shah Rukh Khan (Raj) and Kajol (Simran) THE onscreen couple. One of the most unforgettable scenes in the movie is of the two reuniting in a field of yellow flowers and singing a popular song.

  • On mobile? Watch the song, Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jaana Sanam, here

While the romance takes up a large part of the film, Banaji says there is more to the story.

"I think it is a story about return. The second [half] is the rediscovery of one's roots and it's a travel story of the father. It's a romance, not so much between the young people, but between the parents and the place they come from, it's a romance in relation to nationalism and nation and homecoming."

A Hindi hit in Canada 

The film does invoke a strong sense of patriotism. It was one of the first Hindi-language films to focus on characters living outside of India, or NRI's (Non Resident Indians). Even though the protagonists didn't live in India, they never forgot their Indian values. It reaffirmed the notion that you can take the Indian out of India, but you can't take India out of the soul.

Perhaps that is why the film has done so well here in Canada as well.

"It is one of the best movies in Bollywood because it has a good love story," says Mohsin, the owner of a Bollywood movie store just north of Toronto. He has sold more than 800 copies of the film in the past six months.

Just up the road, off of aptly named New Delhi Drive, is another Bollywood store owner, Shafik.

"It was one of those movies that just brought everybody together, one of those movies that brought out families because it was a family orientated movie."

Sold out most Sundays

Asked why the theatre in Mumbai continues to play the film, manager Pravin Rane says it does so because people still come to watch. The 11-hundred seats are sold out most Sundays and on holidays. Rane says there are no plans to stop anytime soon.

As the film ends, the tagline flashes across the screen; "Come … Fall in Love."

Clearly, audiences around the world already have.


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