Friday, 7 December 2007

Dillagi (1999)

A high voltage love triangle graces the screen in Sunny Deol’s directorial debut Dillagi, a traditional tale of two brothers in love with one girl.

Hindi cinema has witnessed umpteen love triangle sagas be it the celluloid classic Sangam or the musical Saajan, from bubblegum flick Kuch Kuch Hota Hai to the epic Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. So, one may ask what makes such a tried and tested formula an enjoyable experience in the form of Dillagi? Quite simply, the treatment of a hackneyed plotline and the flawless performances makes Dillagi one of the best films to come from the Deol dynasty, thus transcending to a highly exhilarating cinematic experience.

Ranvir (Sunny Deol) and Rajvir (Bobby Deol) are two brothers who are poles apart. Whilst Ranvir is the sagacious elder who runs the family empire, Rajvir aka Rocky enjoys his playboy lifestyle whilst indulging in girls, alcohol and parties much to the worry of his father (Dara Singh) and grandmother (Zohra Segal.)

Enter Shalini (Urmilia Matondkar) a naïve and simple girl of a middle class family whose parents (Reema Lagoo, Khulbhushan Kharbanda) only wish is to see her complete her studies and marry. However, Shalini becomes prey to Rajiv’s charming ways and it is not long before the two strike off a friendship much to the dismay of Shalini’s friends who warn her of Rajiv’s whorehound antics.

Love is blind and Shalini’s eyes become equally clouded with dreams of marrying Rajvir much to the upset of her parents who wish for her to meet Ranvir as a prospective husband. Ranvir…who has loved Shalini by treasuring those moments in which he has seen her by glance yet never had the courage to express his love, arrives at Shalini’s doorstep with his heart already in Shalini’s hands.

A cruel twist of fate leaves all three characters wounded by Cupid’s arrow. Whilst Shalini rejects Ranvir only to realize Rajvir never loved her, Ranvir wallows in his sorrows of dejection and Rajvir comes to realize that perhaps his perception of frivolity accounts for much more when it comes to love.

Dillagi’s mainstay is based upon the fact that Sunny Deol has taken out the melodrama associated with most routine love triangles and presented a story which is seeped in reality and at times is highly relatable. The college ambience and the depiction of Gen x is a highlight of the film and depicts the double life that many youngsters lead in and out of the family home.

An interesting idea that the film presents is how young girls can easily be mislead in the world of starry love like dreams. The revelation comes in the form that the traitor of Shalini’s love is not a villain, but a believable character that is perhaps representative of a large population of the youth who are laidback in their approach to relationships. This message in itself makes Dillagi compulsory viewing and whilst not once does the film preach, it does make the viewer think about the gullible facet of human nature in todays fast moving, no nonsense world.

As a director, Sunny Deol should be commended for a number of sequences which he has treated with extreme precision. Take for example the scene where Shalini is humiliated by Rajvir at college, the flow of conversation between the two seems straight out of life and the following portions of Shalini rebuilding her confidence with her parents all strike a chord with the viewer’s heart.

Furthermore, both Deol brothers share a sparkling chemistry onscreen making for endearing viewing whilst the crux of the film succeeds in creating a high flow of emotional quotient, a prerequisite for any good love triangle.

Sunny Deol as the humble and mellow brother is a revelation. It is a refreshing change to see Sunny play a more subdued character rather than the roaring beasts of men he has become associated with. He captures all the right nuances and delivers an extremely likeable performance, much like the role he went on to play later on in “Apne”. An interesting point to note is that whenever Sunny takes on a role opposite Bobby Deol, he seemingly inhibits the more soft-spoken role, an indication perhaps of his real life character traits.

Bobby Deol as the stylish college rouge manages to generate both awe and angst from the audience with his performance, matching Sunny Deol step for step. He proves that he is confident not only with lighter moments but can easily tackle the zealous strands of cinema. Also, in the moments that offer him opportunities of outburst he gives a convincing delivery and manages to span a wide range with the character of Rajvir.

At the time of the films release, Urmilia Matondkar was riding high on the success of Satya and Kaun but also simultaneously facing the backfire of duds such as Janam Samjha Karo and Hum Tum Pe Marte Hain so Dillagi offered her the chance to revert back to essaying the role of the quintessential heroine. However, the role of Shalini is more the guileless college girl rather than glamorous goddess and Matondkar fits into the character effortlessly. Like Bobby Deol, her character too undergoes a variation of emotion from innocuous to downhearted to exasperated giving Matondkar a platform to excel. As well as looking alluring, she manages to bracket her performance in the same league as that of Kajol and Madhuri who have both played the college girl with élan in their respective careers. It wouldn’t be wrong to state that Dillagi is perhaps one of the finest performances to come from Urmilia with regards to her commercial films.

Zohra Segal as the grandmother is one of the sweetest elements of the film, portraying a role that will evoke smiles and laughs every time. Ditto for Reema Lagoo who as always is reliable as the concerned mother.

Dillagi offers a stellar soundtrack which provides excellence throughout. “Sangeet” – a peppy, traditional number which has become immensely popular for many wedding functions and “Dhoom Dhoom Luck Luck” provide the heavy Punjabi theme throughout the film. However, that is not to say the album is all beats and no melody as the soul stirring “Kya Yeh Sach Hai” makes for essential listening for fans of romantic ballads and the energetic title track “Dillagi” which is interspersed throughout the film, is worth a listen purely for its use of ten singers in one track.

A special mention must be given for the bouncy picturisation of “Sangeet” which magnificently captures the mayhem, glee and glory of a sangeet function and appears charmingly rustic as a result.

Initially, Sunny Deol had teamed up with famous Brit director Gurinder Chadha for a project called “London” which after the two parted ways became “Dillagi.” This may be the reason that at times; the film cinematographically takes liberties when referring to the décor of Shalini’s home which appears to resemble London interiors and exteriors within India!

Although Dillagi struggled to find success at the time of its release, it is one of the most highly underrated films belonging to its ilk of traditional love triangles. Sunny Deol in the director’s seat managed to create an engrossing tale sans bathos resulting in a clever conceptualization of modernity meeting love.

Cardinal family viewing, Dillagi mixes familiarity with a splashing of vanguard and as the tagline suggests…The Fun Never Ends.

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