Love and marriage

How DDLJ ruined my generation

The iconic Bollywood film made rebellion uncool.

Like most Bollywood films, Dilwale Dhulania Le Jayenge ends unrealistically. The film ends with the girl’s father letting her go with her suitor, after having forever decided how she will live her life and who she will marry. “Ja Simran ja,” he says at the railway station, “jee le apni zindagi.” Go live your life. She runs as the train had begun leaving, catches Shah Rukh Khan's hand and we get one of the most iconic Bollywood scenes.

While the happy ending makes the viewer happy, the overwhelming message of the film is inescapable: if your parents don’t let you marry who you want, don’t run away. Convince them. The obvious implication is that if they are not convinced, eloping against their wishes is not an option.

Simran, the girl in question, played by Kajol, is ready to rebel and run away. Her mother and sister are happy to support her in this. But the mad lover, Raj Malhotra aka Shahrukh Khan, doesn’t want to disrespect elders. In other words, men keep family and tradition (read patriarchy) alive, and they keep in check women’s unbridled desires which threaten tradition. That is what we learnt from DDLJ. That fathers should let their daughters choose their own destiny, which happens in a contrived way in DDLJ’s final act, is hardly the message you go home with.



DDLJ not only told us to not rebel, it made love’s rebellion against tradition rather uncool. Making the same point, Siddharth Bhatia writes that this isn’t DDLJ’s fault. He writes, “Films reflect reality, not create them. Indeed, it is to Aditya Chopra's credit that he understood the new ethos of the nation and captured it so well and so early on.”

I disagree. More than capturing a reality, DDLJ shaped one.

This may sound like pop sociology but DDLJ wasn’t a mere film. For those who grew up in the '90s, the film defined love. It was the coming of age film. It is so iconic that its dialogue and scenes have become shorthand. Suddenly, mustard flowers became a symbol of love. Mustard flowers! This was the film Shah Rukh Khan says made him a star, and its train scene has been copied in tribute in a number of films since then.

A film so wildly successful could not but have a deep cultural impact. Whenever I see my peers and friends give in to family pressure and choose marriage over love, I wonder why rebellion isn’t an option for them. I have come to the conclusion that DDLJ is to blame.

Amongst the middle classes and the elites, when was the last time you heard of young men and women defying their parents in matters of love and marriage? You see it in villages and small towns and amongst the lower classes. That’s how you hear of honour killing. A family killed their daughter in the national capital just a few days ago.

There are several variations of the marriage problem that men and women on their twenties and early thirties face. They don’t want to marry yet but do it because the parents want it. They love someone outside caste or religion (rarely class, these days) but break up because parents won’t accept it. Or they don’t want a traditional wedding. Or they don’t want the families to spend their life savings on a week-long wedding. But tradition must be kept alive.

A thousand weeks later, Simran and Raj Malhotra must have become parents. They probably have a son and a daughter in their late teens. Having won his wife from her father, how much do you think Raj Malhotra is willing to let his children rebel? In all probability, he has become the tough patriarch who he once fought against.

DDLJ isn’t exactly a film to be celebrated.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.