5 July 2009 | Peter_Young
Beautiful piece of art, larger than life yet thoroughly realistic...
This is one of the greatest and most crafted works of the incredible Mani Ratnam. I was stunned by every moment of it and the very first scene was enough for me to get completely hooked. Mr Ratnam's ability to make a grandiose love story and yet keep it starkly realistic is just unbelievable. It makes the viewer believe that true, intense love does not exist only in fairy tales, but in real-life too, with simple and ordinary people. Dil Se is a rare gem of its times - authentic, hard-hitting, gripping, and deeply involving. Some people have deemed it a bit slow and tedious, but according to me the film moves at a steady pace and is totally focused, engaging and captivating.
The film's concept: a young, hard-working radio broadcaster falls in love with a mysterious, strangely apathetic woman who is actually a terrorist may have been tackled before by filmmakers around the world, but none has done it the way Mr Ratnam did. He directs this feature with heart and soul and intensifies it with complete mastery, so much that you cannot leave the screen even for one moment (even if you are one of those who prefer skipping the songs). The script is grounded in tension and mystery, and it thankfully avoids sentimentality. And then we also have some genuinely real yet exceptional dialogues, which bring forth a poetic quality that eases the serious proceedings.
Every artist involved in this film gives one of their best. A.R Rahman, for one, creates one of the most crafted and beautiful movie soundtracks of his career, giving so much life and essence to the film. The songs flow incredibly well with the film, they never feel unnecessary, they fit the situations, and ultimately enhance the narrative and contribute to the film's mystery and intense atmosphere. "Dil Se Re", "Jiya Jale", "Chaiyya Chaiyya" and "Satrangi Re" - each track is a gem and showcases the greatness of Rahman and Ratnam, who visualises them exceedingly well on-screen. This of course could have been done without Santosh Sivan's brilliant cinematography.
The performances are top notch. This is one of Shahrukh Khan's most accomplished and realistic performances. He is intense, witty, vulnerable, believable and convincing as Amar. He portrays a suffering man who would go to any strengths for a woman he hardly knows, and though his character's unconditional love may seem peculiar, he manages to keep it real and balanced. He conveys his feelings, whether it's sorrow, love, pain or anger, in his own inimitable style, using his troubling intensity and nervous mannerisms. One can really feel for the pain in his eyes, which is evident every time he meets this woman who keeps rejecting him. A superb act.
Manisha Koirala, one of the most talented dramatic actresses India has seen, is flawless as Meghna. She smiles barely once in the entire film but her expressive eyes and silence speak volumes and always do the job. It's a natural and ambiguous portrayal of a woman who has lost belief in life and love, or at least of someone who compels herself to think so. She brilliantly displays the little nuances which let us sense her constant fights with herself and her struggle to not submit to her feelings every time she faces the bright side of the world, forcefully and firmly fossilising herself for the sake of a mission which must be completed.
Preity Zinta, the star herself in her debut film, does something very few actors have been capable of doing: she makes a great impact despite having a very small role. It's a great achievement for any actor to excel and make a lasting impression with a role of such minimal importance and screen time. She is natural, vibrant and very likable, commanding the audience's attention with her strong screen presence and lively persona. She's always been known for her ability to add happiness and positivity to films which are overly serious and dark, and this one is no exception. Her full of life, frank and direct Preeti is one of the most unforgettable characters in recent years.
Dil Se is a socially relevant movie but it is a love story at heart and there it scores the most. It may not appeal to all kinds of audiences (in fact, it was a box office failure in India, though a success overseas), more because of its brutally honest depiction of terror and national battle, yet it remains thoroughly fascinating. The film is atmospheric, dark and deep. The only aspects that abstract the viewer from these features may be the energetic music and Preity Zinta's light character. In anyway, it is a picture of great artistic excellence, and I would recommend anyone to see it. The ending is also most unpredictable, only making it more beautiful and memorable.