23 October 2004 | pcbrooks
Well worth the time it takes to watch
Indian movies tend to have a reputation for (a) being musicals and (b) having overmodulated, distorted sound tracks, as if everyone was singing and playing through a guitar fuzzbox. Fuzz is fine in its place (heavy metal rock music, for example) but a surfeit of it can readily wear down the listener.
Dil Chahta Hai is a welcome breath of fresh air in the genre. It does have musical numbers but they're very pleasant on the ear, as is the sound track in general - modern musical styles, in some cases mixed with more traditional musical instruments (even a didgeridoo, the presence of which is explained below).
I have an absolute hatred of musicals so for me to find this movie likable it really has to be something special. The awards it has already won demonstrate that it IS something special.
The storyline is a little convoluted (which may explain why it takes 3 hours to run its course - around twice as long as its western counterparts, although Indian audiences may prefer the much longer format) but the acting is excellent throughout and the viewer is kept interested as the multiple interwoven plots twist and turn.
This movie demands concentration though, to get the whole picture. There is a good deal of spoken English mixed with Hindi, so the subtitles are a must for those who don't understand Hindi, but the English speech is not often mirrored in the subtitles, so one must both listen carefully and watch carefully in order not to miss a beat.
The subtitles themselves are not perfect, using unusual punctuation at times to emphasize a point (a word bracketed by a plus or minus symbol on one side and a two thirds fraction on the other takes a little time to absorb, for example).
But these are only minor niggles. This movie is richly textured and provides a visual a feast throughout, especially if, like me, you are not familiar with the sights and sounds of places like Bombay and Goa. A good part of the movie is also set in Sydney, Australia, providing plenty of material to keep the interest going (and hence the presence of the aboriginal instrument noted earlier).
This is very much a westernised production, with characters and behaviours that are possibly harder for traditional Indian audiences to identify with; I had no difficulty though with identifying with the three main male characters - three guys who are firm friends and have been for some years, and who may separate but somehow always manage to come back together when circumstances demand it. This kind of theme is pretty universal - the British TV series "Last of the Summer Wine" operates along pretty much the same lines, albeit fifty years on.
One of the themes is the conflict between traditionalist parents and modernist offspring (in particular the arranged marriage) and the author leaves the audience to make up their own mind about which is "right", but maybe with a slight nudge in the direction of the traditionalists.
The only gripe I have is with the choice of the anglicised title "Do Your Thing" for the US market. I think that totally misses the point of the movie. From the subtitles, Dil Chahta Hai translates as "The heart wants...", which would be more accurately and pertinently translated as "What The Heart Wants...".
In other words, the storyline is more about following your heart in love than it is about leading a self-indulgent life (which, obviously, these characters do most of the time - courtesy of being very well off and generally able to please themselves what they do; not quite the little rich kids, but verging on it).
This movie is that rare beast, a guy flick that is also a chick flick. Guys will enjoy watching it for the macho moments, girls will enjoy it for the soulful scenes (and the fact that the women generally behave with more maturity than the guys) and the weepy bits.
All in all a very enjoyable, watchable movie. If this is a new direction for the so-called Bollywood cinema, then it is very welcome and I would like to see more of the same.
As a professional writer I'd even be interested in contributing to that new direction...