Superstar Shah Rukh Khan has many fond memories of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ), which completed 25 years on Tuesday, but what stands out the most is how the film built his romantic hero image as the actor says he never felt he could pull of a character like that on the screen.
Directed by then debutant Aditya Chopra, son of veteran filmmaker Yash Chopra, “DDLJ” cemented Shah Rukh’s image as the ‘King of Romance’ in Bollywood.
“Raj was unlike anything I had done. Before ‘DDLJ’, there was ‘Darr’, ‘Baazigar’, ‘Anjaam’— films in which I had portrayed negative characters. Also, I always felt that I wasn’t cut out to play any romantic type of character,” he said.
“So, when I was presented with the opportunity by Adi and Yash (Chopra) ji of essaying the role, I was excited to work with him but had no idea how to go about it and also if I would be able to do it well,” Shah Rukh said in a statement shared by production banner Yash Raj Films (YRF).
The 54-year-old actor actor said people can see a glimpse of his real self in Raj, particularly in his sense of humour, which the actor borrowed from his own life.
“Actually, I always felt Adi’s love for me made him cast me. I found the character endearing and sweet in the right way —the over-the-topness is my contribution.”
“It was one of those roles that I realised can do with me using a version of my real self, so you might see some quirks, habits and mannerisms that were true to my off-screen persona, especially the sense of humour part,” he said.
Though Shah Rukh and Kajol had tasted success as a pair with “Baazigar” in 1993, it was “DDLJ” which immortalised them as the ultimate on-screen romantic couple.
DDLJ, the acronym that the film is known by today, shattered box office records at the time and was the only film to be still running in Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir until recently when COVID-19 forced cinema halls to close in March.
Widely credited for changing the grammar of Hindi cinema, the movie, according to YRF, was made at a budget of Rs 4 crore and in 1995 it collected Rs 89 crore in India and Rs 13.50 crore in overseas markets, a total collection of Rs 102.50 crore worldwide.
In today’s inflation adjusted value, the film’s collection stands at a staggering Rs 455 crore in India and Rs 69 crore in overseas territories, taking the total worldwide collections to Rs 524 crore, the production house said.
At that time, Shah Rukh recalled, he had been told that he looked unconventional, different from the leading heroes of that era, which made him sceptical about saying all the romantic dialogues in the movie.
“I was told by many people that I looked unconventional — very different from what the perception of a leading man was. I did feel, maybe, not being handsome enough — or as they called it then ‘chocolatey’ would make me unsuitable for romantic roles. Also, I am very shy and awkward with ladies, and I didn’t know how I would say all the loving, romantic bits,” he said.
“I have to admit, for someone who doesn’t like mushy, romantic films, the scenes with Kajol and I did make me feel all fuzzy and warm. There, I said it!” the actor said.
Shah Rukh also revealed he never changes the radio channel when a “DDLJ” song comes on.
“I can never get sick of them. They bring back memories of a film that shaped my path forward in an unforgettable way,” he said of the songs penned by the late Anand Bakshi and composed by Jatin-Lalit.
The train sequence ending of DDLJ is as iconic as the film, inspiring many imitations in Bollywood and elsewhere but Shah Rukh said he had no clue it will become so famous while they were shooting it: “There could have been no other ending, but I did not think it would be as iconic as it eventually turned out to be.”
The actor said “DDLJ” brought him fame in a way that he didn’t think it would.
“We were all living in the moment, trying to make the best film we could. There are so many reasons attributed to its success, but I don’t think any one specific thing can explain the phenomenon it has become. I think all the success is to be credited to the pure heart with which the film was made by Adi, Yashji, and the entire cast and crew — and my non-existent ‘good looks’,” he said.
Thanks to the film, Shah Rukh said he could no longer rely on his unconventional looks to play different roles.
“As for perception, I always felt that I can play more unconventional roles because of my looks, but ‘DDLJ’ has belied that and I still struggle to make that one macho unconventional kick a** character which suits me, or so I thought, but its been a struggle to not be considered romantic and sweet for the last 25 years —a struggle, I guess, I am happy to lose.”