20 Years of Dil Se: A Long Affair With Bollywood’s “Shortest Love Story”


20 Years of Dil Se: A Long Affair With Bollywood’s “Shortest Love Story”

Illustration: Shruti Yatam


s its lead, Amarkant Varma (Shah Rukh Khan) put it, Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se.. is best described as “the world’s shortest love story”. The film, which released 20 years ago today, completed the director’s terror trilogy after Roja and Bombay. But this stunning film is also remembered for a host of other reasons: Malaika Arora’s waistline, AR Rahman’s evocative music elevated by Gulzar’s piercing lyrics, Santosh Sivan’s breathtaking cinematography, Preity Zinta’s debut act that gave us “honka-bonka-bonks”, and for generally being an inimitable collaboration that brought together Tigmanshu Dhulia, Ram Gopal Varma, Mani Ratnam, and Shekhar Kapur.

And 20 years later, Dil Se.. — that shed a light on human rights violations routinely carried out by the Army and the Centre’s indifference to the state of affairs in India’s North East — also remains one of the finest depictions of the all-consuming insanity of love. While most of Hindi cinema has the tendency to disguise the ugliness of love with sugarcoated romance, Ratnam deftly exposed the selfishness and delusions attached to this elusive feeling.