By Anahad Madhav Mohapatra Aug. 11, 2017
Twenty years after Dhadkan released, Suniel Shetty’s Dev is the reason the film still has a tremendous but low-key fan following over the country.
“Tum dil ki dhadkan mein, rehte ho, rehte ho…”
The title track of Dhadkan, Bollywood’s answer to Wuthering Heights, is the resting place of the jilted lover’s soul. Even 18 years later, it lives on the lips of friends drenched in rum and gham; in the glaucoma-clouded eyes of every man who has ever been dumped.Suniel Shetty, whose fascination for the no-banyan look broke barriers of fashion and crossed the limits of hyper-masculine displays of chest hair, stormed our non-digital screens with his character of the obsessive, aggressive, and slightly regressive, Dev. Today, his Tinder bio would read “bastard and angry” but he would still wander with pain in his eyes, as if he, like Imtiaz Ali, knows that the essence of love is in it remaining unrequited.
Dhadkan is the story of when this conflicted non-man-bun version of Suniel comes into contact with “papa ki pari” Anjali, essayed by a pre-nose-job Shilpa Shetty, who drives sports cars and her lovers up a wall. She belongs to a rich family who have the words “parampara”, “izzat”, and “parvarish” tattooed on their biceps and plastered on their walls.
Daddy and Suitor Dev meet at the Wuthering Heights manor in Greater Kailash, where a war of words ensues and the relationship eventually culminates in tears for papa ki pari and beers for Dev who comes back home to his hammy-motherly figure and yells: “Sharaab ka nasha hai mujh mein! Chhod diya maine usse.”
He’s lying, of course.
Dev’s undying love for Anjali becomes the central story of his morose existence hereafter. Before we learnt how to swipe right to move on, the jilted lover’s post-dumping life (marked by binge-drinking and stasis) was undergirded by an inordinate longing. Dhadkan, the three-hour love triangle of epic proportions that erupted on an overtly dramatic “Manmohan Desai on acid” canvas, is an ode to the jilted Heathcliffs of the world.
The jilted lover can be a toxic animal. He is overcome with longing for the love he has lost, but mixed in this longing is the dormant desire to emerge again, victorious in some undefined way in the eyes of the object of his affections.
After Anjali gets married off to Ram (Akshay Kumar), one of those guys who is pure as the cow Yogi-ji once stroked, her life changes. Ram lives with his stepmother, stepbrother, and stepsister who are painted with the same amount of villainy with which the “Frustrated Indian” paints liberals. Anjali is put through layers of agneepariksha, blackmail, and Sasumaa sass, but emerges unscathed because she’s with Maryada AF Ram who she refuses to sleep with.
They still do all the running around behind trees, but she sings whole songs imagining Dev, while Ram is harping note after note in her praise. Remember, this is a man who has not been allowed to consummate his marriage, but like a true Gandhian, Ram employs methods of peaceful protest which eventually guilt-trip Anjali into falling for and eventually, sleeping with him. At this point, Anjali is so completely enamoured with Ram that if she had Facebook in her life she’d be posting couple pics with captions like “Hai love mera lit-lit soniye!”
Enter Dev 2.0 or DevD (D for Dank, after he’s got money in the bank).
Now, this is the heady nineties so not only is our jilted hero back, but he’s now richer than God — and burning with vengeance. In the eternal game of “Who wins the break-up,” Dev takes the sweepstakes with his suave, moneyman act. The act goes a little far when he decides to ruin good ol’ Ram forever by buying out everything that he has ever owned, but we root for Dev.
Dev is us. Dev is our broken past that we want to thrust into the present. He is the benchmark of “junoon” with which we scale our demons. He is the shadow that screeches “Aaeeeh!” in an unbuttoned shirt from the bottomless pit that is his heart.
Today, Suniel’s Tinder bio would read “bastard and angry” but he would still wander with pain in his eyes, as if he, like Imtiaz Ali, knows that the essence of love is in it remaining unrequited.
Image Credit / Venus Movies
The jilted lover can be a toxic animal. He is overcome with longing for the love he has lost, but mixed in this longing is the dormant desire to emerge again, victorious in some undefined way in the eyes of the object of his affections. When I stood dumped at the tender impressionable age of 14, I decided that I would hit the gym, pick up the guitar, and read Marx like a pro to rub her nose in the dirt. In that fantasy, my pain found refuge. DevD was the Shaktimaan of my fantasy and the fantasy of every lover who had ever been dumped.
Now, 18 years later, Dev is the reason that Dhadkan still has a tremendous but low-key fan following over the country. Dev is our Healthcliff and as flawed as he is, we identify with him because what Dharmesh Brontë does manage to do in this horrendously OTT film, is to capture the pang of separation and the spectre of unrequited love. Because all we dreamt of in our lowest of Dhadkan lows was: “Main tumhe bhool jaun aisa ho nahin sakta, tum mujhe bhool jao yeh main hone nahin dunga…”
I am not sure if the Dev in all of us is a boon or bane, but I think he’s moved on to spamming Anjali’s “Others” folder these days to stay sane.
Anahad is the fourth most recognisable Odia after Biswa, Biswapati and Satapathy. He sold his kidney to get into college and every word you read gives him a grain of rice. Be Kind.