Here’s Why the Making of DDLJ Is as Interesting as the Film Itself

These stories behind the making of India’s most epic love story DDLJ, will make you watch the film one more time. 

7 min read
Here’s Why the Making of DDLJ Is as Interesting as the Film Itself

Raj and Simran’s epic love story, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, was a turning point in the lives of many, especially those who made it. Even though DDLJ has been around for two decades now, I wouldn’t think twice before plonking myself on the couch to watch it one more time, like it was the first. If you plan to join in, this story of how the romantic classic came into being, is guaranteed to make the experience more magical.

Come, fall in love.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge: Come fall in love

Aditya Chopra Was Born a Storyteller

Tujh ko mujh ko jeevan amrit, ab in haathon se peena hai,
Inki dhadkan mein basna hai, inki saason mein jeena hai.
Tu apni adaayein baksh inhein, main apni wafaayein deta hoon,
Apne liya jo sochi theen kabhi, woh saari duaayein deta hoon.

Producer Yash Chopra was a hopeless romantic. And every time he watched his son‘s directorial masterpiece, he was reminded of these words by the iconic poet-lyricist, Sahir Ludhianvi. He lovingly recited this couplet to his wife and playback singer Pamela Chopra, with a proud smile for Aditya’s achievement.

Yash Chopra with his two sons, Aditya and Uday Chopra (Photo: Twitter/@MosesSapir)

Aditya Chopra is completely besotted with cinema as an individual. When author and film critic Anupama Chopra interviewed him for a book about DDLJ, he showed her some of his personal notebooks, that he had maintained since his teenage years.

He watched every single film, every Friday in the theatres, and rated them in his notebook. He would also write his own critique of a film and predict its box-office ratings. Then he would compare his predictions with the actual ratings. That way, he would grade himself on how accurately he could predict the box-office. It was great to see how his sensibility took shape over the years.
– Anupama Chopra, Author & Film Critic

A rare picture of director Aditya Chopra with Shah Rukh Khan (Photo: Twitter/@ClapsnSlaps)

She also reveals that Adi’s love for watching films in theatres is what makes him an elusive person. As a director, it is very important for him to be able to go to theatres and watch films like any other person because, that’s where he thinks the honesty of his cinema comes from. Author and film historian Nasreen Munni Kabir shares an interesting story about how Aditya Chopra made himself fall in love with Hindi film music. It wasn’t easy.

Adi grew up as a typical upper-class teenager, listening to the same western pop hits as his peers. But gradually he realised that he was watching Hindi films, and not listening to Hindi film music. So one day he simply threw away all his western music CDs. Adi was also hugely inspired by Raj Kapoor’s style of setting up a song before actually coming to it in the film, by layering elements of the melody into the background score. That’s why it sticks, because you hear the same tune over and over, till it finally reveals itself.
– Nasreen Munni Kabir, Author


Everything That Went Wrong, Turned Out to Be Just Right

Can you imagine a DDLJ with Tom Cruise instead of Shah Rukh Khan?

The idea of DDLJ actually began with Hollywood actor Tom Cruise. Aditya Chopra had envisioned Cruise falling in love with an Indian girl. That didn’t work out, but what did take shape, was the idea of weaving a story around NRIs. Raj Malhotra’s character was named after Adi’s inspiration, the great Raj Kapoor. Saif Ali Khan was the next choice for the lead role. When he turned it down, Shah Rukh was approached. But the superstar in the making wasn’t keen on doing a lover-boy role since his villainous avatars from Anjaam, Baazigar and Darr were working well for him. But Adi was persuasive and persistent. Even though the Shah Rukh-Kajol jodi had been seen before in Karan Arjun (1995), it was DDLJ that truly established them. In fact, there’s a poster in Adi’s office signed by Shah Rukh that reads, ‘Thank you for making me the star that I am today’.


What’s With the Title Man?

Kajol thought Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was the most tapori title she had ever heard.

Kajol admits that Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was the most tapori title she had ever heard. She had cracked up the first time she heard it. Anupam Kher’s wife, actress Kirron Kher had suggested the name to Aditya Chopra, taking inspiration from the Le Jayenge number from Chor Machaye Shor (1974). Not only did Kajol not ‘get’ the title, her character Simran felt completely alien to her too. She had agreed to do the film only because Adi was a dear friend. But she did love his conviction and clarity, which were unlike that of any first time director.


Shah Rukh Khan’s Re-Launch

Shah Rukh and Kajol are so comfortable with each other that they never rehearse for a scene.  

Shah Rukh had been around as a successful actor for about five years before he signed DDLJ. But he feels that this love story launched him as a romantic hero. Before DDLJ, he was basically just killing women in films.

The scene at the train station where Simran asks Raj if he would come for her wedding in India, and he says ‘no’, still makes him tear up. That’s his favourite moment in the film. The superstar believes DDLJ defines him as an actor.

If my son was to ask me, ‘dad show me one film from your career, that I would love’, I would show him DDLJ. Same for my daughter and my mother. In fact, if I was to show any category of people, a film from my career to convey what I am, it would be DDLJ.
Shah Rukh Khan, Actor

There’s a reason why the Shah Rukh-Kajol chemistry works wonders on screen.

Kajol and I share so much comfort that we never rehearse a scene, we never sit down and discuss a scene. We just let it be and trust each other. I think that’s why we work out well on screen.
Shah Rukh Khan


Getting it Just Right

Amrish Puri and other senior actors were doubtful about Aditya Chopra’s directorial skills initially. 

Casting for DDLJ was like a game of musical chairs. Yash Chopra wanted Milind Gunaji to play Kuljeet. But the actor refused to shave off his beard for the part. Armaan Kohli was the second choice, but he wanted to play the lead and not the villain. So they finally signed Parmeet Sethi. Mala Sinha’s daughter Pratibha was the first choice for Preeti’s character, which was finally played by Mandira Bedi. And while Adi loved working with Kajol, he realised that her spontaneity dies out after the first two takes. So he directed her in a way that she got it right before her third try.

Aditya Chopra wasn’t happy with Jatin-Lalit’s mukhda for Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jana Sanam. So he composed Ho Gaya Hai Tujh Ko Toh Pyaar Sajna himself! Mere Khwabon Mein Jo Aaye was the first song of the film to be recorded and Aditya Chopra had rejected 24 verses written by Anand Bakshi before approving the final one.

All the senior actors had been doubtful of Adi’s ‘newbie’ directorial skills initially. Amrish Puri used to quiz him with questions like ‘What time is it in London right now’ to check how well he knows his story and his characters. In fact choreographer Saroj Khan apologised to Adi after the film’s huge success for having undermined his talent, though they never worked together after that. She had left the film midway and Farah Khan had been brought in to replace her.

DDLJ launched Shah Rukh Khan as the romantic hero that he is today. 

Aditya Chopra doesn’t like the acronym DDLJ. He feels that pet names are for parents to give their child, not for the world to bestow. He has always referred to the film as Dilwale, never DDLJ. The release of Hindi cinema’s most loved love story also marked the 25th anniversary of Yash Raj Films. In one of his interviews, Yash ji had recalled an incident from Adi’s childhood, which happened to be the very first time that he saw traces of a filmmaker in his son.

I was shooting for Kabhie Kabhi in Kashmir and Adi was accompanying me. He was 6-7 years old and always had a viewfinder hanging from his neck. He spent all day looking through it. Kya dekhta tha, kya samajh aata tha usse, pata nahin. Amit ji and everyone around me used to say that he’ll be the next big director. My dear friend Shashi Kapoor went up to Adi one day and said ‘chhote maalik, jab tum director ban jaaoge, toh humein zaroor yaad rakhna’.
– Yash Chopra

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Topics:  Kajol   Shah Rukh Khan   Aditya Chopra  

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