2001 was an interesting year to follow Bollywood. A few too many things were happening that were to change a few too many things in the years to come for Hindi cinema and its fans. There was Amitabh Bachchan riding high on his comeback wave. Movie stars were now on the TV screen and in your living room and were not ashamed of it. Sunny Deol was flinging hand pumps at anybody who dared to speak ill of "Hindustan". Ashutosh Gowariker finally showed some promise if you, as a moviegoer, promised to be patient. Tusshar Kapoor made his debut and threatened to appear in more movies. Yes, it was a good year to follow Bollywood.
Three movies were released that year that were to create an indelible impact on Bollywood’s history that year. Gadar: Ek Prem Katha became a massive hit proving you can win everything with jingoism in this country and also almost dropped the curtains on the careers of Sunny Paaji and Amisha Patel. Hindsight is always 20-20 and the films both appeared in later proves so. Lagaan was another unique experiment, a huge risk even that paid off. A movie that was almost four-hour-long with cricket as the main theme was not something the Bollywood audience was used to but it was lapped up and how. So much so, Gowariker still thinks he can keep his audience interested for over three hours even if it meant watching Harman Baweja and 12 Priyanka Chopras for so long. Oh, my!
The third movie released in 2001 wasn’t as grand as the other two. It wasn’t hyped as much either but it probably had the biggest cultural impact of all on filmmakers and filmgoers alike. Dil Chahta Hai was released this week in the August of 2001. Yes, it has been 15 years! You are that old and all that. Believe it that in the time of no social media, no memes, no selfies and smartphones, it was very possible to be cool. A young Farhan Akhtar with his first film proved that. For once, the director of a film became a “cool icon” too. Soon, the way people dressed changed, hairstyles changed, a soul patch appeared on every second male face, filmmakers finally saw cinema for the youth could actually feature content the youth could relate to and movie content changed dramatically.
Here are five ways I think Dil Chahta Hai changed the world as we knew it:
Teaching swag before the word became popular
Sometime before Dil Chahta Hai and Lagaan released in 2001, Aamir Khan appeared on Kaun Banega Crorepati. Amitabh Bachchan amused at the tuft of hair under Khan’s lower lip asked him about it. That’s when the actor spoke of his upcoming film – Dil Chahta Hai – and his look for the movie. Amusing as it was then, come August, the soul patch became an absolute rage.
Hairstyles became more important than ever. Thanks to Aakash, Sameer and Sid, hair-gel sales spiked (pun intended). Celeb-owned hair salons and mega expensive haircuts were the order of the day and a 25-buck snip at Baba Hair Saloon in your neighborhood was frowned upon.
The trio made your regular college clothes and accessories more hip and as much as ‘Rahul’ might have made you believe, a ‘C-O-O-L’ chain around your neck thankfully, finally, was seen as tacky.
Leave the clothes, personal styling be; rarely before did a Bollywood movie look this colorful and stylized. The movie set some phenomenal trends. The benchmark was raised for future films. Some fell flat, some kept it going, all tried.
Our funny lives became the “Dil Chahta Hai humor”
There was almost nothing ‘filmy’ about Dil Chahta Hai. Nothing over-the-top, just regular banter. Maybe, that is why 15 years hence, it still works. You didn’t need an “actor in a comic role” in the movie. Sameer’s “Haan main, magar woh, suno toh, tumne toh…” will still be funny another 15 years later. There will always be a Subodh we know who will annoyingly remember dates and buy heart-shaped balloons. The fact that we knew everything already that we saw in Dil Chahta Hai made it even more endearing.
Everybody became an Aakash, a Sameer, a Sid
If they couldn’t relate to the movie, people began forcefully relating their lives to what they saw. You suddenly had an Aakash, a Sameer and a Sid in every circle of friends. I know because the world agreed I was too boring and hence, was either a Sid or a Subodh because, yes, I annoyingly remember my first date, my first cigarette, my first beer, heartbreak, you get the drift.
Do not even get me started how even South Indians and Bengalis now wanted sangeet to be an inevitable part of their weddings.
"Young logo ke liye film banate hai"
Come to think of it, there was nothing earth-shatteringly different about the film’s content. This was your story, it was mine. It spoke a language we were very familiar with. It was very, very regular. And regular worked big time.
Soon, filmmakers wanted to speak the regular language that the youth would understand. The Dil Chahta Hai-speak! Films were such written. You were soon not delving into a fantasy land with the movies anymore and here was a circle where life imitated art and vice versa.
Oh and how this movie changed Goa for the world. Not that it wasn’t a popular destination before but now everybody wanted to head there, strictly with friends. Everybody has done the swallowing fish trick, played beach volleyball like they never played beach volleyball before and while nobody will admit, a few might have even been mugged by goras too. And of course, road trips, for the win!
Did people even know about Chapora Fort before; better still, do they even now know what *that* place in Goa is called?
15 years, boys and girls; that’s a decade and a half. Think of all the movies you’ve watched in this period. Think if any has stuck on like Dil Chahta Hai has. We will talk again in 2031.