Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)
Name: Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Straight from the heart)
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Did I watch this recently? Yes
Please be mindful of spoilers. So if you really don’t want to be spoiled about the film, just skip to the end overall score
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (straight from the heart) is a movie which resembles Bollywood closest to its purest form. I say purest form in the way that Bollywood is known for, in terms of colour, dancing, songs, heightened emotions, extravagant costumes and jewellery, 3 hour long films, parent drama, love triangles, manly heroes and pretty heroines. It is Sanjay Leela Bhansali at his best and it was this movie that set the standard for his future magnum opus Devdas.
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam is the story of Nandini (played by Aishwarya Rai). Nadini is a fiercely independent and beloved only daughter of a famous folk singer. One day a half-indian boy called Sameer (Salman Khan) comes from Italy to their house in Rajasthan to learn singing off her father. Sameer is joyful, fun, romantic, good looking and soon Nandini and Sameer fall in love. But little do they know while they keep their love secret, Nadini’s parents have already arranged her marriage to a quiet and dark man named Vanraj (Ajay Devgan) who falls for Nadini during one of her dancing performances. Sameer is soon banished from the house and leaves for Europe where he hopes one day Nadini will follow him. Vanraj and Nadini marry but she is so depressed during their marriage that Vanraj takes Nadini to Italy to reunite her with her past lover Sameer. Soon Nadini must choose between her youthful lover and her dutiful husband.
I’m writing this review after seeing Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam for the third time. Twice, a couple of years ago, and now this time. I am STILL conflicted who i think she should have chosen in the end or which long guy i like best. The two relationships are very different. In fact they probably juxtapose each other as they both are almost opposite. Sameer (Salman) is joyful, fun, the life of the party, good looking, great singer – everything one could want in a lover. But Nandini (Aishwarya) and Sameer (Salman) relationship is filled with immaturity. After she accidently slaps him she apologises and apoligises but he stamps off to his room and locks himself in it like a little boy. But their relationship is full of energy, chemistrty and fun. While Vanraj (Ajay) and Nandini has a more mature relationship. Vanraj is dark coloured (and not the best looking), a bad singer, quiet but something he has in common with Sameer is he is a very nice man. When Vanraj finds out that Nandini has another lover he doesn’t get in a huff and lock himself in a room, he deals with the problem head on and makes a decision. Their relationship is alot less joyful and eventful but they still appreciate each other on a more mature and developed level then the gayity and fun of Sameer. She would probably find joy and love in conversations with Vanraj, seeing how he acts rather then how much fun she can have with him.
Either way because they are both so nice (no clear bad guy) it makes me conflicted. I like how Sameer seems like alot of fun and Vanraj seems boring. In fact first time i saw it i cried my eyes out cause of the ending. But this is probably my youthful outlook on it. I originally didn’t like Vanraj at all but the couple of years since i last saw this film i’ve been swaying more toward Vanraj and finding Sameer’s youthfulness more exhausting and annoying.
But now looking back at the two relationships i think Vanraj gets it right when he tells Nandini “you don’t know what love is”. Was what Nadini and Sameer had infatuation or love? I still don’t know. I think that both relationships are love, but are different types of love. Which is the right love – the arranged and mature or the joyful and youthful? I’m sure there is cases in the world where both have worked very well for couples. I guess its up to the individual viewer which they prefer.
Nadini’s end choice between Vanraj and Sameer some see as a message of choosing between between youthful infatuated love or her duty as wife. In some ways the film supports the duty vs love theory when Nandini says to Sameer that she must go back to her husband to fulfil her duty. In this way she is giving her reasoning of choosing Vanraj as a sense of duty rather then love for her husband. But i believe her choice is more then a sense of duty and i don’t believe it when people simply say that it was just duty vs love. I think its more then just a choice between society obligations vs writing her own destiny. I believe its more a choice between her 1st love vs 2nd love then duty vs love. She loves both Sameer and Vanraj in very different ways and is conflicted who to chose. But it can be easily seen by the end she definitely has love for Vanraj that moves beyond purely dutiful love. Its like choosing between your first love and second love – which was real love? Its impossible to be able to say which one was real, but it can be clearly seen by the end that Nandini has made the decision of Vanraj based on her duties as a wife and falling in love for a second time. But people are more then free to disagree with me.
Even though Sameer and Nandini had a more immature love, it certainly shared a lot better chemistry then Nadini and Vanraj. You cannot escape how good the chemistry is between Aishwarya Rai and Salman Khan. Is it a result of their real life love life? The 1st half you get through because their chemistry is so believable you can’t help but cry in the end of the first half and second half for Sameer and Nandini. Although when Nandini and Vanraj are on the train together and have to snuggle to get past the ticket collector – that too is pretty steamy.
In terms of acting Aishwarya manages to have moments of acting talent in many of the scenes most of them include her post marriage scenes where her character shows maturity and depth. The ones that springs to mind is her first married night, the Tadap Tadap song, some of the later scenes when they are trying to find Sameer etc. In fact its mostly only the really emotional scenes where she screams her head off (when Sameer is leaving and just after flying the kites) that she really hurt my ears and where i cringe at the loudness of the acting. But i think she shows greater maturity in her acting (then her previous movies of that time being Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya & Jeans) when she has to demonstrate a subtle emotional scene. I think its when she has to go big with her acting is when she gets in trouble.
I think out of Ajay Devgan, Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai, that Ajay had the best performance amongst them. He could be venerable and lovable to his wife, he could play hurt and angry. The character of Vanraj could have easily looked like a simple fool but Ajay manages to combine the venerability of Vanraj but also insert strength and dignity in the character where he doesn’t look like a total idiot for what he does. I must admit i have to give Vanraj respect for resisting the urge to slap Nadini during the beginning stages of their marriage and search for Sameer. She never showed any appreciation for what Vanraj was doing for her and really was only acting like a spoilt little girl. But luckily as they start to spend more and more time together her character really matures and becomes much nicer to Vanraj. I’m glad they did that so as to redeem her character for the audience.
Very special mention has to be made towards the music and choreography of this film. From the sultry ‘Ankhon Ki Gustakhiyan‘, to the devastating ‘Tadap Tadap‘ (i encourage non-hindi speakers to get the song with subtitles), to the flamboyant dance number that showcases Aishwarya’s dancing talents ‘Nimbooda‘, the romantic duet ‘Chand Chupa Badal Mein‘ and lastly the other great dance number with Salman and Aishwarya which just makes you want to get up and dance ‘Dholi Taro Dhol Baaje‘. The music is literally up there in my top 10 favourite albums of all time and the choreography, costumes and picturisation does not let it down. All the songs, sets, costumes etc are done to grand opulence in a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film and it was Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam that set this future standard.
Editing could be much tighter. The first 1 hour is extremely drawn out with not alot happening in them other then showing the family fun moments. The one song i would cut would be the kite song, it added nothing to the movies but an extra 6 minutes.
Amongst all the drama though there were some light comedy moments. Zohra Seghal provided alot of the humour for me as the loveable grandmother. Other funny bits included when Nandini thought she could get pregnant by a kiss, Sameer always annoying her and Vanraj trying to do uncoordinated hungarian dancing (sorry italian dancing).
This is not a perfect movie – by a long shot. The theme is not anything new and the movie has many imperfections and problems with it. But in the Sanjay Leela Bhansali presentation i get so caught up in the drama and beauty of this film that I forget a large amount of things that might annoy me as the movie progresses.
Overall Score: 4/5 Hairy Anil Kapoors – Overall Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam is classic purest Bollywood. It has the drama, heightened emotions, grand costumes, dancing and one of the best musical albums. It even has a love triangle where three watches later i’m still trying to figure who i want her with. But of course with this type of movie the over the top experience may give many a headache, especially at times the characters of Sameer and Nandini. Another big boo boo for the movie is the fact their ‘Italy’ looks nothing like Italy but was in fact shot in Hungary. But hopefully despite its many flaws, you will walk away from this film with a couple of used tissues and a sense of grandeur and emotion about the film.