Bollywood hit ‘DDLJ’ celebrates 1,000-week run

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It was Oct. 19, 1995, when Mumbai’s iconic 1,100-seat Maratha Mandir theatre for the first time screened a brand-new Bollywood production, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, a romantic comedy produced by Yash Raj Films. The movie has been shown at the theatre every single day since. On Dec. 12, 2014, it marked its 1,000th consecutive week, making it the longest-running film in India’s history.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge–which its fans fondly abbreviate to “DDLJ”–also launched the career of its male lead Shah Rukh Khan as one of India’s most popular movie heartthrobs specializing in romantic comedies. Running at 181 minutes, DDLJ screenings reportedly frequently still sell out at Maratha Mandir, attracting amidst older folks also scores of teenagers who had not even been born when the movie premiered.

Shot on a budget of 40 million rupees (approximately $630,000 at today’s exchange rate), a very respectable amount for any Bollywood production, DDLJ had grossed around half a billion rupees ($7.8 mil.) by the end of 1995, which also makes it one of India’s most profitable films ever, recouping its investment more than tenfold within a matter of months. But figures stating how much the film has brought in altogether during its 1,000-week run are difficult to come by, because apart from Maratha Mandir, multiple theatres around the country have scheduled screenings on and off over the past 19 years. But here is a hint: Kolkata’s Navina Cinema celebrated the anniversary with one daily screening for seven consecutive days, starting Dec. 12, and the decision almost caused stampedes at the box office.

“The film has made a killing of 180,000 rupees [$2,836] in just seven shows. This is way more than [the earnings from]…films like The Shaukeens, Happy Ending, Ungli and Action Jackson put together, [which were] running the same week in my cinema hall,” movie website Boxofficeindia.co.in quoted Navin Choukhani, the venue’s director, as saying. To put this into perspective, it helps to know that the average admission ticket in India only costs around 20 rupees ($0.31).

Perhaps one factor that has helped DDLJ to become such a perpetual success is the fact that it is largely set in London, Paris, and Switzerland—exotic locales for the vast majority of Indian audiences, most of whom have never had an opportunity to travel abroad. Throw in the indispensable dancing and singing scenes so characteristic of Bollywood productions and–so it seems–you have a sure winner at hand.

DDLJ follows two young Indians living in Britain. The girl, Simran, played by Kajol (Mukherjee), is faced with a marriage arranged for her by her conservative family back home in India. Before she is to return home to be wed to a man she doesn’t love, she embarks on a tour of continental Europe, where she meets and falls in love with Raj, played by Shah Rukh Khan. After various twists and turns interspersed with copious musical numbers, Simran’s father (Amrish Puri, better known in the West as the evil priest in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) finally takes her back to India to fulfill his betrothal promise to the family friend, with Raj in hot pursuit to save his girl, of course. Eventually, the two lovers manage to convince their kin that their union is the only right thing to do and that – for once at least – rigid traditions should be put on the back burner. Happy end!

Outrage over Hitler in Thai Junta Film
“When trying to instill ‘cultural values’ into a population through a propaganda movie, avoid using imagery of Adolf Hitler in it” may sound like valuable advice for a military junta that just recently took over a country. However, Thailand’s Internet community and the national and international press reacted with outrage when the ruling “National Peace Keeping Council,” which assumed power during a bloodless military coup on May 22, 2014, did exactly that. A brief scene in a junta-sponsored propaganda short film showed a schoolboy proudly painting a portrait of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler posing in front of a huge swastika. While the scene was barely four seconds long, it almost immediately triggered angry protests and negative headlines after the film had been released nationwide on Dec. 6, 2014.

The scene was contained in a 10-minute short film, which in turn is part of a series of 12 movies—each by a different director—aimed at promoting the “12 Core Values” proclaimed by junta leader and prime minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha in July 2014, which are regarded to be the junta’s guidelines on how to become a good Thai citizen. The movie, simply titled 30 [Days], is supposed to extol the core value of “diligence in acquiring knowledge through school studies and other methods.” The story revolves around a young student, a pampered and spoiled brat from a rich family, who is used to excelling in everything he attempts at school and at home–and if he doesn’t, he achieves it through cheating or by being “helped” by his corrupt parents and teachers. He is juxtaposed with his less wealthy school friend, who always has to work very hard and in an honest way to reach his goals.

The film’s director, Kulp Kaljaruek, initially rejected widespread criticism of his choice of the boy’s painting motif: “As for Hitler’s portrait, I have seen so many people using it on t-shirts everywhere [in Thailand]. It’s even considered a fashion [statement]. It doesn’t mean I agree with it, but I didn’t expect it to be an issue at all.” He later changed his tone, apologizing that he “didn’t want to convey anything [political] at all,” but rather decided on using the controversial scene to show that Hitler and the boy were “similar in certain ways,” particularly in regard that they both always got what they wanted. But not everybody bought this explanation. On Dec. 10, Israel’s ambassador to Thailand, Simon Roded, published a statement through his country’s national news agency Arutz Sheva, expressing “deep sadness to see the trivialization and misuse of Nazi symbols in an official Thai government film.” And a user of the popular Internet forum Thaivisa.com wrote under the pseudonym Expratt: “If it were my daughter returning home with her newly painted Hitler portrait under her arm, I’d be far from happy. And don’t even ask me what I’d do if my young son brandished a Hitler t-shirt.” Numerous other comments were far more explicit in their disapproval of the brief scene, which in the meantime has allegedly been removed according to the minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, Panadda Diskul.
 
For inquiries and feedback, contact Thomas Schmid at thaitom03@loxinfo.co.th.