A Douchebag Named Raj Malhotra – DDLJ Film Review.

spoilt modern film review

Image: hdwallpapertec.com

The following was submitted by SMIW reader Aishhwariya Subramanian to our section Spoilt Modern Film Reviews.

I spent nearly a decade and a half in love with a pathological sexist liar named Raj Malhotra.

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He was handsome and carefree and completely the kind of man I envisioned riding off into the sunset with. I mean what girl doesn’t want to settle down with a passive aggressive guy who jokes about having slept with her while she was unconscious, right?  Oh, and he also happened to look exactly like a young Shahrukh Khan and he was entirely fictional.

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I fell in love with both patriarchy and trains when I watched Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (known iconically as DDLJ) with my mother when I was 8 years old.

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My obsession with the film was unparalleled. Having watched it multiple times in a year for 15 years, I know every dialogue, laugh, smirk, and musical cue. For years, I would embark on train journeys hoping for Raj (I wasn’t delusional enough to believe that SRK would somehow be sitting next to me in the 2nd class compartment of the Howrah Express).

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My intense love for the film and Raj was only matched by my illogical hatred for Simran.

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I didn’t understand what Raj saw in the glorified doormat that was Kajol’s Simran.

It didn’t help that I was nothing like her. For every time she toed the line, I grew up rebelling against every established status quo. I refused to honor grandmother’s rule that asked the women in the household to keep away from the kitchen while on their period. I relished getting into physical fights with boys in my class and took strange pride in the injuries I received as a result of it. I was (and still am) brash, loud, opinionated and openly questioned authority. I once ran away from my house (I got till the gate in our building) because my dad wouldn’t let me drink Frooti in front of our TV set.

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I was never going to be Simran. I was never going to be the aadarsh bharatiya naari

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I hated Simran for ever existing because how will Raj love a heathen like me when the perfect girl was apparently Simran? Why did she have to be boring?

But it wasn’t Simran’s fault.

It wasn’t until my 20s, a time when I came to fully embrace the values of feminism, that I started viewing both Simran and Raj in a different light. It hit me during one of my regular viewings of the movie:

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Simran is just a product of her oppressive environment. Raj on the other hand, is the actual douchebag.

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The more I thought about it, the angrier I got at Raj. Why is a so-called liberal man living in London stuck with such ridiculously archaic views on a woman’s honor and virginity? In one of the seminal scenes in the film (a scene that used to leave me blushing a few years ago), Raj pretends to have had sex with Simran.

She balks at the idea of it because she had passed out from having drunk alcohol. She panics when she realises Raj may have raped her and at this point, Raj diffuses the situation with talk about how he knows that she is a “true” Indian woman and hence knows that value of a “true” Indian woman’s honor (because of course, an Indian woman’s honor is stuck in her vagina).

She hugs him because she is so grateful he didn’t sleep with her when she was in no position to give consent. In essence, she is literally thanking this asshole for not having raped her.

Raj the douchebag only proceeds to become more villainous as time goes on. Even after he finds out that the woman he loves is for some inexplicable reason in love with him too, he doesn’t respect her views on anything. The moment they reunite in Punjab, she begs him to run away with her.

He tells her no. He wouldn’t budge without permission from her father.

Now, the Karan Johars of the world would argue that this shows that Raj cares about Simran’s family. Except that he doesn’t.

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He only cares about the opinions of her father.

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After all, when her mother catches the young lovers in the midst of a late night rendezvous, she gives them permission to run away. Raj turns her down. He wouldn’t “take” his bride without the permission of her father. Why doesn’t he assign any value to Simran’s mother, a woman who not only gave birth to her but had also raised her for two decades? Isn’t she an equal parent?

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There is a point in your life when you start to see just how destructive patriarchy can be and how much it has disenfranchised you.

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For me, it began the day I stopped hating Simran and started questioning the motives of Raj. Oh, it’s not just Raj – it’s every single man in the film who automatically grabs authority for himself. For example Simran’s father – played by Amrish Puri – is a stern yet loving Indian father but in actuality, he is an emotionally abusive manipulator who thinks he gets to decide what’s best for the women in his life.

He has the audacity to assume magnanimity when he gives his grown daughter one month from her own life to lead it the way she chooses.

In fact, even at the very end of the film, when Simran makes the decision to run towards Raj of her own volition, he grabs her hand and stops her. She begs him to let her go. And in one of Indian cinema’s most memorable scenes, he releases her to go after her true love.

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Even at a moment when his permission is not sought, he gives it anyway!

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The more I abandoned the lessons that patriarchy taught me, the sicker I felt grappling with the cultural impact DDLJ continues to hold over our society. For all the progress we claim to have made, we still live in a world where women are constantly told to live by the rules set by men. Any woman who accepts the status quo is immediately celebrated as the pantheon of Indian womanly goodness. Any woman who dares to defy immediately loses value and gets labelled the slut, the whore, the witch and the bitch.

But here’s the thing. I don’t want Raj Malhotra anymore. In fact I am repulsed by the very idea of him (I still harbor a crush on Shahrukh Khan but would like the reader to give me a break because I am doing my best here).

I reject Raj. I choose my freedom and my own agency. I choose to assign my own value to terms like integrity and honor. I choose me.

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Raj Malhotra can fuck off.

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About the Author:

Aishhwariya believes her name is screwed up but it’s a long story. She would rather focus on fighting patriarchy (far more screwed up) and discussing the effects the new season of Game of Thrones would have on the book series. She also loves pandas and unicorns and is looking forward to the day when Arsenal will win the league. In the meantime, she is off daydreaming about fictional characters.

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  • Isn’t the same (the force-feeding of patriarchal values) true for almost all the movies in 70’s? I mean all the so-called legendary movies of Indian cinema provided the image of brothers and fathers as the caretakers of sisters/daughters until they were married off ! One particularly disturbing example in my opinion is Rani Mukherjee’s first movie where she fought for her honor after being raped and succeeded in doing so by marrying her rapist, thus propagating the idea that the rape victims’ lives will be lead with dignity only after they marry their rapists… Indian cinema is full of such shitty ideas and sadly almost everyone of all generations believe in those ideas by now… Earlier I used to regret that watching movies was not allowed to us (me and my brother) and were encouraged to read books till we got to college, but lately I have understood that it was better that we stayed away from such brain-washing in order to develop our own ideas/values and more importantly to question the ongoing traditions! Kudos to you for allowing yourself to question your long-loved ideas/beliefs and it takes even more courage to come out and say that aloud. May there be many more like you. :)

  • Interesting article! cant dispute the inherent sexism and patriarchy of the movie.

    Just as a corollary, since the introduction stated that the author watches GoT (my assumption, correct me if wrong), would like a similar piece on it. and while GoT is placed in medieval era, it is still made in the 21st century no? ? or is medieval era sexism, violence, rape and patriarchy ok? just wondering!

    • I agree. GoT is very problematic and I do have trouble (especially with the previous season). I will definitely think about writing it and giving it a shot. Thank you :)

    • I once read a tweet on it – “no armpit hair because modern TV, but women are raped right, left and center for historical accuracy”.

  • I think you may have wrongly understood the post drunken night morning prank. Raj’s prank wasn’t that HE had slept with her while she was drunk and in no position to consent. Raj’s prank in my understanding, rather was, that THEY both had slept with each other while BOTH of them were drunk. And given the sexual chemistry both were brewing because they were in the process of falling in love… well.. a nice prank i’d say.

    When i grew up i did have other issues with the film’s portrayal of relationships and culture. But not this one.

    • I agree with you.
      If i remember correctly the song preceding the scene clearly shows that the female protagonist is romantically interested in the male protagonist…even though it seems to be that she is in an inebriated condition. the lyrics of the song explicitly state that she wishes to kiss and make merry.

      Though I do agree that the whole Bharatiya Naari honour being placed in the vagina as plain stupid!

    • Exactly what I have thought of the scene all along. Simran just asks Raj whether he remembers anything happening between them and is relieved that nothing happened, NOT that he did not rape her. I do agree that the dialogues about women’s honor are nonsensical though!

    • I agree. I always assumed that it was a drunken hook up on BOTH their parts. What bothered me were the reactions: Would she really have harmed herself? And does he really believe that this encounter would have dishonoured her? And is an Indian woman’s “honour” more valuable than a non-Indian?
      I have always had some issues with the film, but then I also take every film/show with a healthy dose and pinch of salt… and there’s still something about a young and flirty SRK 😉

  • See there is a huge difference between being pressurised by patriarchal views and respecting ur elders…
    Before judging the film the first thing we have to keep in mind is the era in which it was made
    Also before blaming her dad for being opinionated about everything y doesn’t one reise that he wouldn’t have gone that far if not for her mom supporting him with a bild eye and never opening his eyes
    And last but not the least I am a feminist but being a feminist does not give u the right to just up and do whatever u want… its a fight to make social standards equalising men and women not just a blind fight against patriarchy
    Also i do support raj when he waits for her father’s permission because the argument which was given before this can be used here as well…. he was an equal legal guradian of simran and he also did have a say in her matters as much as her mother had….. also don’t u think running away with her would have only triggered him to file a case of kidnapping his daughter

    • Simran wasn’t a minor. She didn’t have a guardian. Legally didn’t need one. She could do whatever she wished just as any other individual

    • I have news for you. I am sorry, no offense, but you are not a feminist. First of all, respect is not anybody’s right. Just because, someone is elder, doesn’t mean he has to be respected. Respect is earned. Hence Simran’s father didn’t deserve any.
      You fail to realise that, the whole plot line is sexist. Marriage is a personal decision. The mere fact that she was being forced to marry somebody is wrong. There’s no question of any permission. Also, as someone pointed out before me, she was an adult. She didn’t need anybody’s permission.

  • Thanks Aishhwariya,
    Cannot agree more with you. Other scenes kept apart, the particular scene where Raj pretends to have had sex with Simran is probably enough to disgust the movie. I personally hate this so called iconic movie just because of this scene.

  • Top, top reviewing. Healthy dose of justified anger too. Little bit formatting niggle, but I do not want to talk about individual typographical emphases. Would share.

  • If I were wearing a hat, I’d take it off to the writer. Raj Malhotra and every man like him can fuck right off. But the writer will rock on, yes?

    PS: Unicorns are horses with sharp horns / skinny rhinos, and they’ll fly the day Arsenal wins the league. Oh, I want it, too, desperately. At least there’s St. Totteringham’s day to fall back on, like the old reliable.

  • I can so resonate with this. Though my obsession for Raj and hatred for Simran weren’t the same as yours, I can so connect with the evolving views of the so called ‘All time favourite’ movie. There are times when I found myself singing songs from the 90s and realize how patriarchal and condescending the lyrics are! Way to go :) Please continue to write more such reviews.

  • I never found it interesting. But, yeah enough of all this sanskar and patriarchy. One side remind us what is not right and from the other brace yourselves to counter attack the misogynists and patriarchs who will never ever try to understand why gender equality is essential and how feminism elevation will help us achieve it in the process of evolution

  • I could relate myself to d writer. I feel kabhi khusi kabhi ghum is another bull shit. I used to adore that film like anything when i was in school. I used to love hrithik n kareena n fantacized myself in place of kareena romancing with hrithik. I used to think kareena is “so wow” with her amazing body n short dresses. I used to think she is a rebel as she dint “obey” anyone. In all possible way i wanted t be d next ” poo”! Later on when i grew up to actually “understand ” the film..i found to my horror that she wasnt a rebel.she was conforming to d views of hrithik her boyfriend in d film! before hrithik’s entry in her new life in london kareena aka poo has her own views her own style of life. But aftr hrithik enters her home as a pg she changes totally ! Hrithik himself teaches her to be a ” bharatiya naari ” wearing salwar suits, waking up early in d morn n doing puja also singing bhajans with him ! Yes i agree she did all that for her love for hrithik but hrithik aka rohan was only using her to make srk his brother come back to home !! isnt that shitty n manipulative ?! Now kareena agrees with hrithik in all ways forgets her identity n starts following foot steps of her boy friend. What a massacre of life of a bright young lady! At d end of d film she doesn’t evn complete her education n marries hrithik ! As if that is all she wants !! Hate such outlook on life !!

  • A great review. I and my friends have discussed the same many times.

    Even in KKHH, it’s exactly the same. I’d say they it holds true for almost all Bollywood movies. Patriarchy all the way.

  • Have been a DDLJ addict too. But one morning, nearly out of nowhere, when I was watching DDLJ for the Nth time.. I realised I hated the 2D characters that both SRK and Kajol played . I hated the way Raj treated mandira- and the way his “flirting” with bua was considered cute.

    I realised then , that watching DDLJ again is a reliable test of mental ( and spiritual ?) growth. If you have grown up at all, you would find it hard to sit through the movie

    The way you worry about the impact that DDLJ might have had on the larger society- I think about DTPH / KKHH- what if we were told that love can ( and does) ( and should) happen more than once .. how much heartbreak would that save ? Possibly, even lives !

  • Saw it once when I was 16. Hated it. Never watched it again. Not a fan of shah rukh. his movies are often egomaniacal and that means the female lead is reduced to the role of a whimpering damsel in distress. Bollocks. Which 90s movie is non patriarchal. I remember hum apke hain kaun, dil, maine pyar kiya, etc. It’s a never ending list of utter laughable movies which did nothing for the female cause.

  • Hello! understand your concern portrayed but however, there are a few things I would say are wrong or exaggerated. If you take a look, the movies made have always been a portrayal of the society, it’s status quo and not the portrayal of the mindset of a director or film maker individually. So one where I feel there’s a problem with your piece is that from DDLJ, you decipher or atleast through your article, you give an impression that the problem is with the director or the character but what you fail to understand is that the character was suited to the status quo present in the 90s, that’s the sole reason why when our parents watch those movies of their time, or we watch the movies of 90s, theres a part of us which doesn’t relate no matter how much we love the actor, and that my friend is progression. What I feel is thus the problem with your interpretation is that you’re interpreting an old romcom in the light of present wave of feminism and criticising it’s existence in the 90s which I feel is a kind of unfair analysis on your part. Secondly, the point made with respect to the diminished value of Simran’s mother, you seem to misconstrue Raj that when he says that he wants the father’s permission he doesn’t care for Simran’s mother thinks. That would be a far fetched assumption which is only in line with a feminist interpretation. It however meant that, as shown in the movie itself, the mother was always supportive of Simran’s idea of her prince, thus the mother would have been supportive in any case. Why the father? Because he was the one with a conservative mindset and a patriarchal view, thus Raj intended to not elope but change his mindset towards the idea of love marriages as opposed to arranged! I think those are the kind of flaws I found in your interpretation, however it’s well written with a lot of movie references for understanding!

    • Thanks Aparna for adding the context about the status quo of Indian society at the time this movie was made. If this movie was Lipstick under my burqa released in 1995, I assure you my lovely lady, the author would not have seen it – her parents would not have taken her to the cinema hall, or she wouldn’t have seen a 100 re runs on TV. Instead, she would have seen some other such movie with patriarchal characters made by some other director who was looking to make an “accepted by society” movie to make the required profits for his director. What does this tell us? (Assuming you agree with the above scenario) It tells us that cinema is largely a reflection of society .. it does influence the society back too, but cannot do that without showing some elements relatable to society.
      In that case, I won’t single out and blame the creators of the movie and characters, and nor should those people who have mindlessly loved the movie and then woke up one day to find out that it doesn’t fit with modern day feminism as it is in educated, internet-accessing Indian society. Maybe their tone and attitude should shift from anger and plain rudeness to honest acceptance of their own limitations as both a fan and a feminist, and an acknowledgement of a change.

  • I have a slightly different opinion. I will reserve my comments on Raj. However, I see Simran as a strong woman who actually broke the norms of patriarchy that she was brought up in. Similarly, I also see Simran’s mother as yet anther strong woman who had the courage to again break the rules of patriarchy and let Simran fulfill her dreams. The way I see it is – yes, patriarchy exists and wherever it exists it is deeply imbibed in the mindset of the family/culture. But a woman’s ability to stand up against it is the beginning of the end of patriarchy. Even in the last scene, we see that Simran gives a damn about the fact that her dad does not approve of the relationship and starts running towards Raj. When Babuji holds her hand, she is struggling to free herself. It is quite evident that is physically not strong enough for her to be able to get off his clutches. But she knows what she wants and she is determined to break all norms and chase her dream.

  • seriously dude…the movie came out 20yrs back..there is a reason why people then loved it!
    And it’s not like he couldn’t elope with here he just wanted her family to be happy about it! I would want my husband’s and my family to be happy about my marriage and life..to accept us and to be with us forever…plus it’s a Indian movie so…it’s also to make majority of Indian population vouch for the cause…hehe I’m so surprised there is so much hatred!! :-)
    there are so many people who couldn’t digest kabhi alvida na kehna because the lead guy does the ‘wrong thing’ and goes with th woman he fell in love with..yes it’s adultery but ‘technically’ speaking they both are mature adults and make their own decisions..just stressing on the culture aspect.
    and the rape prank..i just felt as though he was respecting her body for her sake…even 20yrs later there are plenty of women esp in India who’s honour is actually ‘stuck in the vagina’ (to quote someone)..can you blame them? No. Its their view. Can you blame a 20yr old blockbuster?!

    • Ooh and the fact that her dad had a reason not to like srk. Also c’mon you just come from a Europe trip and tell your parents ‘oh I’m in love with a guy i met at the trip you so didn’t want me to go and i want to marry him!’ ‘Oh that’s lovely beta ofcourse you can!’ And that too from a highly conservative father!

      Being a parent by itself demands respect. unless ofcourse he/she is complete a******…you get it right..(that was for someone who said respect has to be earned and something…As a father I dont think he has done anything to undeserve the basic respect as her dad)

  • I SO agree with you!! Even the scenes with “palat…palat” didn’t sit right with me, I dont know why. And dont mind the others who are giving bhashan here about values.

  • noo , but i love Raj Malhotra … but as most 90’s kids ,i see him as something from the past , something we don’t relate to at all .. but something we must acknowledge as that’s where we come from and thats necessary to know where we are headed with our future generations

  • When this movie was made india was not that liberal. Girls if not got married by age 23 then it’s becomes a family issue. Even today it has not got out From typical Indian mind set.

    This movie was made at a time when movies like Govinda starred raja babu and such stupid 3rd rate movies was becoming hit. Plus songs like chole ke peche and bholi bhali ladki khulja kidki was a rage.

    The idea of any movie is entertainment and to capture your mind and take you to a dream world or fantasy land that’s exactly what ddlj did.

  • If I were her father, I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry that loser who does nothing but create problems for other people and a spoiled brat. He wants to see his daughter happy and not make a mistake marrying this useless man. Is that so wrong from a father’s perspective?
    The scene about drunk/sex showed that the guy was, after all, not a complete jerk. He didn’t take advantage of her. I think the movie-makers were trying to portray the underlying qualities of this guy despite his other mischievous and irresponsible behavior.

  • This is so bang on point.

    Just yesterday one of my old classmates catching up with me chose to ask “if my parents were pressurising me to get married” because he wanted to know “what’s my scene like”. How are you supposed to know “what my scene is like” without asking if or when I wanted to get married?

    I actually tried to point this out to him but he completely failed to understand why his question was laced with misogyny and patriarchy. He kept on insisting that he’s “a curious boy”. Further he even went on to tell me HIS deductions about WHAT I THOUGHT about marriage.

    Bewildering to be coming from a person who went to one of the schools that I did. Who’s my peer but actually younger (in age).

  • What a review….. I just enjoyed every bit of it…i never liked the movie…. now I know why…
    If you start reviewing such movies… you are going to ruin more than half of our ‘new age’ movies :). Reminds me of oldies so. .. Movies like Bandini .or Sujata, portal of woman even at her weakest was so strong. How did Indian movie making became poor… No offense but almost most of the tollywood cinema tops in insulting women. …..the superman hero and his dumb heroine….. :/

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