“When Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) released in 1995, the Hindi film industry turned into ‘Bollywood’,” said Shubhra Gupta during the launch of her book 50 Films That Changed Bollywood, 1995-2015 at the Title Waves bookstore in Mumbai on Monday. In her book, Gupta, The Indian Express film critic, looks at the modern classics such as DDLJ and Rangeela (1995), to Satya (1998) and Dev D (2009), to Queen (2014) and Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), to crowd-funded films such as Ankhon Dekhi (2014), and the path-breaking My Brother… Nikhil (2005) — and how these films spoke to their viewers. Joining her for a panel discussion, on the last two decades of Hindi-language cinema, were filmmaker Karan Johar and film critic Rajeev Masand.
Johar was in top form as he entertained the room with anecdotes from the time he began his career in DDLJ, till the present day, and also spoke about his professional relationships with filmmakers such as Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee. “I remember going up to Dibakar and telling him that I loved his films, and he just looked at me and said ‘thank you’, and walked off. He could have said ‘I like your shoes’,” recalled Johar, who later went to work alongside Banerjee in Bombay Talkies, the 2013 anthology film.
Gupta and he also spoke extensively on the way DDLJ changed the age-old dilemma of two lovers and their families from a point of conflict to an opportunity for reconciliation. “This was a very clever film, which tapped into a middle-class morality in a way no other film before it had done. I remember being pleasantly surprised about the fact that the leads had full names — Raj Malhotra and Simran Kaur — they had some provenance as opposed to just Vijay, or just Pooja, whom we would never know much about,” said Gupta.
The conversation then veered into a discussion on the role of the film critic. Johar quickly tackled the question of the star rating, that accompanies film reviews, by asking, “What is the half star? How does that work?” This led to a chat about the pressures faced by critics on Friday. “Earlier, the reviews came out on Sunday, and so one had time to exit the theater and think about the film. ‘But now, especially in this digital age, there’s a rush to be the first link online. And sometimes, things such as the star rating is not something devised by the critic,” said Gupta.