20 Years of Dil Se: Not Shah Rukh Khan or Mani Ratnam, The Real Hero of the Film is AR Rahman
Dil Se poster; AR Rahman (Photo credits: twitter)

In 1998, when Mani Ratnam announced his Bollywood debut with Dil Se, it was one of the biggest news of that time for a movie fan. The auteur film-maker, known for his acclaimed Tamil films then like Roja and Bombay, had already been hailed by many as a legend in Indian cinema. Dil Se became bigger with the casting of Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala, both were top stars then (Shah Rukh Khan, of course, still is, while Manisha has made a much welcome comeback with Sanju). However, on its release, the movie was a huge flop, as the audience could not connect with its grim tone, and the slow-paced, almost metaphorical narration. But Dil Se was still popular for the fantastic choreography of Chaiyya Chaiyya song (Farah Khan) and for being the debut of Preity Zinta.

Now 20 years later, Dil Se is considered as an overlooked gem, that showcases a different love story and a hitherto-unseen exploration of terrorism. I can imagine the difficulties the movie would have faced if it was released in these times, where every little thing is scrutinised and humanising terrorists is completely frowned upon. If you have not seen Dil Se, do give it a chance. If you think Shah Rukh Khan's romantic persona is stuck with Raj or Rahul, definitely give Dil Se a chance.

Even though Dil Se was a flop on release, there is a reason why it hasn't faded from people's mind. It has nothing to do with SRK, even though he was fantastic in the film. That reason is AR Rahman! The musical genius and the Academy Award winner may not be in top of his game these days, but Dil Se came at a time when Rahman could do no wrong! Rahman always reserves his best for Mani Ratnam, because it was the latter who gave him his big break with 1992's Roja. And the soundtrack for Dil Se ranks among the best of Rahman's work, if not his best.

Each song from the film is, for the lack of a better word, brilliant! When the movie came out, three songs from the album were the most popular at the time. First of course is Chaiyya Chaiyya that made singer Sukhwinder Singh and Malaika Arora household names.

Then, of course, was the title track of the film, sung with gusto by the composer himself, backed by some terrific chorus.

The third song was Satrangi Re where Rahman experimented with sounds and had the terrific back of Sonu Nigam at his best.

When the movie came out and Preity Zinta caught the attention of the Bollywood audience, Jiya Jale soon became popular. Sung by Lata Mangeshkar, the song is still talked about by people who want to know what the Malayalam portions (sung by MG Sreekumar) were all about. Not to mention, the sensuous choreography and the mystic locales of the now-submerged in floods Kerala.

Finally, and my personal favourite, is Ae Ajnabi, the most touching, stirring song in the film that any person gone through a heartbreak can relate. Udit Narayan outdoes himself in this track and has some really beautiful lines.

Special mention must also be given to the legendary Gulzar, whose sublime poetry meshes well with Rahman's score. The reason why it is hard to believe that 20 years have gone by since Dil Se has come out is because the music is timeless and the primary reason we remember the film is just for that!

So on behalf of all good music lovers, a big thank you, Mr Rahman, for giving this wonderful score to us!

(The opinions expressed in the above article are of the author and do not reflect the stand or position of LatestLY.)