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|August 21, 1998||
Love in the times of trouble
Amar Verma (Shah Rukh Khan) is an All India Radio programme executive who goes to the North-East to interview a terrorist leader and runs into Meghana (Manisha Koirala) at the railway station.
After a slightly filmi start, Dil Se kicks off with the peppy Chhaiya Chhaiya, choreographed on a moving train, with the sultry Malaika Arora and a enthusiastic Khan dancing atop a train. The sequence is breathtaking in its execution, with some brilliant camerawork by Santosh Sivan.
The first half of the film, which incorporates three more songs, establishes that Amar is head over heels in love with the ever-elusive Meghana. This, even after members of the terrorist organisation she belongs to beat him up. He doesn't realise her subversive tendencies even then.
On the eve of his engagement, Meghana lands up at his doorstep along with her comrade (Mita Vashist). She requires a job in AIR and a place to stay. Amar stumbles and stutters but can't bring himself to stop her.
Meghana is actually assigned to play a human bomb that will blow up the President during the Republic Day parade. To get close to the President, she tries to get lover boy to open the door for her. Which is why she wants a job at AIR.
The Central Bureau of Investigation realises an attack is being planned around the same time Amar discovers that Meghana is a terrorist. He tries to stop her, but she again gives him the slip.
The CBI trace Meghana back to Amar's house and finally nab Amar, who has just got away from a murderous attempt by terrorists from Meghana's group.
CBI agents inject him with a truth serum but in a film where everyone is running away, they should have expected Amar to get away.
He does. And finally grabs one of the terrorists and gets him to reveal Meghana's location.
Dil Se makes you wonder if you haven't seen it all before. Particularly the bit where Preity tells Shah Rukh about a man in her past while he makes tea harks back to a scene in Roja when Arvind Swamy is told by the woman he is about to get engaged that she loves someone else.
Dil Se has an excellent technical team with great visuals by Santosh Sivan, smart editing by Suresh Urs, spectacular choreography by Farah Khan. The locations -- Sikkim and Ladakh --are a treat. But Mani Ratnam's script is weak. You aren't even told where in the North-East the film is based; it's left to you to figure out as the film gathers pace.
And, naturally, being politically correct to a fault, the organisation the terrorist belongs to is not named. But, oddly, even the reason they want to blow up the President is not explained.
Preity Zinta does well in her short appearance. Strong cameos from Raghuvir Yadav, Mita Vashist, Zohra Sehgal and others prop the film at crucial spots.
Mani Ratnam may try to create cinema that mixes reality and fantasy. But there are some harsh realities that cannot be dealt with in a one-minute scene, just as ugly facts cannot be made more digestible by a pretty love story. A film like Schindler's List wouldn't work if it had concentrated on the heroic Oskar's love interests, not The Godfather if it wallowed in soft focus.
Mani Ratnam's power lies is in how he portrays relationships, the way he did in Mauna Ragam, Agni Nakshtram or Nayakan. But Dil Se falls far short of a love story that transcends ideologies.
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