Saturday, October 1, 2016

Dil Se Re—Of Barbed Wires

Recently, Dil Se completed eighteen years of its release. It is a really long period of time, yet the movie feels contemporary and fresh, especially, its music. Many consider it to be A.R. Rahman's one of finest works. Each song of the film is a terrific composition, and the choreography is equally splendid. From the train top sequence in Chaiyya Chaiyya to the seven colors of the rainbow in Satrangi ReDil Se's songs have left a lasting impact. I revisited the film's title song Dil Se Re and was again pleasantly surprised by its undercurrents. 

Dil Se Re begins when Amar (Shah Rukh Khan) stalks Meghna (Manisha Koirala), and reaches her home. He tells her that he does not believe in one-sided love, and there is some innate feeling that makes him think that they are connected. He does not know anything about her, but he tells that he loves her dil se. Then, the song begins. It is a dream sequence, and is sung in a male voice, which gives the indication that it is from Amar's viewpoint. But, the political symbols in the song make it appear that it could also be Meghna's viewpoint, although till that point the film does not tell anything about her background. 

Dil Se Re tries to subvert the notion of a dreamy romantic song by juxtapositioning it with the harshness of reality. Films often depict a sequence where the actors are dancing in the mountains. There is a sapnon ka rajkumar who comes riding on a horse, and rescues the damsel. There is a similar depiction here, but along with that there is also a grim portrayal of violent conflict and fear that mirrors reality. There is a rajkumar Amar who rescues and protects Meghna from danger. They sing and dance here, too, but they do that amidst bombs and guns. They hug each other here also, but with an explosion in the background. They roll down the hill but after a bomb detonation. There are fields lined with yellow flowers like a typical song but there is also a graveyard where Meghna keeps flowers on the graves. The song showed a preview of the film's climax. In the dream, they are alive with bombs exploding all around them, while in real life, they become the bomb and explode.

At one second, Meghna and Amar, dressed in pure white, are dancing in the yellow field, and at the next second, a hand with a black glove comes out of barbed wires in front of Meghna. It is a slightly chilling moment in the song, and a deeply memorable one. A glove symbolizes concealment, and often, black represents something dark and mysterious. It felt much as a reminder to Meghna about the things she is trying to hide. And, not only in this moment, but in the song and the film, there is the motif of barbed wires. As the lyrics go, "Kaanton ki taarein hain, patthar ke darwaaze deewarein, belein phir bhi ugti hain, aur guchhein bhi khilte hai." Wires of thorns, doors and walls of stone, but even so, the creepers take root, and even so, the buds bloom. The barbed wires also represent some kind of persecution, pain, and curtailment. This is, of course, a political symbol of entrapment and suppression of the people in conflict with the state. But it also relates to finding love in these boundaries, particularly for Meghna. She is bound to her mission and her love tries to sway her from her mission. Likewise, the film is replete with scenes of barbed wires. Satrangi Re also depicted a bondage. In that song, Amar says, "Teri raahon mein uljha, uljha hun," as he is getting more and more entangled in her love. He wants to go back to his senses but he is bound by her love. He cannot untie himself, even if he tries, as depicted by the rope-dress of Meghna's and the net that he is trapped inside. 
At one point in the song, Meghna is seen around a statue of Subhas Chandra Bose. It is interesting to note that the film chooses Bose and not Gandhi in this scene. Gandhi advocated the principles of peace and non-violence to achieve independence, while Bose advocated a hardline approach using armed struggle to bring about the revolution. Meghna and her ideologues followed this hardline approach. As a much abused phrase goes, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Meghna was a terrorist in the eyes of the Indian establishment, but a freedom fighter in the eyes of her people. The film portrays their struggle, and thus, Bose is replaced by Gandhi.
One of the other themes in the song that stands out is a kind of vulnerability, especially in relation to kids as they are more vulnerable. There is a basketball court with a bouncing basketball and a fallen bicycle but no one is there. It is as if someone ran away. At another point, there is a particular shot where a swing goes into the fire. There are children running around and dancing at the same place where there was a heavy army presence, oblivious to what happened before. All these suggest a loss of innocence and childhood. Meghna as a child went through sexual violence, which made her a clinical person in her latter life. At one point, Amar wipes the mist from the glass to reveal Meghna's face, much like, her own life, where behind the harsh exterior, Megha is a normal girl. There is a certain breathlessness and the speed with which sequences change in the song. It feels as if the shadow of death lurking somewhere, like something is going to happen. There is a particular sequence in the end when a bridge is on fire, and it is about to reach Amar, but he is lying down calmly.
The song also portrays the imagery of its lyrics in its picturization. Sun, leaves, wires, seasons are all shown in line with the lyrics. There are interesting contrasts in the song. Like pure black and pure white, day and night, life and death, dream and reality, a glittering pearl necklace and a broken bangle. Interestingly, the song begins with fire, and ends with water. The lyrics begin with sun, and end with water. The song ends with a shot of Amar and Meghna meeting each other half way on a birdge, a befitting solution, of not only the political problem, but also, of matters of the heart. 

Mani Ratnam is known for the splendid presentation of songs in his film. With Gulzar and A.R. Rahman in company, it is even more beautiful. It is truly like poetry in motion. There is so much to love about this gorgeous film that touches the heart. Dil Se Re. From the heart. Really.
Song Credits:
Music—A. R. Rahman
Singers—A. R. Rahman, Anuradha Sriram, Anupama, Febi Mani
Choreography—Farah Khan

Other Rading:
On the very fabulous Satrangi Re from Dil SeLink

Dialogue of the Day:
"Phir ugne ki chahat me, vo sehraon se guzre,
Woh patte dil dil dil the." 

—Dil Se Re, Dil Se


  1. Amazing . The reason of bose statue is why there was great. Noticed today . And all othe little thongs beSt . All songs are my favourite. A.R.RAHMAN is best. And thanks gulzar for lyrics.

    1. Thanks, Ravi. I agree it is a lovely song :)


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