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20 Years Later, ‘Dil Se’ Remains One Of Parallel Cinema’s Finest Offerings

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Loving someone deeply makes you feel vulnerable. Love someone deeply, and your heart is bound to get broken into pieces. Love ends up intoxicating the mind. It makes you feel miserable. The beginning of love is unpredictable, while the end of it is sad, but all that happens in between makes the experience worthwhile and pretty much unforgettable.

Mani Ratnam’s 1998 romantic thriller ‘Dil Se’, a film starring Shahrukh Khan, Manisha Koirala, and Preity Zinta brings to light the extent of fragility and emotional turmoil one goes through when one falls in love. The film, shot across picturesque locations such as Assam, Leh, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, and Bhutan, explores the seven stages of love mentioned in ancient Arabic literature.

These are:

  • Hub (attraction)
  • Uns (infatuation)
  • Ishq (love)
  • Akidat (trust)
  • Ibadat (worship)
  • Junooniyat (obsession and madness)
  • Maut (death)

Shahrukh Khan’s character Amar goes through all these stages after he meets Meghna (Manisha Koirala). At a time when Bollywood films focused excessively on foreign locations and baseless romance, Dil Se ‘dared’ to throw light on an issue as sensitive as the insurgency in India’s Northeast. The film is painted with a multitude of human emotions, right from love, innocence, and fragility to pain, anguish, and vulnerability.

What Makes The Film Stand Out?

A Simple And Innocent Love Story:

No exaggeration, no fancy outfits, no heavy piles of makeup, no fancy locations, just pure romance. The film has countless traces of innocence. Amar meets a mysterious woman on a rainy night at the Haflong railway station to catch the Barak Valley Express. She asks him to bring a cup of tea, but when he returns with two cups of tea, Amar witnesses the woman boarding a train along with two to three male passengers.

Amar meets Meghna yet again. The rest of the story deals with various encounters between the two characters that end up bringing them closer, to a point where they find it hard to live without each other. Amar returns to Delhi after completing his assignment in the area, but as luck would have it, their paths cross again.

The film, with its tight and gripping story line, doesn’t go off-track even once. Making a film that showcases he seven stages of love mentioned in the Arabic literature came as a breath of fresh air at a time when Bollywood producers were busy making masala romantic and action films.

Soulful Music:

Dil Se‘s music has undoubtedly been one of the prime reasons behind the film’s growing popularity in recent years. The soulful compositions of AR Rahman, backed by heart-warming lyrics by Gulzar sahib sound like poetry in motion. Right from ‘Chaiyya-Chaiyya‘ to ‘Ae Ajnabee‘ and ‘Satrangi Re‘, the film’s soundtrack is ornamented by a wide range of emotions.

The Song ‘Chaiyya-Chaiyya‘, sung by Sapna Awasthi and Sukhwinder Singh, has been filmed on a moving train and talks about a man’s love for his partner. The song borrows a lot of words from the Urdu language in order to paint a colorful imagery.  Some of the lines from the song are as follows:

“Woh yaar hai jo khushboo ki tarah,
Woh jiski zubaan Urdu ki tarah
Meri shaam raat, meri kainaat
Woh yaar mera saiyaa saiyaa”

Other songs such as Jiya Jaley, Ae Ajnabee, and Satrangi Re were no less popular and became superhits overnight.

Another major feature of the soundtrack is that the songs blend effortlessly into the film. No song looks out of place. All of these songs are popular till date. The popularity of Dil Se‘s music album has grown by leaps and bounds over all these years and is expected to grow even further in the times to come.

Poetry In Motion:

I remember Sabyasachi Chatterjee telling Manisha Koirala’s character, “Ishq mein nasha hota hai, yeh hamaare liye nahi hai.”

This is one of the countless dialogues that sound pleasing to the years. Tigmanshu Dhulia has handled the dialogues with perfection. The sheer rawness of the dialogues adds significantly to the beauty. Most of the dialogues sound like poetry to the ears.

Tackling a Sensitive Issue to Perfection:

At a time when producers and directors shied away from throwing light on sensitive issues such as terrorism and political instability in India’s Northeast, Dil Se broke all the barriers and threw ample light on the reasons behind the insurgency. The atrocities inflicted by the army on the citizens were also portrayed skillfully.

Despite having a tight and gripping story line, great music, and excellent performances, the film failed to garner positive reviews in India when it had released. Most people disliked the film simply because ‘Ladki toh terrorist thi”. Two decades down the line, the film remains one of parallel cinema’s finest offerings.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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