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Madhuri Dixit’s Pooja In ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’ Raised The Bar For Romance

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My mum shared an article titled How Madhuri’s Hopeless Romantic Character In Dil To Pagal Hai Failed Every Young Woman and asked for my opinion. I happily obliged since it involved one of my favourite movies of Shahrukh Khan, Dil Toh Pagal Hai (The Heart is Crazy).

A classic Bollywood movie from the era of romance, one of Yash Chopra’s legacy films, as I like to call it. Having often quoted lines from this movie as a kid; my favourite one being “Someone somewhere is made for you”.

Madhuri Dixit and SRK in Dil Toh Pagal Hai
Madhuri Dixit and SRK in Dil Toh Pagal Hai.

The mere mention of this film starts a virtual screening of it in my mind. And my mundane Monday at work suddenly becomes lighter, more bearable. This is the goal of most Bollywood movies, to make our lives lighter. Give us ease and hope when the reality seems grim.

And I agree, most of us do not buy it. We don’t want to infuse the false ideas of romance in young girls when the reality is the opposite of what we see in movies. However, there are people like me who believe in old school romance. Who yearn for one true love. And this movie is about one such girl.

As I continued reading the said article, I found myself getting enraged and shaking my head in disapproval. The writer had concluded that the female lead in this movie was a disappointment to women with ambitions.

The 5-year-old me who first saw this movie and fell in love with Shahrukh Khan and admired Madhuri Dixit felt attacked. The 22-year-old me, who still watches this movie on dark and gloomy days, felt the need to defend Pooja.

Before I begin to explain my point of view, I would like you to understand that this movie was released in 1997. It represented women in India in the late 90s. This was the time when women left their careers to care for their families. Feminism was not in its full fury yet.

 

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We have come a long way since then. Today, women handle work and home like a pro (they don’t get enough credit for it, but that is another rant for another day). They choose not to have kids, not marry or marry later and have kids later. They get divorced instead of bearing the unjust brunt of their husband. There are fewer judgements and restrictions that women in the 21st-century face.

But we need to keep in mind the time frame of this classic movie since the representation of Pooja (Madhuri Dixit) as a hopeless romantic waiting to find the one will make more sense then. We need to realise that not everyone is ambitious. Some people just want happiness out of life. Materialistic pleasures, titles at workplaces do not matter to them.

Pooja is passionate about dancing. We see her being the sparkle of joy in her aunt and uncle’s life. We see her playful side with Ajay (Akshay Kumar) and her modesty in general. She wins over us with her portrayal of an ideal woman in India in the late 90s.

Having said this, I do not idolise the character of Pooja in Dil Toh Pagal Hai. However, I admire her for her level-headedness and maturity. When she finds out Ajay loves her, she understands that finding “the one” may not be possible. Like most girls do when they are asked to marry a stranger (as in most arranged marriages in India).

We see her develop as a character from her staunch yet naive hopes of finding the one despite her friends speaking against it. She gives in to the idea of settling down with someone who loves her instead of trying to find the one. She taught me to be a believer and dreamer but also warned me about reality and its unfairness. I admire her for her charm, the grace she carries herself with.

madhuri dixit in dil toh pagal hai
Madhuri Dixit in Dil Toh Pagal Hai.

I remember as a kid, I used to try to imitate her. Throw my mum’s dupatta in the air waiting for gravity to do its job and let the white scarf fall on my face as I continue to consume the rest of the movie.

In the end, I would like to disagree with my fellow writer’s piece. Madhuri’s character (Pooja) cannot be blamed for being unambitious. Her character is a dreamer who instils hope in all the young girls of this world. She raises the bar for romance in today’s world, where instant gratification is the utmost goal.

Where dating apps have become the new norm and swiping at strangers is the new normal, she reminds us that there is someone out there who is meant for you. If you are lucky enough, you will find “the one”.

She never said anything about being unambitious or not chasing after your career. I believe we are the creators of our own reality. We have the luxury to choose what to do with this one life that we have. So let’s be less cynical and a little idealistic. Don’t let your younger self be disappointed in admiring Pooja, for she teaches us to be hopeful about love.

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