You’re in your mid-20s and finished your formal education only to learn that you are diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, and your days are numbered. You want to end your life peacefully, and then you fall in love with someone. What would you do?
You are a young employee and found your muse without whom you find life disinterested. But the girl has a disparate interest, and you can’t force her to love you, to live with you. What would you do?
The stories of Geethanjali and Dil Se protagonists are on similar lines. The common factor binding these two stories is not Mani Ratnam alone, but how he dealt with love and death.
Geethanjali: A free-spirited young man learns that his days are numbered. He doesn’t want to stay with his parents, who are too emotional for their son but to die peacefully, far away from them. He goes to Ooty and falls in love with a crazy girl with beautiful eyes. He falls for her only to later learn that she’s fighting for her life too!
It’s pretty normal for movies dealing with death that you watch them with a heavy heart, dull mood, and hoping that the protagonists won’t die at the end. After learning that the protagonist is going to die at the beginning of the movie, you await something magical to happen, and Mani showcased his master skills exactly here. She introduces Geethanjali, a happy girl who’s also aware that her days are numbered.
Mani took a cliché and doubled it for Geethanjali, and the result, you ask, turned out to be a blockbuster and considered a classic among love stories. A movie in which every craft terrifically complemented each other in filmmaking, made the youth fall for this movie.
The movie has mesmerizing visuals and a magical score that stays with you for many days. Being a fan of ARR, I seldom listen to other composer’s music, but my respect for Ilayaraja grew much after listening to the songs of Geethanjali. “Amani paadave,” “O papa lali,” and the intimate & beautiful “Om Namaha” — these songs are just wow, both in terms of the quality of music and the visuals.
The placement of “Om Namaha” is just as excellent as this movie. The lovers propose to each other, with the protagonist already knowing that they both will die soon, and they just wanted to live in the moment, sharing their love and intimacy with the music that is as pure as their love. I was still cursing their fate while they were not caring about anything but each other.
You again curse the fate when they both witness the last rites of a person and realizing that they will soon be there, leaving people they love here. And finally, they live. They live in each other’s love forever, until we remember them.
ప్రేమకే జయం, ప్రేమదే జయం!
Both of the movies deal with love and death. The first movie sets the context of death at the initial stage, and then you witness there’s hope, there’s life, and there’s love before you die.
Dil Se starts on a high note with the energetic Chaiyya Chaiyya song, and you want to be in that high throughout the movie. The more Amar tries to know about Meghna, the more you know that she’s deliberately concealing everything related to her.
The angst inside you piles up, and it erupts in the end, with an explosion resulting in their souls to leave (or live) in peace (that usage of white color after the blast). Even here, you curse fate for not allowing them to be with each other, to share love.
The backdrop of the love story that Mani set is intense, and it used every craft in storytelling. Amar comes from a Military background, and he has high respect for the country. He hails from the heart of the country, New Delhi. Meghna (okay, her name is Moina) is witnessing the injustice happening to their region and becoming a radical only to do something big when the whole country celebrates 50 years of Independence. She hails from a part that is happily ignored by many, the North-East region of India. Priety, on the other hand, hails from Kerala, and in a way, Mani covered the length and breadth of the country.
There is one scene where Megha (or Moina) gets jaw locked; she cannot close her mouth when Amar tries to get intimate with her in the backdrop of the barren land of Ladakh. I paused the movie for a while and then played it after 5 min of walking alone. Until then, we know that she’s avoiding Amar, concealing her identity, but we don’t know why. This scene tells us that she was going through trauma since her childhood when her place was destroyed, and she was getting killed brutally.
The movie has terrific songs composed by ARR. My favorite song from the film is changing in intervals; first, I loved Dil Se re, set in the backdrop of fences, restrictions, and violence with Amar trying to take her love to a peaceful place. Then it was the magical and beautiful Jiya Jale and Chaiyya Chaiyya for a while due to its high energy. Currently, I am enjoying the soulful Ae Ajnabi, sung by Udit Narayan.
One of the reasons that I feel the movie was a commercial failure was it started on a high note with Chaiyya Chaiyya — imagine the energetic vocals and music enriched by a stellar performance by Shahrukh, that too on a moving train which was shot for real, and then the movie slowly becoming intense, with the lead pair dying at the end.
One song that still haunts me is the unreleased “Sitaron se aage”/“Vinmeengalai Thaandi,” which plays crucial moments in the film that elevates our emotions.
I have massive respect for Mani because of the stories he chooses to tell, the team he collaborates with, and the film that he makes. Geethanjali was released in 1989, and after nine years, in 1998 (I am as old as Dil Se :D), he made Dil Se. In Geethanjali, he worked with the excellent PC Sreeram and maestro Ilayaraja, and for Dil Se, he worked with brilliant Santosh Sivan and our ARR. Two films, ten years apart, with different teams, both in non-native languages, becoming classics, and one man — Mani Ratnam.