Dil Ka Rishta

Director: Naresh Malhotra
Music: Nadeem Shravan; Lyrics: Sameer
Year: 2003
Running Time: 2 hours 23 minutes

This may be one of the most perversely immoral “take a shower afterwards” films I have come across in quite a while. What’s really insidious about it though is that it is my guess that the filmmakers did not intend this at all, but instead look on it as a romantic love story. I was repulsed but at the same time fascinated that a film could be so completely unaware of what cretinous ground it was covering. It’s not unusual that Bollywood has men chasing after women in a manner that would be considered obsessive stalking in the West but is only basic courting methodology 101 in Bollywood - but this one crosses the line into bad, bad taste. The hero (Arjun Rampal) and his equally reptilian father (Paresh Rawal) should be taken into a wood shack and be pummelled unmercifully. The ending left me with my mouth agog (or is that agag) at its implicit message – that bad behavior and moral transgressions are ok as long as you are wealthy and good looking and that with those assets you can still possibly win the love of a woman like Aishwarya Rai.

This film is the first in-house production from Aishwarya and family– and her mother wrote the story with a large role specifically in mind for her daughter. Aish is in fact the complete center of this film – a female occupying this role is still something of an anomaly in Bollywood films as the box office tends to be male driven – and she is supported by hoards of make up men who positively make her gleam and glisten like a toothpaste commercial. Much detail was also paid to her lavish outfits that she goes through like a bad cold with tissues. Her looks simply stun here – particularly when she goes into her wide-eyed I’m in love look – if I was standing my knees would have buckled on occasion. She is like a classic Renaissance statue come to life – moving and dancing so gracefully – almost too cool to the touch – best admired perhaps from a distance. In the film unfortunately only her character seems real while everyone around her seems to have lost their moral compass or to have come from another planet. It makes for an odd but interesting viewing experience.
Right from the beginning you sense you are on a different wavelength than the filmmakers. Arjun Rampal and his father Paresh Rawal race home to Bombay from respectively South Africa and London to be with their mother/wife for her birthday. Arjun arrives first but waits for dad to show up because the father should always give birthday salutations before the son.  Of course, it turns out dear old mom is long dead. That small detail though doesn’t stop the two of them from breaking open the champagne and joyfully toasting her - or from having long emotional conversations with her – Paresh with her portrait in which he asks for her help in getting their son married and Arjun with her bracelet in which he apologizes for not being married yet. It is immediately apparent to the audience that these two should be locked up in a dank space and the key melted.
It turns out though that mom must have been listening because the next day Arjun visits a deaf school with his old friend Ishaa Koppikar (why he is not chasing after her is one of those mysteries of life) when he sees a vision of paradise playing basketball  - Aish dribbling and traveling in her sari - and gets hit by that thing called love like a two ton Mack truck. He initially thinks she is deaf and so goes home and learns sign language. This leads of course to a meet cute situation and he is soon dogging her like a piece of gum stuck on the bottom of her sandals. This love story takes a quick turn into something darker when Arjun finds out that Aish is in love with someone else (Priyanshu Chatterjee) – in fact with someone who is a much nicer guy than Arjun in every way. This doesn’t stop our hero though and he is soon  - all at the urging of his odious father – stalking her and using his vast wealth to impress her.
Arjun has these puppy dog eyes that he turns on like the back porch lights when it gets dark – but all you want to do is smack him on the nose with a newspaper and tell him to heel. I don’t want to give away any spoilers here, but only to mention that Aish gets one of those specialized movie health problems in which she totally loses her memory – thus forgetting what a jerk Arjun is – and everyone around her is told that to tell her of her past might kill her! So Arjun sees this as the perfect opportunity to reinvent himself and take advantage of her vulnerability. Some viewers might see this as redemption; I saw it as exploitation of the crassest kind.
Even so this isn’t really a bad film to watch – it has excellent production values, a few good dance numbers (though the music itself is quite humdrum), Aish sparkles and dances splendidly, Arjun is likely the best looking male actor in Bollywood (in my opinion) – and the film takes you by surprise with some unexpected turns. It is only the queasy moral ground that it seems to endorse that I found hard to stomach – but even here there are certainly different viewpoints that can be taken. My only real disappointment is the poor use they make of Ishaa (the Khallas girl in Company) who doesn’t even get to appear in a musical number to show her dancing talent or her great legs.

My rating for this film: 6.0

Song 1

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Song 3