The trailer of Dilwale was released on November 9 and, to this writer at least, was a damp squib. As much as one had hoped for a rekindling of the romance between SRK and Kajol, the trailer does not give any indication that the film is anything more than a thorough going Rohit Shetty vehicle, with his trademark flying cars and falling goons.
The whole point of bringing Kajol and SRK together, one would imagine, is to let viewers soak in their storied romance. But Kajol does little in the trailer except provide the foil to the arms-spreading SRK pose, in what looked eerily similar to "Sooraj Hua Madham", their song in Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham. That song belonged to a film where SRK and Kajol were married from the word go and was thus heralded as a maturing of the young SRK-Kajol romance of DDLJ. Dilwale, in trying to ride that wave, adds nothing new to the chemistry.
Much more footage is given in the trailer to Varun Dhawan who plays SRK's younger brother. The film seems to be a revenge saga in which SRK protects his brother from evil elements, with the women, Kajol and Kriti Sanon, providing no more than a lush backdrop. This is plain sad because Shetty and Co raised expectations among viewers by selling this film as a return of the SRK-Kajol pair.
While Kajol retired after her marriage to Ajay Devgn, SRK has romanced a bevy of younger actresses in the interim. One of his recent outings was with Deepika Padukone in another Rohit Shetty film, Chennai Express. That film relied on SRK's goofy antics and Deepika's star presence to become a Rs 100-crore grosser, but discerning viewers did not "get" it. SRK, in spite of being a thoroughly commercial star, has never epitomised the sort of brainless cinema that has been the territory of, say, a Salman Khan or a Govinda. So what was he doing in a formulaic film now that he is at an age and stature where he can refuse any film?
Commercial considerations might have forced his hand, but there is little denying that some of his fans would want SRK to traverse more mature territory. I for one would love to see him show off his substantial acting chops in a role that makes him do more romantically than serenade a woman and sweep her off her feet. That was (is?) wonderful while it lasted, but can we have something different now?
For starters, SRK and Kajol could have revisited DDLJ in Dilwale. What happens to Raj and Simran after Bauji permits his daughter to go with the man she loves? Do they find happiness? Where are they 10, 20, 30 years later? Are they settled in London, where the film began, or India, where it ended? Do they have children? Has life diminished their passion for one another or are they still going strong?
I can almost imagine that film one scene to the next, and when pictures from Dilwale's shoot were shared with the media earlier this year, that is the kind of film I had expected was being made. A film with its still-glorious lead pair that would rework the magic of DDLJ but in another setting. A film that would show us how a young couple, who had discovered love and intimacy first in European holiday destinations and then in the pulsing fields of Punjab, had kept that love alive, if they had kept it alive. A film that would give us a deeper understanding of where success in love leads, and whether the destination is any less charming than the journey.
That unfortunately is not happening. What we seem to have, on the other hand, is a mishmash of old tropes that have worked for SRK in the past. There is the brotherly love, seen in such films as Main Hoon Na and Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham; there is the glamour of young romance, but helmed here by Varun and Kriti; there is action and there is comedy. It's a masala entertainer, which is only expected since this is a Rohit Shetty film we are talking about. And yet!
Perhaps it would take another director - Aditya Chopra? - to pick up the gauntlet and make that long-overdue sequel to DDLJ. SRK and Kajol are too special a pair to give them screen time amidst a whole lot of other stuff happening. They deserve their own love song, their own final hurrah. On to the next one, then.