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The Themes of Tradition and Modernity in Bollywood Movies

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Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) translated as The Brave-Hearted Will Take Away the Bride is romantic bollywood film directed in 1995 by Aditaya Chopra. The plot of the film is Raj played by Shah Rukh Khan and Simran played by Kajol, young Non-resident Indians (NRIs), who fall in love during a vacation in Europe with their friends. However, Simran’s father forces her to marry his friend’s son in Punjab, India. Raj travels to India and attempts to win over Simran’s family especially her father so they can marry.

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DDLJ screams Bollywood as it is Masala of Romance, Family and Tradition. It had hints of comedy and action as well. The film follows 3 acts structure which is a typical Bollywood template. There were a total of 7 Songs and dance used to convey emotion of love, celebration at times of festivities. The movie defines “Indianness” with certain family values, marriage choices and highlights the contradiction between translational location and retention of the Indian identity through theme of romance, family and traditions.

Theme of love and desire are depicted in the Indian way. Indian romance is love where couples do not sexualize their relation such that the heroine retains her purity as an Indian woman. The youths through romantic dialogues, song and dance expresses their love. Iconic dialogues have etched into the audience hearts such as “ade bade desho mein aisi chhoti chhoti baatein hoti rehti hai”or youth following Raj’s Palat test to determine if our love was reciprocated, if he/she turns. This portrays love to the audience as fun and endearing. In DDLJ the sanctity of woman is regarded as the honour of their families. In a scene Raj and Simran spend a night together, Simran panics and ask if something had happened between them. Raj replies a hysterical Simran “You think I am beyond values, but I am a Hindustani, and I know what a Hindustani girl’s izzat (honour) is worth. Trust me, nothing happened last night.’ Here the was Raj established him as a gentleman, someone who understood the importance of a woman’s modesty. This statement is to let the audience know that the Indian diaspora still sustain their value system of not having pre-marital relations. It relays to the audience that a “True Indian” does not need to be residing in India and just need to have the Indian values.

Theme of family and tradition was established in DDLJ. The NRI nostalgia for India, and the vow to return to Punjab is showed by Simran’s father as he emphasis on family values as core Indianness, retains the Indian family tradition by arranging Simran’s marriage to his friend’s son. He over emphasizes on feminine virtue in general such holiness and shyness as he feels proud when Simran wake up early in the morning to pray and runs in the room when the topic of marriage was mentioned to her. Both Simran and the audience are brought to reality and reminded of the sacrifice’s women must make when Simran father finds out about her love and forces her to have an arranged marriage. The mother’s words of “dream, definitely dream but don’t have conditions for them to come true” broke the hearts of audiences. This portrays the helpless of the woman in the family to stand up to the men. It shows that an NRI living abroad also suffers from a patriarchal family system. The film may invoke some sentiments among the public and steer them towards better treatment of woman. The love between father and son was reflected when Raj’s father tells him about his life struggles and tells him to enjoy life and supported his love. This was a contrast to Simran’s father as Raj’s father cares more about the son’s happiness sentiments. This shows the audience there are some open-minded Indians who value happiness more than traditional values.

The Primary conflict in the movie is the scuffle between Indian traditional family values and the western values of individualism. This relatable to the audience which were mostly Indian middle class and NRIs as economic liberation had led to the emergence of modernity and the rise of secular values. The movie attempts to shift the mindset of rather than modernity vs tradition to tradition within modernity. This value is highlighted in the DDLJ that where Simran is being forced to marry someone else and Simran. Raj refuses to elope and wants to marry Simran with her father permission. At the ending when Simran father refuses to accept the Raj, Raj sacrifices his love stating to Simran that they own it to their families and their family happiness is more important. The film conveys that family values are more important than individual desire. It portrays that a “True Indian” would consider family values above self and romantic love. In the ending when Simran father says “Go Simran…Go live your Life” and released Simran’s hand when he realised that Raj was a true Indian that scarified his love for family values and Simran honour. This sends a message to the audience That fathers should let their daughters choose their own destiny but only if the person proves themselves to be a “true Indian”.

The generations that grew up after 1991 see DDLJ as the film that defines them and their idea of love. However, some audience feel that this vary reason may be why “ DDLJ ruined my generation” as DDLJ made is seems like a true Indian would never rebel against for parents for love. A film may have a deep cultural impact as Youth may give in to family pressure and choose arranged marriage over love, as rebellion deemed as “un-Indian”. Furthermore, stereotypes such as love at first sight for Raj and the portrayal of Punjab as being a moral heaven and the west as be devoid of values may exist in DDLJ. Nevertheless, Bollywood movies are her to entertain and DDLJ’s reflect reality, not create them.

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