Mumbai, Oct 18 (PTI) Working on 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge' from the editing room, Keshav Naidu says he couldn’t have predicted it would go on to become one of Hindi cinema’s most influential films but knew instantly that he was handling something “brilliant”.
Twenty-five years after the film was released – on October 20, 1995 -- the editor remembers being impressed by the chemistry between Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, who played out the iconic Raj-Simran romance on screen and became two of the biggest stars of their generation.
One of his favourite scenes from the film, amongst Bollywood’s most successful, is when Simran tells Raj she is getting married to someone who she has never met or even seen. 'The scene works because it's so well performed. I loved both of them there. I could get a sense that these two are doing an exceptional job, especially Kajol. She was so expressive. Shah Rukh also was in his usual style, the way he is always,' Naidu, now 75, told PTI ahead of the film's 25th anniversary. “DDLJ”, the acronym the film is remembered by today, changed the grammar of Hindi film romance. Raj and Simran, London bred and Indian at heart, find love while travelling across Europe but as the scene moves to Punjab, they learn to balance cultural traditions while plotting their future.
Though Khan and Kajol had tasted success as a pair with 'Baazigar' in 1993, it was 'DDLJ' which cemented them as the ultimate on-screen romantic couple. Looking back, Naidu believes 'DDLJ' is that rare film where everything came together -- the acting, the direction, the script, the music, and the blend of tradition-modernity, Swiss meadows-mustard fields that struck such a chord with audiences.
The written material found a perfect match in the way it was shot by cinematographer Manmohan Singh. And the Shah Rukh-Kajol chemistry was aided by the memorable music of Jatin-Lalit, with lyrics by Anand Bakshi. The veteran editor said he was also surprised the footage did not have any mistakes despite having a first time director in Aditya Chopra at its helm.
'When I saw the footage from the first schedule, I thought it was extremely competent for a first time director. Aditya was always assisting Yash Chopra and had learnt the tricks of the trade. He hadn’t made any mistakes that a first time director normally would,” Naidu said. 'It made a solid good impression on me. But still no one could predict it would become this mammoth, landmark film.' While the film was shot across continents, Naidu quietly worked in the company of his two assistants out of YRF's old studio in Juhu, trying to piece together the story that would go on to leave a pop culture imprint for 25 years and counting. Busy with meeting deadlines, Naidu said he didn't focus on how the narrative was shaping but knew they had made a “superb” film. 'When we locked the edit, I felt it was a brilliant film. The story moved smoothly, it was efficiently cut and left me with a lot of satisfaction. Yash ji and Adi were equally happy. They knew they had a big hit in their hands.' 'DDLJ' garnered acclaim and also scripted history by becoming one of the longest running films in the country, with a matinee show dedicated to it at Mumbai's Maratha Mandir, which screened the film right till theatres were shut due to the coronavirus pandemic in March. Naidu's journey with YRF began with Yash Chopra's 'Silsila' as an editor in 1981. For the next 15 years, Naidu worked extensively with the filmmaker on 'Chandni', 'Lamhe' and 'Darr'. Naturally, when it came to 'DDLJ', Naidu was the obvious choice. The editor said the Chopra father-son duo had an incredibly strong working relationship and would look out for each other, always. 'When Yash ji would direct, Aditya would be the assistant director. When Aditya would direct, Yash ji would become the assistant. They were always there to look after each other, to ensure no mistakes ever happen. Their working relationship reflected in their work.' The film's editing was done in patches, according to its schedule in London, Switzerland, Mumbai and Punjab. Yash Chopra had imported an eight-plate Steenbeck editing table especially for the film, which helped ease the process. The edit team worked on the footage from several schedules, from 1994 end to the middle of 1995, as and when they were delivered to them. After almost a year, the team strung all the scenes together for the final movie.
The copy was then sent to a mixing studio in Chennai which equipped it with Dolby surround sound, one of the first films to have it back then.
In Aditya Chopra, Naidu said he found an 'extremely comfortable' working equation because the debutant director was remarkably clear in his ideas and execution. 'There was no specific discussion about the edit with Aditya because we both were used to working with each other. It was unsaid. We would edit, see the rushes, and they would continue with the shooting,' Naidu said. 'DDLJ' was shot on film as the digital shooting process was yet to become a norm in filmmaking at the time. Naidu observed that for 'DDLJ', 1.5 lakh feet of negative footage, also including the countless retakes, was used. After finishing the edit, it came down to about 16,000 feet. The film's 'straightforward' storytelling ensured that the editing process reflected the same smoothness, the veteran editor said. 'It was challenging to work on a film like 'Gaddar- Ek Prem Katha' which had lots of action and too many cameras. It can get difficult and confusing. But 'DDLJ' was shot in one camera and had a straightforward story so it was really easy.' Though the film continues to wins hearts and has made a place for itself in Indian cinema history, Naidu said he hasn't seen it since its grand premiere.
'I don't see my films. Sometimes I don't even see my first copy and move on to the next film. I saw 'DDLJ', perhaps at Regal, and never saw it again,' he added. PTI JUR BK MIN MIN MIN MIN