The first time I saw Dil Se, I was disturbed by the violence and devastated by the ending. I will admit to being a delicate flower when it comes to violent movies. Strong violent imagery stays with me longer than any other part of the film. You say "Godfather" and I see a horse head. Star Wars = the burned bodies on Tatooine. Indiana Jones = melting faces. So you can imagine that many of Shah Rukh Khan's films are tough for me, and Dil Se is full of scenes that, for me, are the stuff of nightmares.
But. It is also poetic and beautiful. The music (A.R. Rahman) is magnificent. The performances are outstanding. It is fast becoming one of my five favorite SRK films.
Preity Zinta, in her debut role as Preety, Amar/SRK's fiancé, is one of the reasons this film is so wonderful. It is an arranged marriage, so we actually see them meet for the first time and watch as they awkwardly get acquainted, and eventually agree to the match. He is already hopelessly in love with the mysterious Meghna*, and she has also loved and lost. Her honesty and directness is fresh and disarming, and Amar responds with a tragic mixture of resignation and pathos. Her attraction to him grows, and he plays along as the dutiful son and grandson, keeping his family happy while still pursuing Meghna. Preety represents his option to return to a normal life, to give up on Meghna, and she makes that choice very attractive. Clearly, Amar would not be "settling" for her. She is quite a catch, and would make him happy under other circumstances. But he cannot make that choice. It is poignant and powerful. This role won Zinta the award for best debut, and set her on a path of several more roles with Shah Rukh Khan, all of them fabulous!
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Amar? Earnest, passionate, and utterly sincere. Even though his obsession makes no logical sense, SRK makes his attraction to Meghna completely believable. His acceptance of the marriage to Preety is equally credible; at that point in the film, he has no hope of ever seeing Meghna again. The match with Preety will please his family, especially his beloved grandmother, and they definitely have the beginnings of good chemistry. In a different movie, she would be perfect for him.
What is Preety's first impression of Amar? You can tell that she think's he's pretty cute. Any hesitation she has comes from her own reluctance to marry and lose her independence. (The fact that he abandons her to chase after some random guy on the street gives her pause, but is evidently not a deal breaker.) Think of the kids! Guaranteed dimples!!!
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Sweet and natural. A bit awkward at the beginning, when it needs to be, and comfortable enough to lead you to hope it will all work out. I realized watching this how great he and Preity are as a working pair. They rarely get to "happy ever after", though. She loves and loses him in Kal Ho Naa Ho and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (both great movies, anyway.) Only in Veer-Zaara do they finally seal the deal -- eventually, but worth the wait.
If you had a first date with Amar, would you go on a second? Oh, yeah. He's good company and super polite with women. But his heart would never be mine, of course.
My favorite interaction:
Next date: Rani Mukerji in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai!
*Meghna is played by the amazing Manisha Koirala. I only wish they had made more films together, because their interactions are electric!