15 years ago, two actors, Dia Mirza and R Madhavan, made their Hindi film debut with the romantic drama, Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein. The film was a remake of the Tamil film, Minnale, which was also directed by the same person who remade RHTDM--Gautham Menon.
While the film opened to a disappointing response, it has since then enjoyed a dream run on television, winning new fans who didn't catch the film in theaters. For some people, the film redeemed itself in a second viewing.
On the surface, RHTDM is pretty standard fare.
Mumbai boy sees pretty girl on a rainy evening and it's love at first sight alright.
Boy assumes another identity to woo the girl -- the identity of the man she's supposed to get engaged but has never met, only spoken to. The romance florishes very well but it's shortlived as the actual person, Rajeev -- played by Saif Ali Khan -- shows up, leaving her troubled and deeply conflicted.
And in like all good Hindi movies, the end was what you've wanted all along. So what he was an imposter, his feelings were genuine, not feigned, you'd say.
However, the biggest fans of the movie, including this writer, will find it difficult to defend the impersonation bit as it pretty much amounts to stalking. And there's just one kind of stalking and it can't be romantic.
That said, though the 'stalker' gets the girl in the film, stalking doesn't get him the girl. Unlike films like Tere Naam or even a Raanjhanaa where the act is glorified and pretty much leads to the girl caving into its supposed charms, the leading lady rejects his modus operandi -- in want of a better word -- the moment she comes to know of it.
Then it falls into the Bollywood romance scheme of things where the 'flawed' leading man wins the girl. But nowhere, through the course of the film, does the narrative blatantly endorse stalking. Or even suggest that the hero was right in doing it.
In fact, the man too realises and admits that he made a mistake and prepares to leave the country. However, the woman, realising she is in love with him, returns.
Also, from a fan's point of view, it helped that all this was enveloped in the most delightful, mushy music ever. Come on, don't you still go a little fuzzy in the heart when 'Zara Zara' comes on the radio on your way to work?
Then there was the innocuous 'Dil Ko Tumse Pyaar Hua,' that makes thinking about your first love inevitable, or the heartbreaking 'Sach Keh Raha Hai Dil Deewana,' all the songs were in perfect harmony with the film's arc and deftly articulated its many emotional upheavals.
But what really worked for the film and still does after so many years is how relatable it's humor was. It wasn't just Vrajesh Hirjee whose comic timing was excellent but several scenes featuring Madhavan himself that were endearingly funny.
Like the one where he pretends to be a non-vegetarian on a date and gulps down a helping of chicken or how a promised date at a 5-Star unravels in a low-key affair at a panipuri stall (a distinctly Mumbai thing to do). Or the scene where he makes up for arriving late by cooking up a silly story about American autorickshaws that are supposedly stocked with beer.
Add to that the effortless, youthful chemistry between the lead pair and it's easy to see why I am rooting for the film, so many years later.
In 2001, Dia Mirza with her mix of vulnerability and charm became the heart-throb of many, many teenage boys. The scruffy and rugged Madhavan, with his warm everyman vibe, was instantly likeable and a perfect foil to Mirza.
When he confessed his love for Dia, you didn't suspect his intentions. It made you believe. And this is the biggest victory of any love story -- if it makes you believe in the sentiments of the lovers, it will make you root for them.
And then there was Saif playing what would go on to become his 'type.' The urban, sophisticated, foreign-returned man who's slightly boastful and has a steady supply of one-liners.
Saif's Rajeev Malhotra turned out to be an unlikely villain in the love story. Coming from the success of Dil Chahta Hai, it was quite perceptive of him to take on a role that was decidedly supporting in nature, in a story that doesn't end too well for his character.
But despite it being so well-packaged, all with hummable songs that did well at the time, RHTDM, that was produced by Vashu Bhagnani flopped at the box-office although now it routinely makes it to the "XX Great Films That Flopped During Their Release ' lists.
But its logetivity has exceeded expectactions and when it comes to its fans, the film's relationship with them is perfectly summed up by its title. Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein, it is!
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