Chandni rightly deserves a special mention in the career of veteran director Yash Chopra for more than one reason. It not only resurrected the director’s career post a chain of unsuccessful ventures but also consolidated Sridevi’s topmost position in the trade, facing tough competition from contenders like Madhuri Dixit.
Returning to his forte of love and romance-based scripts, Chopra didn’t come up with any novel story in Chandni but presented the same old plot with an immensely likeable, youthful charm that instantly clicked and had its magic spell over the viewers. No doubt the film’s music by Shiv-Hari played a big role in its success, with the soundtrack becoming an all-time chartbuster. Incidentally, the songs not only won hearts, but their sales also helped the audio company, going through a rough patch in those years in the late ‘80s.
Though a lot has already been written about the film following the new Internet trend of celebrating every year of such cult films, I would love to share two rarely mentioned features thoughtfully added by the director and his writers.
You must have heard one of the most common phrases used to define the beverage beer differentiating it from liquor, often expressed as, “Beer sharaab nahin hoti” in Hindi. The phrase was beautifully incorporated in Chandni in reference to cognac (pronounced as konyak) in a three-minute ‘assumed honeymoon’ sequence in which Sridevi and Rishi Kapoor talk about the drink, repeatedly saying, “Cognac sharaab nahin hoti.” This specific part of the film is also quite close to Raj Kapoor, and Vyjayanthimala’s similar sequences in Sangam shot abroad. Plus, the background music heard in this scene was later used in the director’s courageous film Lamhe as the song Kabhi main kahoon, kabhi tum kaho.
The one-line phrase became one of the most memorable dialogues of the film in those times, and youngsters were often heard saying it in their get-togethers. Having seen the movie in our school days, it was much later when we learned how cognac was spelt and was a specific type of brandy made in France.
Coming to the second rarely discussed feature of the film, it appears in the last hour when both Vinod Khanna and Rishi Kapoor (coming together post-Amar Akbar Anthony) accidentally meet in the foreign land. They greet each other, humming the opening verse of a Punjabi song, Haye o rabba nahio lagda dil mera, and introduce themselves. But what’s interesting to note is that they both simply assume themselves to be Indians, whereas the song that unites them happens to be a famous Pakistani Punjabi song by the legendary Reshma. Despite the fact, they never ask where the other person was from or how he was singing a Pakistani Punjabi song?
The sequence was effortlessly conceived in such a manner because till the mid-90s, our films were mostly made only for the Indian Territory. Hence the makers didn’t have to think about wooing the non-Indian audiences by adding such clear references. However, it all changed post the mid-90s with the opening of new world markets and Shah Rukh Khan proving to be a big craze overseas. From here onwards, our filmmakers started writing and conceiving films, keeping in mind the potential foreign market too, purposefully bringing in characters with such straight references. Thankfully, this rarely noticed insertion re-introduced me to the legendary Reshma, who had earlier sung for Subhash Ghai’s Hero.
Moving ahead to another lesser-known story behind the making of Chandni, it was reportedly supposed to be made on a different bold and unusual storyline. In the original version, Sridevi was to be presented as a new-age woman who moves over Rishi post his sudden behavioural changes and later re-marries Vinod Khanna, who accepts her knowing about her affair and the child leading to further emotional twists in the climax.
Considering the above, it seems Yash Chopra was in the mood of making another unconventional ‘ahead of its time’ film as Chandni in 1989, before his most experimental and gutsy Lamhe. Possibly, a close well-wisher suggested the veteran to go for a light-hearted love saga first, re-establishing himself in the market with a universal hit. The decision no doubt proved to be fruitful, making a noteworthy contribution to the revival of romance and music in Hindi cinema. But the debate remains that if Chandni was made on its original storyline, then would that have been a much better film in comparison, or would that have also resulted in a dud similar to Lamhe made two years later?
(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of ‘Did You Know’ series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)
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