Darr completes 25 years: How Shah Rukh Khan, Yash Chopra depicted violence deeply embedded in love
Decoding how Shah Rukh Khan and Yash Chopra, known for their pristine swashbuckling romances, brought to life an obsessed lover in their 1993 blockbuster Darr.
Had there been no Darr, there would have been no Zero. As Shah Rukh Khan plays a vertically challenged man in the Aanand L Rai's ironically titled release Zero, he admits he cultivated his faith in such unconventional lead roles gradually. The process that has spanned across over two decades, began with Yash Chopra's romantic thriller Darr, which completes 25 years today on 24 December. Darr was also an ironical title, as SRK, like his character Rahul, was anything but fearful of his decisions.
Darr released way before SRK crystallised himself as the swashbuckling, arms-spreading hopeless romantic with Chopra's subsequent films like Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Veer-Zaara, Aditya Chopra's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Mohabattien, and Karan Johar's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham. It would have been even more challenging for him to shatter that image and play a negative role, within the framework of a romance, for the first time after being loved in these films.
Nonetheless, it was a risk to play a dark negative role so early into his career. But as SRK admits, it was not difficult for him to play a stalker since he plays obsessed characters really well. Whether it is pitch dark characters like those of Darr, Anjaam and Don, or spotlessly white characters like those of Kal Ho Naa Ho or Ra.One, both the polar opposites have obsession in common. While the character in Ra.One, a superhero, was obsessed with saving the world, the character of Rahul in Darr was singularly obsessed with gaining control over the leading lady Kiran (or K..k..Kiran), played by Juhi Chawla. The same gaze that lured Zara into his arms in Veer-Zaara turned into an ogle as it measured Kiran in a lustful manner in Darr.
Darr would have been a far greater challenge for Yash Chopra, known for his pristine romances like Kabhi Kabhie, Silsila, Chandni and Lamhe. How does a filmmaker smitten by the idea of pure romance go on to create something as toxic as Darr? Even the climactic portions in the Alps, where some of Chopra's best romances blossomed, have an air of tension to the proceedings there. The tagline of the film read, "A Violent Love Story". For a man used to love stories, depicting violence embedded in that love, would have been as challenging as resisting the temptation to embrace SRK when he invites you, with his arms wide open.
Chopra made the violence embedded in love evident through what he knows best — music. Udit Narayan's unalloyed vocals made iconic songs like 'Jadoo Teri Nazar' and 'Tu Mere Saamne' sound as unblemished as most of Chopra's romantic numbers. But the way he picturised the song changed the way these songs are remembered. Since both these songs were shot as dream sequences and were merely an extension of SRK's mind space, Juhi could be seen romancing SRK in the visuals. But the fact is that Juhi never gave in to SRK's relentless pursuit till the fag end of the film.
These dream sequences functioned within the framework of how most romantic songs were shot back then. There were green pastures and chiffon saris — two leitmotifs that Chopra made popular. But there was also an obsessed SRK, who changed his body language drastically to make the audience realise that the overriding feeling within him was lust, and not the love he went on to own, for Kiran. The way he touched her, measured her beauty or even the way he looked at her was with a sense of ownership. It was in complete contrast to the general, affable chemistry that Kiran shared with her husband Sunil (Sunny Deol's character).
The dream sequences thus played a crucial role in depicting the prism through which the antagonist looked at the leading lady, which helped the audience to root for the hero instead of the villain, irrespective of who shares the more screen time. SRK had more screen time than Deol in Darr, though his character ends up getting killed by Sunil. Despite the outcome, SRK heaped tremendous praise for his dark, uninhibited portrayal of an anti-hero.
A similar situation was witnessed recently in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's period romance Padmaavat, which saw Ranveer Singh's Sultan Alauddin Khilji eclipse Shahid Kapoor's Maharawal Ratan Singh. Khilji was madly obsessed with pursuing Singh's wife Rani Padmini (Deepika Padukone). Bhansali had reportedly chosen to go the Yash Chopra way and incorporate a dream song sequence into the narrative in order to depict Khilji's lust for Padmini. However, after Shri Rajput Karni Sena, who revere Rani Padmini, objected to the sequence, Bhansali decided to drop it from the film and claimed that he never intended to include any such song in the first place.
Khilji's character, thus, had to be aligned with perceived evils like drinking, womanising and homosexuality in order to make it clear that he was the antagonist. Inversely, the opposing side of the Rajputs were glorified by associating them with loyalty, principle and dignity. Bhansali ended up receiving flak for glorifying even the Rajputs' archaic practice of jauhar.
Chopra, however, refrained from any such manipulative character plotting in case of Rahul's character in Darr. He solely focused on the only evil portrayed in the film — obsession. If there was any other character trait through which the kink in Rahul's mind was shown, it was his stammer, made famous by the words, "I love you K...k..kiran." Usually, one stammers when one is afraid. But here, the stammering was more out of him being twisted. It is then ironic that the film was titled Darr, as his character was anything but fearful.
All images from YouTube.
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