What the heart desires, in Sydney

Posted in movies, music by jrahman on September 30, 2010

It has been about nine years since I first watched Dil Chahta Hai.  The movie, its literal meaning is The heart desires, broke new grounds in Bollywood with respect to storytelling, production techniques and the subject matters.  And it heralded the dawn of a new urban culture in India (and indeed the entire region).  For example, just compare the way Aamir’s character introduces the song in the graduation party in this movie with the way it was done in his first hit — there are few better illustrations of how dramatically urban India had changed between the late 1980s and the turn of the century.

And then there was the way the movie depicted the west.

Years before he romanced a blind Kashmiri girl and a Gori filmmaker in Delhi, Aamir Khan explored Sydney in this movie with a Desi girl, discovering his own feelings along the way.  And this wasn’t done by swinging to bhangra beats in ‘Indian night clubs’ or ‘college campuses’ where only Desi kids are seen.  In fact, most of the Sydney scenes in the movie are very realistic — I speak from personal experience.  And it really was shot in Sydney (unlike, say, the Aishwarya-starrer where Italian scenes are shot in Hungary). That this is about the best silver screen depiction of Sydney, a city I am immensely fond of, is just a bonus.

Over the years, I traced these Sydney scenes, and I describe them over the fold.

We begin with Aakash’s (Khan’s character) apartment. This appears to be in North Sydney — the city skyline as shown in Tanhayee (the sad song) is only visible from somewhere north of the Harbor Bridge.  His office is also in North Sydney.  From the way the Bridge is shown, it seems that one needs to take a left-turn after crossing the bridge to get to the office.  Alternatively, one could probably take the train to Milson’s Point or North Sydney.

Where is the theatre where our hero and his heroine watch the ‘serious movie’ that sets off the song Jaane kyun?  It is very likely to be the (now defunct) Greater Union complex in Mosman.

The song itself shows a number of places.

The first scene, by the lagoon with boats, is in The Spit Bridge on the way to Manly.  There is a great seafood restaurant there, though this is not shown in the movie.  From there, the couple takes the monorail — this is something only visitors to the city do, and all visitors, time-permitting, do it.  Then they walk down Hyde Park — a summer walk in the park, many Sydneysiders will relate to this scene. 

Most Sydneysiders will not have taken the helicopter ride, again something for the visitors.  After their chopper ride, the couple is shown returning to North Sydney, on foot, over the Bridge.  This is, perhaps, the only unlikely Sydney scene in the movie — The Harbour Bridge just is not a fun walk, not when a train noisily passes you.

Our couple is in a North Sydney pier after crossing the bridge, where the song ends.

Between the songs, the couple’s relationship advances through a trip to the Lunar Park.  The couple gets separated in the Olympic Park rail station.

Aakash discovers his feeling at an opera.  They, however, do not watch the opera at the Opera House.  After the show, things turn serious, and we move to Tanhayee, the sad song.

The song begins as Aakash says good bye to Shalini (Preity Zeinta).  We are shown that he is in a cab in a tunnel.  Assuming that Aakash is returning home, in North Sydney, it is reasonable to guess that Shalini’s uncle’s place is somewhere south of the bridge — eastern suburbs perhaps?

After Shalini has left, Aakash is shown wandering around: in Martin Place, the financial heart of the city; Milson’s Point rail station; in the pedestrian tunnel under the Central Station; the Rocks (you can see the Bridge on his left); the Market Street Mall; the café in front of the Opera House (I have spent many a lonely afternoon myself in that place); the Waverly Cemetery (while a beautiful place, how would he know about it — may be he discovered it with Shalini?); the botanical garden; the eastern suburbs (he is shown jogging, why would he do it so far from his apartment though — maybe because it is close to Shalini’s uncle’s place?); and as the song ends, crossing the Bridge, alone.

Dear reader, you probably have guessed that I have watched the movie many times.  If you haven’t, do so right away.  You won’t regret it.

(Based on an old A-A-A post)

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5 Responses

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  1. tacit said, on October 2, 2010 at 2:00 am

    Great article, Jyoti Bhai. Beautiful depiction of Sydney. I, too, am very fond of Dil Chata Hai. I love how honest parts of it are.

  2. DS said, on October 3, 2010 at 4:44 am

    Good movie. Friends made me watch it the night before I left ‘Desh the first time.

  3. jrahman said, on October 7, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Aamir Khan has done a series of great movies over the past decade or so, from Sarfarosh / Ghulam to Ghajini / 3 Idiots via Earth, Lagaan and Rang De Basanti (Mangal Pandey is the notable exception — Bollywood doesn’t do epic well). I plan to write about these some day.

  4. Once upon a time in Sydney « Mukti said, on October 1, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    […] by the time I watched Dil Chahta Hai ten years ago, things had already started to […]

  5. Watching Aamir Khan « Mukti said, on December 4, 2012 at 4:47 am

    […] wrote about Dil Chahta Hai earlier.  There is not just a post but probably a long form article, or even an academic paper, […]

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