Saturday, Jun 25, 2022
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All Aboard With Simran!

A century before a train pulled into a Swiss station in DDLJ—and 80 years before Sholay’s coal-fired grime—we had La Ciotat. Cinema, illuminated by its many arrivals ’n departures.

All Aboard With Simran!
All Aboard With Simran!

The year 1995 is centennially emblematic. If you flash it backwards by a century, you find yourself at the birth of the moving image—at the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris, where the Lumiere Brothers presented their first paid public screening of ten short films, on December 28, 1895. Soon these shorts were to travel across the globe as ‘wonders of the world’. Incidentally, this particular Paris programme had missed The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, but well, the steam-engine carrying passengers did arrive at this station near Marseille one hundred years prior to the train that had arr­ived at the small Swiss railway station of Zweisimmen in Adiya Chopra’s film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (Braveheart Wins the Bride, 1995).

Its story is about Raj (Shahrukh Khan), a rich Londoner who goes on a month’s vacation to Europe, including Switzerland. Another London-based girl named Simran (Kajol) also goes on a similar vacation tour. Both are Punjabi NRIs living in the UK. Raj distracts Simran by cracking jokes and makes her miss the train at a La Ciotat-like small railway station, but in Switzerland. That was Zweisimmen. They then get stuck somewhere together on their whirlwind journey. By the time they return to London, they have fallen in love. As scripted, Simran’s marriage had already been arranged by her patriarchal fat­her (Baldev Singh) with someone in the Punjab, whom she had never seen before. Raj has no option but to win Simran away from her ferocious father and the man she never wanted to marry. Wading through wedding songs (including Aye meri zohra jabeen from Yash Chopra’s elder brother B.R. Chopra’s 1965 film Waqt) and finally through bloody fights at a small Indian railway station, named Apta, the film gets its happy end—Raj, with his face badly bloodied, pulls a running Simran, still in bridal dress, into the compartment. Thus was consummated a film about arriving and perhaps also departing: a film that was seen as a ‘game-changer’, one that incorporates several nostalgic old and new exchanges within itself.

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