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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Darr: Yash Chopra’s Subversive, Obsessive Romance

Yash Chopra is one of my favourite directors, and his romances are the movies I like best. While he is famous for his love stories, they were rarely standard boy-meet-girls stories.

This is especially true for his romantic psychological thriller Darr, which recently celebrated its 26th anniversary.

Chopra, with the help of Shah Rukh Khan’s charisma and boyishness, made the villain Rahul a romantic antihero.

Through this framing, Darr becomes a daring look at voyeurism and consent, fantasy and reality.

The song “Tu Mere Saamne” is one of my favourite parts of the movie, specifically because it is such a deep look at Rahul’s obsession with Kiren (Juhi Chawla).

“Tu Mere Saamne” is on the surface a love song; the lyrics by Anand Bakshi are romantic and the song was shot in Switzerland like many of Yash Chopra’s most popular songs.

But there is something sinister in the song, which is emblematic of the film as a twisted love story on the whole.

For me, the most striking element of “Tu Mere Saamne” is the costuming. Shah Rukh Khan wears the same fuchsia shirt while Juhi Chawla is shown in either traditional Indian clothes or Western outfits.

The decision to have him in the same outfit is deliberate. The sequence is shown through Rahul’s gaze, with Kiran as the fantasy woman.

The clothes that Kiran wears also look suggestive (mirroring those in the very charged “Dance of Obsession”).

Even the Betty Boop sweater is interesting because Betty was the first animated sex symbol who was girlish but provocative.

Being a Yash Chopra heroine, Juhi Chawla looks glamorous in her outfits. But there is a difference between the clothes she wears in reality and those in Rahul’s fantasies.

At first glance, the lyrics to the song might seem romantic. But if you listen more closely, the lyrics become start to sound creepier.

The lyrics of the song reflect a voyeuristic man and a woman broken down by his insistence and stubbornness.

The words tell a story of a man who wants to love this woman, will die for her. The lyrics are about what Rahul can take from Kiran, how he can worship her, and what he will do to her.

Rahul’s passion is clear, but Kiran has no agency. In every one of her lines, she sings about what he wants and nothing about her.

Her lines are also more sexual than usual for a 90s Hindi film song. The more I think about this song the more I find it suffocating.

It’s actually quite a violent song, even if on a superficial level it’s full of passion and romance.

Yash Chopra was the kind of director who took care to develop his songs so they moved the plot forward and expressed something new of the characters.

By presenting his psychotic villain as a romantic antihero, Chopra made a very unique love story.

Many of the other songs are about sexual obsession, exploring themes of female agency and male aggression through appealing melodies and thoughtful lyrics.

Back in the early 1990s, Darr was a hot thriller with an up-and-coming actor.

Rather than becoming dated, it has evolved into a relevant look at obsession through Yash Chopra’s inventive and unique execution.

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