The film marked the directorial debut of Farhan Akhtar and starred Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna in key roles
The disadvantage of viewing films from a distance many years after their release is that you tend to be forgiving (about their flaws). The fact that you're overly familiar with the film means that you may not be able to judge it based on merit. The viewing may help you go down memory lane but certainly interferes with your true opinion of the film. While we may be discussing this in connection with the 20th release anniversary of Farhan Akhtar's debut directorial Dil Chahta Hai, this statement holds true for most films from the earlier years that turn 'instant classics' the moment they turn 10, 20 and so on.
The overkill with release anniversaries is that the films no longer feel special. It's only as if the numbers around the film change every year - it turns 20 today and it'll turn 21 the next year. This makes the film feel so mundane and the excessive media focus contributes to it. Just because a good film has aged well, it's labelled a 'classic' by fan clubs, netizens on social media and it is over glorified beyond necessity. The 'classic' tag is too much of a burden to handle when you eventually plan to watch the film again. This is not to dispute the fact that Dil Chahta Hai is an enjoyable, free-spirited ride. It's a story of male bonhomie like no other in Indian cinema, but please spare it from the ever-growing 'cult classics' list.
Dil Chahta Hai is best savoured when you don't expect anything monumental out of it. In fact, the film is all about the little moments between three chilled-out, thick, partly immature buddies, Akash, Siddharth and Sameer (Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna). They don't take life seriously, live on their own terms and pay the price for a few of their wicked antics too. They aren't the 'ek doosre ke liye jaan dedenge' material; they have their moments of camaraderie, tiffs, reconciliation and don't make a big deal out of it. The film is relieving because its protagonists at no moment are trying to do anything heroic. The vibe of the film is so casual, easy-going and free from heavy-duty drama.
It was the first of its kind for a film-watching generation, in an era where films were simply labelled either commercial or arthouse. Farhan Akhtar and his team dared to take the plunge beyond the obvious with Dil Chahta, a buddy comedy that remained grounded and realistic. Dil Chahta Hai holds a special place in the hearts of many viewers - be it the stellar cast (also including Preity Zinta, Sonali Kulkarni, Rajat Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia), Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music, the treatment or the story. It's just not fair that a viewer from a different generation who's trying to discover Dil Chahta Hai for the first time expects a classic to unfold in front of them. This is just not that film.
Returning to the issue of celebrating release anniversaries for every (damn) year, please give the film some time to age, say at least a multiple of 5 years, if not 10. The relevance of every movie changes from time to time - give some time for the movie to breathe. This is precisely the reason many viewers are tired of revisiting something like a Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. So much about the film has been hyped, debated and dissected already that there's nothing new to discover. Talking of better things to come out of release anniversaries, it's a relief that Farhan Akhtar is making a comeback as a director (on the 20th release anniversary of Dil Chahta Hai). That too with a buddy film like Jee Le Zera revolving around three women, starring the most happening actresses in Bollywood today - Priyanka Chopra, Alia Bhatt and Katrina Kaif. It's a shame that we still don't have many female-buddy films in Hindi in 2021 but let's be glad that we are working towards bettering that stat.
(The film is streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video)