‘Darr’ at 25: Revisiting the Iconic Romantic Thriller & its Unforgettable Villain

[Photo Source: Yash Raj Films]

“Darr” is the kind of movie that makes you want to double check if the doors are locked and the curtains drawn shut. This romantic drama-cum-thriller marked the first of Shahrukh Khan’s collaborations with YRF productions and the late director Yash Chopra. It was also the birth of the famed Rahul alter ego — albeit the more chilling than charming version.

The film was an instant success with the masses upon its release in December of 1993, making a whopping 25.73 crores back on its budget of 3.25 cr. Shahrukh was fresh off the heels of success in “Baazigar”, and the accompanying YRF banner attracted the likes of Juhi Chawla and Sunny Deol who had both been having an incredible year due to “Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke” and “Damini” respectively. The two had been paired together in “Lootere” to resounding accolades and almost guaranteed Chopra a successful return.

[Photo Source: Yash Raj Films]
College-going Kiran is madly in love with her navy commando boyfriend Sunil. On a college outing in Shimla, she is serenaded by a beautiful song (the iconic and eventually creepy “Tu Hai Meri Kiran”) that she assumes is sung by Sunil. Upon arriving back to the home she shares with her brother and bhabhi, she is troubled to learn that it was not in fact Sunil, and panics further when the man appears in front of her home and calls out to her in the darkness. The man in question is the obsessive, incensed and downright dangerous Rahul. A rich boy with an absent father and long-deceased mother, Rahul loved Kiran all through college, but was too shy to speak to her.

In the nearly three hours that follows, Rahul tracks Kiran across various places in India and abroad; he hounds her on the phone constantly, invading her personal space and vandalizing her home, and trying to kill her boyfriend (then fiancé and finally husband) Sunil. It is a sharp contrast to the loving and heart-breakingly delusional way he speaks to her pictures, projecting them onto his wall and caressing her tresses.

“Darr” was a resounding hit at the box office with a palpable cast chemistry and soundtrack. The film opens with the “Tu Hai Meri Kiran” moment in Shimla, at first glance and listen gorgeous and as romantic as can be. As the threat of Rahul looms larger and larger over Kiran and her family, a slowed down version of the song becomes more ominous, a promise rather than a plea, warning Kiran she cannot escape.

The same tactic is repeated with “Darwaza Band Kar Lo”, which takes place in Sunil and Kiran’s new apartment and follows the montage of them setting up their home. After Rahul breaks in and vandalizes it with his declarations of love, a mournful version of the song plays in the background as an unconscious Kiran lays in bed, a stony-face Sunil watching over her while the camera zooms in on the blood-red graffiti. Dramatic, but effective.

[Photo Source: Screenshot / Yash Raj Films]
Cut to 25 years later, “Darr” hits only about 70% of its marks. It does not know from which era it wants to be. A corny voiceover and reedy tune proclaim that this story contains the love and obsession of Heer-Ranjha, Romeo-Juliet and of course, “Darr”, as blocky red letters flash across the screen in an Amitji-reminiscent 80’s title sequence. Though the concept is different, its execution follows the same scene to scene playbook.

A particular scene that made me snort with laughter was when Rahul’s father catches him on the phone “speaking to his mother”. The camera zooms into his father’s face and abruptly cuts to a doctor’s cabin. The puzzled doctor asks Rahul’s father “So what if he talks to his mother from time to time.” His grim faced father replies “His mother has been dead for eight years.” Plot twist!

[via Giphy]
Juhi Chawla is still impeccable, she looks undeniably gorgeous in every variation of salwar kameez and off-shoulder dress in which she’s styled. Her smile is contagious and the chemistry between her and Deol is strong. Her portrayal of a near-mad with fear Kiran is gut-wrenching even amongst the melodrama. No one takes her stalker seriously at first, save for Chawla herself, whose sudden change in expression from blushing joy to nervous fear formed a pit in my stomach. Her emotional graph goes up and up from there.

While she misses a few of her beats in scenes with Deol and struggles around some clunkier potboiler-esque dialogues, her scenes with and about Khan won me over. The sound of his voice leaves her blood running cold, and each time Deol tries to calm her down or Rahul evades the cops, the anxiety intensifies. Her face-to-face scenes with Khan are the most memorable; the tension looms and builds as she befriends him first without knowing the truth, and her gentle, fearful pleading with him in the climax stay with you.

[via Giphy]
Perhaps this is why the Shahrukh-Juhi pairing was so talked about post film. Scores of women lamented that they would never find a lover like Rahul, interpreting him as a lovelorn, sad, starstruck boy and heaping all of their sympathies with him. To these women I say, “Are you mad?!”

Rahul’s “love” in “Darr” is an expression of insanity and mania, the woman he “loves” is little more than an object to acquire, and he relentlessly strips her of her own agency. Scenes in the film seem lifted from real-life incidents we’ve experienced first and second-hand. I love Shahrukh Khan, and he always works for me, but this was absolutely nauseating.

[Photo Source: Yash Raj Films]
Through the whole viewing, I remained at the edge of my seat, so uncomfortable with his language and his violence. It troubles me to think about how many women were actually floored by his actions, and the men that would have suddenly felt justified in their approach.

Still, “Darr” does show Khan at the start of his prime. Hammy in certain areas, but believable for the sheer passion and the freshness of his character. He had a meaty role to play (which upset Deol upon release) and he took advantage of every frame. While personally he made my skin crawl, he did affect me. I felt myself cringing, shaking my head and panicking for Chawla. I was grateful for the protection afforded to her by the police and Deol. And yet, as he laid bloody on the ground, I felt myself pitying him slightly, wishing he’d gotten help.

[Read Related: Shah Rukh Khan: Does the Superstar Make a Better Lafangey or Lover?]

I finished “Darr” around 1:30 that night, and flicked off Amazon Prime as I went to go wash my face for bed, still incredibly troubled. About 12 minutes into my skincare, I realized I had been humming the very same “Tu Hai Meri Kiran” the whole time. Rahul has a way of getting under your skin.

Darr is worth the watch. Just remember, “Darwaza Band Kar Lo…”

By Priyanka Gulati

Priyanka Gulati is a writer, bollywood fanatic and hazelnut coffee lover. When she’s not swiping the burgundy lipsticks at Sephora … Read more ›

‘The Romantics’: Revisiting the Legacy and Grandeur of Yash Chopra With Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra

The Romantics

If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking. 

I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.

— Smriti Mundhra

As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.

In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.

For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.


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At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.

In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.

By Nida Hasan

Editor by profession, writer by passion, and a mother 24/7, Nida is a member of Brown Girl Lifestyle's editing team … Read more ›