Article Hindi

25 years of Dil Aashna Hai: Revisiting Hema Malini's film directorial debut

After directing a TV series, actress Hema Malini took up the task of adapting Shirley Conran’s 1982 novel Lace as Dil Aashna Hai for the big screen.

Anita Paikat

Hema Malini, the 'dream girl' of Hindi cinema, had enjoyed a fruitful acting career spanning close to two decades when she decided to don the director’s hat.

Hema Malini was encouraged by her experience directing the television series Noopur (1990) for Doordarshan and chose Shirley Conran’s 1982 novel Lace for her first feature. Thus, Dil Aashna Hai was born under Hema Malini’s home production, Hema Malini Creations (HMC).

Today (23 October), Dil Aashna Hai completes 25 years since its theatrical release in 1992.

Though the lead roles were played by a couple-of-films-old Divya Bharti and an entirely new Shah Rukh Khan, the film was hailed for its star cast. Other important characters were played by the likes of Jeetendra, Amrita Singh, Dimple Kapadia, Mithun Chakraborty, Sonu Walia and Kabir Bedi.

Laila (Bharti), a club dancer, is informed by her dying mother that she is, in fact, not her biological mother. While there are quite a few hounds around the lonely 17-something girl, she sets out on the quest to find her roots, aided by Karan Singh (Shah Rukh Khan), son of a wealthy industrialist who owns the hotel where Laila performs.

Here is the moment-of-truth scene from the film:

The duo soon (you need to take the word seriously here) learn that she is, in fact, Sitara, who was handed over to an orphanage by three friends Barkha, Raaj and Salma. No one can really say who among them is her mother. Sitara and Karan plot to bring the estranged friends together to not only find out who the mother is, but also question her for abandoning the child.

Hema Malini gave a very interesting tagline to the film — the heart knows. The hearts of the three friends know who the actual mother is, and it is better it stays at that. The ladies initially refuse to acknowledge Sitara, even when the poor young woman thrusts the all-so-famous locket trope in their faces. But later they decide it is time the girl gets her due.

Hema Malini tried to pick up the bold and hush-hush topic of pregnancy out of wedlock, but the guilt of abandoning the child lies sorely and solely on the mother. The father, by and large, remains untouched and unspoken of, as though he ceased to exist the moment Sitara was conceived. To a certain extent in the movie he does. He re-emerges heroically in the last scene, when Sitara has already found her mother and her roots.

The romantic scene when the hero slaps the heroine (ignore the irony, everyone did):

Dil Aashna Hai is the first Hindi film that Khan shot for, though his Deewana (1992) was the first to be released. One can see in the young man’s performance a will and need to give of his best. According to reports, the film was ready to go on the floors, but Hema Malini was yet to finalize her hero. She was looking for a new face and spotted Khan in the television serial Circus. He was called, he auditioned, and he conquered (quite literally).

Although her overly dramatic dialogues didn’t always match her deadpan face, Divya Bharti, as Laila aka Sitara, too, did a fairly decent job.

The best performances, as was expected, came from Kapadia, Singh and Walia — the women who yearn for adventurous love, and have it. After Sitara's birth, they are consumed by societal restrictions and mould themselves into sari-/salwar-wearing, serious-looking, ‘perfectly’ accomplished ladies.

Three friends and a baby:

Drama soars high throughout the film and at some places you wonder why. However, the director deserves credit for choosing a topic very few would have volunteered to shoulder. The secret of who the actual mother is, which looms over most of the film, too, has been handled well.