20 years of Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein: R Madhavan, Dia Mirza-starrer's music evokes nostalgia

Composer Harris Jayaraj's melodies, which were written for this remake of the Tamil film Minnale (2001), still strike a chord.

Keyur Seta

The start of the new millennium saw the emergence of Dil Chahta Hai (2001), a youth-oriented film for those who had just become youngsters. One of the major reasons why Farhan Akhtar’s directorial debut acquired cult status was its music, which was composed by Shankar Ehsaan Loy. 

Just two months after the release of the landmark film, the youth of that era found another film they could identify with – Gautham Menon’s Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein. While its story might not be as groundbreaking or novel as that of Dil Chahta Hai, the film’s music did give the Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna-starrer a run for its money. Coincidentally, both films had Khan as an important cast member. 

RHTDM, as the film is fondly called, employs the ever-popular trope of mistaken identity. Maddy (R Madhavan) instantly falls for the beautiful Reena (Dia Mirza), but he learns that she is engaged to the wealthy non-resident Indian (NRI) Rajeev (Khan) from the US. But Maddy feels hopeful because of the fact that Reena has never seen Rajeev. 

Hence, he quickly devises a plan of impersonating Rajeev in order to win Reena’s heart. Just when Reena starts feeling for Maddy, she realizes how she was fooled. What happens next forms the rest of the story.

Dia Mirza and R Madhavan in RHTDM

RHTDM follows three main characters and has heroics, love, heartbreak and, finally, a happy ending. The film has a song for each particular turn, evoking the feelings experienced by a character.

The film came in an era where it was a must, especially for mainstream films, to have at least six to seven songs. Hence, one would see producers forcing a few tunes into the narrative just to ensure the sale of the soundtrack album.

But that wasn’t the case with RHTDM. Every song in the movie is justified and it either took the story forward or added more feeling to a particular situation. And most importantly, the songs were diverse. In other words, it was a versatile music album. 

Like many other romantic films of that era, RHTDM had a title track. It’s a youthful number that gets you going the second Sonu Nigam vocalizes the opening verse, ‘Mujhe Kehna Kehna Tujhse Hai Kehna.’ Supported by Kavita Krishnamurthy’s vocals, this tune pumps you up when you are low on energy. In the context of the movie, it described Maddy’s fascination with Reena. 

When you have a flamboyant ‘hero’ with his loyal sidekicks in a movie, there has to be a song where he gets to show off his heroics. ‘Oh Mama Mama’ is that song. At the same time, the song aims to provide a tribute to Mumbai. Not surprisingly, the song had become popular among the college dudes [So much so that nobody noticed that the song features green-coloured auto-rickshaws, which are never seen in the city].
If the title song was an energetic love anthem, ‘Bolo Bolo’ is a more heartfelt number perfectly sung by Shaan and 'rendered' onscreen by a lovestruck Maddy. Those were the days when mainstream Hindi cinema had background dancers; something that is hardly attempted now. Like ‘Oh Mama Mama’, this track also features different locations of Mumbai, along with a few overseas ones. 

‘Dil Ko Tumse Pyar Hua’ is another tour de force. Unlike its companion pieces, this one is a soft and low-pitched romantic number sung melodiously by Roopkumar Rathod for Rajeev. It goes with the ‘good guy’ image of Khan’s character. 

In a story that also deals with heartbreak, a sad song is a must. In this case, it’s ‘Sach Keh Raha Hai Deewana’. Although the song succeeds in portraying the sad state of Maddy, it doesn’t really sound depressing. This is a reason why people play it even when they are not sad and just wish to enjoy the lyrics by Sameer and Shaan’s deep vocals. One can say the same about the sad song ‘Tanhai’ from Dil Chahta Hai. 

On a lighter note, Maddy had broken the heart and trust of the girl in the film by lying to her about his identity. Yet, in this song, he is shown to be the victim. Well, the audience didn’t seem to have an issue with this 20 years ago.

‘Zara Zara’ is one of the most loved tracks from RHTDM. It spoke of Reena’s deep feelings for Maddy. Bombay Jayashree singing in a low-pitched tone evoked a feeling of sensuality in the most natural manner possible. 

RHTDM was the official Hindi remake of the Tamil movie Minnale (2001) by the same director. It also starred Madhavan as the protagonist but the character of the girl and her fiancé were played by Reema Sen and Abbas respectively. 

All the songs from Minnale were repeated in RHTDM and translated in Hindi by Sameer. 

In an old Tamil interview, Harris had spoken about the track ‘Vaseegara’ [‘Zara Zara’ in Hindi] and its success. He said, “I don’t know why the song worked. It was a simple song, a melody without any gamakams (variations). I had planned to use a bass voice to establish an individuality as a composer. Then I decided to compose on a lower note. I had heard a number of songs by KJ Yesudas in Malayalam, which were on a lower note. So I wondered why this could not be done for a female voice.” 

Although this was his first film as a composer, he said he wasn’t nervous. “Working on your first film, there was no fear. I was a keyboard player, so I could always go back to that,” he added. 

During an interview with Film Companion earlier this year, Bombay Jayashree shared how she bagged ‘Vaseegara’. It was unusual for someone specializing in Carnatic music to sing a mainstream movie song. When she got a call from Harris, she mistook him for the Malayalam filmmaker Jayaraj, with whom she had worked before. She realized her folly only when Harris Jayaraj met her in person and asked her to sing the song for his film. 

“He right away played the tune and asked me to sing,” she said. “Lyricist Thamarai joined us later and we got along very well. It felt like a reunion of sorts and we finished the recording in two hours. On my way back home in an auto-rickshaw, my brother called, and as we discussed the recording, I sang the song to him amidst the din of traffic buzz. He couldn’t connect to it.”

Speaking about the reception the song got, she added, “After the movie got released, I started hearing the song everywhere – streets, tea stalls, and even as ringtones. Initially, I was a bit worried since I was knee-deep into Carnatic music, but I felt I should explore and see where this goes. My younger fans came back to me saying they loved the song and asked me to sing more like this.”