Chapter 22: Dil Chahta Hai and Shakespeare

Ladki ka naam Cressida hai and ladke ka naam Troilus.

Dil Chahta Hai has two connections with Shakespeare. In the beginning moments of Jaane Kyon, Shalini is standing near the waterside. A boat with the words ‘Much Ado’ written on it is behind her. Many film historians have surmised this to be some connection between the film and Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing observing parallels between the stories of Beatrice and Benedick, and Shalini and Akash. In an interview with The Guardian, Rajiv Verma, a professor of English at the University of Delhi and former vice-president of Shakespeare Society of India, said, “...the big hit Dil Chahta Hai, which looked at the conflict between romantic love and male bonding. It was an unacknowledged remake of Much Ado About Nothing, but the only clue was that in one shot there was a boat in a harbor that was clearly named Much Ado.” Jonathan Giles, a professor of English at Ashoka University, in his book Masala Shakespeare also mentions something similar. In an interview with Livemint, he said, “I remember thinking early on while watching Dil Chahta Hai, wow, this is really reminding me of Much Ado About Nothing, these three friends for whom heterosexual love is both an aspiration but also an interruption of their bond. Then came a scene in Sydney Harbour where the boat appears with the name “Much Ado About Nothing”. I turned to my partner and said, “Oh my God, because I’d told her about half an hour ago, this is really reminding me of Much Ado.” However, Farhan Akhtar has denied any linkages between the two and said that the boat title was only a coincidence.

The boat has Much Ado written on it, which some historians read as a reference to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

The second link of the film with Shakespeare comes with the opera Cressida and Troilus through which Akash finally gets to experience the feeling of love. The film credits the opera to be conceived and executed by John Senczuk. There is also a play by the Bard with the same title that tells the story of a Trojan prince Troilus who falls in love with Cressid as war rages around them. After promising to be faithful, Cressida is sent to the Greek camp, where she agrees to see another man. Troilus witnesses Cressida’s unfaithfulness and vows to put more effort into the war. The play ends after further deaths on both sides and with no resolution in sight. While the ending does not seem to align with the events shown in Dil Chahta Hai, the influences from Shakespeare’s works can be seen in the opera. Richard Burt and Lynda E. Boose, in their book Shakespeare, The Movie II: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, Video, and DVD make some fascinating observations on the Shakespearean nature of the opera in the film. They argue that the play Cressida and Troilus is modeled on Englishman William Walton’s opera made for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1954. They write, “The Much Ado reference (in Dil Chahta Hai) certainly brings Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida to mind when we see the English opera as does the Shakespearean spelling of Cressida in the subtitles but Walton modeled the opera, itself imported to Sydney in the film, on Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem Troilus and Criseyde rather on Shakespeare’s play directly. The opera performance indirectly suggests Shakespeare’s secondariness in another way, namely, by calling into question Shalini’s distinction between film (mere fluff) and live performance (high culture).”

Cressida and Troilus in Dil Chahta Hai.

This is the beauty of art—It touches people in different ways, making them relate to other stories, even if there was no authorial intent.