Taking us right from snow-capped mountains in Switzerland to Punjab ke sarso ke khet, Aditya Chopra told a simple story of a girl and boy falling in love but there was something more magical about it. The film is the iconic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in the lead roles, the Aditya Chopra directorial debut became an instant hit. Packaged with stunning locations, soulful songs that brought to life every human emotion and of course, a supremely talented ensemble cast, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge had the right ingredients in equal measures to win hearts.
While Shah Rukh and Kajol were at the epicenter, the other actors around them played a key role in taking their story forward. One of them is Parmeet Sethi. Parmeet aka Kuljeet Singh in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was the guy with whom Simran aka Kajol’s ‘rishta’ is fixed. Parmeet as the physically strong and mentally dumb Kuljeet played the role to the T and is still remembered by his character’s name. Had he not been there, the film would have probably turned out to be a half-baked delicacy.
Today, as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge celebrates its silver jubilee, Parmeet spoke to PeepingMoon about how he came on board and the way he got into the skin of Kuljeet. Sharing instances from the sets, Parmeet revealed that his actress wife Archana Puran Singh helped him get the Punjabi flavour in his speech right.
Excerpts from the interview:
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is a classic, even after 25 year of release it feels fresh. Did you expect this back then?
None of us even expected Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge to be a classic. Not even for a second. We just thought we are doing a good film but nobody knew it will become a cult film. I’m privileged to be a part of it.
What worked in favour of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge?
The simplicity of the story and the storytelling. The characters that Aditya Chopra created were fresh. It was something we had not seen on-screen till then.
What was your first reaction on reading the script? How did you come on-board?
Those days, the full script didn’t come to you but the scenes were given to you. I had the full narration from Aditya and that was my first introduction to the film. I was completely mesmerised by how the film takes you from all over Europe first and then all the way to Punjab.
I had to almost beg for a screen test. Aditya had already chosen somebody (Armaan Kohli). I was firm that I needed the role badly and Aditya agreed to a screen-test.
Was Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge a gamechanger?
Obviously. Even after 25 years, I’m still known as Kuljeet. Many people don’t know my real name and recognise me as Kuljeet. I wear a medal on my chest for being a part of such a big film and history.
Was it challenging to make your particular character a memorable one?
I did work on it. Aditya was very clear on what he wanted and he conveyed that on the very first day. I tried to do it like Big Moose of Archie Comics. He is somebody who has got little brain. That’s the way I approached the character. It was very interesting. My wife Archana helped me a lot in this. She helped me get that North Indian touch. She is from North India and I’m from Mumbai. She helped me get that flavour to character.
Were you offered typical roles after Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge?
The second film I did was Diljale as the second lead. After that, people wanted me to do negative roles. I wasn’t interested in doing cardboard cut-out roles. I wasn’t too happy but I retrospectively think that I should have maybe taken those films. I became too choosy.
Your most challenging scene?
None of the scenes are challenging actually. The scene in which I meet Shah Rukh’s Raj for the first time and he saves my life was kind of scary as it was my first day. That scene had multiple actors and the sun was going down. We didn’t have much time.
Any anecdotes that fans of the film aren’t well-versed with?
In the scene when I go to Shah Rukh’s room to call him for hunting, I improvised a bit and he enhanced it further. The scene wasn’t intended to be that comical but it turned out to be a beautiful one. That’s when I realised that having a good actor around you, makes you perform better. Shah Rukh was so giving and nice. Aditya was sweet enough to allow a new actor to improvise.
What are your thoughts on Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge getting a web version?
The story is timeless and that’s why we are talking about it even after 25 years. Be it a film or web show, it will definitely work. However, I’m not a big fan of remakes. There was something that happened during that time and everything went right. There was a reason. Let a classic be a classic.
Still in touch with your co-stars?
Any plans for a reunion
Not in the times of COVID though. Otherwise, I would love to.