Chandni had a female protagonist -- a norm less accepted in the 1980s. But it was Yash Chopra's obsession, and in a good way, with love triangles that the movie was brought onto the silver screen.
Not many know that Rekha was the first choice for the movie. It was very late into the planning and designing of the film that Sridevi was brought on board.
Chandni had everything that could make it a cult within the classes and the masses alike -- beautiful locales, beautiful actresses, a jukebox one could die for, big budget, candy floss, big stars and a love triangle. Yet it was the costumes that made the film a cult.
In Chandni, Sridevi is a figure of idolised beauty -- whites, off whites and beige, the actress' look was a whole new rage in India: the Chandni look. And it still continues to be.
More than this, what strikes a common chord with the feminist mind of today was the way Sridevi's Chandni was appreciated and admired by both her lovers -- Rohit, played by Rishi Kapoor and Lalit, by Vinod Khanna. For them, Chandni was a perfect woman.
For Rohit, who photographs, almost stalks, her as soon as he lays his sight on her, she was the epitome of beauty and grace. He decorated his room with her pictures and whitewashed over them when he claimed the relationship was over -- like an obsessive lover.
Lalit, on the other hand, was a mature lover -- the silent, supportive type. And men only become like that when they have suffered -- either a loss, or a heartbreak. For Lalit, losing Juhi Chawla's Devika was both -- a loss and a heartbreak. He was so invested in her and her beauty (an obsessive lover like Rohit) that his heart broke when he lost her to a terminal disease -- so much so that he hardened himself into not falling for women anymore.
Yet when he saw Chandni at the traffic signal, or his office, he got besotted with her -- perhaps, the only way he could let go of Devika and her memories.
Lalit's mother, played by the elegant Waheeda Rehman, drove him more into imagining a future with Chandni -- the strong, independent woman.
Chandni had become somewhat like his mother -- strong, independent, yet caring -- because of how Rohit treated her. And that's what made Lalit fall in love with her.
But when he saw Chandni had to choose between him and Rohit, he let go -- as most good men do, a kind of diversion from what the 1980s saw and the 1990s would see.
Played by the ever-charming Vinod Khanna, who along with Dharmendra was once hailed as the Greek God of Indian cinema, Lalit was a dream-come-true for women. He was emotionally mature (men generally are not till date), and his gentle and capacious love had helped Chandni heal and rebuild her own sense of self.
Every heart must have ached a little when Chandni chose Rohit over Lalit -- the immature lover over the more sorted person. But the movie, probably, wanted to give out this message -- there are many contradictions in love and marriage. And there seldom are happily-ever-afters. You don't have to always choose safety. You have to own the script of your life without making perfect decisions. Chandni, by that measure, is not your quintessential Hindi romantic movie of the 1980s.
At its heart, Chandni celebrates feminine beauty (and by not objectifying it) -- more precisely, Sridevi's timeless appeal. And love -- romantic love, sacrificial love and just love that a woman can have for a man, and a man can have for a woman.
The film is also a celebration of hope. When Suresh Wadkar in the song 'Lagi Aaj Saawan Ki Phir Woh Jhadi Hai' takes you down the memory lane and asks, "Kabhi toot kar cheez koi judi hai?" one feels Lalit's pain. But one also feels happy when he shows faith in Chandni.
Perhaps it was Vinod Khanna's portrayal of Lalit that robbed Chandni, the movie, of any complexity whatsoever. The pain in his eyes, and the regret of not having spent enough time with his lover were so subtly portrayed on screen that Lalit became a voice of Chandni's, the character, conscience.
Lalit let her go. Because he loved her. Because that's what love is. And that's what Yash Chopra was all about -- effusive beauty and timeless love.
IndiaTV recommends Chandni -- for its sheer beauty, for celebrating feminity without objectifying female body, Sridevi's elegance, and Vinod Khanna's Lalit.