"Between the adored and the adorer falls the shadow." - Salman Rushdie
Almost every scary movie includes scenes where fear is enhanced through what we see (or think we see) lurking in the shadows. Shadows are the embodiment of the fear of the unknown. In Yash Chopra's 1993 psychological thriller Darr: A Violent Love Story, that which lurks in the shadows begins to reach out.
It helps non-Hindi speakers to know that the English translation of "Darr" is "Fear." In describing this film, Zee News, India writes:
Love can be dangerous, brutal and obsessive. That’s what Yash Chopra told us in Darr. An emotion, which on celluloid was always presented in its purest form, suddenly got an obsessive twist in Darr. Shah Rukh Khan’s first film with Chopra (Yash Chopra started working with SRK in all his films thereon) saw him playing an obsessive lover to Kiran Awasthi (Juhi Chawla) who was married to Sunil Malhotra (Sunny Deol) in the film. The music was fresh and SRK’s psycho lover act made the audience gape in awe at the new actor.
"Fear has a large shadow, but he himself is small" - Ruth Gendler
Kiran is adored by Sunil and an unnoticed admirer who we know to be Rahul Mehra (Shah Rukh Khan), a college classmate and the son of Sunil's boss. Unknown, unloved, and unstable, Rahul lurks in the shadows pining after Kiran, convinced she belongs to him. At the beginning of Darr, we are told that "when love crosses limits, it becomes devotion. And when devotion goes astray, it becomes an obsession."
"The brightest flame casts the darkest shadow" - George R.R. Martin
Shadows and light go hand-in-hand. The more intense the light, the darker the shadow. To Rahul, Kiran is a very intense light to which he is irresistibly drawn. Rahul describes Kiran as "so beautiful that one is scared to even to look at her to their heart's content." He feels he is the only one who truly understands Kiran. He tells her that Sunil "doesn't even understand that you won't be happy in a concrete flat. ...You've to stay in a house where there are no walls, but layers of brightness and darkness."
"In life, everything awaits in the shadows for the suitable time to come out." - Mehmet Murat İldan
Rahul must step out of the shadows and bask in the light of Kiran, the light that allows him to exist. "If you take away even one thing from me, what will happen to me?" he asks her. Each time Rahul steps out of the shadow, he does so with aim and purpose while managing to hide his identity. After one nearly fatal incident (which he caused), Rahul visits Sunil in the hospital, shakes his hand, and tells him to beware of his unknown enemy's next attack.
"Fear is the lengthened shadow of ignorance." - Arnold H. Glasgow
As Rahul's disturbing actions increase, Kiran becomes anxious. She is fearful of this unknown intruder who could be lurking nearby, ready to terrorize her again at any moment. As Kiran's protector, Sunil doesn't fully understand how dark a shadow Rahul has cast on her life, or what really lurks in that shadow.
"Shadows kiss without kissing, touch without touching, yearn for love, never knowing it's warmth." - Ruth Walters
Because Rahul lives in a world of shadows, no one -- not even his father -- understands how far into the darkness he has gone. Rahul is deeply devoted to Kiran. His life revolves around her. But Rahul loves without understanding what love is. He loves the image of Kiran without truly understanding the person.
"A woman's hopes are woven of sunbeams; a shadow annihilates them." - George Eliot
When he overhears Sunil tell Kiran, "There isn't enough space between the two of us that some third person could creep in," Rahul decides to take action. That action causes much pain and suffering for Kiran but it is not within Rahul's nature to understand the devastation he leaves in his wake. While he extends the reach of his shadow, he begins to extinguish the light in her life.
"Shadows had invaded a long time ago and stolen his life." - Christine Feehan
At some point Rahul seems to enjoy the cat-and-mouse game he is playing with Kiran and Sunil. It gives his life additional meaning and purpose. But when Sunil finally - and violently - confronts him about the truth, Rahul says, "How can you kill someone who is already dead?"
"Shadow owes its birth to light." - John Gay
Near the end of the film, Rahul again tells Kiran he loves her saying, "My life began with your love and ended with your love." But because he is so dependent on Kiran's light, his life must always be that of a shadow.
In a conversation with Shah Rukh Khan in 2012, Yash Chopra explained that,
"The biggest desire of every human being is to be loved. Loved more and more. Again and again ... I don't make romantic films ... I make my films. I make films of human relations. A human being is a very complex creature. There are no villains in my romantic movies. I believe a man is a hero and a villain. Destiny makes you and ruins you. I decide to love someone and that becomes my choice. It could be right or wrong."
Rahul is a tragic villain. His love is deep, but destiny forbids him from getting the girl. While he knows what he is doing is wrong, he cannot stop himself. As you watch the story unfold, you hold onto hope that Rahul can be redeemed in some way. But he is obsessed - and his obsession is his undoing.
The closer he comes to the light, the darker this shadow becomes.
According to Yash Chopra's son Uday Chopra, actor Hrithik Roshan came up with the name Darr for this film:
"Hrithik and me were seeing a movie once, a very less known movie called Dead Calm. And we saw the video of that film and we decided to make Adi [Aditya Chopra] see, just to show a very good film. Adi saw that film and he loved it instantly. That is the inspiration for Darr which came about. And in fact, the title Darr is the title Hrithik had kept for a movie that he had made, an amateur film which he had actually shot. It was Hrithik’s title and when Adi decided on making this film, he told Hrithik that "I'm gonna use this title because it suits very well."
If you enjoyed this post, check out our other Darr posts.