When we talk of the technical aspects of the filmmaking process, by default we only deal with images and sound. Cinema is storytelling through an audio visual medium. The visual part does constitute almost half of the film. Most of this visual path is covered in cinematography i.e., the frame composition, camera angles, and the camera movements.
But there is one important aspect of this visual communication tool that most of the filmmakers don’t give much importance to. This tool is Color. Only very established and great filmmakers use colors to the maximum capability and for giving the best emotional experience to the audience. We are emotionally affected by certain colors in a certain way. Although this does depend on the community or race to which one belongs.
There are three basic colors called primary colors that are the red blue and yellow combining of these primary colors makes secondary colors that are Orange purple and green. The combination of these primary and secondary colors make tertiary colors. Dr. Robert Plutchik created a wheel of emotions to illustrate different emotions with different color, which are used in visual storytelling.
Figure 1: (a) Types of Colors (2) Plutchik’s wheel of emotions (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Plutchik)
The individual colors have the following characteristics (Source: http://www.color-wheel-pro.com/color-meaning.html):
- BLUE is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven.
- GREEN is the color of nature. It symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, and fertility. Green has strong emotional correspondence with safety. Dark green is also commonly associated with money.
- RED is the color of fire and blood, so it is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire, and love.
- YELLOW is the color of sunshine. It’s associated with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy.
- WHITE is associated with light, goodness, innocence, purity, and virginity. It is considered to be the color of perfection.
There have been very less Indian films that have been using colors effectively. However, Farhan Akhtar directed Dil Chahta Hai (2001) has a very distinct colors usage. Looking beyond the layer of storytelling and the lead actor’s performances into the film, one can also see the beauty of how colors have been used to manipulate the viewer’s emotional connect to the story.
There is a very clear use of two colors throughout the film, i.e. Blue and Green. There is also use of Red color but it is used only when there is a discussion about love. Since the film is about the story of friendship and the fight within close friends, and also about understanding of love and getting matured in life, Blue, Green, Red, Purple, Yellow and White colors are used to depict these changes in the film.
Friendship: The bond of three friends is definitely shown by the use of saturated blue color. This is evident in the scenes involving the bonding of three friends, saturated blue color is present in the frame. Notice that even the car they drive to Goa is Blue.
Death or sadness: Whenever the mood of the film is of sadness or death, a less saturated tone of blue or green is used. Here the characters are shown surrounded by these colors and also wearing clothes of these shades.
Heartbreak: Only the character of Aakash (Aamir Khan) Siddharth goes through heartbreak in the film. Aakash’s love interest Shalini (Preity Zinda) is also shown surrounded with saturated green color during this phase. It is also interesting to see that even their first meeting is showcased in green.
Love: The feeling of love is expressed with the color Red. This is also true for the characters of Sameer and Puja. The color red also surrounds the characters when they are starting to feel each other.
It should be noted that whenever there is any depiction of love and even a discussion related to love (e.g. Between Akash and his father; Shalini’s uncle and Akash) we see a shade of Red in the frame.
However, the color red is not used for the love of the character Siddharth, except for the scene where he first time sees his love interest Tara (Dimple Kapadia). This may be since it has been a one-sided love and Tara does not have love towards Siddharth. For him, probably Yellow color is the symbol of love.
Energy and Liveliness: This is represented in the film with the use of saturated colors of Red, Yellow and Orange. This tone is mainly present during the Goa trip of the three friends and while Akash’s bonding with Shalini, where these characters are in the most joyful phase of their life.
Maturity: These three characters eventually mature with age and understand life and relationships. This is shown with the use of white or yellow shades, either in the clothes they wear or within the surrounding. This is noticeable during the conclusion of the film, even during the end credits, where the characters are wearing white dresses and not the usual colors that they were been associated throughout the film.
It is also interesting to note that during the whole course of the film, along with blue a the color green or greenish-yellow has always accompanied the characters, almost as a symbol of life that is surrounding and protecting these characters.
Please note that these purely my observations and point of view for the use of colors in Dil Chahta Hai, and I have not discussed or met the makers or have seen and read an interview of the makers in this context of the film. The filmmaking process involves lots of decisions to be made by the makers, some of which could be just co-incidences and unintentional. But during my innumerable watching of this film, a recurring color pattern throughout the film has motivated me to dig deep and try to understand how emotion is conveyed with the use of color.
Do watch this film again, this time with a different perspective. It is also interesting to note the color pattern of each characters costumes and the color scheme used in their respective rooms and their surroundings during the different mood of the film.