Dil se ("From the heart") is difficult to describe. It begins with a trope fairly common in Bollywood romance – boy Amar (Shah Rukh Khan) spots girl Meghna (Manisha Koirala), decides on sight they were made for eachother, and begins to court her. Only this time, the standard romance setup comes with a twist: the girl is a terrorist with a horrifyingly troubled past.
Amar is blissfully unaware aware of Meghna’s dark story – he only perceives her sadness and mystery, and insists that he can save her. Though at moments he may manage to get through to her, Meghna is ultimately too deeply broken to allow someone to love her as Amar wishes to. These are interesting story elements, as is the film's ambivalence about whether what Amar feels is actually love, or a nearly pathological obsession. Keeping the latter possibility in mind is the only thing that makes the first 45 minutes of Dil se watchable, as Amar's aggressive and obnoxious pursuit of Meghna is thoroughly unromantic and maddeningly irritating to watch, unless you think there is anything sexy about a man who won't leave a woman alone even if she rejects him firmly and repeatedly. Manisha Koirala's sad performance is wonderful; she inhabits Meghna with the tense bearing of a wounded animal, and she carries the film through these early bumps in the script.
I give Dil se credit for having the courage to end its story messily and honestly – it follows through on the hopelessness of the pairing (though it drags in the last act leading up to that payoff), rather than tacking on an inappropriate and jarring happy ending. Dil se also features some absolutely gorgeous cinematography, including five or so lusciously picturized songs from the infectious, driving A.R. Rahman score. Indeed, the music is by far the best thing about Dil se, especially the perfectly crafted and addictive song "Chaiyya chaiyya," shot on top of a moving train. The other songs are lovely too, and their deeply poetic lyrics contemplate the nature of love and devotion, invoking themes from the mystical Sufi tradition.