Twenty years ago, Dil Chahta Hai introduced realistic portrayal of youth to Hindi cinema and changed filmmaking forever. Actress Sonali Kulkarni played the vivacious city girl Pooja who is in search of love. She meets Sameer (Saif Ali Khan), a hopeless romantic. It was still her early days in Bollywood but post release, everyone knew who Sonali was, partly because the song Woh Ladki Hai Kahan became synonymous with her and Saif.
Looking back, she tells us, “This movie means the world to me because it was a turning point in my career. I am so glad and grateful that Zoya Akhtar saw my photos, took my audition and Farhan (Akhtar) and Ritesh (Sidhwani) selected me as Pooja. It was certainly a life changer. To this day, I feel it has been a landmark film in my career and I am extremely proud to have been part of it. I never imagined the kind of success it has achieved. I was happy to be part of this fabulous gang. The kind of songs and scenes I got, I was just really excited to do them. One of my best birthday celebrations was on Dil Chahta Hai set. The unit showered me with lots of greetings and love.”
Dil Chahta Hai marked Farhan Akhtar’s debut as director while Sonali had already started getting her foot in the door with some good films in the South. She’d also debuted in Bollywood with Mission Kashmir and followed it up with Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya. About putting faith in first time filmmakers, she emphasises, “I have always shown a lot of trust in debutantes. The kind of enthusiasm and raw energy they bring to the project, that really matters. I have never shied away from working with first timers. Working with Farhan was such a joy because he has a very good sense of humour. His wit is out of the box. He is extremely spontaneous. I felt I never had a gang in Mumbai and this film taught me that life can be beautiful with friends like these around.”