Is Bollywood Romance Coming Of Age?
So you’re set for a date tonight?
How are you going to woo her?
“Jab bhi koi ladki dekhun, mera dil deewana bole, ole, ole..”
“Tu cheez badi hai mast mast..”
This is really wei..
“Chumma chumma de de..”
If your idea of romance comes from the slew of ludicrous, often revenge-themed, always violence-themed, gore-filled films that dominated a great section of the Bollywood 80s-90s (Gunda, Jigar, Sher-e-Hindustan, Saugandh, Karan Arjun.. you get the idea), your love life might not ever turn out the way you envisioned it (sorry, stalking and objectifying is never flattering).
Let’s just say there’s a reason these pieces of art never made it to the romantic classics hall of fame of our film industry; and a good thing too.
Cut to the “King of Bollywood romance“, armed with a banjo and a catchy tune, in a field of yellow mustard crops, stretching out his arms as the wonderful lady in white rushes to embrace her foreign-bred-hero-with-desi-values, taking the breath away of an entire nation and marking the beginning of what seems like an era of NRI-ish romances.
This reigning era of the Johars and Chopras saw (primarily) Shah Rukh Khan romance an assortment of ladies who would usually be vying for his attention, in an assortment of foreign locations, stealing them from an assortment of often nice, always friend-zoned fiancées, winning them and the Indian audience over with his dimples and goofy charm. The Barjatyas too would occasionally pop up with their clean, pristine, family-pleasing (featuring Alok Nath, the legendary Alok Nath), we’re-all-in-this-together love stories/family sagas with Prem teaching the world that there’s “no sorry’s and no thank you’s in dosti(friendship)”.
Romance ruled the roost, maybe. But let’s be honest, we remember this era mostly for the lavish colourful weddings, the innumerable, gratuitous family functions and the latka-jhatkas in gorgeous Manish Malhotra lehengas.
But have you noticed the change in the air? Have you felt the way romance in Hindi Cinema seems to stretch out its arms and refuse to be defined or restricted by “types” anymore? Do you see an entire new era of romance marking its beginning? Call me crazy, but I, for one, do.
Romance in Bollywood, this new age cinema seems to reason, does not always have to be about “masala” song-dance routines (inclusive of running around the trees, elaborately choreographed routines, and let us not even get started on the costume changes), about unnecessary conflict and opposition, and least of all, about melodrama.
Maybe romance in Bollywood, like the protagonist of a glorious bildungsroman, is finally “coming of age”. 2013 was a wonderful year for redefining romance in Bollywood, with unconventional love stories and characters, crisp storytelling and tender handling of relationships, exceptional writing and superb dialogues.
The less said about this film, the better. Nah, not because it’s that bad. But because it is just that indescribably good.
For Vikramaditya Motwane, the man who gave us the stellar “Udaan”, less is more, as Amit Trivedi’s mellow, soulful music, coupled with coy, stolen glances and confessions in hushed tones of the lovers carry this gem of a film to a gratifying climax and usher Bollywood romances forward in to a new, mature era (or take us back to the good ol’ heart-warming classics, depends on how you view it).
Set in the glory and charms of the 1950s, the film could easily have fallen into the regular pattern of exploiting its period setting, lingering unnecessarily on historical issues, adding revised versions of old hindi classic songs meant as an “ode” to the era and tactics of the sort. Instead, the 1950s acts as a silent character of its own, somewhere in the background, present yet not too obvious, carrying the love story forward, while the romance itself has the subtle allure not witnessed anytime in the recent years. (The scene that follows Pakhi finding Varun painting at the back of her house in Dalhousie, in the snow, where they share adoring glances for the briefest moment (and one knows all is forgiven in her heart), is my favourite).
Aashiqui 2: I had no expectations from Aashiqui2 (I was not alone), and though I don’t consider it to be a masterpiece by a long shot, what stood out as the most laudable element in the film was the deliberate, gentle handling of the tender and yet tumultuous relationship between the lovers.
A mentor and a protégée, unconditional love, bruised ego, self-destruction, sounds familiar? Sure. But it takes some admirable and earnest storytelling to make you look past that obvious fact and sit and fawn over the intensity of their relationship.
No gimmicks, no unnecessary, bothersome sub-plots or comic reliefs, no naach-gaana with backup dancers; the devoted, unwavering attention that the director pays to the build-up and blossoming of their relationship is surpassed only by that of Rahul towards Arohi’s dreams and of Arohi towards Rahul’s needs.
Raanjhana: Though some believe it to be another extension of the notorious stalker-gets-the-girl syndrome, I beg to differ.
At its heart, Raanjhana is anything but a boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-girl saga (she can never bring her
self to love him until the very end) – it is a beautiful, devastating tale of a lone heart’s journey that snubs the idea that only Happily Ever Afters make a whirlwind romance, and that unrequited love, no matter how true, is devoid of any worth or value unless the boy-gets-the-girl. Moreover, it wonderfully deals with a plethora of issues and raises a number of questions through the chasms that Kundan constantly strives to bridge between Zoya’s heart and his; chasms of religion, intellectual superiority and beauty.
Shuddh Desi Romance: There’s three weddings and yet no one gets married.
Because no one wants to.
-But they are in love!
After years of being told (by Bollywood itself) that a happy ending to a good love story is marriage and marriage only, in 2013, a wonderful film comes along that tells us it is not so.
In the theatres, one can imagine families being led to believe, going by the title, that they are in for some aforementioned Barjatya-style, clean, pristine romance and one can also imagine their horror at discovering there is nothing “shuddh” i.e. pure about the way this brazen guy, Raghu and the ladies, Gayatri and Tara, go about handling their matters of the heart.
Gayatri and Raghu share a kiss the very first time they meet, end up in a “live-in” relationship, are commitment-phobic and run away from weddings, while the feisty Tara is anything but heartbroken at being deserted by her groom and goes on to flirt with and date the very man! One can imagine the audience going, “Haww, aisa humare India me nahi hota” (Things like these don’t happen in our India), and forcing their oblivious, unsuspecting children to cover their eyes. And it is exactly this – turning a blind eye to the truth of the modern, nonconformist lifestyle of India’s youth – that this witty charming romance wishes to examine, without sloganeering and with a lot of heart and humour.
These are, of course, only a few from an ever-growing list of spirited new-age romances and while there’s no denying that we always find a strange comfort in the familiar (our very own DDLJ and K2H2), here’s to ushering in a new wave of fables of love!