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February 27, 2015

A Romance Reboot

Text by Shashi Baliga

Love in Hindi movies has come a long way from the symbolic representation of two flowers brushing against each other. Verve talks about the themes that Bollywood is currently in love with

It’s 2015. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge has celebrated over 1,000 weeks, which makes it close to 20 years since it first stole our hearts in 1995.

Yash Chopra, the ‘King of Romance’ has passed away, and it’s been close to 40 years since Kabhie Kabhie (1976); nearly 35 years since Silsila (1981) and close to 25 years since Lamhe (1991).

Time for a romance reboot, don’t you think?

For decades now, Yash and Aditya Chopra have shaped millions of Indians’ idea of romance. Lovers who spout poetry at the lowering of an eyelash; passions that simmer and are ready to wait, wait, wait for years on end; dupattas and pallus that float picturesquely in the pristine Swiss breeze; music, glorious music, that fills the air… ah, it’s an exquisite, idyllic vision, even when the path of true love is rocky and troubled.

But here’s the thing: ask anyone to name their top 10 romantic Hindi movies…and ask yourself too. Now, how many Yash or Aditya Chopra films feature in that list? You might be surprised. If you’re under 25, good chances are it will be just DDLJ.

The Chopra school of romance is still seductive and always will be. Twenty years from now, we’ll still go mushy when DDLJ plays: that’s how great films work. But love cannot live by Yash Raj alone. Besides, our world has changed and so have our films.

So who else besides the Chopra Sr or Jr feature on your list? Sanjay Leela Bhansali with his Devdas? Or Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam? If you’re young, maybe there’s Jab We Met or Band Baaja Baraat.

Whatever your choices, once that list is done, take a good look at it. Do you see a pattern in there? Are you a sucker for unhappy endings with both boy and girl reaching a dead end? Do you like those love stories where everyone but the hero and heroine know they’re in love with each other? Or perhaps you like your romance served with danger and thrills?

Some tropes never go out of style — the eternal triangle, rich guy-poor girl and rich girl-poor boy, us-versus-the-world, the tragic Romeo-and-Juliet-style ending. They get constantly updated and served up afresh.

But life today, like some Facebook relationships, is complicated. And new themes fill our films even as we update the old.

Why didn’t anyone tell us?
It’s the most popular rom-com theme these days. From Jab We Met and Band Baaja Baraat to Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, we have two reasonably intelligent young people, one of whom is bafflingly unaware of the other’s feelings for them. Everyone else knows they’re in love, of course. We viewers are one better than the couple’s mandatory sidekicks or gang of friends; we also know that they’re going to fall into each other’s arms at the end. All we want to find out is how they get there.

Go away, I’m commitment-phobic
The frontrunner in this category has to be the misspelled but perfectly upfront I Hate Luv Storys. Of course, you know Imran Khan, the over-smart dude, is going to swear undying love at the end, just as Saif Ali Khan did in Love Aaj Kal or Aamir Khan did in Dil Chahta Hai. Like PK, they start off thinking, “Ee love toh hain bhaste of time,” but what to do, everyone loves to waste their time.

There’s a terrorist in my bed
A sign of our times is the number of storylines built around terrorism. And when romance enters this dark world, it’s not your conventional love story. Whether it is Dil Se or Fanaa or Kurbaan, there are no happy endings. Just a very unpleasant surprise — how little we know the people we love.

Gangsta cool
Some women like bad boys — even if they know life will be more guns than roses. Once Bollywood heroines romanced dacoits and smugglers; now they’re on to gangsters. Trigger-happy dudes can sing and dance and are nattily dressed, like Shah Rukh Khan in Don or Ajay Devgn in Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai. If they’re good-looking hunks, like John Abraham in Shootout at Wadala, we don’t mind skipping the well-dressed bit, okay?

How about loving yourself?
What do you do when you get dumped on the eve of your wedding? If you’re Rani in Queen, you don’t let it derail your honeymoon. Who needs a man for that? Especially when you can ‘find’ yourself without him. And learn to love yourself too. It’s the most dependable love affair you’ll have after all; you can be sure you’ll never be let down.

And if you’re stood up at the altar (or stupidly think you’ve been), you’ll find yourself some really nice guy like PK who’ll mean the world to you. And once in a way, you might decide to stand up the groom yourself and refuse to get married. That’s how a Shuddh Desi Romance may turn out today.

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