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    Feb 2010


    Default Where has love vanished? Bollywood's bastardization of romance

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    In 1970 when Asha Parekh did Kati Patang about a widow’s right to rebuild her life there was not even a touch or a caress between the widow and the superstar Rajesh Khanna who played the silent lover.

    Distributors were aghast. “How can we have the biggest romantic star of all times not even embracing once with his heroine? Audiences would boo the film out of theatres.”

    But director Shakti Samanta stuck to his guns. No way. The widow wouldn’t cuddle up to the lover-boy, come what may.

    Cut to Bejoy Nambiar’s David released earlier this month. As per plot, young talented actor Vinay Virmani has a special fondness for the neighborhood widow Lara Dutt. They never exchange true confessions, let alone any physical intimacy except a chaste hug. Apparently Virmani who is from Toronto insisted there should be “at least a kiss” since this is a couple today and not like the widow and her suitor in Kati Patang 40 years ago.

    But Bejoy was very clear. “As far as I was concerned my characters were not at liberty to cross the lakshman rekha. I explained it to Vinay and I hope he understood.”

    Such restraint at a time when girls in movies look at guys straight into the eye and ask, “have you cum as yet?”(ref: Ragini MMS) is not only a rarity, it’s extinct.

    Says Asha Parekh fondly, “It’s all too blatant and upfront in today’s films. When I did Kati Patang with Rajesh Khanna there was Anand Bakshi’s poetry to express love between the couple in love. In the very romantic Yeh shaam mastani madhosh kiye jaye mujhe dore koi kheenche teri ore liye jaye, Rajesh Khanna didn’t even brush his hand against me. But the intense feelings got through. Those were times of forbidden love. Relationships were monitored by parents. Today which 20-something girl or boy would listen to the parents if he or she forbade a marital alliance? Forget marriage, we now have live-in relationships. And that too we get to see in our films (e.g Ayan Mukerjee’s Wake Up Sid).”

    Ashaji who blazed a romantic trail in the 1960s with breezy musicals like Teesri Manzil and Mere Sanam feels cinema is only a reflection of the reality that exists outside society. “Today we have songs devoid of poetry. We can’t even make out what the lyrics are trying to say! There was a time when even in a fun film like Nasir Hussain Saab’s Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon , there was an intensely romantic song like Aanchal mein sajaa lena kaliyan zulfon mein sitare bhar lena.”

    Ashaji narrates a frightening incident that indicates the changing mores in our times. “I was directing a television serial some years ago when we got to know that the hero was secretly married. We demanded a celebration. He said, ‘Let the marriage cross six months then we’ll celebrate’. I was aghast to hear this. Is this what marriages have come to? I couldn’t marry because I was unfortunate in the matter. But looking at the uncertainty surrounding marriages today maybe I am better off this way. I believe for every 1000 marriages there are 700 divorces.”

    Romance and love are no more the sacred keys unraveling the man-woman relationship. And the sooner we realize this the better. Yash Chopra who patented love on screen once said to me, “I remember in my first film as director Dhool Ka Phool there was a sequence where a man and woman on different bicycles fell on each other. The censors asked me to delete the scene. Today men and women are falling over each other for no reason. No one raises an eyebrow. When I think of a love scene I don’t calculate how much should be exposed or which angle to capture the lead pair in. It should come from the heart. Otherwise, it looks fake. People should connect with the romantic emotion. Not one member of any Indian family would be embarrassed by the love scenes in my films. Somewhere there’s a love story unfolding at every given point. I decided to give a new twist to the emotion called love in my films. If I can touch even one person’s heart in any corner of the world I’m a happy filmmaker.”

    Raakhee Gulzar who epitomized Yash Chopra’s definition of feminine beauty in Kabhi Kabhie leads a life of blissful retirement on her farm house outside Mumbai. She didn’t visit the director whom she so inspired when he passed away. “I didn’t want to see Yash like that. I wanted to remember him as the eternal romantic weaving beautiful poetry into cinema. Yes, Kabhi Kabhie revolved around my character and much poetry (written by the great Sahir Ludhianvi) was lavished on me.

    I don’t think there’s much scope for poetry or romance in the films today. Times have changed. And you can see the effects of consumerism in the way man-woman relationships are handled on screen. Even Bengali films are corrupted by the crass consumerism evident in Hindi films. I am saddened to see even Bangla films are badly copying bad Hindi films. The lack of poetry and romance are evident in our films. I don’t watch new films. When I see them on television I can’t make out what the heroines feel or what they want to express.”

    Raakhee who represented the figure of poetic lyricism in films like Sharmilee, Shradhanjali, Blackmail, Tapasya and Daag is hopeful of seeing romance return to screen. “Everything reaches a saturation point. And this era devoid of poetry and romance too shall pass.”

    Says Shabana Azmi, “I think romance has gone out of life. It is a generational thing and romance needs time which today’s generation is too impatient to give. Romance to me is about being considerate and thoughtful. It’s about planning to spend time together and placing your partner's likes above your own. I’m sure the young are romantic too but their expression is different. Young girls keep looking at me with envy and ask if my husband Javed Akhtar is romantic. I always say, ‘He doesnt have a single romantic bone in his body!’. When asked why that is so, Javed retorts, ‘If you are a trapeze artist does it mean you should hang upside down in your drawing room!!’

    And yet romance lives for Shabana and Javed Akhtar. A little-known fact about filmmaker Shaad Ali’s lately-culminated relationship with designer Aarti Patkar is that the alliance was designed bolstered sustained and even repaired and restored by Shabana Azmi and her husband Javed Akhtar whose association with Shaad’s parents Muzaffar Ali and Subhasini Saigal dates back to before Shaad was born. Close family friends, Javed and Shabana not only helped the Shaad-Aarti relationship through rocky weather, they also hosted a lavish all-night sangeet ceremony for Shaad and Aarti at their Khandala before the wedding.

    Javed wrote a poem specially dedicated to Shaad and Aarti’s togetherness that he recited at the wedding. The marital couple and the guest were in tears on hearing Javed’s words about a love that transcends all human obstacles.

    Such unabashed display of romantic yearning is getting progressively rare in our entertainment industry.

    The diehard romantics are struggling for survival in an industry taken over by cynicism and instant poetry. Pooja Bhatt in whose Jism we heard intensely romantic poems like Jadoo hai nasha hai madhoshiyan and Chalo tumko lekar chalen is determined to preserve her penchant for poetry. “I prefer the deep to the banal. I am aware more than most that in this emotionally barren world I am in a minority. I’d rather hum Teri jhuki nazar from Murder 3 than some inane song that has no relevance beyond the immediate.”

    Pooja feels romance has gone out of life. “Nobody wants to invest, reveal, share emotions. They are unafraid to jump into physical relationships with zero emotional investment. It seems the same kind of sterile detached relationships are expected in our films.”

    The actress who once paired up with Aamir Khan in the romantic saga Dil Hai Manta Nahin feels there is scope for romance in today’s cinema. “Randeep Hooda’s character in Jism 2 was by far the most darkly brooding yet romantic man we’ve seen in our films in ages. And yet a large part of the audience wrote off his poetic side as unrealistic.”

    Writer-poet Prasoon Joshi who has written some of the rare romantic numbers in today’s times, feels physical promixity among screen lovers has killed romance. “Romance blossoms in tehzeeb (decorum). It flourishes in the absence of the object of adoration when physical proximity is not blatant. Distance—both physical and societal—plays a big role in giving a larger-than-life aura to love.”

    Subhash Ghai whose Hero and Taal are among the most romantic films of our times feels romance can never go out of fashion. “Romance requires one to develop a lot of mutual spiritual, mental and physical feelings. It is all about give and take of unconditional emotions. Today unfortunately romance has become cosmetic and synthetic. But true romance will return. It’s a cycle.”

    Adds Bejoy Nambiar, “Romance and love need to be re-defined with the changing times. Movies are reflection of that change.”

    Like Prasoon Joshi ,Amole Gupte too feels romance is a casualty of overt proximity between couples. “Romance in the olden days was the fat spiky wall between zanaana (female) and mardaana (female). This wall created romantic flights of fantasy between couples. Ab who wall hi nahin raha. Otherwise human emotions are the same.”

    Filmmaker Ananth Mahadevan whose quirky rom-com Dil Maange More had scope for old-fashioned romance feels the world around us is mutating arbitrarily leaving little room for love and romance. “I was recently shocked to read an article about what not to say after sexual intercourse. Such an explicit write up was unimaginable in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. It sums up the so-called liberal mindset of today’s youth who have never read time as the clock-hands moved. Feelings, particularly romance have become push-button technology.”

    Mahadevan feels romance is as good as dead. “The so-called new-wave filmmakers exploit sexual themes. We’ve left true emotions far behind in our films. Today’s generation would probably mock the intense romanticism of Madhubala and Dilip Kumar in Tarana, Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman in Pyaasa and Raj Kapoor and Nargis in Barsaat. It’s their loss. They got directly promoted to college without going through the joy of learning the alphabet in school!”

    Kalpana Lajmi who made the lyrically love-lorn Ek Pal misses the romantic ripples that Rajesh Khanna created in the 1970s. “The way romance is perceived today is radically different. For my generation Aradhana was the trendsetter.

    Love and romance were celebrated with poetic expressions and sexuality was underplayed. In the song Roop tera mastana passion was represented by the blazing fire and longing by the saxophone playing in the background.”

    18 years after Aradhana Kalpana tried to imbibe some of that romantic yearning in Ek Pal. “It was a romance but with sex. I showed the protagonist Shabana Azmi’s unabashed love-making with her lover out of wedlock. I feel love-making is a natural culmination of the feelings shared by two adults in love. Nowadays sex is far more prosaic. There is no romance underlining physical intimacy. But I feel Sudhir Mishra’s Inkaar and Reema Kagti’s Talaash brilliantly showed the changing sexual mores of today’s times.”

    Kunal Kohli whose Hum Tum was a Valentinian treat is optimistic about the future of love and romance in our films. “Being a diehard romantic I can never believe romance will die. The trend is towards masala action these days. But romance will return.”



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