With the umpteen numbers of romantic films being dished out every Friday, one couldn’t help wondering why the filmmakers chose to ignore the most important part of this genre: romance. Okay, we’re not expecting a Salim to roll a feather over his Anarkali’s face (has perils of causing her to sneeze), or swoon at the sight of the beloved (has perils of audience thinking that the girl hasn’t bathed since weeks), or two heads hiding behind two large flowers in a garden (has perils of audience expecting them to get beaten up by the moral police).
The least we as an audience can expect is to notice love in the lead pairs’ eyes. To begin with, when was the last time you saw intense love in the eyes of a hero (without extending arms towards her ala SRK) or the heroine being swept off her feet at the sight of the hero? (Without sniffing all the way to the men’s loo ala Rani Mukherjee in ‘Aiyya’).
Though flawed films, Lootera and Raanjhana had their moments where you are convinced that this character is indeed in love with the girl (Ranveer looking at Sonakshi by the lakeside in Lootera) or the guy (Sonam teasing Abhay when he is arrested at college premise). Such moments have become so rare in films that you wish the director or editor had paused for a while and dwelt on them tad longer than what we get to watch.
Looking back, the films in 60s and 70s were replete with such moments. There’s a scene in the song, ‘Tu kahan yeh bataa’ in the Dev Anand-Nutan starrer Tere Ghar Ke Saamne (1963), where Nutan walks to her home’s gallery and flashes a million-dollar smile at the sight of her beloved. The smile is eloquent enough to express love that this character has for the other.
In Asli Naqli (1962), again a Dev Anand starrer, this time sharing screen with Sadhana, they are shown working in the same office. During lunch break, Dev Anand’s character doesn’t have anything to eat and Sadhana’s character promptly shares her tiffin with him. Dev Anand gorges on the tiffin and Sadhana simply watches him. No dialogues spoken, yet love is expressed in its most subtle and purest form. Similarly, watch Devdas starring Dilip Kumar and you’ll know what desperation in love means, which is far more than slashing wrists at the drop of a hat.
Pick up any love song from the 50s to 80s era, right from ‘Abhi na jaao’ (Hum Dono), ‘Chalo ek baar phir se’ (Gumraah), Pal pal dil ke paas (Black Mail), Teri bindiya re (Abhimaan), Chaudvi ka chand (Chaudvi ka chand), Tere bina zindagi se (Aandhi), Bade ache lagte hain (Balika Vadhu), Dil ki nazar se (Anari), Tere mere sapne, Gaata rahe, Din dhal jaaye (Guide), ‘Mere sapno ki raani’, ‘Kora kagaz tha’ (Aaradhna), ‘Yeh kahan aa gaye hum’, ‘Dekha ek khwaab’, Neela aasmaan’ (Silsila), Aapki aankhon mein (Ghar), the list is endless. Even the abbreviated films like MPK, HAHK, DDLJ, DTPH, KKHH, K3G had their moments where the audience bought the idea that the two characters were indeed in love with each other – the melodrama, white chiffon sarees and repetitive embrace act of SRK notwithstanding. At least love was there in the love stories and romance was evident in the romantic sagas, which is something missing today.
For instance, a fleeting glance at the trailer of Ram Leela (Now called ‘Goliyon ki raas-leela – Ram Leela) convinces you that Ranveer wants to grab the heroine and smooch her (which he eventually gets to do in the trailer) and Deepika is dying to make out with the hero desperately with those Kamasutra inspired smoke et al. Even the song proclaims, ‘Lahu mooh lag gaya’ instead of celebrating the feeling of being in love. Where has the romance gone? Since the film is said to have been based upon ‘Romeo and Juliet’, are they going to kill each other just because they aren’t allowed to mate? The recently released film from the Yashraj stable, ‘Shuddh Desi Romance’, too, was just ‘Shuddh’ and ‘Desi’. Where was the romance amid all the stuff about live-in relationship, premarital sex (in an anti-marriage film), smoking ciggies and getting confused and resorting to the loo at every point of time? It’s like going to watch an action film and being contended with few slapping scenes in the name of action.
Well you might argue that those were different times where love had a different meaning and expression all together. In all honesty, I have never been a great fan of romantic films, but the very act of replacing love with lust in romantic films is criminal.
The audience is left with the choice of finding solace in scenes where Aamir Khan is dumbfounded on being confronted about love by Priety Zinta after watching an opera in ‘Dil Chahta hai’, the letter correspondence in ‘The Japanese Wife’, the star gazing scene in ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, the ‘cooking together’ scene in ‘Love Shuv Te Chicken Khurana’, and as a friend Preeti Singh aptly pointed out, the priceless expression of Ranbir Kapoor in Barfi in the climax when he finds Priyanka back, combs his hair and asks Ileana if he looks fine.
Having said that, the note-exchanging in ‘The Lunchbox’ (It seems to be the only romantic film we’ve watched so far in decades) are easily the most romantic scenes we’ve seen in recent times. But alas, such gems are few to savour in love stories of our times, compelling one to pick up DVDs of the yore and revel in the mist of love and nostalgia.
This current scenario resonates with the dialogue that Shahrukh Khan’s character says to Rani Mukherjee’s character in the movie, ‘Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna’ (okay KANK!): Mohabbaton ke jamaane gujar gaye janaab. Ab chhote mote pyar se hi kaam chalaa leejiye aap. Point noted, sir.