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Bollywood films that have explored extra-marital relations

With 'Hamari Adhuri Kahani' exploring the nuances of an extra-marital affair on the silver screen, we look at how some filmmakers have dealt with this theme over the years...

Most films celebrate the ideas of undying love, trust and loyalty. Weaving an extra-marital affair into the story is generally perceived as an aberration, something that the Indian audience finds difficult to accept even though infidelity is rather common. More often than not, the heroine ends up forgiving her hero and they live happily ever after. But there have been films, albeit far and few between, that explored the theme of love outside marriage in a realistic, mature way.

Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan in a still from, 'Hamari Adhuri Kahani'
Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan in a still from, 'Hamari Adhuri Kahani'

Also read: 'Hamari Adhuri Kahani' - Movie Review

With yet another film — 'Hamari Adhuri Kahani' - centered on extra-marital affair hitting the big screen, hitlist points out other movies that captured the essence of "illicit" relationships with the depth and sensitivity it deserves…

'Life In A... Metro' (2007)
Life In A... Metro (2007)
Director: Anurag Basu
Sensitivity meter: In one of the multiple parallel stories strung together, Shikha (Shilpa Shetty) is stuck in a loveless and bitter marriage. Neglected by an indifferent husband and bogged down by family chores, she finds comfort in the arms of an upcoming artiste, Akash (Shiney Ahuja). However, later, she feels guilty about straying and returns to her husband. The director, through Shikha’s character, presented the large majority of women who fail to muster the courage to quit a loveless marriage.
Hit or not: This critically acclaimed film was an average grosser at the domestic box office, the collections mostly aided by worth-of-mouth buzz.

'Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna' (2006)
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006)
Director: Karan Johar
Sensitivity meter: Dev (Shah Rukh Khan) and Rhea (Preity Zinta) are an unhappy couple owing to the former’s inferiority complex. So are Rishi (Abhishek Bachchan) and Maya (Rani Mukerji), who married him more out of a moral obligation than love. Dev and Maya meet by chance and are drawn towards each other given their common domestic situation. A lot of struggles, tears and heartaches later, the two unite.
Hit or not: Though sensitively dealt with, the sequence of events somehow failed to resonate with the audience.

'Astitva' (2000)
Astitva (2000)

Director: Mahesh Manjerekar
Sensitivity meter: It tells the tale of a lonely, frustrated wife (owing to her husband’s absence) having an extra marital affair with her music teacher. The film also touches upon issues of patriarchal dominance and domestic abuse. While many makers have often dealt with the subject of extra-marital affair in their films, this one’s progressive approach made the difference.
Hit or not: The movie failed to rake in the moolah, despute

'Aakhir Kyon?' (1985)
Aakhir Kyon? (1985)
Director: J Om Prakash
Sensitivity meter: The movie traces the journey of Nisha (Smita Patil) who decides to give direction to her life after she leaves her husband (Rakesh Roshan) on finding about his extramarital affair with her cousin (Tina Munim). Nisha then meets Alok (Rajesh Khanna) and they fall in love with each other and eventually get married. The film raised questions pertinent to the fabric of Indian society. Why are women expected to forgive infidelity and give their husbands a second chance? Why shouldn’t women be allowed to move on in life with another partner?
Hit or not: The film was a huge success at the box-office and is remembered for the powerful performances of lead actors.

'Arth' (1982)
Arth (1982)
Director: Mahesh Bhatt
Sensitivity meter: In every sense, it was a film way ahead of its time. The semi autobiographical film dealt with several issues simultaneously. At one level, it does speak of issues relating to marriage and infidelity, while on the other hand, it sends across a strong message on gender quality. The viewers see Pooja’s (Shabana Azmi) character grow from a dependant woman, who is shattered after her husband cheats on her, to a strong and an independent, emancipated person who finds her place under the sun. The tactful handling of real issues is what made this film a masterpiece.
Hit or not: Arth was a box-office hit and won Shabana Azmi a National Award for her power-packed performance.

'Ek Hi Bhool' (1981)
Ek Hi Bhool (1981)
Director: T Rama Rao
Sensitivity meter: The story revolved around a married couple Ram (Jeetendra) and Sadhna (Rekha) — how the latter deals with an unfaithful husband and brings up the couple’s son. The film, though simple in execution, had a huge impact by weaving in adequate amount of drama, comedy and emotion. The film, while dealing with the complexity of marriage and divorce, also brings forward the struggles of the middle-class and thus makes it relatable for the audience.
Hit or not: It did above average business at the ticket windows.

'Pati Patni Aur Woh' (1978)
Pati Patni Aur Woh (1978)
Director: BR Chopra
Sensitivity meter: While most films took the ‘serious’ path towards establishing the consequences of an extra-marital affair, this one provided comical relief. Ranjeet Chadda (Sanjeev Kumar) and Sharda (Vidya Sinha) fall in love and eventually get married. The couple has a son and life seems blissful, until Ranjeet’s secretary Nirmala Deshpande (Ranjeeta Jaur) comes into the picture. He gets into a relationship with Nirmala on the pretext of having a terminally ill wife back home. However, when Sharda finds out about his shenanigans, all hell breaks lose.
Hit or not: The film set the cash registers ringing at the box-office with the songs striking an immediate chord with the audience.

'Guide' (1965)
Guide (1965)
Director: Vijay Anand and Tad Danielewski
Sensitivity meter: Based on the eponymous novel by RK Narayan, the film explores the relationship between Raju (Dev Anand), a guide, and Rosie (Waheeda Rehman), a prostitute’s daughter who is unhappily married. Raju’s helpless attraction to Rosie and the latter’s desire to be able to live life on her terms takes them on a tumultuous journey. Not only was the film credited for dealing with the bold and sensitive subject of an extra-marital affair, it also showcased the many layers of human nature, including jealousy, greed and pride, quite skillfully. Guide is, therefore, considered as one of the masterpieces of Indian cinema.
Hit or not: The film was a box office hit and scooped up the National Awards for the Best Actor, Actress and Director.

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