In 1970, Asha Parekh starred as a (pretend) widow in Kati Patang and Rajesh Khanna was her silent lover. There was not a single touch or caress between the two. Distributors were aghast, ‘How can we have the biggest romantic star of all time not even embracing his heroine once? Audiences would boo the film out of theatres,’ they said. But director Shakti Samanta stuck to his guns. No way. The widow wouldn’t cuddle up to the lover boy, come what may. Jump to 2000. Girls in movies like Ragini MMS look straight at the guy and ask, “Have you come yet?”
Says Asha Parekh, “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 the very romantic Yeh shaam mastani Rajesh Khanna didn’t even brush his hand against me. But the intense feelings came through. Those were times of forbidden love. Parents monitored relationships.
Today, which 20-something girl or boy would listen to the parents if they forbade a marital alliance? Forget marriage, we now have live-in relationships. And that too we get to see in our films.” Like we see in Pyaar Ka Punchnama. Parekh feels cinema is only a reflection of reality. “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.”
Asha narrates an incident that indicates the changing mores of 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. But looking at the uncertainty surrounding marriages today, maybe I am better off this way. I believe for every 1,000 marriages there are 700 divorces."
The pain and the poetry
Romance and love are no longer the sacred foundations of the man-woman relationship, and the sooner we realise this the better. The late Yash Chopra who patented love on screen once said to this correspondent, “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. Somewhere there’s a love story unfolding at every given point.” Raakhee Gulzar who epitomised Yash Chopra’s definition of feminine beauty in Kabhi Kabhie and represented the figure of poetic lyricism in films such as Sharmilee, Shradhanjali, Blackmail, Tapasya and Daag, says, “Yes, Kabhi Kabhie revolved around my character and much poetry (written by the great Sahir Ludhianvi) was lavished on me.
With the industry being taken over by cynicism and instant poetry, diehard romantics are struggling to survive. Pooja Bhatt, in whose Jism we heard intensely romantic poetry such as Jadoo hai nasha hai 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,” says Bhatt. She too accepts that romance has no place in our lives anymore.
“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.” But there is scope for romance in today’s cinema, she says. “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.”
Distance makes the heart grow fonder
Writer-poet Prasoon Joshi who has written some of the rare romantic numbers in today’s times, feels physical proximity 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.”
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 (male). This wall created romantic flights of fantasy between couples. Ab woh wall hi nahin raha. Otherwise human emotions are the same.”
Ananth Mahadevan, whose quirky romcom 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 even ’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.”
Romance, he feels, 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.” Adds Bejoy Nambiar, “Romance and love need to be redefined with the changing times. Movies are a reflection of that change.”
Too impatient for romance
Yet romance lives on off screen for Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar. A little-known fact about Shaad Ali’s marriage with designer Aarti Patkar is that the alliance was designed, bolstered, sustained and even restored by Shabana and Javed. Their association with Shaad’s parents Muzaffar Ali and Subhasini Saigal dates back to before Shaad was born.
Javed wrote and recited a poem especially dedicated to Shaad and Aarti’s togetherness at the wedding. Such unabashed display of romantic yearning is getting progressively rare in our entertainment industry. Romance has gone out of our lives, says Shabana. “It is a generational thing. 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 doesn’t 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!!’”
Director Kalpana Lajmi 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 expression 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.”
Eighteen years after Aradhana, Kalpana tried to imbibe some of that romantic yearning in her film Ek Pal. “It was a romance but with sex. I feel lovemaking 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.”
Will come full circle
Kunal Kohli, whose Hum Tum was a Valentine 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.” Agrees Rakhee, “Everything reaches a saturation point. And this era devoid of poetry and romance too shall pass.” Subhash Ghai, who made romantic films such as Hero and Taal, believes 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.” That cycle might have already begun. In Bejoy’s film David, which released earlier this month, a young man (Vinay Virmani) has a special fondness for the neighbourhood widow (Lara Dutta).
They never exchange true confessions, let alone any physical intimacy except a chaste hug. Apparently Virmani insisted that there should atleast be a kiss since this is today’s couple, and not one like in Kati Patang. But Bejoy was very clear. He said, “I explained to Vinay that as far as I was concerned, my characters were not at liberty to cross the lakshman rekha.”
Tripe in the time of love and roses
This Valentine’s Day this columnist is wondering…
>> Whether you are sitting on one of those rocks facing the sea, with the Object of Your Affection (OYA) but wearing a life jacket since you might get swept out to sea?
>> Whether the BMC is going fogging not for malaria, but a strange disease that afflicts Mumbaikars on this day especially, called Lovaria?
>> And while on the buzz-ness of mosquitoes whether writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez would have penned Love in the time of Malaria instead of love in the time of Cholera if he were in Mumbai?
>> Whether a bottle of hair colour is a dye-hard romantic?
>> Whether one clothes peg tells a clothesline, it is Valentine’s Day, time to lagao some line
>> Whether cardiac surgeons must offer discounts on heart surgeries on Valentine’s Day? Would Asian Heart Hospital’s Dr R Panda enlighten us on that one?
>> Whether our cricket coaches know that today, it is all about batting eyelashes?
>> Whether Indian Derby winning horse, the colt Super Storm is hoping to do some heavy duty nuzzling with a filly today?
>> Whether calendars are kings today as they are full of dates?
>> Whether sweet nothings are not recommended for diabetes?
>> Whether you have shopped for felt hearts and teddy bears from stores already or are you a late love Latif?
>> Whether you know that if you are caught by the moral brigade for carrying a teddy bear all you have to do is shout: ‘jab tak bhaloo rahega, Laloo tera naam rahega’ and say you are a Laloo Prasad Yadav supporter
>> Whether the Ace of Hearts in a pack of cards thinks he is a big deal today?
>> Whether a snooker player and a billiards champion have licence to indulge in some kootchie cue-ing today
>> Whether you think that the Beatles did not know anything when they crooned money can’t buy love as you shell out R700 for a bouquet of roses?
>> Whether florists are earning their rosy-roti big time today?
>> While on roses and love, whether people with names like Gulabchand and Pyaarelal act especially pricey today?
>> Whether cynics believe love is so mush ado about nothing?
>> Why don’t you carry a tube or tub of Fevicol around today, it may be able to stick back a broken heart. ‘Judwa lo mujhe Fevicol se…’
>> Why don’t you realise you are going to be late for your Valentine date if you continue reading this tripe, anyway?
Inputs Hemal Ashar