Mayank Shekhar: The film that changed mainstream

May 16, 2018, 07:06 IST | Mayank Shekhar

How Mansoor Khan's directorial debut Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, which finished 30 years since release this week, hasn't aged still

QSQT - perhaps the first Hindi film to be referred to by its abbreviated title - finished 30 years of its release this week
QSQT - perhaps the first Hindi film to be referred to by its abbreviated title - finished 30 years of its release this week

Mayank ShekharIf you think about it, the reason the girl (Juhi Chawla) can't be with the boy (Aamir Khan) in Mansoor Khan's directorial debut Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988) - path-breaking romance for its time - is rather simple. Years ago, the boy's father had killed the girl's uncle. This is because the uncle had impregnated the boy's aunt, but forced to marry someone else - abetting her suicide.

Now, why this uncle and aunt couldn't get together isn't quite clear in this adaptation of Romeo And Juliet. Unlike the couple in Sairat (2016), both belonged to rich, neighbouring families, from the same (Rajput) caste. The thorn in their backsides was the khadoos patriarch (Goga Kapoor). He enjoyed the sole right to decide who his son (and later his grand-daughter) would marry. Also, that girl had slept with his son out of wedlock.

For a movie mirroring such rigid, patriarchal values, it's amazing that it remains, up until 2018, a rare occasion where the heroine (Juhi) falls for first, and actively chases the hero (Aamir) - a sign of ultimate gender equality (to my mind), making it one of the most feministic films I know. QSQT - perhaps the first Hindi film to be referred to by its abbreviated title - finished 30 years of its release this week. Aamir, who also shared writing credit for the movie, organised a special screening with cast and crew to mark and discuss the moment.

I just saw QSQT myself, after several years, to observe with much relief that the film hasn't aged much (certainly not as much as humans have, since), although it's not as young as the all-time favourite, Mansoor's Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander (1992), which still looks as fresh as last Friday's catch.

One of the things that Mansoor revealed after the QSQT screening, which is rather ironic given the film's subject, were the constant creative differences/fights he would have with his late father, producer-writer Nasir Husain, during the making, making others worry if they could ever move on. That way, QSQT is full of ironies.

To begin with, for a 2-hour, 43-minute movie, there are only four-and-a-half songs. This, coming from Nasir, king of Bollywood musicals, who produced, among other great soundtracks, the 10-minute-plus medley in Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1977; best piece of music ever).

Once, being told that a track in QSQT had been composed, while it hadn't been, Nasir decided to hop over to the studio of music composer sons of Chitragupta, Anand-Milind, giving them only a 15-minute heads up. In that interim, Anand-Milind came up with the song, Aye Mere Hum Safar.

Don't know if the pressures were equally high throughout, for I recently discovered the track, Return To Alamo (1977) by The Shadows, which even by Bollywood's liberal standards for 'inspiration', seems shockingly lifted, note for note, even tempo intact, for the number Akele Hain Toh Kya Gham Hai. The only stroke of genius being that a war-cry has been turned into a romantic melody!

In 1995, Mansoor and Aamir teamed up to unofficially remake Kramer Vs Kramer (1979), even picking up scenes from the original, while one of the main songs was copied from The Godfather score. I once asked Aamir if he thought this was a complete, creative low. He didn't agree.

What young Mansoor, and indeed Aamir, did with one foot firmly on traditions and family customs/values, and the other on relatively modern sensibilities/outlook with QSQT, is take baby steps out of the shadows of the veteran Nasir Husain. This is very similar to how the Barjatyas' reticent scion Sooraj, 25, made his directorial debut with Salman Khan in Maine Pyar Kiya (MPK, 1989), and Yash Chopra's son Aditya, 24, smartly, gently pushed the mainstream bar with Shah Rukh Khan in his first film, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ, 1995).

Together, with soft romances involving hardened parents, the three newbie Khans invaded Bollywood, gradually extricating it from the '80s 'Angry Young Man' hangover, rape-avenger actioners, and family melodramas driven by baffling sensibilities of the money-making, assembly line movies, adapted from the South. QSQT, originally titled Nafrat Ke Waaris, was as much 10 years ahead of its time, as comforting for mainstream audiences from 20 years before. I remember older family members (and teenage girls alike) being struck by Aamir and Juhi, who were formally "introduced" in the film, although Aamir had earlier already starred in Ketan Mehta's Holi (1984).

Leading up to QSQT's release, a hoarding teaser campaign had been launched across Mumbai (and perhaps other cities), with just the question, "Who's Aamir Khan? Ask the girl next door!" The billboards turned into QSQT's posters upon the film's release. Yup, it's been 30 frickin' years. Of course, we know who's Aamir Khan. What film-buffs have always been curious about ever since, and for good reason, is what's he up to next! We always inevitably remember his last film. Which is why, I suspect, QSQT, unlike MPK, DDLJ, if you think about it, hasn't actually got its due.

Mayank Shekhar attempts to make sense of mass culture. He tweets @mayankw14 Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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