The IPL season is not a great time to talk of movies 😦 .
Some readers of Iris have been reviewing that Anne possibly likes only Hollywood and Hollywood love stories. Not true 🙂 . Anne is actually nervous to review Bollywood — there is so much love, music, and drama here that it’s tough to leave out some and take others into account. Indians actually in spite of all arranged marriage systems, in spite of parental controls, family inclination, promises to remain dedicated to the sanctity of the marital knot — are the most romantic. Don’t believe me? Watch Balraj Sahni and Leela Chitnis in that song Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen from the movie Waqt (1965).
I am daring to take one step and presenting to you my picks of love stories from Bollywood. This list is not exhaustive.
Let us begin with the original, the fatalistic, the ultimate love antidote — Devdas (1955) . One movie which has been adapted and re-adapted n number of times. Based on the Bengali novel (1917) of the same name by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Devdas (pronounced as Debdash in Bengali) is a saga of doomed love. Reading the novel is a different experience altogether. There is a complete dreariness in the writing of Saratchandra unlike the glossy, dramatic effect achieved in the modern adaptation of the novel by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. It’s an existential novel in its own way. In fact, in the novel, at the end, the body of Devdas remains unattended to be taken away by Doms and Chandals (lowest classes of the society). The starkness of the narrative could only be matched by the classic acting of Dilip saab as the Devdas in the 1955 version of the movie. Directed by Bimal Roy, the movie has epic dimensions. Personally, I could never watch the movie as a child because of Dilip saab’s extremely slow dialogue delivery, and because of the starkness of the background and the slow movement of the plot. Watched the movie very late in my life — the result, I could not watch anything else for months. Dilip Kumar is the very manifestation of Deb, the rich, misguided and arrogant Zamindar, whose love remains incomplete partly because of his own stubbornness and partly because of cultural pressures. Suchitra Sen as Parvati is a dream, without any make-up, without the gloss of the modern adaptations of Paro, she gives the impression of what love as someone’s object for desire can be. Her eyes are enough to speak volumes. It’s such a surprise to see Paro coming to Devdas a few days before her marriage and pleading him to run away with her — women can be so passionate when they are in love, she epitomizes the virtue of faithfulness in love. Paro is much ahead of her times as a character. Vaijayanthi Mala’s dance number on Lata ji’s song Ab age teri marzi, has always intrigued me for no defined reasons.Bimal Roy is not just an iconic director, in Devdas he is a narrator par excellence who can actually bring love into the visual medium with the starkness of life.
Devdas is not my only favourite of Dilip saab — I am a huge fan of Madhumati (1958) another Bimal Roy creation and written by Ritwik Ghatak. Actually, in the hostel friends used to tease me for watching that movie multiple times with the dialogues like Babuji!! Aap lautke jaldi aaoge na? 🙂 ….True this movie could make rebirth and love across births a real cliche in Hindi film making. The movie combines love across births, with haunting, debauchery, life of the plantation workers, and the beauty of the mountains. This is one of my all time favourites of Pran saab in the negative role of the Zemindar Ugranarayan who eyes Madhumati and ultimately leads to her death, when Anand is away to the city. However, Dilip Kumar in a loose Western suit as the manager of the tea plantation, serenading Suhana safar aur yeh mausam haseen…shall remain an unforgettable impression. That terrific dance number “Zulmi sang ankh ladi, sakhi kaa se kahoon…din chhota raat badi” filmed on Vaijayanthi Mala speaks of the liberal spirit, the untainted life of the mountains.
I don’t know, but usually get stuck in the 1950s. Just one more entry and we move beyond — Guru Dutt. I always resist writing about Guru Dutt, partly because of an awe for him and partly because I consider him as the guru of film-making along with Satyajit Ray. Pyaasa (1957), some viewers would argue is a social movie. I would however argue that it is also a love story par-excellence. While, Kagaz ke Phool has an actress, as the object of love, I find Pyasa special because of its idea of a class-less love. Waheeda Rehman as Gulabo the prostitute who is the only soul that truly loves the failed poet Vijay (Guru Dutt), seems like eternity herself. Her innocence combined with her cheekiness makes her a delight to watch on screen. She defends and preserves his poems more than her own life. Remember the song “Hum apki ankhon mein duniya ko bhoola den toh?” (rough transl: what if I forget the world by being lost in your eyes?) Gulabo the character stands in stark contrast to Meena (Mala Sinha), the poet Vijay’s love from his college days, the elite, the love that betrayed him to get married to a rich publisher.
I used to host Guru Dutt film festivals in my room during my hostel days — each of the movies, whether Sahib, Biwi, aur Ghulam, Mr. and Mrs. 55, or Chaudvin ka Chand interweave love with social and cultural issues.
I have never been able and nor is it likely to happen in my life that I would admire any actress as much as Waheeda ji and Madhubala. Beauty, charm, and intelligence along with acting manifest themselves in these actresses.
How can one forget the cult, the heavy, the highly literary Mughal-e-Azam (1960). I will not describe this movie much except the fact that through histories it has been proved that if there are chains on a particular emotion, it would find expression in some other form. Pages have been written about the classic song Jab Pyar Kiya toh Darna Kiya… with the gorgeous Anarkali (Madhubala) dancing herself out in lakhs of mirror pieces, looking deep into the eyes of the emperor of the Mughal dynasty and challenging him in the open Durbar to just attempt from stopping her to love Sehzada Saleem. It seems as if pages of history can be turned by just one moment of dark passion. Personally, my favourite song of the movie is Mohe Panghat pe Nandlal Chhed Gayo Re…. This song is magical in picturisation — Madhubala with the half- drawn veil, coyly looking at Saleem, while singing thumri and dancing Kathak on the slow beats, is simply ethereal. That particular song exudes purity and sensuousness. Some sources have said that Mughal-e-Azam marked the high-point in the drama of Dilip Kumar-Madhubala real life love story. The movie is not for the faint-hearted — you should have the patience, aptitude for Urdu, and the ability to place yourself in that historical moment.
If I would have been a film-maker, my dream would be to make a movie like Guide (1965). This movie (in my opinion) is a movie that is complete in every aspect. Produced by Dev Anand and directed by Vijayanand, the movie is an experience on celluloid. The interpenetration of love and philosophy with the best quality music finds its complete expression in the movie. This movie remains special for very personal reasons too apart from the cinematic excellence: (a) Dev saab is my romantic dream and my icon. As a tiny girl, I had often said that I want to marry Dev Anand (that hasn’t changed with Salman, Amir, and SRK in the block 🙂 ); (b) The song Piya tose naina lage re made me break the microphone and a friend’s tabla in the university when I was practicing dance (of course badly) based on that song. Personal anecdotes apart, this movie glorifies love in its most unrestrained and passionate form. Rosy, the wife of an archeologist Marco (who doesn’t care an iota about her), breaks free from the rules of the society and conventions to assert her identity as a dancer. She is helped by the tour guide played by Dev Anand who fights his mother and uncle to make the dreams of Rosy transform into reality. Guide is a movie that shows love in the greyest shades — the love of Rosy and Raju guide being based on unacceptable norms of the society, and Raju’s forgery of Rosy’s signature on Marco’s papers. Remember that scene when Rosy dances her heart out in the snake-charmers hamlet?….ohhhh! what a scene depicting the grey passion of a woman who has been suppressed for ages! I have never seen a better snake dance sequence. Dev Anand strikes the cord as the ultimate scape-goat to pseudo-religion as the fasting Swami who would bring rains to the rain-starved village.
Cut to 1970s, Abhimaan (1973) is my Amitabh Bacchan favourite. Personally, along with Chupke Chupke, Shakti, and Trishul, this is my Bachhan favourite. The love story showing the complexities of a married life between two equally talented, same profession couple is just so contemporary and realistic in its presentation. Just love that moment in the movie when Amitabh Bachhan comes back after a very long time to his wife, a more talented singer herself, suffering from the mental trauma of her husband’s indifference, turned a stone in herself. He sees her as a lifeless body that is alive only with the hope of his return. That song tere mere milan ki yeh raina… is so absolutely poignant in the visual and the musical effect.In fact, each and every song of that movie is so lilting.
Unconditionally love Silsila (1981), not for Amitabh Bacchan but rather for Rekha and Sanjeev Kumar. A year ago, a friend and I had spent one whole night translating Silsila for another friend who did not understand Hindi (I still imagine my friend translating Neela Aasman so Gaya as Blue sky sleeps, sleeps, sleeps 😛 …! ). First time did I realize that the movie is so dense in content and meanings. Apart from the larger than life gorgeous Rekha in her Satin sarees and deep maroon lipstick and long open tresses (that movie can make any not-so-good looking woman duck 😦 ), the movie stands out for its extraordinary performance . What I feel uncomfortable about that movie is the last scene forced “Indian” reconciliation to the age old marital bond, where the protagonists have to return back to their lives after a series of misadventures. However, Silsila is more modern in its treatment than many movies of our times.
Love in its multiple facets is a dense aspect in the Bollywood context. The movies that I have listed here were released and made long before I or many of you were even born. However, there are certain emotions that transcend the boundaries of time and space. In fact, there should have been two posts since I am trying to chronologically arrange my picks. I have not dealt with love stories from Bollywood of our times — that is slightly unfair. Nevertheless, this post is dedicated to those immortal souls of cinematic art who considered movie-making as a love in itself and whose movies we still watch. Social, cultural, economic and so many other factors go into defining what is termed as ‘love’ in this context.
Some intellectualize love, some long for it, some detest it, some philosophize it, some are afraid of its negative dimensions, some contextualize it as the ultimate emotion, while some just live it….
That’s all I have on the question “Do I hate love storys?” Iris hopefully should be back next week with a new post and new story 🙂 . Till then,
The best thing about me is you.
— Shannon Crown