Happily ever after
We jumped with joy when Raj and Simran had a happy ending, cried when Vasu and Sapna ended their lives together, and were filled with pity for Devdas, whose love stories have left an indelible mark on our lives. Rajiv Vijayakar traces the saga of love stories in Hindi cinema.
On this very day, 30 years ago, Prasad Productions’ Ek Duuje Ke Liye was released by producer L V Prasad in limited shows as no distributor wanted to be associated with a tragic love story whose lead wasn’t a Bollywood star and whose heroine was just making her debut.
What they didn’t know was that this very film would create history. Within a week, Ek Duuje Ke Liye created a storm at the box office, its shows multiplied and finally, this intense love story of a South Indian boy and his North Indian neighbour shot past films like Laawaris, Love Story, Kranti and Naseeb, to become the biggest hit of 1981.
Love stories, right from the silent era, have had guaranteed success at the box office, provided they are well-made. They have always worked all the way till the recent Tanu Weds Manu. Quite naturally, love stories require some standard ingredients — the dramatic element in the story is always supplied by the antagonist. The human antagonists include rivals in love, family members or criminals, and the motives may differ from socio-economic and religious disparities to old enmities or revenge. To add to it, music is required in any love story in any era and segregates a mere good film from an enduring classic. It is only fitting that on the occasion of 30 years of a musical classic like Ek Duuje Ke Liye, we look back at some of Hindi cinema’s all-time greatest love stories.
First on the list will be the 1935 New Theatres’ film Devdas directed by P C Barua, starring K L Saigal, Jamuna and Rajkumari. Two more films starring Dilip Kumar (1955) and Shah Rukh Khan (2002) respectively, were also adapted into movies from Sarat Chandra Chaterjee’s classic about a rich heir who loses his love, takes to alcohol, and is nursed by a prostitute who falls for him. But while Dilip’s film bombed despite its critical acclaim, the SRK version received flak but did well commercially. It was P C Barua’s Devdas that truly became the first immortal love story in the talkie era. The music by Timir Baran was a rage, with numbers like Balam aaye and Dukh bhare din, rendered by Saigal, topping the charts.
Next came Barsaat (1949) that made producer-director Raj Kapoor’s prestigious banner of R K Films an established name in the Hindi film industry. Raj Kapoor’s on-screen pairing with Nargis was well received. Raj and Nargis went on to epitomise on-screen passion like no other pair of that era. The movie also introduced musical maestros like Shankar-Jaikishan, Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra into the Hindi film industry. However, Barsaat’s triumph lay in Kapoor’s excellent blending of content and packaging, as well as traditional and modern values.
Next in line was the Bimal Roy classic, Madhumati (1958), that kickstarted the trend of films based on reincarnation. Dilip and Vyjayanthimala set the screen afire with their crackling chemistry as lovers who were torn asunder but reunited in their next birth. Salil Chowdhury’s music created a powerful synergy with the plot line and he gave us unforgettable gems like Aaja re pardesi.
In 1960 came K Asif’s milestone Mughal-E-Azam starring Dilip Kumar as Salim, who is besotted by the beautiful courtesan Anarkali (Madhubala). Prithviraj Kapoor as Akbar, arguably, still ranks as Indian cinema’s greatest antagonist. His portrayal of Akbar was ruthless, class-conscious and regal, but he also essayed the emotions of a hapless father impeccably. Unforgettable visuals, dialogues, sequences, songs (composed by Naushad) and grandeur make Mughal-E-Azam an epic, even after four decades of its release. The film’s towering performances, unparalleled stories and anecdotes complete the magic. Not surprisingly then, Mughal-E-Azam is the only colourised film that became a hit when re-released in 2004.
Tere Ghar Ke Saamne (1963), original, witty and yet intense despite the light tenor, was a pointer to Vijay Anand’s genius as a writer-director. Produced by Dev Anand for Navketan Films, it is Hindi cinema’s first significant romantic-comedy. Debonair Dev and a nymph-like Nutan were simply divine, so was S D Burman’s music.
The first Indian film extensively shot abroad was Raj Kapoor’s Sangam (1964), also considered Hindi cinema’s greatest love triangle. Sublime yet physical, sophisticated yet earthy, Raj Kapoor took the concept of a love triangle to a new dimension, yet again, by that synergistic confluence between direction, music, script, performances and packaging. The element of tragedy in this story of three friends was strong, and in its own way, Sangam underscored the futility of how one needless sacrifice ruins three lives.
Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965) was a career-defining film for Shashi Kapoor, music directors Kalyanji-Anandji and lyricist Anand Bakshi, besides truly consolidating Kashmir as a prime outdoor location. A golden jubilee in its time, this touching story of a rich Mumbai tourist (Nanda) and a Kashmiri tourist guide (Kapoor) remains the underdog in the romantic genre of Hindi cinema. Much-imitated in its dramatic elements in later films, it etched an indelible mark on the psyche of people, with some of the most powerful lyrics heard in a love story like Pardesiyon se na ankhiyaan milana, Yahaan main ajnabi hoon and Ek tha gul aur ek thi bulbul.
Change in definition
Chetan Anand went that extra mile to make Heer Ranjha (1970) no less. Starring Raaj Kumar and Priya Rajvansh as Punjab’s fabled lovers, Anand dared to present a classic love story to the audience. The film had songs penned by Kaifi Azmi, which were laced with pure melodies by Madan Mohan. The unlikely casting proved surprisingly effective and Shammi Kapoor, Chetan’s first choice as Ranjha, officially stated that this was the only film he regretted turning down.
Bobby (1973), starring Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia, the first teenage love story of any consequence, was a trendsetter, and the sheer aura of the lead pair, their high-voltage on-screen passion, and Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s all-hit music score, made the movie nothing less than a cult film.
Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981) was the next milestone. Director K Balachander actually made a Telugu film, Maro Charitra, with Tamil actor Kamal Haasan. Its Hindi remake with Kamal Haasan and Rati Agnihotri too ranks among the most intense love stories of all time, replete with unforgettable sequences and melodious music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) is the yuppie generation classic produced by the celluloid high-priest of romance, Yash Chopra. To a generation unaware of the pre-‘90s classics, Yash Chopra’s Swiss-chocolate-delicious love confection that also made Punjab and Punjabis endemic in cinema and opened up the NRI markets is the last word in screen romance. Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol became superstars with this unique tale. And Jatin-Lalit’s music helped the film’s magical charisma tenfold.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 1999 Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was also a classic romantic film that explored a rare side of love that had elements from Sangam put forward in a more rational and progressive way. A loving husband (Ajay Devgn) wants to reunite his wife (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) with her one-time lover (Salman Khan) as she is unhappy even after marriage. Though she is thrilled about it initially, at the last moment, she is won over by her husband’s selfless attitude and realises that true love can never be selfish. This movie, like the all the above mentioned films, was a true ode to love.