Love in the fast lane

Love in the fast lane

Love, they say, makes the world go around. It can also make your head spin, if you go by Hindi films nowadays. Not surprising, if you realise that this is the Facebook Generation, where “friending” is instantaneous, and requires little more than a mouse click. The more friends you have the better. And, apparently these are real words, “unfriend” being declared the Oxford Word of the Year (2009) by the New Oxford American Dictionary. When real life buzzes by, can reel-life be far behind?

Lately I have been subject to delicate ministrations of the romantic kind. On celluloid that is. One film after another claiming to be either a romance, or a romantic comedy — I see them all. Boy-meets-girl, they sing and dance (preferably in the rain), and voila! Love blooms!

Truly, is this love, or the fast forwarded version? What ever happened to good, old-fashioned romance? You know, the kinds where the hero and heroine spied on each other from afar, and remained where they were, instead of galloping into each others arms almost immediately! You know, the kinds where the language of love was spoken with the eyes, and conveyed through coyly written letters which dripped with complicated yet sweet-sounding words in the most chaste Hindi!

Yes, times have changed and so have the notions of love and romance. The lovelorn hero may not be your swashbuckling Sunil Dutt, but perennially suave Saif Ali Khan as modern-day pragmatic lover boy isn’t so bad either. Asha Parekh’s kohl-lined eyes may not make young men’s heart’s go pitter-patter anymore, but Kareena Kapoor’s do.

In the recent romantic hit Love Aaj Kal Khan romanced two heroines, one of the
present-day, and one from an older and, some say, wiser time. The beautiful and leggy Deepika Padukone played Meera, an independent-minded girl who is quite practical about love, while Brazilian model Giselle Monteiro played Harleen Kaur, a young girl of the 60s, so in love with a boy not acceptable to her family, that she leaves them for him.

Love Aaj Kal nicely contrasts today’s love with yesteryear’s. While Harleen Kaur and Veer Singh are content to just look at each other, sigh and then sigh some more, Jai and Meera have no such forbearance. Their love is happy, snappy, and very, very hip. While one might imagine Harleen and Veer’s commitment hush-hush, their ardour tamped by the social mores of that time, Meera and Jai are New Age, and the openness of their relationship shows it. Love and all that comes thereafter no longer cleanly fits into the “happily settled” philosophy. Whereas older films were often almost prudish when showing physical affection, (remember all those shots of two roses meeting, and the hero-heroine disappearing into tall grass?) newer romantic films are more open about such aspects.

Back then...

Because so it was then; restraint was the name of the game. In the 60s, beautiful actresses like Waheeda Rehman and Nutan in churidars and huge hair-dos, waltzed their way in and out of love stories complicated by class barriers, familial obligations and the “accidental” pregnancy. In the 70s with the rise of talents such as Gulzar, love stories were often simple, but characters well-fleshed out. Gulzar’s fabulous film Khushboo (1975) starring Hema Malini and Jeetendra was a simple story set in rural India and dealt with love and perceived betrayal.  

It’s not that the basic love stories that films seem to thrive upon have changed so much; after all, we essentially are the same people, aren’t we? But the attitudes of the people in love have changed, and  changing times pose their newer challenges to the love-stricken.  

Take the 80s for example — long before Mithun became a “dancing” star he actually did some great cinema. His 1980 film Sitara which starred Zarina Wahab in the female lead dealt with love gone wrong in the razzmatazz of the film world, where she attains stardom, and he feels left out. There are also social shifts in society which have influenced love as we see it now. Women for one thing weren’t really independent, in older films. Yes, an heiress maybe, but a businesswoman with an MBA? Not so much.  

In a film like the recently released Wake up Sid Konkona Sen Sharma plays a writer out to make her mark in the world. She falls in love with a younger, immature college kid. So she actually has more agency than him, which shifts the love angle a little bit. In the 2006 romantic hit Pyar ke side effects the woman Trisha (played by Mallika Sherawat) is taller and makes more money than her live-in boyfriend Sid (Rahul Bose), and their love-story plays out in the context of Trisha’s insistence on marriage.

There is also then the issue of relative ages, and the almost spiritual it’s-all-in-the-head quality of love. In the 2001 hit Dil chahta hai Sid, falls in love with an older, divorced woman. Where traditionally the man is older, in Cheeni Kum the hero is older than the heroine’s father. Which is good enough for her, but not for her father.  

There is of course the happy medium where older and wiser counsel meets youthful exuberance. A prime example of this is the 2004 film Rules — Pyar ka Superhit Formula. In it Radha, a lovelorn girl pining away for unattainable model Vikram (Milind Soman), is assisted by her grandmother’s five rules for getting the man she so wants.

It also brought home the point that young or old, famous or not, we all eventually want the same thing — to be loved, adored, and appreciated. When this happens, birds sing, the skies clear, and music spews out from the heavens. Whether its yuppie rock, or a refrain from the 60s, really, how does it matter?

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