On the occasion of Valentine’s Day, you must bite into these movies – cutting across eras – and explore the divergent shades and flavour of romance.
1) Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959): The movie was reflective of the auteur Guru Dutt’s personal travails. The story revolves around a celebrated movie director whose life goes off the rails after he has an extramarital affair with the actress – her protégé – of his movie. It was rumoured that around that time, Dutt was having an affair with Waheeda Rahman, much to the resentment of his wife Geeta Dutt.
Due to its morbid trajectory, which cuts too close to the bone, and melancholic theme, the movie was a resounding flop at the box office, despite stellar performances from the entire cast. A heartbroken Dutt never “officially” directed a movie again, and plunged into brooding despondency just like the protagonist of the movie. Over the years, it has received tremendous international acclaim, and is now widely regarded as one of the greatest Bollywood movies ever.
2) Amar Prem (1971): Though ‘Aradhnana’ remains the biggest blockbuster of superstar Rajesh Khanna’s career, it is ‘Amar Prem’ which continues to attract and mesmerise the audience to this day. Khanna, then a reigning superstar, got rid of his standard mannerisms for this movie and pitched in a restrained performance. Sharmila Tagore, helped by the author-backed role, delivered arguably the best performance of her career.
The movie is marvellously lyrical and is enormously propped up a string of ruminative songs, which exemplify the tone and mood of the film. This film remains the crowning glory of Rajesh Khanna-Shakti Samanata pair.
3) Saudagar (1973): In 1973, the tubthumping ‘Zanjeer’ catapulted Amitabh Bachchan to stardom, and established an ‘Angry Young Man’ prototype. It was truly a path-breaking film of its time. However, for those who have ‘tender’ proclivities, it is ‘Saudagar’ – which released in the same year – remains Bachchan’s best performance, and possibly his best movie, to date.
Unlike other Bachchan movies of that era, ‘Saudagar’ unfolds at a languorous pace and sucks viewers into its charmingly rustic world. The complexities of human nature and relations are mapped with precision, sans any judgement and melodrama. There is no superhero or a dreaded villain; just complex humans and convoluted circumstances.
4) Maine Pyar Kiya (1989): As the ‘Angry Young Man’, which emerged on the firmament in 1973, became jaded by 1989, the nation was hankering for a teenage matinee idol. ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ released on December 29, 1989 and scuppered the stranglehold of action movies which had dominated the silver screen for more than a decade. It also became one of the biggest blockbusters ever in the annals of Bollywood.
Sooraj Barjatya, along with Salman and Bhagyashree, rewrote the grammar of romance and syntax of filmmaking. The movie heralded many trends, and suddenly the silver screen was oozing teenage love stories featuring young actors.
5) Lamhe (1991): When released in 1991, it received thunderous critical plaudit, but was a commercial failure. The Indian audience perhaps couldn’t digest the relationship of an old man with a young girl. However, if dug deeper, the movie was more layered than this. It had all the elements of the quintessential Yash Chopra film – foreign locales, beautiful cinematography, mellifluous music – but arguably remains the most seminal work (among romantic movies) in Chopra’s repertoire.
There is perhaps one discordant note – no proper demonstration or explanation of how Anil Kapoor’s heart towards a girl suddenly changes in the climax. We can’t reveal more and run the risk of ruining your pleasure. Overall, ‘Lamhe’ is worth your time and applause.
6) Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998): Karan Johar, the director of the movie, made it when he was only 25. The emotional quotient, backed by mighty conviction, overcomes many logical and moral anomalies and makes this an eminently watchable love story. The wide-eyed innocence defies all the inhibitions of the viewers. Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol light up the screen with their sparkling performances, but Salman Khan in a rollicking cameo steals the limelight.
The lyricist Javed Akhtar to this rues the fact that he misconstrued the tone of the movie and refused to write lyrics for it. When released in 1998, it was the biggest blockbuster of the year and fortified SRK’s image as a romantic superstar.
7) Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999): Though ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun!’ and ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ were the two most celebrated love stories in the 1990s, neither of them had the gravitas of ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’. Though inspired from ‘Woh Saat Din’, the sensitive director Sanjay Leela Bhansali embellished the story with huge canvas, riots of colour, mainstream narrative and a slew of soulful songs. The superstar Salman Khan tried to persuade Bhansali to change the ending, but the director stuck to his guns and didn’t tamper with the essence of the story.
It turned out to be a career-defining movie of Aishwarya Rai who whipped out a specatacular performance as an ebullient, volatile Gujarati girl.
8) Kal Ho Na Ho (2003): Behind the designer clothes and glitzy look, the evocative story and superlative performance by SRK made ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’ a memorable love story. Though loosely based on Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Anand’, the director Nikhil Advani imaginatively imbued it with contemporary ethos and, most importantly, unique flavour.
It is hard to remember a more impactful entry scene in a romantic movie than Shah Rukh’s in this movie. The cheeky humour and jazzy soundtrack added to the ‘cool’ quotient. The title track of the movie has an enduring appeal which still persists. On the whole, a movie with a sweeping canvas, rhythm and sonorous soul.
9) Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (2008): Aamir Khan’s nephew Imran Khan made his debut with this delightful movie in which characters are refreshingly relatable, humour borders on ‘spoof’ but has a raw edge, and situations are familiar but super fun. It’s a bright, peppy, funny film, which is ingeniously written and directed. The basic story might seem clichéd but the screenplay and execution are anything but that.
This film proves that predictability isn’t necessarily a vice for a film, if the pathway to it is frolicsome.
10) Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017): In an era of overwrought romance and gratuitously tangled relations, ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’ stands out like a whiff of fresh air. Set in a small town, it radiates quaint charm. The earthy humour and interesting characters are seamlessly woven into an engaging narrative. The crackerjack dialogues deserve special mention. It explores the dynamics of small-town relations with appreciable authenticity, and is anchored by terrific performances from Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon and Rajkumar Rao.