Bollywood and romance are synonymous with each other. Some of the top box-office grossers of all time have been romances, starting with the classic Mughal-e-Azam (1960). The period film–starring the iconic Dilip Kumar and the beautiful Madhubala as Prince Salim and the courtesan Anarkali and was loosely based on an episode in the life of Mughal Emperor Jehangir–reigned the Indian box-office as the top grossing film of all time, a distinction it held for 15 years!
The Seventies and Eighties saw a slight dip in popularity of romance movies as Indian cinema’s “angry young man” Amitabh Bachchan took centrestage. The anti-hero, as played by Bachchan, reigned supreme. But even so, Bachchan did occasionally play the lover boy (as in Yash Chopra’s eternal romantic classics Kabhi Kabhie and Silsila) with as much panache and style as he did the action hero! In the Nineties, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge marked the return of big-budget romance. Yellow mustard fields, singing on the slopes of the Swiss Alps and all things mushy were back in fashion.
In the New Millennium, romance seems to have got edgier and more raunchy. The chocolate box hero serenading the chiffon clad sari in lavish song and dance routines in European locations are now passe. The affluent non-resident Indian (NRI) hero too has been edged out in favour of edgy heroes from middle class backgrounds and smaller towns. Heroes are not afraid to flaunt their small town accents and woo the women in a manner that almost borders on stalking! The heroines no longer are coy and simpering but are as bold as any modern-city bred chicks and wear their attitudes on their sleeves. Pre-marital sex is no longer taboo…and the defining moment of Dev D is when Paro lays out the mattress as she waits for her lover in the mustard fields.
In the wake of Dev D’s success, Bollywood romances have acquired a more earthy and spicy flavour. And the latest in this line of new age romances is Shuddh Desi Romance about a commitment-phobic young couple. Its satirical comment on Indian society and its hypocritical attitude towards marriage and man-woman relationships is an added twist to the stereotypical boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl setup. Even more quirky is the fact that the couple is not exactly looking for the Happy Ever After ending. But while the movie has its funny and heartbreaking moments, it kind of falls in no-man’s-land: neither a sappy romance story nor an edgy, realistic modern tale of relationships.
While Bollywood’s new age romance has a lot of good things going for it, I can’t help but miss the larger-than-life, sweeping, escapist romances that had the Bollywood stamp on them! What is your take on romance, Bollywood-style?