There was a time when a sheer glance between the lead pair was enough to create rainbows in the sky. Then there was the touch-me-not, or touch-me-delicately phase, when all they required was suggestive love making, as the audience was left to understand the rest. From romances on the skates to badminton courts and college premises to the current times when casual kissing determines whether love is at all possible, Bollywood has surely come a really very long way.
For the west, Bollywood is all about musicals, for it is a place where actors break into singing and dancing at the click of a button. An industry which produces over 1000 films every year, holding the tag of the world’s largest film producing factory, more than half this share is going to the genre of romance. So we have romantic drama, romantic comedy, romantic action, romantic thriller, romantic this, romantic that, and what not. Point to note remains that Bollywood just cannot survive without its share of love stories. From its very start, the element of romance has been hardwired into Bollywood’s DNA, what has changed is the way of its expression.
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On Valentine’s Day 2017, let’s take a walk down the memory lane and try to recollect all those important phases and films in Bollywood, which completely changed the way romances were depicted onscreen.
Feather, flower and umbrella phase
It was the time when love was shown with two flowers coming together or honey bees sucking nectar from rose buds. When Mughal-e-Azam’s Salim tried to woo Anarkali, it was done through the touch of a feather. Raj Kapoor sang “Pyaar Hua Ikrar Hua Hai” while sharing the same umbrella with Nargis in Shree 420. Their half drenched bodies and restricted contact under that little space offered enough sexual tension. They repeated it in “Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi” from Chori Chori. These actors didn’t speak. They only stole glances and lowered their eyelids. That’s all that was needed to melt a thousand candles and give rise to innumerable desires. This was the silent, conservative romance of the beautiful 1950s. So what, if it was captured in black and white? What it captured was so colourful that every pick from this particular part of Bollywood is only legendary.
Clasping of hand and staring into eyes phase
Superstar Rajesh Khanna had his moment around a bonfire in the song “Roop Tera Mastana,” which was shot in one take. And just like the camera didn’t cut angles, the viewers didn’t blink while watching Sharmila Tagore’s vulnerable love and their intense body language. Rajesh Khanna’s open shirt and Sharmila Tagore’s strategically tied orange saree was enough to leave the rest to the audience imagination. This was the late 1960s. Take for example Nanda’s song “Yeh Samaa” from Jab Jab Phool Khile, which was too sensuous for its times. It expressed the sexual tension between a man and a woman in a subtle manner.
Rain, racquet and mischievous phase
Jeetendra played badminton with Leena, and with every fall of the shuttlecock, none of them lost any point. They rather won each other’s heart. The two even got drenched in “Haye Re Haye Neend Nahi Aaye.” From Raj Kapoor-Nargis umbrella romance to their’s under a cart where they take shelter during the rain, it was a lot of progress for Bollywood. Oh, by the way, they were even dancing! Bollywood surely began experimenting with props by this time. Remember how Hema Malini and Sanjeev Kumar’s love blossomed on skates in Seeta Aur Geeta? Sanjeev Kumar also had a classic onscreen love story with Jaya Bachchan in Anamika’s “Baahon Mein Chale Aao.” This surely was the era of naughty romance.
Polka dots and guitar phase
Bollywood can also thank Raj Kapoor for more reasons than one. Apart from giving us some memorable films, he even altered the way romance happened onscreen. The maverick filmmaker didn’t mind showing his lead pair get bit touchy-feely. Rishi Kapoor’s peck on Dimple Kapadia’s lips in Bobby, or Shashi Kapoor’s preference of love over lust in Satyam Shivam Sundaram, this section of Bollywood’s timeline was a breakthrough one. Romance went “Khullam Khulla” and guitar was no more restricted to only men. Even Zeenat Aman struck the chords declaring her love in “Chura Liya Hai Tumne” in Yaadon Ki Baarat. Then, there was even slightly muscular love, when Dharmendra confronted ‘Mausi Ji’ on the ‘tanki’ in Sholay, fearlessly asking for his beloved Basanti’s hand. Of course, their’s was a match made in heaven, and even the gaaon waale couldn’t stop this love story.
Angry young man’s intense romance phase
1970-1980 might be all about Amitabh Bachchan and his anger, but when he romanced, it was like nothing you’ve seen before. While Bollywood might be getting deeper into the genre of action with films like Don, Zanjeer and Deewar, but when senior Bachchan wasn’t pulling his punches and his romance was a benchmark too. Hence, we also got films like Kabhie Kabhie and Silsila. Amitabh’s most sensuous pairing was with Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi and Rekha. And all these names became an essential part of this particular Bollywood which was going through a transition. Maybe this was the time when the genre of “romantic action” was born.
Saree and sensuous phase
They say a saree is the sexiest attire. And Bollywood only went ahead to prove that in the later part of the glorious 1980s. Sridevi made love with his invisible man in Mr. India. This was the most sizzling romance of all times. She even turned a white fairy in Chandni. This was the time when romance and dance joined hands, giving birth to shaking some leg to celebrate the love. Madhuri Dixit went one step ahead and got cosy with Vinod Khanna in Dayavan. In fact, we remember the film for its sensuous kiss between the two. Quite a big step in terms of expressing love.
Mustard fields and Sooraj Barjatya phase
Bollywood romances suddenly got caught in massive family sagas. However, it still stood out as stealing moments with each other in the presence of some 20 relatives, doing suggestive things which only the other one could understand, and secretly meeting on the terrace in the dark of the night had its own charm. Physicality was restricted to only hugging and forehead kissing, but this was no less beautiful than the black and white era. Yash Chopra and Sooraj Barjatya were the biggest supporters of this kind of romances, and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Dilwale Duhaniya Le Jayenge being the two films which turned love into a pure feeling.
Unbuttoning and beach romance phase
Things were more in your face with the new millennium. Bollywood canvas became huge and actors became bolder. No wonder love-making was no more symbolic. It was as true on-screen as off it. No film was complete without a sensuous song. Bipasha Basu and John Abraham got in the act on a beach in Jism. Emraan Hashmi came onboard and Bollywood shed a lot of inhibitions. Live-in and pre-marital sex came to be accepted onscreen. In 1975, Julie showed sex before marriage as an act of impulse, which left the families ashamed and social exclusion. But Bollywood by now became a true mirror of the real world and Salaam Namaste and Kya Kehna, which even had the plot of unwanted pregnancy wasn’t looked down upon.
‘Befikre’ and commitment phobia phase
Today, a lot of films show pre-marital sex in a non-judgmental way. It is absolutely fine for an urban couple in a movie to test their compatibility before getting into a serious relationship. Films like Band Baaja Baarat, Cocktail, Shuddh Desi Romance and the recent Befikre, was all about zero commitment until the characters actually realise their love. Befikre got the censor board nod despite its dozens of kisses and love-making scenes. Stating that our CBFC has progressed might be wrong, but at least Bollywood’s way of understanding love has undergone a massive change. Then there was Ram-Leela, about love blossoming amid animosity. Today, nothing remains under the sheets, except for the actors who do not shy away from going there if the script demands. Even they know that nothing is artificial in today’s times, not even love. So, going on a ‘test drive’ before taking the plunge is no harm.
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Mimansa ShekharMimansa Shekhar is a Copy Editor at Indian Express Online and has been… read more