Two things happened last week. First, while we were still musing over the moments of brilliance and cuteness in Barfi, a video that went viral online informed us of the various sources that ‘inspired’ at least 50% of the flick, thus sparking the debate about the Film Federation’s prudence in sending it to the Oscars (which frankly shouldn’t surprise us anymore, given their bizarre picks in the past) So we revised our opinions about Barfi, clicked our tongues and shook our heads to ‘what shame Bollywood’.
I haven’t yet made up my mind about the whole incident yet because I never thought Barfi was brilliant in the first place, but I do think Indian Cinema has given us some proud moments recently in the name of Gangs of Wasseypur, Delhi Belly, Paan Singh Tomar, Love, Sex Aur Dhokha and more. These two parallel world of ‘experimental’and ‘commercial’ cinema (pardon the generalization) have always existed in the Indian film industry, so not much disturbs me about our products. However, when the trailer of the upcoming Sharukh-Katrina-Anushka starrer Jab Tak Hai Jaan started doing the rounds with Gulzar’s poetry interlaced with A.R Rehman’s intense score set against the backdrop of exotic locations around the world, that I started thinking about the lost world of the Yash Raj Films or as the film’s trailer proclaims – A YASH CHOPRA ROMANCE. Because to me, like a majority of Indians, our cinema was always incomplete without our romances, our sappy love stories, the chiffon sarees and the tulip fields.
Of course the banner has churned out films every year, introducing new directors, launching fresh chiseled faces in movies whose names I can hardly be bothered to recall. Compare that with what the banner had set out to do in the 80’s – In Silsila – letting the very righteous hero of Bollywood (Amitabh Bachhan) become the guiltless cheating husband, who can honor family commitment yet not forget his only love. Really, which Bollywood song in recent history with all the skin-show thrown in hold a candle to Rekha-Amitabh crooning ‘Yeh Kahan Agaye hum’ holding hands and each others’ gazes clad from head-to-toe? In Lamhe- where a 16-17 year old Sridevi grows up loving her guardian played by Anil Kapoor (the ever brooding kuwar-ji over his unrequited love for her dead mother). These film must have raised several eyebrows in its time, over their experimental subjects tricked into a commercial shell but there was a timeless quality to the treatment of such cinema that was etched in our memories forever. Be it the theme of pain and separation of lovers in Kabhi-Kabhi or the crazy-in-love quality of the Rishi Kapoor-Sridevi story in Chandni, the farmlands of Europe still conjure up in my memory hearing the sounds of ‘Aage Aage chale hum, peeche peeche meet mitwa’. This was what our commercial cinema looked and sounded like, until we all forgot how to romance on-screen as the pretty pictures and the expensive clothes became the soul while stories and performances deemed unnecessary.
So the trailers of ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ piqued my curiosity and expectations a little, because I have been craving a classic romance done desi style, supported by the spine of a solid story, to bring back the genre we have lost to films like Mohabbatein, Veer Zara or Bodyguard (which I am not even sure was suppose to be a love story?).
And as for the whole ‘running around trees’ argument about Bollywood and how it projects us to the world, in my opinion, if the world knows us by our butter chicken, so be it, as long as the curry tastes good and we are still proud of it.