My earliest memory of a Bollywood movie belonged to a time when renting out video cassettes from a parlor was quite a popular pastime during vacations. The first movie I saw on one such video cassette was the 1989, Salman Khan-Bhagyashree starrer – Maine Pyaar Kiya. At that time and age, love meant friendship; the “not so wealthy” were always kind at heart; the affluent were nasty and love stories always ended with “happily ever after”. A little later came my first big screen encounter with the 1990, Aamir Khan-Madhuri Dixit starrer – Dil. A trip with cousins, led by my dad (who took pride at haggling with black marketers) will always be remembered for the melodramatic hero-heroine rivalry, defiance towards family, sacrifice and finally again a “happily ever after”.
As a teenager, crushes on Bollywood movie stars were quite common. With a single watch of the 1992 release – Khiladi and some convincing at home, I had this huge poster of Akshay Kumar in our bedroom. After learning about some trivia related to the movie – Khiladi was a remake of the erstwhile whodunit, Khel Khel Mein – there was this new found respect for my parents. Suddenly their generation was cool for enjoying a good murder mystery just as much as we did. On the heels of Khiladi was the 1993, Shahrukh Khan-Kajol-Shilpa Shetty starrer – Baazigar. Baazigar was special for different reasons though. Coming from the same school as Shilpa Shetty, as giggly girls, we were just so intrigued by how our senior basketball player got catapulted into the glamorous playground of Bollywood; intrigued by how a chocolate boy hero can metamorphose into a villain and still be likeable. The “Kaali Kaali Aankhen” song brings back sweet memories of afternoon dance practice sessions on a terrace for our colony’s new year bash. It also brings back memories of violence and a gory climax. For someone like me, though, the end never really justified the means.
The latter part of the 1990s’ saw a duo of block busters – Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge(1995) and Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) release in theatres and into our hearts. No matter how clichéd it sounds, it is actually true that women of all ages and sizes, secretly dream of living a Yash Chopra leading lady’s life – always innocent and beautiful, always attired in an enticing yet elegant way, always falling in love amidst picturesque locations. Both DDLJ and DTPH had this and more. Contrary to popular belief that DDLJ can be watched a million times, I actually watched DDLJ just twice. But twice was enough to touch a chord and leave a lasting impression. While the nation went crazy over the “palat” scene and the “Ja Simran ja…jee le apni zindagi” dialogue; there were nuances -Shahrukh circling Kajol on a cycle in an innovative song sequence; Farida Jalal’s teachings to her daughter about a woman’s life; the subtle comedy slipped between hero-heroine, father-son, hero’s father-heroine’s aunt dialogues, etc. that I recollect even today. DTPH was my first, first day, last show, late night outing. For someone who enjoys dance and is a romantic at heart, it was a pretty good outing. While there was nothing fresh about the story line, actors, dialogues or scenes; what stood out for me was the simply superb music. Every song in the movie was unique in its own way. There was a song for each situation and a heralding of a new kind of choreography for Bollywood. I am not a hard core Uttam Singh or Shiamak Davar fan but the combination just touched a chord yet again and left a lasting impression yet again.
We grow, we change and so do our tastes. Bollywood movies started focusing on characters and themes more than the traditional hero-heroine love story capers. I started enjoying varied genres a lot more than the regular run-of-the-mill ones. With the millennium came the Paresh Rawal, Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty, Tabu starrer – Hera Pheri. Hera Pheri could undoubtedly be the “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro” of our times. A complex plot made simple with clever dialogues and closer to real life characters. The terms LOL and ROFL may very well have been coined after watching this movie. The title justified the story line; the actors did justice to their roles and it was 3 hrs of time well spent. I can’t really recollect any other time when I have laughed so much, with tears in my eyes and appreciation in my heart. A huge salute to the wonderful actor that he is, Paresh Rawal. Another movie that brings tears to my eyes, for a very different reason has been the 2007, Shahrukh Khan and a bunch of talented girls’ starrer – Chak De. It was a welcome change to watch the spotlight shifting from King Khan to the theme – Poignant but strong; unknown faces but high recollection value; zero glamour but captivating; girls’ hockey but still engaging, patriotic but yet interesting… With all due respect to the movies that went on to make it to the Oscar nominations, Chak De, in my opinion should have been there on the list.
Post Chak De, I don’t seem to remember movies very clearly. There has been some brilliant cinema made, wonderful characters portrayed, realistic themes chosen – but something has changed along the way. The Vidya Balan starrer – Kahani; the Aamir Khan venture – PK; the light hearted Ranbir Kapoor, Konkana Sen movie – Wake Up Sid are some that come to my mind. There are many, many more. But…movies are no longer elusive – tickets easily available at multiplexes, actors easily visible on TV and easily accessible on social media are perhaps contributors. Nevertheless, I see the tide turning in my life with my little daughter following my footsteps. She seems to enjoy a good movie over a packet of caramel popcorn just as much as me. 5 movies down and the winner is Bahubali. She has anointed each family member with the name of a Bahubali character. Though not originally from Bollywood, Bahubali deserves a separate write up, I say. It appears as though my movie fetish will be revived!