Welcome to The 70s Blog Mela in BollyLand! For seven technicolor days, your favorite Bollybloggers turn their back on The Golden Made- in-Bengal Age of Hindi Cinema and take time off from cribbing about modern cinema to focus on the era that taught us the true meaning of paisa vasool. Click on the link above or click here to catch up with all the fantastic posts you might have missed.
Today on IQ, we break out the champagne, light the candles, strew the rose petals and settle back in our bubble bath for a bit of romance.
Romance in the Age of Masala
No matter the era – be it the violence soaked 80s or the bigger-is-better 70s, the mythological 40s or the earnest 50s – Hindi cinema’s greatest currency has always been love. His western counterparts might banter wittily on the phone or take the girl on a walk through mist-drenched Paris but such thakela stuff was never enough for your Hindi film hero. Dilip Kumar declared war on Daddy Akbar for his best slave girl, Shammi Kapoor hung out of helicopters, and Raj Kapoor came back from the dead (even though the girl really wished he’d have stayed dead).
Naturally, the masala 70s had to keep up. There is a post out there (hint, hint to some brave soul reading this) about all the grand romantic gestures the bravos from the 70s made in the name of love – from Amitabh Bachchan’s emergence from an enormous Easter Egg to Rishi Kapoor getting the shit kicked out of him in every other movie, but that’s not what I’d like to discuss today.
No, I’m thinking of something much more simpler and sweeter: the true blue romances of the 70s. The chick flicks, the movies that make you go awww, the ones all the boys say are really for the girls but like to watch all the same because they’re just so darn good!
Note: In the process of making my list, I noticed that it slowly turned into a post about Jaya Bhaduri’s movies. Hmmm. In alphabetical order:
1. Anamika – Jaya Bhaduri and Sanjeev Kumar are one of my all time favorite screen couples so this is an automatic mark in its favor. But this movie about a writer who rescues an unconscious girl one night only to have her wake up the next morning claiming to be his bride has a little bit of everything – mystery, romance, villainy, great songs and Helen.
2. Balika Badhu – Child marriage is creepy, yes. Especially when the lead characters are so convincingly childish. But if you can manage to throw your mind over that bit of matter (it helps a bit that the marriage is actually between two children, instead of a little girl to some old lech), the movie becomes a lovely little exploration of relationships conducted within a conservative joint family in another era. It’s a glimpse at another India.
3. Blackmail – Oh. Em. Gee. There’s this whole plot about a solar powered battery or something and Shatrughan Sinha wants to steal the phormoola for it. But what we care about is the growing love story between the shy and very handsome scientist played by Dharmendra and the mega beautiful Rakhee. Warning: you’ll never look at a woodpile the same way again! Read review here.
4. Chupke Chupke – What person does not love this movie? Show me your face so I might sneer at you! Everybody’s favorite romcom is about newlyweds Parimal and Sulekha starting off their marriage in grand style with a bit of subterfuge and hijinks. The majority of the movie is taken up with the central prank and the way it keeps threatening to go out of hand, but what grounds the whole enterprise is the flirtatious romance of the lead couple. There is a scene at the very beginning in which Sulekha sternly orders a sheepish Parimal to show her his face. I don’t think Dharmendra’s ever looked better in his life. if you haven’t watched this movie yet, you need to catch it stat – preferably as a double feature with Blackmail. Keep the oxygen handy!
5. Guddi – The story of a naive young woman who isn’t quite sure what she wants but rather likes the shiny stuff that’s out of her reach is such an old trope, I’m always shocked at how badly Hindi cinema botches it up. Usually the girl is some rich bitch and the shiny guy she likes is someone like Gulshan Grover or Shakti Kapoor and the nice guy is actually some lout with his shirt unbuttoned to his navel – the better to show off his hirsute chest. Versions multiply thereof. Do not want. Guddi is altogether different – little Guddi with her movie star obsession slowly falls for the steadfast young man approved by her family and learns a thing or two about fantasy and reality along the way without it all getting preachy. It’s lovely.
6. Mili – Hrishikesh Mukherjee had an amazing ability to take a cliche and make you fall desperately in love with it. This story of a terminally ill young woman who teaches a brusque and emotionally battered man to love is possibly my favorite Jaya-Amitabh romance. Oh, and my version has a happy ending, thanks very much.
7. Rafoo Chakkar – Who is the fairest, featheriest, shiniest, booteephoolest Kapoor of all? Rishi Kapoor, of course! Okay, so it’s more of a comedy than a romance but this remake of Some Like It Hot is utterly fabulous. Read review here and here.
8. Sharmeelee – Another movie of Rakhee in her doll phase (I mean that as a compliment – I don’t know how Katrina Kaif ended up as Bollywood Barbie when any fool who knew their Bollywood knows the title rightfully belongs to her! Maybe she can be Vintage Bollywood Barbie? I shall write a letter!), this one has the added benefit of the ever so beautiful Shashi Kapoor. Aiee! Of course, when Shashi is handed a romantic lead, some perverse impulse is automatically triggered in the fool director’s mind and the loveliest man in all the land immediately turns into a nasty piece of work with severe psychological problems (see Satyam Shivam Sundaram for more). But everything works out satisfactorily, complete with midair fights, evil twins, espionage and more! Read review here.
9. Trishul – This isn’t an automatic guess when you say “romance”, especially when it features The Bachchan in full He Man mode but it’s really one big love fest. It starts with Sanjeev Kumar’s betrayal of a pregnant Waheeda Rehman and continues with their son Amitabh Bachchan’s quest for revenge against the father he’s never known. There’s his half-brother Shashi Kapoor who’s got everything money can buy but can’t do what he really wants. Amitabh and Rakhee have another one of their intense relationships and Shashi and Hema Malini have a boisterous fling, while Poonam Dhillon and Sachin are the picture of earnest young love.
10. Uphaar – Jaya Bhaduri is incandescent in the Hindi remake of a Rabindranath Tagore story originally filmed by Satyajit Ray (the fascinating yet disturbing “Samapti” from Teen Kanya). It softens the edges of the Ray film (I haven’t read the story, so can’t speak as to Tagore’s version) which was a lot more brutal about the effects marriage and womanhood have on the free-spirited female lead but manages to retain the fey bits of the character.
1. Amar Prem – The eternal love of the title is actually that of a mother for a child and vice versa. Sharmila Tagore spends an eternity in this movie getting ground into the dirt and shedding copious tears, only to find some semblance of happiness in the embrace of a client which just leads to even more despair. It elevates melodrama to the point of religious experience but its saving grace is that it never lets go of Sharmila’s mothering instinct. For days when you want to wallow. Oh, and one of the best soundtracks of the decade.
2. Andaz – Munchkins! It has adorable munchkins! And Hema Malini who looks like a doll. And Shammi Kapoor who’s just the right amount of madcap. And Rajesh Khanna in a flashback. Something for everybody.
3. Bobby – Young love, class war, you know the drill. Adolescents are not my thing but Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia are terribly sweet. And they glow! Literally, glow! Even my cold heart says aww. Read review here.
4. Caravan – I don’t want to lie to you: this is a Jeetendra movie. And yes, he does get pouty and sobby in the middle, and his pants are disturbing. But! He also has the wonderful Asha Parekh with him as well as Aruna Irani and Helen. And all of them dance and have a good time. I vote this the movie I’m most likely to bring out at a pajama party: fun enough to have a blast, not good enough to merit personal time. More here.
5. Dastan – This movie is an instant pick me up because you know exactly what’s going to happen from the moment you meet the unusually happily married Dilip Kumar. I mean, every movie-goer doth know that nobody is that in sync with his buxom wife unless an anvil is readying to drop itself on his head. For those days when you’d like a bit of self-righteous indignation to go with your cake.
6. Gharaonda – What I really love about this movie about love gone wrong is that you can truly feel Amol Palekar’s disbelief that Zarina Wahab could possibly prefer Shreeram Lagoo to him. It’s a complicated movie – the older man isn’t some heartthrob with a few dashes of silver paint in his hair, the younger man is more desperate than evil, and the girl’s idealism is well and good but when you think about it, she had one option more than her boyfriend. It’s fit for company and for alone time.
7. Heer Ranjha – Chetan Anand tried to do something truly different with his version of the iconic Punjabi starcrossed lovers. And then he carried it too far and cast Priya Rajvansh as Heer, creating an immortal romantic film about a man in love with a talking mannequin. Creepy fun but not for those rainy days when you want to believe in the power of love and Prince Charming.
8. Kasme Vaade – This movie isn’t really very good and comes with a masala element which features a hilariously hunchbacked Amjad Khan, but it has all the force of that smouldering Rakhee – Amitabh chemistry behind it. I know Rekha – Amitabh is supposed to be the Holy Grail or whatever, but I personally prefer this pair. Rakhee always appears to present a challenge to Amitabh when they team up and it’s especially potent in the second half of this movie as poor half-demented Suman struggles with the appearance of the befuddled Shankar who looks exactly like her genteel lost love, Amit (albeit with a pencil mustache and dirty clothes).
9. Laila Majnu – Romeo and Juliet in Arabia! Didn’t care when it was set in Italy, don’t care even if they traded in the doublets for some harem pants. The only time I liked this thing was when they staged it in Aaja Nachle and that’s because it got over in six minutes or so. But if you like to watch your romance with a hankie or ten in one hand, then this is the movie for you.
10. Rajnigandha – This isn’t really a “Bollywood” film but I can’t resist it. A quiet movie about the road not taken, it’s perfect for a Sunday afternoon. Read a review here.
PS – talking of romance, I just want to give a shoutout to Rajshri for actually taking the trouble to understand how the internet works and putting up an excellent Youtube channel. With the recent kudos going to Striker and the well-deserved bitterness that labels like Eros, Moser Baer, etc have earned with their unembeddable videos and their terrible DVDs, it’s worth pointing out that the original kings of the “family” romance were the first big production house in Bollywood to put up a downloadable version of their movie (Vivaah) and do audiences of Hindi cinema everywhere a great service by uploading their library.