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Reel-life friendship

Friday, August 03, 2018

Melodramatic portrayals of friendship in Bollywood films are mercifully now a thing of the past, says Tanmaya Vyas

When hanging around with your best friend, have you suddenly started singing paeans to your friendship? If you haven’t, and it is safe to assume, most of us haven’t, then as far as Bollywood is concerned (or at least Bollywood till about a decade ago), your friendship couldn’t be classified as ‘Sacchi Dosti’.

For Bollywood, true friendship meant singing songs like ‘Ye Dosti Hum Nahi Todenge’ (Sholay) or ‘Yari Hai Imaan Mera’ (Zanjeer), ‘Tere Jaisa Yaar Kahan’, however ludicrous it may seem in real life.

There were other criteria as well. In countless Hindi movies, heroes sacrificed their true love so that the friend could get the girl. (The lady in question, of course, had no say in the matter). Think Sangam, Chaudhavi Ka Chand or Saagar.

In fact in the last named movie, viewers were left wondering, why the two guys don’t marry each other and throw the girl in the aforesaid Saagar!

Funnily enough, these ‘love

triangles’, an immensely popular genre in Bollywood, especially in the sixties, almost inevitably had a song where one of the main characters plays the piano, (actually more like tickles the piano, since no Bollywood hero could ever make a realistic imitation of playing the piano). The piano cover formed a triangle, thereby driving home the symbolism.

And sacrificing your true love was not the only criteria to prove the strength of your friendship. You had to sacrifice your life as well to save your friends. (e.g. Sholay, Zanjeer et al).

In fact even in films which portray friendships between humans and animals like the Rajesh Khanna starrer Haathi Mere Saathi and Jackie Shroff starrer Teri Meherbaniyan, the animal, elephant in the first instance and dog in the second, sacrifice their lives for their human friends.

Thankfully, these over-the-top, ultra-melodramatic portrayals of friendship are a thing of the past now. And like a million other things, we have our 350 million strong young population—the largest in the world—to thank for it.  Film makers have realised that for their films to resonate with this audience, the portrayals of relationships—especially friendship—have to be real.

As a result, heavy-on-emotional-quotient friendship movies have been slowly replaced with subtler representation of relationships. A path-breaking movie in this term was Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai. Starring Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna, Dil Chahta Hai reflected the urban environment and dynamic among the young generation with aplomb. The conflict here was never common love interest but the inter-personal relationships, focusing on the basics of friendship.

A few years later, Farhan’s sister Zoya Akhtar  made a film, Zindagi na Milegi Dobara, again a story of three friends, who embark on a trip across Spain and in the process help each other tackle various life issues.

It took a while for the Indian film industry to wake up to make movies about female bonding. The recent Veere Di Wedding, was a movie about female friends, which the producers refused to brand as a ‘Chick Flick’, as they believed that situation in the movie is gender-neutral.

Angry Indian Goddesses preceded Veere Di Wedding and projected a group of female friends dealing with their existential issues. The bond between Rani and VJ in the runaway hit Queen, is another example of fine depiction of female bonding.

Strangely enough, Bollywood still doesn’t seem to have come to terms with the fact that the relationship between a boy and girl doesn’t always have to be romantic and they can be just good friends as well.

An honourable exception to this is the Kareena Kapoor and Imran Khan starrer Ek Main aur Ek Tu, that showed the lead pair ending up being good friends rather than being in a romantic relationship.

What is interesting is also how films have started exploring unusual friendships. In Cheeni Kum, the character played by Amitabh Bachchan shares a unique bond of friendship with a terminally ill little girl.

The film Bhootnath took the concept of friendship to, quite literally, another dimension as a young kid becomes friends with a ghost played by the Big B.

As we approach International Friendship Day, here’s hoping that this trend of nuanced, real friendships in Hindi films continues.

Quick facts

 Film makers have realised that for their films to resonate with this audience, the portrayals of friendship have to be real.

 Heavy-on-emotional-quotient friendship movies have been slowly replaced with subtler representation of relationships.

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