It’s a week when thoughts turn you to romance in Bollywood of a certain period. Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988) completes 25 years, and Ashiqui (1990) gets a new version releasing today, with a ‘2’ attached to the title.
QSQT as it came to be called, and its young leading man was dubbed “QS Cutie”, now one of the most influential people in India, better known as Aamir Khan. His co-star, a former Miss India Juhi Chawla, is still active, unlike so many actresses of her time, who quit after marriage, made weak stabs at ‘comebacks’, either gave up, took up character parts or escaped to television.
Mansoor Khan, now a farmer and cheese maker in South India, made a Romeo and Juliet set in feudal Rajasthan, with two warring Rajput clans going ballistic when the son of one falls in love with the daughter of the enemy family. Even though large parts of India still live in this sort of dark age, for urban youngsters today, this whole family feud melodrama, forbidden love and no-touching mode of love would seem dated.
Just two years later, Mahesh Bhatt’s Aashiqui portrayed a different India, in which the conflict in the love story was not traditional or family, but career and ego clashes. In a remarkable show of modernity for the time, the girl’s success became a hurdle in the romance. Since then, Mahesh Bhatt has given up direction and stuck to his resolve, taking in the role of elder statesman. The leading man, Rahul Roy made a stab at Hollywood and vanished. The leading lady, Anu Agarwal went though some kind of spiritual upheaval and vanished too, into kahan gaye woh log territory.
Both films came at time when Amitabh Bachchan’s angry films were in vogue, and for a very short while, music-dominated romances took over. People in those days still bought cassettes and the music sales could often cover the budget of a film. Music was melodious, lyrics made sense. Nadeem-Shrawan and Anand-Milind were music stars for some time. There is still romance of some kind or the other in Hindi films, but there is more emphasis on the abs of the stars than on emotions. Men and women kiss without censors intervening and make love too, but it comes across as a mechanical, ‘show skin get audiences attracted’ device rather than any expression of love. The poster of the old Ashiqui with the boy and girl hidden by a jacket, had an innocent kind of eroticism.
And of course there are songs too, but they can’t be hummed a week later, leave aside a quarter of a century later, because the words are mostly gibberish, and also because playlists on the music player have to be constantly updated.