Movies have always given us stories that are synonymous to the current situation of the society. Sometimes they’ve relied on the past to remind us about our history (‘Rang De Basanti‘). Sometimes they’ve rooted itself in the present to show us our inhumanity (‘Peepli Live’). However, for some reason, romance in Indian movies are stuck in a weird timeline that’s neither there nor here.
As life imitates art, this mashup of ’50s nostalgia with 21st century ideas that Bollywood’s peddling is completely confusing couples. Should they hear Udit Narayan’s voice in their ears when they make eye contact or is it okay if they just hear the honking of a passing car? Should they talk in cliched one-liners or make sensible conversation over a cup of coffee? And as Bollywood is in no mood to answer these questions, here comes my hatred.
The first aspect of romance that Bollywood hasn’t changed in ages is the notion that it has to begin with stalking.
The primary propagator of stalking being equal to “romance” was obviously Shah Rukh Khan in ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge‘. And that movie came out in 1995. In 2018, a movie as good as ‘Mukkabaaz‘ also has its romantic relationship deeply rooted in the not-so-subtle art of stalking.
This isn’t something to be shown on celluloid and concluded with a happy ending because it supports the practice. And I’m not asking for a documentary of a relationship either. Just give me something believable. Like a love story between two people from the same workplace. Or one between two mutual friends. Why? Because that feels healthy and natural.
Breaking into songs and dance numbers are way too unrealistic for 2018 and it isn’t even a passable substitute for character development.
The setting of every Bollywood movie is usually boy meets girl and then they fall in love. Now the logical question is ‘ how?’. But Bollywood has no time to answer that because they’re busy choreographing their next dance number which will be popular among the kids. And that goes for anytime the writers are close to doing something dynamic with the characters.
Now that might be okay for the general audience, but I find it irksome. I want to feel the love, the complexity or the tension in a relationship. Bollywood movies are anyway 2-hours long and I don’t want to sift through the lyrics of a song to understand the development the protagonists went through. Just give me clearly defined character arcs and I’ll be happy.
Bollywood is mum on the sex aspect of a relationship because they think it’s not at all an important factor.
Regarding sex, Bollywood has moved on from the ‘flower touching’ phase. Now, it means frolicking around in the bed in a well-lit room, sniffing each other’s necks and then cutting to black. But people in real life know that it’s anything but that. It’s usually sweaty, uncomfortable and rarely completely satisfactory. Additionally, it might be the thing that increases or decreases the chemistry between a couple.
I don’t entirely blame them for that because the CBFC and pseudo-sanskaaris are breathing down their neck. But at least try to emphasise on it through dialogue because it’s an important part of romance. Movies like ‘Lust Stories’ shouldn’t be a one-off because exploring every nook and cranny of a relationship (like it did) is what makes a love story compelling.
Romantic movies are still limited to acknowledging heterosexual couples and severely under-represents the LGBTQ community.
If you grow up in India, watching only mainstream Bollywood movies, you’ll think that heterosexuality is the norm. And, thanks to the internet, when you’ll see the whole world accepting the LGBTQ community with movies like ‘Love, Simon’ or ‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’, you’ll just be confused. Why? Because Bollywood, like most Indians, suffers from the ‘log kya kahenge?’ syndrome.
Why does a love story only has to be between a boy and a girl even when it’s been done so many times? And if we want to progress as a society, why should we accept only the depiction of heterosexual romance? If a production house is making crores of money, I think they can afford to make a LGBTQ story and join movies like ‘Fire’ and ‘Loev’ in fighting the taboo around such relationships.
Bollywood is obsessed with ‘happy endings’ and that sets up some unrealistic expectations for everyone.
When it comes to citing famous love stories, the most common name that pops up in everyone’s minds is ‘Romeo and Juliet’. And that story ends with the lovers dying. Still, Bollywood wants to feed you with the cliched ‘couple riding into the sunset’ plot because they aren’t responsible when you face rejection or a swift break-up or end up in the ‘friend-zone’.
The vastly underappreciated ‘Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu‘ shows the most realistic ending of most modern relationships. ‘Mukkabaaz‘ ends with the hero losing against the villain because in real life, sometimes you’ve to compromise for the sake of love and life. So, even if you want a happy ending, Bollywood, then please let it have some realism in it.
On one hand, love is such an abstract and complex concept. And on the other hand, cinema is such a malleable and influential medium. That’s why, it hurts me to see Bollywood bring those two and create such bland stories. Modern film making is at its peak now and I think Bollywood should ride that wave to do something interesting and redefine romance for the society and its upcoming generation of storytellers.