Bollywood Romance

Not long ago, Doordarshan was the state-rationed television station monopoly we were all grateful for for being streamed steadily into our living rooms. Channel surfing wasn't the epidemic it is today. In fact, we didn't have to switch channels at all since we had only 1. Most TV's were without remotes. Those that flaunted them were endlessly praised to the skies by their proud owners. I recoiled in envy.

The broadcast and content quality were pathetic. Nevertheless, since entertainment in India had already become synonymous with Bollywood, we were regularly fed with a supply of Hindi flicks from tinseltown on weekends (only Sundays initially). I hated them, but had no option but to watch since we really didn't have any other source of entertainment, except the valve-driven radio. Well, watching movies on TV wasn't nearly as torturous as studying...and I would do anything to stay away from academia!

Bollywood baffled me. Still does. It was always the same old story enacted by a new set of players, same old setup facelifted by new locales and same old rhythms thumped by new percussions. The script remained basically the same, only the plot changed course marginally to accommodate and retain some attention from the audience. There was always a handsome hero who had no career to boot but who could woo any woman by his singing skills and natural histrionics. Of course he didn't exploit his talents, they were reserved exclusively for his heroine!

There was always a pretty heroine customized for our hero. Our heroine would be the quintessential embodiment of the perfect Indian woman, with a flood in her eyes and drought in her genitalia. All this changed whenever she was in close proximity with her soulmate.Needless to say, she had spent all these years fiercely preserving her virginity for her yet-to-be-discovered beau. Her singing skills would always be at par with that of the hero. They would sing love duets in the course of which tall promises of belonging to each other would be made. Endless love, that's what they kept promising each other through countless iterations. And since Indians value chastity above all, it went without saying that this was the first and last love affair of our leads. There could be no question of adultery or admiration for someone else.

I found such scripts utterly unfathomable. What could possibly motivate a guy & gal to run around trees and sing? Didn't they have anything better to do, I thought. Get a life, folks! What could be so interesting about a pretty lass who had a frozen smile on her face each time she spotted her guy, heaving her ample bosoms to accentuate her feminity? Why would such abnormal behavior cause endless distress to the villain? Feminine touch was revolting. How could the hero possibly find it interesting? Yuck!

The villain's primary role was to create hurdles where there were none in connivance with miscellaneous characters, so as to lengthen the plot as much as possible. Our villain was employed full time by sinister forces to ruining the fledgling romance. Assisting him inadvertantly in his plot were the innocent but gullible parents of our leads. If this didn't look convincing enough, a vamp would also manage to make an entry out of nowhere. Her mainstay lied in adding detail to the dilemma, er...flashing her larger-than-life assets at our infallible hero. Siding with the villain was second nature to her, her skimpy outfits and slutty looks were enough to infuse interest into those who found the heroine too vanilla for their perverted liking. What interest she could possibly have in disrupting the almost-established romance of our pair remained a mystery till the very end.

Of course, life wasn't all work. A comedian was thrown in for good measure. Our funny man provided the otherwise grave plot the much needed comic relief through his antics. He was an individual who was fed almost entirely on a healthy supply of laughing gas. Ya, it was nice having him around.

Well, how did the story end? This was where the audience was kept guessing. If the sinister schemes fell apart and ultimately triumphed upon, our hero would marry his lady, the natural culmination of a perfect love story. If the hurdles were insurmountable, out pair would commit suicide, leaving many folks amongst the audience heartbroken and teary eyed. Since loyalty of the audience was easily won by onscreen melodrama of the leads, the emotional wrecks would find drastic ends hard to digest. And since most folks didn't like their sides to lose the battle of love, a majority of the movies could only afford a happy ending.

Escaping Bollywood in India is like escaping sand in the's impossible. Since I had never seen people in real-life replicating the meaningless actions of Indian flicks, I inferred Bollywood must be a great departure from reality. I wasn't entirely wrong. I drew the conclusion that romantic love must be an entity integral and proprietary to tinseltown, a figmented emotion around which countless but nonsensical plots were meant to be woven.

My views on love were to drastically change in the years that lay ahead.


Vivek said…
"Our heroin would be the quintessential embodiment of the perfect Indian woman, with a flood in her eyes and drought in her genitalia" .... hahahahahahaha .... man! that was a killer!
sittu said…
are u sure u used to mainstream bollywood movies??? ur description clearly shows that u have feasted ur eyes and ur "hidden" desires with some "C" grade "masses" movies. Dude, indescent sexual desires are not everthing, u shud had tried some mainstream movies also, just for the sake of it.
Vivek said…
Must say that I strongly agree with what Sittu sez .... kya Deep, you a fan of Mithun Da or what?
deepanjan said…
Buddies, in the mid-to-late 80's and even early 90's, this was the typical Bollywood movie screened on DD. Also bear in mind the great time lag between a movie being shot and it being finally screened on state run television. Nothing of commercial value was ever streamed on publicly funded TV. Generally, the movies shown were from the 70's and early 80's era. Our movie makers had yet to open up.

Things changed dramatically after that. The modern-day Bollywood flick has matured beyond recognition. I'm happy to see the new generation movies being remarkably better than their ancestral counterparts. The new breed is indeed worthy of great adulation for not being stereotyped.
Rakesh said…
Hey Deep.. Was a nice blog. Out of my curiosity I would like to know when was the last bollywood romantic movie which you saw?
zoya said…
What a great description. I've sat through a few classic Bollywood films and even watched a friend of a friend break down after watching the suicide of both protagonists. I tried really hard to understand this reaction but realized it's way beyond my realm of understanding.
deepanjan said…
Raka, most Bollywood movies are 'romantic' by default! Santosh's computer fills me in on the latest films, the most recent being Fanaa. It was above-average.
deepanjan said…
Zoya, I offer my sincerest of sympathies. Suffering these movies can be an unparalleled experience! You're lucky you don't understand the tons of garbage the protagonists utter.
Vivek said…
Err .... I'm nitpicking here but in the last line, shouldn't it be " .... in the years that lay ahead."
deepanjan said…
Your suggestion has been incorporated. Thanks for the input and keep them coming!
Gurdas said…
If you write about something worthless, doesn't that make your writing worthless?

- G
deepanjan said…
My writing was always worthless.
So thot of meeting its match!
deepanjan said…
Erratum: Now this is embarrassing!
Heroine was misspelt as heroin...proof enough of my writing being worthless!
shiva said…
Deepanjan i really don't know the inner spurt that forced you to such a blog but keep blogging its interesting in many ways. Hope you find the answer or define one for your self as does every one :)
deepanjan said…
BTW, are you Shive Kumar?

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