As the autumn leaves fall, love is in the air. There are different forms and expressions of love but all are guided by one universal energy. People are celebrating Valentine’s day with gusto as always— some doing last-minute shopping for their loved ones, some probably baking a special cake, some planning a romantic evening with wine and good food, and some coming up with non-normative, creative ways of celebrating love. There are also some cynics who will tell you that Valentine’s day is capitalist propaganda to sell products in the name of love and love does not require one special day of celebrations. Well, I partly agree with that but find nothing wrong with happy couples who choose this particular day to celebrate the occasion. Well, if you think about it, when you’re in love, each day is Valentine’s day.
While most couples will go to some fancy restaurant or party to celebrate the day, There are some couples who might choose to stay indoors and celebrate low-key and more intimately. Not everyone is blessed with love at the moment but they do have a hopeless romantic within them. There are also some who might be reeling from a painful breakup at the moment and Valentine’s day can be particularly difficult for them. For them, I suggest the power of cinema.
Whether you want to cuddle up and enjoy a movie with your loved one or order a pizza by yourself and nurture the romantic in you or you are going through a crisis in your love life and seeking a way to re-affirm your belief in love, Bollywood is at your service. let us remember that Love is a universal concept and is the most common and recurring theme throughout cinema. But none has showcased a grander celebration of love on-screen than Bollywood. It is always difficult to curate romantic Bollywood films as the list is so vast. But here are our picks that will take you on a romantic journey throughout time as we have chosen seven movies from each decade.
I. Chori Chori (1956)
It is a classic Hind-language rom-com directed by Anant Thakur with Raj Kapoor, and Nargis in lead roles. It is adapted from the 1934 American film It Happened One Night. The movie has some of the biggest hit songs from old Bollywood sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey. A rich, spoiled girl called Kammo runs away with Sumankumar when her father disapproves of their relationship. However, her life changes when she meets and falls in love with Sagar, a simple journalist.
II. Mughal-E-Azam (1960)
This film needs no introduction. Everything is fair in love and war and this film aptly encapsulates it. It is an Indian epic historical drama film produced and directed by K. Asif with a star-studded cast of Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala, and Durga Khote. It shows the passionate love affair between Mughal Prince Jahangir and Anarkali, a court dancer. Salim's father, Emperor Akbar, disapproves of the relationship, because of the glaring status disparity between the couple. This leads to a war between father and son.
III. Bobby (1973)
Can something like religion stand in the way of true love? I think not, and this film aptly captures that. One of the biggest blockbusters of all time, it is a musical romance movie, produced and directed by Raj Kapoor, and written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. It stars the heartthrob of all our grandmothers, Rishi Kapoor, in his first leading role, and also debutant Dimple Kapadia as his co-star. The movie became a trendsetter in Bollywood for love stories with a rich versus poor societal clash as a backdrop. Raja, the son of a rich Hindu business tycoon, falls in love with Bobby, who is an underprivileged Catholic girl. The story revolves around how their families try to keep them away from each other yet the two lovebirds strive to be together against all odds.
IV. Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)
This film is the trendsetter in Bollywood romances as it is a modern take on the classic romantic Romeo-Juliet love tragedy trope. The movie is directed by Mansoor Khan and written and produced by Nasir Hussain. It features one of the three greats Khans of Bollywood, Aamir Khan in his film debut along with debutant Juhi Chawla, in lead roles. The movie instantly catapulted them into superstars and earned great commercial success. The movie centers around Raj and Rashmi falling in love with each other and deciding to elope even though their respective families are bitter enemies. The film’s soundtrack was a breakthrough for the careers of Anand–Milind, along with T-Series, one of India's leading record labels today.
V. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)
A Sanjay Leela Bhansali film had to be on this list with all its grandeur and amplified celebration of love. The casting of the film includes stars Aishwarya Rai, Salman Khan, and Ajay Devgn. The film narrates the story of a newlywed man who discovers that his wife is in love with another man. Ignoring all the ridicule he may face from society, he decides to unite his wife with her lover. It is a movie definitely ahead of its time. It has been described as a loose adaptation of Maitreyi Devi's Bengali novel Na Hanyate, although the film itself does not claim it as source material. It is one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films ever, has won several awards, and has an amazing soundtrack with the song, Aankhon Ki Gustakhiyan by Kavita Krishnamurthy and Kumar Sanu, being my personal favorite.
VI. Parineeta (2005)
Vidya Balan is such a talented actress and this film has one of her finest performances. The movie is an adaptation of the great writer, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's 1914 Bengali novella of the same name. Vidya Balan, in her debut role, is cast alongside veteran actor Sanjay Dutt and fan-favorite, Saif Ali Khan. The film centers around the lead characters, Lalita and Shekhar, who have been friends since childhood. Their friendship slowly develops into love but a series of misunderstandings surface and they are separated due to the schemes by Shekhar's father. The plot thickens with the arrival of Girish, who supports Lalita's family. It is a beautiful watch with many references to Indian cinema and literature.
VII. Margarita with a Straw (2014)
Although Bollywood has created some gems when it comes to romantic films, they have primarily showcased heteronormative love. Times are changing and so is the world of Hindi cinema. Margarita with a Straw was one such movie way ahead of its time. It stars the talented Kalki Koechlin as an Indian teenager with cerebral palsy who moves to America for her undergraduate education and blossoms through her complex relationship with a blind girl, played by Sayani Gupta. The film deals with important concepts such as sexuality, disability, inclusion, and self-acceptance.
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