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The return of mohabbat


Romance returns in its vintage form to Bollywood. Young audiences it seems are falling in love with stolen glances and whispered promises.

Filmmaker Vikramaditya Motwane says he is as much of an old-world romantic as the protagonists of his latest film, Lootera. When he first met Ishika Mohan (now his wife), almost 20 years ago, romance wasn't just about casual dating for him. It meant 'falling' in love.
"There was a mystery associated with romance. We did not have mobile phones then. We used to long to speak to each other and be with each other. Stealing glances, smiling to yourself thinking about the person, this was all part of being in love," says the director.

Lootera, starring Sonakshi Sinha and Ranveer Singh is full of moments that spell out the charm of vintage romance. The camera lingers over characters and places, long enough for the audience to soak in the nuances, the lighting is soft and the lead characters sometimes talk in such hushed tones that their breath conveys more than the actual words. "Lootera is an opportunity for the generation of today to understand how romance was construed and constructed," Motwane says.

For over a decade now, the current generation has been rooting for romantic comedies which are fastpaced, and for characters who move on easily after a break up or a fallout. Nuanced love stories are not cool enough for this generation. Too many stolen looks are too many missed opportunities.

Filmmakers such as Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Yash Chopra have tried to rekindle old world romance with movies such as Saawariya and Veer-Zaara. But these movies failed to work their magic on the audience. Pankaj Kapur in his debut film Mausam tried to create the old-world romance, but the box-office figures were disastrous. Surprisingly though, 2013 has seen the trend shifting. The classic love story is back.

Earlier this year, Mohit Suri stepped out of the typical Bhatt zone and its erotic love stories to capture unconditional love and passion in Aashiqui 2. Aanand L Rai's Raanjhanaa showcased childhood love, unrequitted over years. Ritesh Batra in his debut venture, The Lunchbox, has experimented with a rather quirky but old-fashioned love story that blossoms between a housewife and an elderly man over an exchanged lunch dabbas and actual letters. "There is a story in every relationship. Love can be portrayed in different ways and Bollywood does give you a chance to do so today," says Batra, who has kept romance between the mature couple in his film - played by Irrfan Khan and newcomer Nimrat Kaur - subtle.

Bollywood's age of innocence yielded some great actors and movies. Guru Dutt's pathos, Dev Anand's easy charm and Rajesh Khanna's infectious smile are all part of the celluloid romantic folklore. Women had to be wooed with songs, words and flowers. When Anand wooed Nutan by singing "Tere Ghar Ke Saamne", the actress smiled coyly. When Khanna sang "Achcha Toh Hum Chalte Hain", Asha Parekh sighed and looked away. Movies such as Pyaasa, Shri 420, Guide, Aradhana, Kati Patang, Kabhie Kabhie painted a picture of eternal romance. Yash Chopra and later Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar carried the baton.

"At the end of the day we all yearn for true love. This is perhaps the reason why a rooted love story between two simple and real people worked," says Shagufta Rafique, writer of Aashiqui 2, on the film's success. Romance need not be in your face at all times. "A touch here, a smile there works as well," she says. She recalls a scene in Aashiqui 2, where the two lovers, essayed by Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor, express their love across a glass door. "There was no touch involved, only the movement of eyes and a few words. Yet, this scene remains the most memorable one."

Rai believes that there is an audience for this romance in the younger generation. Before he shot Raanjhanaa, he spent time observing youngsters at coffee shops in Mumbai. "When I looked at all the couples, I found them to be more true and straightforward than our generation. But there was something amiss. They had forgotten to 'fall' in love. Their love was like that one cup of cappuccino, which emptied in no time." Rai is of the opinion that the young are afraid to fall in love because they cannot handle rejection. "This prompted me to make a movie on love and rejection for the younger generation. After all, rejection too is about personal growth," he says.

Does the slow pace of vintage romances work in a fast-paced world? "Some stories demand slow pace. You cannot always rush with emotion," says Motwane. Rafique feels that a romance will work only if you have invested in it emotionally. "You could write 100 romantic scripts, but you need to give a part of your life to write a successful romance, " she says. Finally, it is all about the story that tugs at your heart. "Sometimes a particular story works, sometimes it does not," says Rai. The rules of romance, it seems, might always remain the same.

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