She went to watch Aashiqui-2. She came back with pyaar, ishq aur mohabbat in her
heart head. So over to Fatema Kagalwala who ponders over matters of the heart.
Insights don’t owe the source anything. Neither is observation obligated to its genesis. So while watching Aashiqui-2, when my mind began wandering with a momentum that had nothing to do with the emotional quotient of the film, it was time to set pen to paper. Or well, keyboard to MSWord. Why rein in a capricious mind that revels in intellectual masturbation?
There was a dulcet time in our movie-watching nostalgia when grand passions on screen were our personal emotional crescendos. Unattainable, intense romances that scarred us so bad, it was unbearable to live after that, yet a life like that was worth many without it. We could happily become the lovers on-screen and do everything they did with a resounding passion. We’d devour their legendary pain feverishly as though somehow it would redeem us of the pedestrian-ness of our lives and bring us instant immortality. The choices of the lovers were unquestionable, all was fair in love and war, and the world was at the feet of the two touched by Cupid. Nothing else mattered except that undying longing for the other. It wasn’t cute, it was disturbing in that lovely, intense way that morning dreams are sometimes, where you walk in deep darkness, with a red halo descending on you, towards the end of a tunnel that is showing the glimpse of dawn. You are alone in your anxiety yet clutching at hope, not knowing what the next moment brings but yearning to have it all. And then you wake up with a start and there is a weight on your chest like it is sometimes in morning dreams. You snuggle back but continue to savour that strange mix of dread and anticipation, having been there and not quite but longing to go back… That was love for us and what passion was always meant to be. Like Salim’s delirious love for Anarkali, Heer’s utter devotion to Ranjha, Vasu and Sapna’s inseparability or the sheer innocence of Raj and Rashmi’s bond. It wasn’t about how well the films were made as much as how deeply we aspired to that kind of love. And more importantly how we understood it. “Haif us chaar girah kapde ki kismet ghalib, jiski kismet mein hain aashiq ka gareban hona”. That is the kind of yearning love was made of…
Somehow, love was absolute for us. ‘Chhup na sakega ishq hamaara, chaaron taraf hai unka nazaara’. A non-negotiable reality. One for which anything, any action wasn’t too dramatic or no cost too much to pay. Letters written in blood drew painful sighs from us and parental opposition was villainy of the highest kind. The lover’s friends were Gods own angels and daresay if the lovers were to die, it was an irrevocable loss for us, as an audience. It was a scar that would refuse to heal, making the hero-heroines saints in our eyes. We’d love them for loving like that and more importantly having a love like that. Through them we’d have our bit of history-making and feel soul-satisfied for having ‘lived’ true to ourselves, even if it was for mere 3 hours, a dot on the terrain of our unbearably long drawn out lives.
But like a disheartening inevitability, love changed with time and so did love stories. It changed from love letters to running to catch truant trains to get together with your loved one. It changed from passion-drenched poetry to Geet-like non-stop chatter. From inner landscapes of Laila dying to know how her Majnu is doing out in the unforgiving desert to stunning locales where the yuppy boy helped the timid girl open up and ‘live-a little’. From longing to sex – that defining ache replaced by the inevitable first kiss that today is more ‘being-in-the-moment’ than drenched in the desire of true love. Compare the tender moment of Raj and Rashmi’s first kiss to any of our must-have liplocks today. Or the lovely, pubescent tension between Raja and Bobby. Or even Prem and Suman’s first sexually charged encounter in ‘Mere Rang Mein’ which seems corny to us today but speaks volumes of the philosophy that was sublime love back then. Back, when we devoured it with fatal sighs ourselves. But now love has ‘moved on’- as is the new-age term for growth and overcoming pain while leaving behind love’s scars – something we yearned to acquire in the past… it has gone from commitment that is default to questions that are endless. From a dream to a reality, that’s more often than not, a pain to suffer rather than an ideal to cherish. Imtiaz Ali made an entire ‘Love Aaj Kal’ defining more than just our attitude with one sweep. Jaane kyon log pyaar karte hain, the question Jai spent an entire movie finding an answer to…
And try as we might to resist it, love has got urbanized too. And it doesn’t matter if our romantic films aren’t telling the story of the small-towner because today even he aspires to be as cool as the big city-guy except maybe in a spare Ishaqzaade which tries to reverse this but gets it all wrong. And maybe that is why there is no Mohnish-Bahl type villain anymore to fight, nor well-meaning but opposing parents – there is nothing to rebel against because the enemy is the mindset itself. The self that doesn’t believe in love and hence lets everything else come in the way, itself included. And the more modern our love-stories get the more we love them. But the modern they get, less they are about love. Today, it’s got to be fun, we don’t wanna hurt, it isn’t cool, it’s boring and so regressive. Emotions are cheesy and poetry is melodrama. Tears are meaningless and only thought has value. Self-debilitating passions like Jordan’s are addictions to us because our new-age mindsets cannot comprehend living and dying for that one, inviolable love anymore. “Aah ko chahye ik umar asar honay tak, kaun jeeta hai teri zulf ke sar honay tak.”
So today, when we watch Rahul sacrificing himself for his girl we cringe because it looks so passe. Sacrifice is now self-pity and I wanted to slap him and tell him, ‘You idiot, stop playing the helpless victim. If you really love her do what needs to be done instead. Change yourself!”. Like Jackie did for his Radha in Hero. But had I seen Rahul do that, I’d have screamed so old school! Who changes themselves for their lovers these days? Easier to change partners no? When Arohi, deep in the throes of her grand passion, throws away a stunning career we raise eyebrows. I wanted to shake her up and tell her, ‘Girl, this guy is hopeless, don’t bother throwing everything away for him. This is not love, this self-sabotage. THINK.” Something I never felt like telling Gulabo when I first saw Pyaasa, or Shanti in Kaagaz ke Phool. I wept with them and for them. But with Arohi it is different and the difference isn’t Guru Dutt and Mohit Suri. We see her as ‘today’s’ girl and hence her actions are confounding because if we are no longer like Gulabo or Shanti how can she be? We see her yearning to be with her man but we don’t see any reason in her choice. We don’t see that she had no choice, and so we do what we did with Cocktail’s Meera – define her in hundred ways that have nothing to do with her.
Over the ages and with all the progress we pat our backs about, love has taken the biggest beating; the only bloodless casualty of our hard-bought modernity. Today, we seek reason, labeling passion as desperation and self-sacrifice as moping, whereas at one point it signified devotion, a concept synonymous to ‘bhakti’. Take for example Zaara’s choice to live almost nun-like in the memory of her long-lost Veer, now assumed dead. Or Samar Anand’s decision to court death if he couldn’t unite with his lover in this lifetime. We shift uncomfortably in our seats when we encounter characters like these not because these films are less than perfect, but because the emotion they espouse sound alien to us and we overlook the fabric of love that compels them to do what they do. That fabric is tattered beyond recognition today as we weave other weaves to drape our souls in. We don’t accept the old, more enduring weaves anymore even if we see them. Rockstar’s simmering emotions, which spoke right through all its flaws, refusing to be contained despite a choppy flow exposed our vulnerabilities with a rare emotional intelligence but we couldn’t understand it. We won’t be getting a more honest or more intense love story for a long time after this but maybe that’s inevitable. We see what we are and we are no longer what we used to be when Salim declared his ardour with flourishing poetry to a trembling Anarkali dying to fall into his arms. That, may also have been part of the difference between Dilip Kumar’s Devdas and Shahrukh Khan’s.
But the makers are draped in the same cloth, one that is cut out of an unwieldy carpet cloth, so we don’t make love stories anymore either. We simply don’t know how to. We are bored of Shahrukh’s outstretched arms in which we wished to die 20 yrs back and we see red when we see women singularly committed to their loves. We yawn when we see love-at-first sight sort of chemistry and go blank should any character even speak of laying down their lives for the other. Our makers are the same as us, they don’t get it either and so we have half-baked stuff like Aashiqui-2. It isn’t anything to write home about but I still wonder, if it (or JTHJ or even Ishaqzaade for that matter) was made 20 yrs back would it be more watchable just because we, as an audience and as people were more in love with love then, than we are today?
P.S.: At the end of this I caught myself telling myself ‘Guzra hua zamana aata nahi dobara’… and I suddenly remember this beauty is from “Shirin Farhad”. What irony… Sigh…
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