Sunday, March 01, 2015

Yash Raj Films - an ode

When I first read Rabindranath Tagore's stories, I was struck by one thing above all else - his women were not coy, shy, or even sophisticated. They were almost always women with a mind of their own, with absolutely no reservations about expressing the ideas of that mind - in words and action. For a writer of that period, this was amazing for me. Not the intelligent heroines of Bankim Chandra or the sensible women characters of Premchand.. Tagore portrayed his heroines very differently - playful, powerful, and independent.

Today, while watching Dum Laga ke Haisha.. there was a scene.. a drunk Ayushmann Khurana was criticising his wife for being unattractive because she is so fat.. She is on that terrace, hears him out, and, without saying a word, slaps him. This is Haridwar in 1995. NO woman in Haridwar - 1995, or 2015, slaps a husband, at a public event, in front of his friends.

And that got me thinking.. Yashraj Films is known for making super romantic films, for making their women look sensual and beautiful and making dream sequences come true on celluloid. But they have also done something else.. they have brought on screen.. the woman of Tagore.. independent, intelligent, and playful. They have told stories that would otherwise have been unpalatable. ONLY YRF could have made those themes and made them so desirable to the rest of us.. they made us accept things that we would not otherwise even consider..

This post, then, is an ode to YRF from a woman.
And in particular, I would like to mention:

Dhool Ka Phool (1960): In 1960, an illegitimate child, born to an unwed mother. No one would have expected the public to go in to watch this. But they did. And they came out singing "tu Hindu Banega na musalman banega..insaan ki aulad hai insaan banega." I still remember this film. It was seen over 20 years ago.

Waqt: (1965): Ai meri zohra jabeen.. is still the song played at every wedding when the seniors are invited to dance. that song did more for romance among married couples than any other song has done since.. oh wait, did I mention? In 1965, no man was supposed to pay attention to his wife.. much less sing a song praising her when she is the mother of 3 sons.

Kabhie Kabhie (1976): What happens when people are forced to marry for reasons other than love? What happens when we realise that a woman can have a premarital child and can also reunite with her?

Noorie (1979): We all remember Noorie for that iconic song which is still sung at all Antakshris.. So we were not shocked by the theme of rape, especially when used as an instrument of power. Or of a lover who loves his beloved even after she has been "tainted" with rape.. and prefers to die with her instead of doing the expected : blaming her for the act and treating her suicide as an "honor death"

Silsila (1981): That iconic, gossip ridden real life love story with real life actors. Let me sum it up for you: Man woman in love. Man marries his brother's gf after the brother dies and there is no other option. Years later, man meets the woman. Instead of creating distance, this woman has it in her to re initiate the affair - while they are both married to their respective  spouses. Not an honourable thing to do even today, but boy, did we throng to the theaters to see the love story. And that character which looks at the ex seductively. A Yash Chopra heroine. For sure.

Chandni(1989): Wait, a woman wants to marry for love, dance (without shame, of course), at her own engagement, and then cares for her paralysed fiancé. When the family and the fiancé both make it impossible for her to continue, she moves on in life and finds a second admirer (and which woman above the marriageable age in India finds even a first admirer?) She is torn at the decision when she finds out the earlier fiancé is alive. The same girl who sings "aa meri jaan, main tujhmein apni jaan rakh doon" also finds it in herself to say No to the advances of a very "eligible" man. Chandni remains one of my all time favourite movies.

Lamhe(1991): A 15 year old falls for an older woman (haw!!!) and then, the daughter of that older woman falls for the hero (now older, and engaged to someone suitable). Lamhe was my favourite story from the word Go. Love that is not "appropriate" has no place in mainstream cinema. Unless, its a Yash Chopra film.. It is Yash Chopra's favourite film among all his films, and I count it among his finest.

Aaina(1993): 2 sisters fighting over the same man.. one, who left him at the altar to pursue a modelling career, and the other, who married him right then. Dialogues from this film still make me laugh at times. A situation that exists, but is seldom spoken about, and definitely not packaged as love story. He brings out the love in all these situations - some of them so socially unacceptable that no one will talk about them. But we accept them because of the way he presents them.

Darr: Obsession and stalking.. that theme that hitherto touched in popular Indian cinema(except Anjaam - which came a year later). Unlike in the real world, or the cinematic "correctness" - the woman has the support of her husband, is able to get rid of the threat.. and comes out looking good. Contrast that with what we say to the girls who complain of being stalked.. dupatta theek rakha karo.. no one tells the heroine that. And the best part? You didn't even notice that.. bcs supporting her, was the only right thing to do.

Yeh Dillagi: 2 rich brothers fall for the same girl - she is the driver's daughter. Oops!!! Enough said. No one else can try that plot without making the driver's daughter appear like a bechari who is being blackmailed by the rich mother. Not this girl. She holds her ground. But you didn't notice that. Because it wasn't exceptional. It was the thing to do.

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge: An Indian, well brought up girl, wants to take a month long holiday, all on her own? Like, really? Then she wants to elope with the guy, ably supported by her mother and younger sister. But not the bf, who has to be the nice guy who gets her from her father, not from under the father's nose. Farida Jalal's talk with Kajol next to the window.. once you have seen that scene, you can never miss how fragile, yet how determined, a Punjabi woman can be.
This is an iconic film in Indian cinema.

Salaam Namaste (2005): Live in. Need I say more?

Neal and Nikki : Just see this film to know what I mean.

Fanaa: Kajol's character cannot be missed. But if you have missed it, just watch the movie again.

Laaga Chunari Mein Daag: An escort who finds love, not as an escape, or pity.

Rab ne Bana Di Jodi: Anoushka Sharma. Enough said.

Dil Bole Hadippa: Rani Mukherjee

Badmash Company: A heroine who does not inform the hero that he is the father of the child, because she wishes to have no association with him.. until he repents.

Band Bajaa Baraat: Anushka Sharma. Again. She knows she wants to be a wedding planner. Even before she is a graduate.

Bunty aur Babli: A girl, who wants to be a model and runs away from home, creates her own marriage vows and wails "Agar humein ek martabaan achaar aur banana pada to hum pagal ho jayenge kasam se."

Ishaqzaade: A young girl who uses money to buy gold earrings for her birthday, to buy a katta(country pistol).

Shudh Desi Romance: Anushka Sharma again.

Mardaani: Rani Mukherjee.

Dum Laga ke Haisha: A fat girl, who dares demand respect from her in laws, answers back, and then files for divorce because her husband dared to insult her in a drunken stupor, in front of his friends.

No,  Yash Raj heroines are anything BUT hindi film heroines. They are heroines. Period. And I love each one of them.

To see a complete list of YRF releases over the years, see this:



Himanshu Tandon said...

No one else could have put it more aptly... and I concur with each single comment on the movies...

Miss A said...

I never thought about it this way, but always knew at some level. Especially the newer ones I've been watching lately... not that the old movies don't go with the idea, just that I haven't seen a lot of them yet.

How do we know said...

Hi HT: Thank you!!
Hi A: yeah.. maybe we should make a film festival of it.. :)